The Food Designers, Motif
Info: 115 S. 25th St., 632-5414
In business: Purchased existing business in 2005
Number of employees: 7 full-time; 30-40 part-time
The Food Designers do more than that: They invent, build and serve culinary delights for your special event, whether it’s a wedding, a bar mitzvah or a special dinner party in your home.
The Food Designers, also known as Heather and Andy Darrigan, operate out of their 1,500-square-foot commercial kitchen in Old Colorado City.
They also operate a restaurant part-time, and Andy Darrigan is launching a new food product for wholesale and retail sale.
But first, the catering company.
Originally from the East Coast, the Darrigans bought The Food Designers from Helen Maxson nine years ago. At the time, Maxson, a former figure-skating coach, was 77 years old and ready to retire.
“We moved from New York. It’s definitely a different catering market in Colorado,” said Heather. In New York “we would just focus on the food;” a different company handled the rentals of tables, chairs and the like. Here, about 800 square feet of their building once housed those items when they purchased The Food Designers.
Heather Darrigan said she will arrange the rentals, but, “I won’t own the equipment.” The Darrigans sold the equipment years ago. Also, she emphasized she doesn’t expect her servers to carry items like chairs and tables.
“That’s not what we hired them for,” she said. “We’ve hired them for the food and the service.”
The full-service catering company takes pride in offering healthy, high-quality foods, she said.
“Coming from New York, we never took food that was in a bag to heat it up and serve it,” she said. “It was restaurant-quality food in a catering setting.”
The couple decided to move west when the catering company came up for sale. Also, Heather had given birth to their first child, and Andy was working considerable hours away from home.
“My dad lives here and we had the opportunity to buy this company,” Heather said. “It’s a better place to raise kids. I missed nature. I missed my dad.”
Andy’s parents also moved to Colorado Springs.
“They said it was the best decision we ever made,” he said.
Here, depending on the recipes and the budgets, “we try to get the best, with no hormones, no preservatives,” Heather said. “Pretty much everything we make from scratch on-site. Sometimes we’ll get breads from elsewhere.”
As a culture, society is becoming more aware of what goes into its food — chemicals, fertilizers and hormones, she said. So the business reflects that concern and focuses on organic, again depending on the budget.
“Your chicken might be $3 less per piece, but is it coming from China?” Heather said. “Is it chemically enhanced chicken that’s on the market?
“I would never serve chemically enhanced chicken.”
Asked about their pricing, Andy said, “Every event is different” because of budgets and menus.
One of the more memorable events the Darrigans catered took place during a cattle show at Spruce Mountain Guest Ranch, north of Colorado Springs.
The clients were guests staying at The Broadmoor, and the event took place during the Black Forest fire.
“The grill was set up for Andy to cook the meat right in front of the cows,” Heather said. “He was surrounded by cows as he’s cooking. It was sad.”
Did the cows realize their brethren were being cooked?
“It looked like they did,” Heather said.
With the fire happening close by, “if the wind had blown in a different direction, we would have had to cancel the event,” she added.
Having a New York perspective, Heather wanted to use “every inch of space” at her business location, so the couple sold the tables and chairs that occupied space where Motif is now.
Their restaurant serves not only food, but music as well. Motif is open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday’s music features blues, with jazz on Fridays and Saturdays.
They opened the restaurant to fill a niche in the community.
“There was no place for 30-somethings to hang out, get really good food, have a martini … listen to some good music,” Heather said.
A separate business, Motif has been operating with a partner, musician Steve Draper.
While people enjoy their martinis and music, they may also order a variety of small-plate dishes, from a $6 salad to $13 Asian salmon. At $18, the most pricey item on the menu is a 4-ounce Angus filet mignon on a crispy potato with Béarnaise sauce and garlic.
The restaurant also offers chicken bites, panini, potato gnocchi, scallops, fish tacos and more. Several items on the menu can be crafted gluten-free.
Andy Darrigan has developed an innovative product — a delicacy ready for consumption but not yet ready for the retail market.
It’s called Spray-bruleé, a vanilla-alcohol liquid to spray on crème bruleé and light on fire.
The food server will do this at the table for a dramatic effect, he said.
The action results in a crispy sugary covering over the crème.