Ten Minutes with Alison Milwe-Grace
By By Carolyn Rundle Field
Alison Milwe-Grace has never worked outside the food business. After majoring in restaurant and hotel management at UMass, she attended the Institute for Culinary Education and spent several years working for several restaurants before opening AMG Catering & Events. She and her business partner Olivia Savarese recently moved into the commercial space vacated by Wave Hill Breads.
Why did you start your own business?
After working for other restaurateurs, I realized if I was going to work 120 hours a week, it should be for me.
You have a business partner.
I’d been asking Olivia for years to join my company. We’ve been friends forever. She finally agreed five years ago. She handles the front of the house—everything from the tablecloths and centerpieces to lighting and staff. My focus is on the food. We’re truly the yin and yang. A lot of caterers have walkie-talkies, but even at big events, we don’t have to speak; we’re just in synch.
Your business moved recently.
We’d been looking to rent commercial space for 18 months. Few kitchens are both built to code and presentable enough for clients. This location just felt right. Wave Hill Bread started here as a tiny bakery, and they outgrew the space. So we thought it was good karma.
What was involved in building a commercial kitchen?
We’ve worked in many commercial kitchens, but when outfitting ours, we were on a tight budget. We couldn’t afford a kitchen designer or an architect; Olivia designed the space. We spent a lot of time at Town Hall, meeting with various departments. We did make mistakes, like installing the sink before the stainless steel wall behind it, so we had to reinstall the sink. Construction was all-consuming, but we’re thrilled with how it turned out.
You now offer cooking classes.
This kitchen just screams teaching kitchen. We wanted to bring our passion for food to others.
What kind of events do you do?
Recently we’ve been catering more family-style events, where all the food is put on the table. It’s more informal, but can still be very high end as servers still pour wine and make sure the person at the end of the table gets the Chilean sea bass. In this high-tech world, where people don’t talk to each other anymore, food serves as a lubricant for conversation.
Do you have a trademark menu?
We use local and seasonal ingredients, but I create each menu based on the client’s preferences. Menus have become more complex today because there are more food issues. Forty years ago, you’d just have a meat offering. Now you need a vegetarian one too. Last year we did vegan and celiac weddings. I love challenges like that.
Years ago, a wedding cake fell apart in the back of my Subaru. I hadn’t realized I shouldn’t transport it assembled. I went over a speed bump and two layers went flying. We were able to reassemble it, but we had to set it up in a corner to hide one side.