Backstage Bistro in Hampstead caters shows for Beyonce, Bieber

Sous chef Fred Zelaes works at Backstage Bistro.
Sous chef Fred Zelaes works at Backstage Bistro. (SUBMITTED PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Before artists like Beyonce, Justin Bieber or The Rolling Stones step on the stage of places like the Verizon Center and sing in front of thousands of fans, they all need one thing: food.
In fact, everyone involved in a show, from the producers, to the roadies, to the makeup artists, needs to eat. Mary Marchetti, the owner of Backstage Bistro in Hampstead, is the go-to caterer that makes it happen.
Using local businesses in the area, Marchetti has built her business on word of mouth and success from previous shows.

Choosing Hampstead
After touring with The Eagles organizing caterers in different cities, Marchetti decided to open her own catering company to reach arenas in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In 2008, she began the company with her sister and husband, who became the executive chef.
Instead of beginning the company in Washington, D.C., Marchetti opted to move to Hampstead.
"I had my apartment in D.C. that I was never in. I just wanted to come somewhere and rest and have stars and air and cows," she said.
For a first business, it also made financial sense. Marchetti said she credits being in a small town to surviving her start-up years.
"I love being able to go to the Westminster courthouse and file all of my documents. I love being able to go down and have a conversation with my health department director and say, 'Hey, guide us in what we need to do to be successful,'" she said.
When money was tight, local businesses allowed her to make payments over a longer period of time on repairs to plumbing. They were also a great support system with which to talk about struggles during the height of the recession, she said.
Marchetti said she spent many afternoons talking with Rob Gonzalez, the owner of Snickerdoodles Bakery in Hampstead. Now Marchetti uses Gonzalez for all of her shows.
"All my big shows, this guy has made my cakes for everybody," she said. "This guy is just as good [as big-city bakeries]."
Gonzalez said his experience as a pastry chef at a large catering company lends itself to working with Marchetti.
The two work well together because they're both owners and operators, he said. They're used to the intensity and stress of working in the culinary industry, he said.
They also have similar philosophies: Treat every customer the same.
"Of course it's pretty cool, but to me it's no different than doing cakes for regular people," he said.


Catering on the fly
In the past few months, Marchetti's 12-person team has taken on Justin Bieber in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia; The Who; and catered for the final U.S. show of The Rolling Stones.
While Marchetti said she typically has about three weeks to organize a catering experience, she found out about the second Bieber show just 10 days in advance.
About three days before an event, Marchetti's team is prepping food all the way until the day of the show. Backstage Bistro will coordinate with the tour and find out what the arena needs, what the artist needs and what everybody associated with the tour needs in terms of food.
"It's like a traveling city. If we have 150 people on a tour and then we have 30 people working on a building, we take care of all of them," Marchetti said.
The crew will assemble a full breakfast, lunch and dinner before the show. Backstage Bistro takes care of everyone from the bus drivers to the housekeeping to the artist.
"When I say a show is in the bag, it's when everything has been executed flawlessly," she said.
It's happened at every single show, she said. There are no glitches at Backstage Bistro, because the way the company gets its next gig is often through word of mouth, she said.
To start off, Backstage Bistro catered for the Cheetah Girls, a girl-group created from a Disney original movie in 2003. Because the promoter rep of the show was best friends with the promoter rep of another show, the caterer's next gig was Tina Turner.
"It's a hard level to maintain," Marchetti said. "You're only as good as your last show. You could do 50 great shows and the minute you have something bad happen ... our motto is you're only as good as your last show."
The company is also responsible for the artist's dressing room, she said. The biggest misconception she hears is that artists are divas. Marchetti said once a crew for a concert gets to an arena, they aren't going anywhere else, and everything is new in that particular arena.
If a crew is going to six cities in six different days, there has to be consistency. Marchetti strives to bring that consistency to the table.
"A lot of the things that are specific to them are things you'd want to have in your home. Things you'd want to make you feel better, maybe it's your favorite Oreo," she said.
Some of it is just plain detail work, she said. Scented candles could line the dressing room for an artist because 12 hours earlier it was a locker room, she said.
Marchetti knows to leave some bottled water at room temperature and some bottles iced, just from plain experience. A few days prior to the concert, a producer will call with specifications an artist asks for in their dressing room, she said. It's Marchetti's job to make sure that's completed.
Everything on the day of the show is detail-oriented, and for serving meals, preparation comes down to the minute. She said she's fortunate to work with a crew that understands that.
"Everything's on the line all the time, because this is the big leagues. This is it," she said.
Marchetti is human though, she said. While she can handle meeting clients like The Rolling Stones, she admits to getting star-struck by one: Jimmy Buffett.
Buffett was a guest of a different show, she said. When she first saw him, she did a double take. Later, when she introduced herself, she said that he asked what she did and she explained she prepared the catering.
"Make sure you feed them well," he replied.

What about the food?
Beginning in spring 2014, Marchetti plans to open a Backstage Bistro restaurant in Hampstead to replace the small storefront she had in a strip mall in the area.
Tucked between a Jos A. Bank and a chiropractor office, Backstage Bistro's kitchen once offered sandwiches, salads and soups to the Hampstead community. The food was all similar to the food Backstage Bistro regularly creates for its clients.
Marchetti closed the carry-out sandwich shop about a year ago because she didn't have enough space.
"We were slammed, all the time," she said.
With the construction of Illiano Plaza II in Hampstead, Marchetti leased a 4,000-square-foot space to open a full-service restaurant that will serve sandwiches, salads, soups and crepes. She said the idea is to build a flagship restaurant in Hampstead and eventually to expand to other cities.
Marchetti said the decor will remain in the theme of entertainment, but it won't focus on just the artists or the concerts.
"I want to feature the people who make it happen. The artists are part of that, but they're not all of it," she said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun