SNOHOMISH — Folding salami into a rose is a simple way to add some pizzazz to a plate of snacks, if you know how. That’s where Rachel Daniels and Mallori Rojas come in.
The two entrepreneurs each started their own catering services a few years ago. Daniels operates under the name Dished by Rachel and Rojas calls her business Smash Box. They both prepare boards filled with specialty cured meats, artisan cheese, fresh fruit, nuts, veggies, jams and crackers, all arranged with flair. They cater corporate events and social gatherings, and they offer individual snack boards of varying sizes for sale through pickup or local delivery.
Rojas describes the job as “styling food” with Daniels calling the finished product “edible art.” The two joined forces for a Charcuterie 101 workshop at the May 7 event “Bubbles, Brie and a Shopping Spree” held at Machias Meadows in Snohomish.
Close to 70 people attended. That day, they sipped mimosas and snapped pics in front of a “Let’s Party” neon sign framed by a pink and purple balloon arch. Vendors such as Rad Moon Mama and Cactus + Co. Camano set up shop while a look out one of the wedding venue’s windows showed a pasture filled with napping cows. Only three men were seen in the room, including the event’s sound engineer and a Herald reporter.
The creak of plastic containers opening filled the room as the workshop began. One woman got a little too excited and knocked over her glass. In response, her tablemate playfully called out “party foul.”
Wearing suit jackets, Daniels and Rojas walked among the crowd as they spoke. The duo had the cadence of motivational speakers, except most of the wisdom they shared involved cheese.
‘I was overwhelmed’
Daniels, 32, of Mill Creek, believes a carefully curated charcuterie board can elevate any occasion. That’s the premise behind Dished by Rachel. And before it was a business, it was an Instagram account.
Daniels used to be a full-time accountant who in her free time posted pics of the meals she cooked to social media. One day, she shared one of her boards and was met with a flurry of requests from folks looking to buy. In 2019, she decided to give it a try and made a post offering to make boards for people that Thanksgiving. She received more than a dozen orders.
“Immediately, I was overwhelmed,” Daniels said. Nevertheless, she drove around Snohomish County that holiday morning and delivered every board on schedule. Afterward, she realized this could be a business and got a catering license the next month.
Over time, the side gig took center stage in Daniels’ life, and, last year, it became a full-time job. Now, she spends her work day preparing platters of all sizes for corporate events and other social gatherings in her rented commercial kitchen at Thomas Family Farm in Snohomish.
“I may work more hours than I did as an accountant, but I make more,” Daniels said. “And I enjoy it more. I get to be creative, so there’s a lot of pluses.”
Smash Box was also kickstarted by an Instagram post. Rojas, 38, of Lynnwood, used to work in sales and marketing until she was laid off in November 2020. She was looking for a new source of income when one day she scrolled past some pics of a grazing box filled with snacks on social media.
It was at that moment that Rojas decided to make and sell her own snack arrangements. She picked up supplies at the local Trader Joe’s and made a few boxes.
“I sent a photo to my husband and I said, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘I’d smash that.’ And so that’s where the Smash Box name came from,” Rojas said.
She soon started marketing her services online and grew a following. Rojas officially launched her business in March 2022. Her only prior food industry experience was her first job at Dairy Queen. Now, she works out of the kitchen at Chef Dane Catering in Lynnwood.
“The demand was there and I wasn’t about to say no. So I figured it out and I kept going from there,” Rojas said. “I love being able to bring something to the table, quite literally, that people talk about.”
Snack board tips and tricks
Daniels and Rojas share tips and tricks in their snack board workshops. Here are few words of advice they offered just for Herald readers:
Cut the cheese: A common mistake Daniels sees aspiring party planners make is leaving out a whole uncut cheese wheel or block on the snack table. She said guests typically aren’t comfortable slicing and dicing into something like that. So hosts need to prepare their cheese beforehand if they don’t want it winding up as decoration.
Good cheese needs good crackers: Daniels encourages hosts to offer high quality crackers when serving expensive cheeses. So set those Ritz and Wheat Thins aside for flat breads and any gourmet crackers found in the specialty cheese section at the grocery store deli.
Don’t go all-in on bleu: Daniels suggests not going all in on any “funky flavor” cheese like bleu cheese or chèvre. A cheese that is tart with a sharp flavor can be overpowering for some guests’ pallets. So when offering a five-cheese spread, maybe include only one goat cheese and let the rest be “common flavor” cheeses with a soft taste like brie, cheddar and gouda.
Portion control: It can be difficult to not over-buy when shopping on an empty stomach, according to Rojas. To help, she said the general rule of thumb for a platter is to have a combined total of four ounces of meat and cheese per person. It’s better to have smaller amounts offering a variety of textures and tastes over a huge portion of a single item.
Gotta keep ‘em separated: When it comes to preparing snack boards, it’s not just about what is on them but what is left off. Rojas prefers to present her crackers separate from the refrigerated items in order to keep the crackers fresh and crispy. She’ll only include them if the board is for immediate consumption.
And anything runny or oily should be in a separate dish so it doesn’t bleed into other things on the board and change their taste.
“I don’t like olives,” Rojas said, ”so if there was olive juice all over my cheese, I wouldn’t be stoked about it.”
For Daniels, a “big no-no” is adding desserts to a charcuterie board. The goal is to ensure all the food on the board can be eaten together. Goodies like cookies and brownies don’t pair well with ham and olives.
“When you’ve got a chocolate-covered pretzel, are you going to eat that with cheese?” Daniels said. “Probably not.”
Daniels’ next workshop will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at the Barnard Griffin Winery tasting room in Woodinville. Tickets are $90. For more information, visit dishedbyrachel.com.
Rojas’ next workshop will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at The Finery wedding venue on Camano Island. Tickets are $100. For more information, visit readysetsmashbox.com.