Alice and Louise: Taken on its own, this title might well refer to a flashy Hollywood movie. Instead, Alice and Louise actually refers to a relatively new catering company/cooking school in Chantilly. There, sisters Nichol Alice Chancler and Shelly Louise Modes run what is becoming the go-to place for creative cooking and healthful recipes.
As Nichol—or Alice—explains it, they are named after their two grandmothers—Alice Young and Louise Rush—who helped raise them and teach them the basics of good home cooking. “We were latchkey kids,” she says, “so we spent a lot of time with our grandmothers, Alice and Louise. Alice was a huge baker, and she baked all the time. I baked with her. I got her name and her talent.”
Indeed, as Nichol adds, Alice was a native Virginian, born on a farm in Purcellville and the former owner of the Bluemont Country store, a venue that still operates.
Nichol’s sister, Shelley Louise, on the other hand, spent time with Grandmother Louise, who was renowned for her high-end cooking. As Nichol explains, “Louise Rush was born in Tennessee. She learned some great southern cooking there and moved here to Virginia in her twenties. She lived in Clifton with our grandfather.” When the girls’ grandfather passed away, Louise lived with them in Fairfax, until she remarried Colonel Benjamin Rush, III.
“She married a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence,” says Nichol, “so she prepared really good dinners, and went to very fine markets.
Thus the die was cast: Nichol focused on her baking, and sister Louise stayed with savory cooking. And as they grew up, married, and started families, they both entertained and loved to cook. Friends urged them to pool their talents and start some food-oriented business. That happened with the official opening of Alice and Louise Catering and Cooking School last fall.
As the business has developed, explains Nichol, her sister runs the catering end and she runs the cooking school. “The cooking school is right up my alley,” she says. “We feature healthy eating for families, and we do seasonal classes. Our clients really love our Four Frantic Nights.”
These classes are geared for the working moms whose families keep them on the run, so the point is to demonstrate how to maximize marketing time, take advantage of sales, and cook healthful meals, she explains. “We teach people how to cook,” she says, “so they don’t go to the ‘drive-throughs.’ We stay away from packaged and processed foods, but we do fun recipes, like whoopee pies.”
Likewise, as the cooking school segment flourishes, so does the catering end of the business. “The catering section is growing greatly: we prepare healthy, good-tasting meals. We also do weddings and birthday parties,” she says, adding that they are gearing their meals towards different dietary needs and including wheat- and dairy-free dishes.
Indeed, the sisters promote not only healthful eating but also local vendors and sources, showcasing as many local farmers and producers as possible in their business. “We want not only to educate but also to give back to our community,” Nichol says. “We are really excited to be pairing up with other companies and cookbook authors that have the same belief of “local” support and “better health” from younger ages on up.”
If this is a business you still haven’t heard of, relax. The sisters are media savvy, and have busily marketed on Groupon and Facebook—the latter just went from 7 to 257 Facebook friends, says Nichol. If locals are really lucky, they also may end up presenting at area farmers’ markets this summer. “All that marketing really pays off,” says Nichol.
RecipeSpicy Chicken Bowtie Pesto Pasta
“This recipe is adapted from my favorite dish at restaurant in Santa Monica California. We are all a little Cali at heart,” says Nichol. Serve with crusty bread, a Caesar salad and enjoy!
From The Very Popular Four Frantic Nights class
Serves 42 whole grilled, roasted or leftover chicken breasts, marinated in a mixture of fresh lime juice, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and red pepper, chili powder, and fresh garlic
1 pound bowtie or farfalle pasta, cooked according to package direction
Fresh pesto (recipe below)
˝ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not from the tin)
Dash ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Chop the chicken or pull it apart with your fingers and add to the hot pasta. Stir in the prepared Pesto sauce. Grate the fresh Parmesan over the pasta mixture. Add a dash of cayenne pepper and the fresh cilantro. Stir it all together and warm in a large saucepan until the chicken is heated through.
Fresh Basil & Spinach Pesto
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the spinach, basil, and walnuts in a food processor, and pulse a few times. Add the garlic, and pulse a few times more. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest and pulse again until blended. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.