A Culinary Journey
Terry and Andrew Bland of ART Catering and Events and Purple Onion Cafe share their love of food with the people of Shallotte and Brunswick County.
From the very beginning, Terry and Andrew Bland’s relationship was shaped by fun and food.
“He was such a flirt,” Terry says. “At the restaurant where we worked together, he would chase me around the kitchen with pig hooves left over from a pig-pickin!”
Andrew is an award-winning executive chef, and together he and Terry own ART Catering and Events and Purple Onion Cafe in Shallotte. They first met in the town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, where Terry was a waitress and Andrew was the chef at Menwith Hill Officer’s Club. Three decades later, they’re using their combined talents of cooking and business know-how to craft one-of-a-kind catering and event experiences that transcend the traditional wedding-food menu.
Terry, a Southern girl who as a child vacationed at Holden Beach, where her grandparents lived, knew she wanted to come back to the United States. She and Andrew made the move across the pond, and in 1997 launched ART Catering & Events in Florence, South Carolina. Shortly after they moved to Boone, North Carolina, where Andrew worked as executive chef of Appalachian State University. When Terry decided she wanted to be closer to her mother, who lived in Shallotte, the couple moved their business and came home to Shallotte.
Having already established themselves as a successful catering and event business, the Blands took the next step in their culinary journey and opened Purple Onion Cafe on Main Street in Shallotte.
“We opened on the day of the Shallotte Christmas Parade in 2004,” Terry says.
When it came time to pick a name for the cafe, the Blands first considered Watercolor Cafe but quickly decided it might not resonate with everyone. “We wanted a name that was welcoming and that made everybody comfortable,” Terry says. The purple onion was a staple in their menu and a namesake they kept coming back to, so the name stuck.
The Southern-with-a-twist-inspired café is as popular with visitors as it is with locals. Customers come for the famous Purple Onion Club, Purple Onion Salad and Fried Green Tomatoes with Purple Onion Jam. Customers also love their signature breakfast dishes like Crabcake Benedict and homemade Blueberry Biscuits. The Purple Onion is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
So much of Purple Onion Cafe’s success comes from Andrew’s three main food philosophies: fresh, local ingredients, made from scratch and flavor in every bite. It all comes down to good food.
Andrew has been interested in good food since he was a child. He admits his mother’s cooking was “basic” without much fanfare, “no flavorings or seasonings,” which perhaps led to his yearning to learn how to cook. “She just didn’t like to cook,” he says. He was 14 years old when he first worked in a kitchen at a local restaurant in England. “I was a dishwasher, and I helped make appetizers. I watched the chefs there and thought, that looks like fun, let’s do that.” He trained as a classic French cuisine chef from City & Guilds in Manchester, England.
Andrew works with a passion to create menus that fuse the traditional with the contemporary, with a sustainable approach. He insists on using locally sourced ingredients, particularly seafood, whenever possible. ART Catering is a member of the local seafood recognition program called Brunswick Catch.
The same three philosophies that Andrew applies to the café, he also applies to the award-winning ART Catering and Events. Where they really excel is in their mission to create a restaurant-quality culinary experience that goes above and beyond standard wedding or corporate buffet fare.
Wherever did the assumption come from that wedding food had to be boring? There is a genuine difference in the way people think about event food today, as it’s a large part of the entire wedding experience. Clients are looking for a memorable dinner to share with their guests, and ART is rethinking the traditional chicken and green beans wedding menu. There is no one-size-fits all menu at ART. The Blands look at every event as brand new and highly personalized.
“All the items on the menu are just a guide for our clients,” Andrew says. “We like it when people bring us ideas. It challenges me.”
Though he does like to try new things, he still has some favorites that will never get old, like his slow-roasted prime rib of beef served with au jus and horseradish sauce. They also take into consideration food allergies and other dietary restrictions. “We can do vegetarian and vegan and gluten-free,” Andrew says.
Connecting with guests is something Andrew enjoys. Traditionally chefs have stayed in the kitchen behind the scenes, but “the chef’s role has evolved over the years,” Andrew points out, and now clients want him to come out of the kitchen and talk about the dishes he’s prepared and answer any questions they might have. It’s all part of the personalized service that ART offers.
Many clients tell the Blands that their guests were still talking about the food weeks after the event. “That means we’re doing our job right,” Terry says. “We want everyone to enjoy what they’re eating and to leave knowing they had a great meal.”
It’s not just the food that keeps the Blands’ event schedule full. ART is not only a full-service catering and event company, but also they have an in-house rental and design team that takes care of linens, tables, chairs, dishes, table coverings, full-bar service and even color schemes. “We can do as much or as little as you’d like us to,” Terry says.
ART caters between 30 and 40 events each month and is the exclusive caterer at Bricklanding Plantation in Shallotte. Whether it’s a milestone birthday you want to celebrate, an elaborate wedding, a family reunion or a corporate meeting, ART creates authentic, memorable and comfortable special occasions.
Other than their amazing food experience, they have a strong commitment to customer service. Their sales consultants work closely with each client to make sure the event is everything they expected. “We manage all of the behind the scenes dining details so our clients can host their event and enjoy time with their guests without the worry,” Terry says.
Giving back to the community that they consider home, the Blands take every opportunity to participate in local organizations. They are current members of Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and also support a long list of local causes, including Habitat for Humanity, Lower Cape Fear Hospice, Paws-Ability and local schools, just to name a few.
What does the future hold for the Blands? “We’ll continue to grow and support our community,” Terry says. “We’re thankful for the 16 years we’ve been here, and for the Purple Onion customers we’ve had from day one who we continue to serve today.”
Want a taste?
Purple Onion Cafe & ART Events and Catering
4647 Main Street, Suite 1, Shallotte