By Morgan Bryce
Through the culinary creations of her new, recently hired chef Jimmy Stinson, The Bottling Plant Event Center owner Lisa Ditchkoff is working to expand her venue’s dining choices and overall business model.
Stinson, the former owner and operator of The Creole and Seafood Shack in Auburn, joins The Bottling Plant after a two-year stint with Stinky’s Fish Camp on South College Street, which abruptly closed for business recently. He has decades of experience in the food business, working in both fine-dining restaurants and chain fast-food establishments.
Ditchkoff said she has long been a personal friend as well as fan of Stinson’s cooking, which is mostly based in the Cajun and Creole cuisines.
“His food by far is the best Creole food I’ve had anywhere around here. Jimmy and I had been planning for him to train me on his creole-style cooking, but hiring him as our chef is even better,” Ditchkoff said.
During the last year and a half, Ditchkoff said she has had an increased role cooking in the kitchen, helping prepare food for major events to maintain a consistent level of quality expected among her clientele. With Stinson on board, she will continue to help in the kitchen but will be able to focus on other aspects involved with the daily operation of her business.
“I spend so much time doing all of the food ordering and picking up orders from the farmer’s markets – he is going to alleviate that. He’s excited … he’s done a lot of off-site catering and he knows his proportions better (than I do),” Ditchkoff said.
Stinson’s presence will also help expand Ditchkoff’s new venture into off-site catering for special events and functions. Together, they have been working to revamp and expand existing menus and fully cobble together this new part of the business.
“We’ve had a number of requests to do off-site catering, and all of this just kind of happened without me planning to do it,” Ditchkoff said. “My bank was meeting with their board for about nine to 10 months, and I kept pushing different types of food on them to try, food that they never would’ve ordered like baby-back ribs or pulled chicken. The president kept asking for to-go boxes every time and board members were telling me it was the best food they ever had … something that really set all this into motion.”
Those interested in having The Bottling Plant cater are asked to call and place their orders at least one week in advance.
The public can sample some of Stinson’s cooking at a “Taste of N’awlins” on Oct. 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Bottling Plant Event Center. Tickets will cost $20 each, which includes tax and gratuity.
Menu items will include collard green egg rolls, corn casserole, crawfish etouffee, gumbo and Stinson’s beloved red beans and rice. DJ Big Sexy from Alexander City will provide the music that evening.
When asked about his new role, Stinson said he is excited for the opportunity to place his signature stamp on the venue’s dining options and expose people to the beauty and spice of Cajun and Creole cooking.
“Something I’ve learned a lot in life is that it’s not about me, it’s about who you help along the way. I’m looking forward to a lot of these new ventures, including catering and revitalized menus,” Stinson said. “If we can keep that going, this place will bloom.”
For more information about the venue, call 334-705-5466 or visit www.bottlingplanteventcenter.com. The venue is located at 614 N. Railroad Ave. in downtown Opelika.