Were you asked to bring a dish to the big family gathering this year? Or were you invited to contribute to the office/church potluck? By now, everyone should know that these requests are more than just a way to source food for a holiday shindig—they are unofficial declarations of culinary war. And when it comes to competition, your goal should always be to win. So if you have yet to establish your legacy worthy dish, we’ve tracked down some of the region’s best caterers and private chefs to give you inspiration. Not only do they throw down at their own personal gatherings, they’re the ones hired to spin their magic professionally for top-notch holiday parties, too. They gifted us with their tips, insight and potluck-winning recipes to help you shine at your next event.
Finding enjoyment in making pies, cakes and sweets for others, Marilyn “Pinky” Walker always dreamed of opening a bakery. So shortly after retiring from the Michigan State Department of Health, Walker decided to realize her dream by opening Pinky’s Shuga Shack in 2011. Today, the bakery is a fixture in Detroit, thanks not only to her addictive treats but also to her community outreach. Walker routinely donates food to local shelters and organizations and even hosts an annual free giveback block party.
What’s your favorite holiday food memory?
During Christmas, my mother would make this gingerbread pineapple upside down cake. It’s something she only made at Christmas. The smell would just fill up our house.
If we were invited to your house for a holiday gathering, what should we expect?
Expect the works. I make a duck dressing made from the duck drippings, collard greens, mac and cheese, potato salad, etc. And, everything is homemade, from the rolls to the cranberry sauce.
What tip would you give home cooks about planning for a potluck or
Make mostly finger foods. Who has time to be cutting and serving cakes? So I always make miniatures, like miniature sweet potato pies, mini cupcakes, so people can serve themselves. That’s less work on the hostess.
Pinky’s Sweet Potato Muffins
(Yields 36 servings)
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 3 teaspoons cinnamon
• 6 eggs
• 2 ¼ cups sugar
• ¾ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup butter, softened
• 2 ½ mashed sweet potatoes or yams
• 1 ½ cup chopped pecans
• 1 cup cream cheese icing (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients (dry ingredients); set aside. In a larger mixing bowl, beat eggs with sugars until creamy. Blend into sweet potatoes; then add pecans until well combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients, gently mixing until incorporated (it’s okay if batter is lumpy). Fill muffin pan with liners, then drop in a scoop of batter until each cup is ¾ full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. Serve as is, or frost with cream cheese icing.