The cafe, which is currently closed for cleaning in preparation for the takeover, will hopefully reopen about July 9 — that’s if no unexpected delays occur.
The museum’s chief operating officer, Kathryn Garvin, said last week that the museum put out a request for proposals for the cafe management a few months ago. Blue Ridge Catering submitted a proposal, as did the management company at that time, Quest Management LLC. Blue Ridge’s proposal more closely fit the model that has been successful at other museum cafes, Garvin said, so Norah’s chef Jerome Bonds Jr. and Quest were let go.
Bonds said last week that he’d likely take some time off to rest before seeking other opportunities.
Mark Baldwin, a 35-year-old Roanoke native, is the owner of Blue Ridge Catering, which is headquartered at 522 Salem Avenue. Baldwin said he worked for a family friend who owned a BBQ catering business in that space while he was growing up. After Baldwin graduated from Appalachian State University with degrees in anthropology and sustainable development, the family friend passed away and Baldwin took over the catering business.
He soon changed the name to Blue Ridge Catering, which specializes in using local ingredients to create menus for all kinds of events. The company has catered the City Works (X)po two years in a row and also caters a Blue Ridge Land Conservancy event each year. Of course, they also do weddings and other smaller events. Baldwin said no ingredient or type of cuisine is off limits for his company.
“That’s always been a big part of what we pride ourselves on is a custom experience,” he said. “We’ve done Ethiopian, Vietnamese. I enjoy exploring those things and doing the research.”
Blue Ridge Catering will keep its Salem space, so Norah’s Cafe and the Taubman Museum will be a division of the company. It will handle all Taubman events, including Thursday Night Live, a weekly music and food gathering. Baldwin said Norah’s Cafe diners can expect to see an accessible menu of things such as salads, wraps and sandwiches that will change out frequently depending on what’s in season. They’ll also have some signature items on the menu that will not change.
As soon as Baldwin can share more specifics about the new menu at Norah’s, I’ll pass them along.