On a warm May evening, caterer/restaurateur Jerry Edwards hosted 50 guests for an “evening in Italy.” Though technically the dinner party was held in his Timonium home, the menu and setting were strictly Old World. Roses, spring tulips, irises and sunflowers arranged in small gold urns adorned tables in the dining room and outdoors on the adjoining deck. Glowing votives and bunches of fresh grapes scattered atop the tables lent a festive air to the Tuscan-themed evening.

“Jerry likes to greet his guests personally at the door with a drink to get them in the mood,” says guest Diane Macklin, an event planner and public relations coordinator. “And he knows how to pair the perfect wine with food.”

Using ingredients like Roma tomatoes, fresh herbs and roasted garlic to create the menu, Edwards complemented each course with flights of wine from California. Menus were adorned with personal wine-themed (grapes, etc.) wineglass charms, and the damask table linens were a backdrop for large gold charger plates that provided a base for the appetizer: seared cod over baby spinach in lemon-basil butter, served in heavy crystal martini glasses.

“I’ve always known him to be a perfectionist,” remarks Macklin. “His attention to detail is extraordinary.”

Influenced by his Italian grandmother, Edwards knew from a young age that cooking would be a part of his life— at the age of 4, he preferred making raviolis rather than playing among his 13 cousins. He worked his way up through various restaurant posts and honed his talents through real-life cooking experience rather than through traditional schooling. In 1981, he created Chef’s Expressions as a small luncheonette in Towson; it has since evolved into a gourmet catering company that serves some 350 weddings, corporate and charity events each year.

In overseeing events, Edwards always likes to gear the food to a theme, avoid the expected and separate the serving into easy-to-maneuver stations. When customers come to meet with him at his Timonium office, Edwards often has a parking spot reserved by name for them out front.

Edwards’ latest endeavor, the downtown restaurant Red Tapas, opened in January, serving New American-world cuisine. Playing on the Spanish term for “small dishes,” the trendy bistro offers hors d’oeuvres such as seared tuna carpaccio over orange viniagrette and forty-clove garlic chicken with rosemary bordelaise on black olive crisp. “It’s doing well despite the snows we had all winter and the war anxiety after that,” says Edwards.

Edwards took his cue from Red Tapas’ Mediterranean theme in planning his annual dinner party, to which he always invites a combination of old friends, clients and business associates. Following the seared cod appetizer, guests were treated to parmigiano reggiano-crusted polenta topped with rabbit ragout for the pasta dish, and grilled breast of duck with a dried cherry bordelaise, wild mushroom custard and grilled vegetables as the entreé. Dessert was chocolate molten cake topped with vanilla bean cream and fresh fruit.

Known to sometimes avoid eating altogether at an event while fussing over details, Edwards pays his own Tuscan evening a compliment: “I even sat down and ate at this one.”

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