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Mangia Bene cooks up magic

The numbers game associated with the annual Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO continues Thursday at the Trade Mart.

An estimated 1,500 folks will file through the doors of the Trade Mart for the opportunity to network with 100 vendors, 40 Top 40 Under 40 winners and countless Mississippi business leaders. New relationships will be forged. Old ones will be cultivated. It’s all more than enough to work up a hefty appetite. That’s where the caterers come in.

Come lunch time, EXPO-goers can dine on a combined 4,500 two-ounce pork medallions.

Mangia Bene Catering of Jackson is again providing the edibles for this year’s Kickoff Breakfast and the Top 40 Under 40 Luncheon, whose menu includes three of the pork medallions per plate.

“That’s a lot of meat,” said Aven Whittington, catering manager for Mangia Bene.

Stuffed inside the medallions will be a lot of fire-roasted bell peppers, a pile of spinach and several hundred pounds of goat cheese. Add to that a truckload’s worth of field greens for the salad and spuds for the garlic mashed potatoes. For dessert, brace yourself: Jen Adelsheimer, Broad Street’s pastry chef, is making a “Black and White” panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) martini with mixed berries.

The preview, though, is just as impressive as the main event.

“For the Leaders in Business breakfast, Mangia Bene Catering will feature an Italian sausage frittata served with Broad Street’s famous cheese grits, minted fruit salad, and a variety of our pastry,” Whittington said. “I promise, it will all be delicious.”

Nobody should leave the Trade Mart hungry.

Whittington did not need a calculator when a reporter asked him to give a rough estimate of the total food poundage.

“Short answer – a lot,” he said.

Whittington and his team will have a compressed amount of time to work their magic this year. Instead of a two-day event, this year’s EXPO, a special project of the Mississippi Business Journal, will run on Thursday. So instead of three or four different settings to serve a few hundred people at a time, Mangia Bene will direct all their resources to two large events (breakfast and Top 40 luncheon) whose crowds are expected to exceed 1,000. Last Monday, Whittington and his staff had already started preparations.

“In Mangia Bene’s business, there isn’t a huge difference in cooking for 500 guests or 1,000 guests,” Whittington said. “Obviously the amount of food changes, however the physical effort doesn’t ramp up as incrementally. We have economies of scale on our side. The two-day format did give us a little more exposure. That said, going to one day will allow us to focus even more on the first-class guest experience EXPO participants have come to expect from Mangia Bene Catering.

“We have already started ordering some ingredients and supplies,” Whittington continued. “Most of the cooking and prep will happen Wednesday. We will finish the dishes Thursday onsite to insure the best end result. I’ll be working from about 4:30 a.m. until Business After Hours ends that evening. At Mangia Bene Catering, we take the best of three restaurants to provide the food that we do. I’m not working with just one chef. I’m working with five, plus their cooks and support staff. That’s what makes our food experience second to none. How long does that take? I’ll let you know when it’s over.”

Said Tami Jones, advertising director for the Mississippi Business Journal: “We are extremely excited to partner with Jeff again this year and look forward to a great breakfast and lunch. Aven is preparing a special lunch that will for sure leave the Top 40 speechless, but of course anything that Mangia Bene prepares will be a huge success.”


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