BirchtreeArt for the Cash Poor 15 celebrates Philadelphia as the City of Makers. The Preview Party on Friday, June 13, 5:30 – 9 pm, serves as a meet-and-greet with artists and a sneak-peek into the weekend-long festivities, as well as a fundraiser for AIDS Fund. Tickets to the event are $30 each, and include an open bar and free food courtesy of Birchtree Catering. We took a few minutes to speak with Rasa Benefico, Chef and Owner of Birchtree, to find out what you can expect during the Friday night party.

Can you tell me about the background for how Birchtree Catering got started?

Birchtree was based on my cooking beliefs, that you can create beautiful menus from scratch using fresh local ingredients, whether it’s for 20 or 200 people. Allegra and I had backgrounds beyond catering and were able to start our business from the ground up, letting our mission statement guide our practices and procedures.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman-owned business?

We’re proud to have built a brand that our clients and employees respect, and to run it with respect for them in return.

Why do you find it important to cultivate partnerships with local farmers/artisans?

It is the crux of our business that we source our ingredients locally. We do it because food tastes better when it’s fresh and not covered in chemicals, plus we love the people that we get to work with. When a farmer comes in with a delivery and has a new microgreen he wants us to try, or we didn’t get cucumbers that day because they just weren’t good enough to serve, that’s why we love this business. Last minute changes to a wedding menu are embraced by our clients because they understand the importance of our overall goals.

Do you find that having a reputation as a sustainable business is increasingly important in Philadelphia?

Yes, but it can and should be so much more than a marketing tool. We’ve been running sustainably since day one so it’s a part of everything we do because we want to support our economy, our farms, our employees, and run a company that everyone can feel really good about.

You’ve worked with InLiquid before. What were some of your takeaways from the event, and what are you hoping to bring to this year’s AFTCP15 preview?

The InLiquid Benefit was quite a busy evening for us, so we didn’t get to take in as much of the art as we would have liked. My overall impression was that the place was packed with really amazing creative people that we would love to know more of, and as we grow with the organization we hope event guests will get excited to see us participating and that it adds to their overall event experience.

Can you give us an idea of what you’ll be serving at the preview?

We’ll be premiering a new round of our popular bar snacks including Six Herb Shortbreads and Spring Root Chips. We’ll also offer some fun summery small plates like house made Tater Tots with Scrapple Chips and Spicy Spring Mushroom Polenta. Come hungry!

Scott Schultheis

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