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Caterer Takes the Cake at Chicago Show


For Deborah Du Shane-Fabricant, all it took was Panache.

Restaurant industry leaders gathered for the Pacesetter Awards Breakfast on Monday at the Chicago Hilton and Towers as part of the National Restaurant Assn. Show.

There the Roundtable for Women recognized 18 women for innovation and excellence in food, beverage and hospitality. Awards were given in fields ranging from restaurant concept to institutional food service to food manufacturing.

Du Shane-Fabricant, who owns Chez Panache, Purveyors of Fine Food, in Fullerton, won in the catering category.

Former fashion model, commercial food stylist and cookbook author, Du Shane-Fabricant was one of the first in the nation to combine a gourmet food emporium with catering and a restaurant under one roof.

Although the enterprise has been open for nearly two years, the catering end of the business didn't really begin to take off until November, when Du Shane-Fabricant made something of a surreal splash at the Newport Harbor Art Museum Wine Auction: By spreading the skirt of her Mylar dress under the display of Panache hors d'oeuvres, Du Shane-Fabricant virtually became the table off which she was serving.

She often uses Mylar in her displays. "It's like saran wrap, only it doesn't stick." But the key to fine catering isn't saran wrap, she said: The key is in "customizing."

"We don't have Menu A, B and C," Du Shane-Fabricant, 41, explained. "I say, what do you like, what don't you like, what kind of a menu do you want? We'll create something unique and garnished beautifully.

"I've always loved to make food look gorgeous. That's what I did as a food stylist. (A food stylist sets up dishes for photographs and commercials.) But now, taste levels have been elevated to the point where I can make gorgeous food (for eating), and people appreciate it. I've been waiting for the day to happen, and it's happened."

She also summed up current catering trends in one word: corporate.

"There's been a big push toward board room dining," Du Shane-Fabricant noted, "and that's sure to continue. We bring them anything from a paper bag with a sandwich to some fabulous feast that will impress the clients."

Du Shane-Fabricant credits her catering director, Christine Purzycki, and her chef, Robert Simoni, with much of the success of the operation.

Chez Panache is 6,000 square feet of checkerboard black and white, with accents of red and neon signs. A baker's dozen of specialty sections include Torrefaction du Cafe, Creme Glacee, a wine bar, bakery, cheese and pate and pasta shops. The restaurant now serves lunch, English tea time and dinner. Among the desserts is a cheesecake that many consider the best in the county.

Bearing the Panache private label are products ranging from Crispy Duck Plum Sauce to Texas Bill's Cookin' Glaze to Gourmet Goobers.

"People say they don't know why we're in Fullerton, that we ought to be in New York or Los Angeles," said Du Shane-Fabricant. "But north Orange County needed this. There was nothing up here. Why should we go where there's a plethora of restaurants and food establishments?"

The location has proven a good one for Panache and promises to become even better: The first Imax (a five-story theater where moviegoers are surrounded by sight and sound) in Orange County will be built next to Panache and is scheduled for completion in 1988.

The location also should prove auspicious this Sunday, when the Hands Across America chain passes in front of the store: Du Shane-Fabricant will sell picnics for $12 to $22 and a small percentage of each sale will be donated to the effort, she said.

Among Du Shane-Fabricant's nightmares: Santa Ana winds so strong that a tent can't be erected and the food sits out in the sun; running out of food--"people occasionally eat a lot more than you thought they would"; the chef forgetting to make a particular dish; rental companies forgetting the glasses. . . .

"These things happen to every caterer," she said. "On our way to a job, we always look for the closest grocery store, closest liquor store, find out if they have ice. The first thing we ask when we walk in the door is, 'Where's the telephone?' "

Surrounded with such an array of gastronomic delights, Du Shane-Fabricant manages to keep her picture-perfect figure.

"I swim every morning," she explained, "and I've started lifting weights with my (19-year-old) daughter, Samantha." Du Shane-Fabricant's husband, Michael Fabricant, has two daughters, Lisa and Jessica.

The Panache venture seems to have made more than a lasting impact on one of the daughters.

"Lisa starts a (college-level) hotel and restaurant program this week," Du Shane-Fabricant said. "Looks like she's going into the business."

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