Alexan­dria caterer made en­ter­tain­ing her art

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY MATT SCHUDEL schudelm@wash­post.com

Each Fe­bru­ary, at Alexan­dria’s an­nual Ge­orge Washington Birth­day Cel­e­bra­tion, Mary Moore would hold an open house that was al­most as big an at­trac­tion as the pa­rade it­self.

Politi­cos and other pa­rade par­tic­i­pants some­times stepped out of for­ma­tion to grab a drink or an ap­pe­tizer at Ms. Moore’s house along­side the pa­rade route, join­ing dozens or even hun­dreds of other peo­ple.

Ms. Moore was a pro­fes­sional caterer, whose clients in­cluded the U.S. Supreme Court, but her neigh­bors knew her as a con­sum­mate en­ter­tainer whose tiny house in Old Town was al­ways filled with two things: in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and ex­cel­lent food.

“Mary was an iconic fig­ure in the neigh­bor­hood,” said Gail Ca­malier, a friend and neigh­bor. “Her par­ties were le­gendary. Peo­ple who ate her food loved it and re­mem­bered her.”

Be­sides her cook­ing, Ms. Moore was known for her sense of pre­sen­ta­tion. She had an abil­ity to pull ev­ery­thing to­gether — table­cloths, cen­ter­pieces, flow­ers — with just the right flour­ish.

“She just had this eye for per­fec­tion,” neigh­bor Erick Chi­ang said.

A one­time painter, Ms. Moore turned her sense of artistry to food as the owner of Much Moore Qual­ity Cater­ing in Alexan­dria. For more than a decade, she had been the Supreme Court’s caterer of choice and had han­dled many pri­vate gath­er­ings for the jus­tices.

She was com­fort­able with dishes from al­most any cui­sine and of­ten gave classes on how to make sushi. Her other culi­nary spe­cial­ties in­cluded sal­ads and beef ten­der­loin.

“She taught me how to cook a ten­der­loin,” Chi­ang said. “Four hun­dred twenty-five de­grees and 25 min­utes — it al­ways came out per­fectly done.”

In a typ­i­cal week, Ms. Moore had five to 10 cater­ing jobs that in­cluded wed­dings, busi­ness lunches, cock­tail re­cep­tions and pri­vate par­ties. She had catered a large event in Alabama days be­fore she died at Inova Alexan­dria Hos­pi­tal on Jan. 18 of an acute form of leukemia. She was 62.

At her first cater­ing job in 1982, Ms. Moore pre­pared food for more than 150 peo­ple over open fires at an out­door build­ing site in Tysons Corner. Her rep­u­ta­tion quickly spread by word of mouth.

Ms. Moore did most of her work at a com­mer­cial kitchen she owned in Old Town, de­sign­ing each menu and work­ing with a florist on the flower ar­range­ments. She of­ten had as many as 75 peo­ple work­ing for her.

She could look in­side any­one’s re­frig­er­a­tor and in­stantly whip up a mem­o­rable meal, friends said.

Ca­malier, a real es­tate agent, re­called be­ing de­layed on a busi­ness trip to New York on a day when she had planned to give a din­ner party at her home in Alexan­dria. With no food ready, she called Ms. Moore in des­per­a­tion.

“When I got home,” Ca­malier said, “ the din­ner was in the oven.”

Be­fore the evening was over, guests were ask­ing for recipes.

Mary Ellen Bur­rell was born March 27, 1948, in Washington and grew up in Alexan­dria. She was a grad­u­ate of the old Notre Dame Academy in the District and of Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Uni­ver­sity. In the early 1970s, she re­ceived a mas­ter of fine arts de­gree at the Uni­ver­sity of Brighton in Eng­land.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to the Washington area, Ms. Moore worked as a wait­ress while try­ing to es­tab­lish a ca­reer as a painter be­fore turn­ing to cook­ing and cater­ing.

Ms. Moore, whose mar­riage to Terry Moore ended in divorce, grew up in a fam­ily of eight chil­dren.

Sur­vivors in­clude three sis­ters, Kather­ine Dollinger of Clarksville, Va., Ann McCarty of Fair­fax County and Jane Beck­with of Dunedin, Fla.; and three broth­ers, Fred Bur­rell of Wax­haw, N.C., Ben Bur­rell of Mont­gomery Vil­lage and Bob Bur­rell of Loudoun County.

Ms. Moore had been a bone mar­row donor to a younger sis­ter, Sally Bonnes, who died of leukemia in 1993.

Un­til Ms. Moore saw a doc­tor Jan. 14, she had been in good health. Four days af­ter her leukemia di­ag­no­sis, she died.

The Dar­ling­ton House res­tau­rant in­Wash­ing­ton will take over Ms. Moore’s cater­ing sched­ule, but her neigh­bors agree that no one will be able to take her place on the pa­rade route through Old Town.

FAM­ILY PHOTO

MaryMoore’s culi­nary spe­cial­ties in­cluded sal­ads and beef ten­der­loin. She also gave classes on how to make sushi.

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