In the kitchen with Toni Jacobsen

Among many other credentials, Toni Jacobsen’s Dishes By Design catered a private dinner for past Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees and their families in August at downtown Canton’s Onesto Lofts.

Among many other credentials, Toni Jacobsen’s Dishes By Design catered a private dinner for past Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees and their families in August at downtown Canton’s Onesto Lofts.

And while the setting for the event—whose 220 guests included John Madden, Howie Long, Marv Levy, Leroy Kelly and Steve Young—is elegant, the meal was served informally.

“It was family-style, in platters and bowls,” Jacobsen said. “They helped themselves, and they absolutely loved it. One of the nicest groups I’ve ever gotten to serve.” The menu included a Mediterranean stuffed chicken, slow-roasted beef au jus, six-cheese ravioli, seasonal roasted vegetables and gruyere potato gratin.

A McKinley High School graduate, Jacobsen worked in dining and catering for AVI Food Systems for 17 years, then started a catering business called Lunch Stat that did breakfasts and lunches for doctors’ offices and hospitals. Jacobsen has been catering under the name Dishes By Design since 2008.

Additionally, she teaches two courses: catering and event planning, and beverage management.

1. How did you get started cooking?
“I’ve been been cooking since I was a little girl. My dad always liked to cook. My first job was working in the cafeteria at Republic Steel on Eighth Street. What I remember most was Fridays with coney sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. A lot of deep-fried and fattening food going on there.”

2. You cater a lot of wedding receptions. What are the current trends?
“Right now, the whole rustic barn experience is really big, so I do a lot of rustic barbecue menus. We usually do a slow-roasted pulled brisket and pulled pork. We do a smoked-Gouda macaroni and cheese, and pan-fried Brussels sprouts with bacon.”

3. Are things generally more casual in catering?
“Instead of having a sit-down formal dinner, a lot of people want to do heavy hors d’oeuvres stations. We do a lot of poached salmon, a sun-dried tomato crusted chicken skewer with yellow aioli, a lot of different types of shrimp, Tuscan chicken tarts, fig and mascarpone purses. One of our signature items is a Gruyere potato gratin with mushrooms and leeks—very decadent.”

4. How big of events have you catered?
“We’ve done over 450 people before, and we’ve done as few as 10. The majority of my events are between 200 and 250, but I do a lot of private homes in Glenmoor and the Brookside area, usually between 50 and 100 people. You can do a lot more detail-oriented things. Those are my favorite because usually they’re a lot more relaxed and I get to spend time with the guests, talk about food and answer questions, which is my favorite thing.”

5. Aren’t people generally more interested in food these days?
“Definitely. I’ve noticed people aren’t so afraid to try something outside of their comfort zone. I think it’s because of all the cooking and reality shows.”

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass