A panache for unique cuisine: Local catering chef delivers gourmet goods

Michelle Miller, owner of Panache Catering, provides fresh gourmet foods for her customers. Ashley Miller/Daily

WINCHESTER – Michelle Miller discovered her passion for the culinary arts after she spent time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother as a child. There she was exposed to foods from around the world. Today she has an appreciation for superior cuisine, which she shares through her gourmet catering company, Panache Catering.

“I grew up in Savanna, Georgia, with my grandmother and mother,” Miller said. “They both loved to cook and entertain. And both had a great deal of style that maybe was a little out of the box.”

Miller recalls her grandmother wearing turbans and walking around the house with cigarette holders in clothing she made from pieces of fabric she discovered. But what Miller will never forget is her grandmother’s home cooking.

“Whenever I would go and see her, she would always ask me what I would like to have,” she said. “I would always say her fried chicken and her lemon sour cream pound cake.”

Whether it was stirring a sauce or setting the table, Miller said as a little girl she looked forward to afternoons and evening spent in the kitchen. She credits those moments to her success today.

Thia beef salad skewers. Ashley Miller/Daily

Over the years Miller said she’s come to appreciate unique cuisine. She’s traveled the world, exploring for new and innovate ways to incorporate her favorite items into her ever-growing menu. Travel often inspires her creativity.

She jokes that she didn’t get to where she is today easily.

“I’ve done everything from driving a trash truck to being a painter,” she said. “All these little things help you get to where you are today.”

She’s also worked for world-renowned chefs, taken cooking classes in Europe and experienced living in countries like Thailand, where she draws inspiration from local culture.

Miller defines her cuisine as fresh, local and beautifully presented, which also happens to be the slogan of her business. With fast-paced Northern Virginia moving further west, Miller said she noticed people with more sophiscated taste looking for cuisine to quench their pallet.

Sous chef Jason Edwards fills a tartlet with cream filling. Ashley Miller/Daily

“I would also say we’re sometimes a little ahead of our time,” she said. “And because people are hungry for change, we came in with new ideas and new direction for the Winchester area.”

As the first gourmet catering company in Winchester over 34 years ago, Miller and her recently added sous chef Jason Edwards are continuously coming up with new and intriguing items for their customers.

“We taste everything we make,” she said.

Items on the menu include flat iron steak stuffed with mint, mango with chili and lime juice and salmon served cold, topped with cucumbers and key lime tartlets, filled with a tequila infused cream and topped with lime zest.

Everything is sourced locally and is based on the four seasons. Or as Miller said, “However the wind blows.”

Key lime, tequlia-infused tartlets, topped with lime zest. Ashley Miller/Daily

She is also known for her use of edible flowers, which add color and vibrancy to each plated dish as well as added nutrients.

Edwards noted, “For many of the customers, this is the first experience they’ve had with something that isn’t from a chain restaurant. It’s different, but we want to feed people well.”

Edwards was brought into the equation when Miller decided she wanted to take more time to travel with her husband Peter.

“I’ve been cooking most of my life,” Edwards said. “But it wasn’t until I experienced Michelle’s food at a friend’s wedding that I truly appreciated her work.”

Simplifying and getting down to the basics is something Miller said she’s glad she’s learned over the years. But she still credits her passion for cooking to the warm nights in Savannah with her mom and grandmother, cooking up a storm.

Panache Catering services weddings, cocktail events, fundraisers, holiday and office parties.


Key Lime Tequila Filling
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons tequila
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Scant amount sugar to sweeten whipped cream
Place sweetened condensed milk in bowl. Add lime zest and lime juice. Add salt. Add tequila to taste. Chill overnight to get proper consistency. Whip cream and sweeten lightly. Place filling into homemade phyllo tart shells and pipe on whipped cream. Top with additional lime zest if desired.
Thai Beef Salad Skewers
For Sauce
1/2 cup cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons serrano pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar, approx.
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
Pepper, to taste
Beef skewers
1 flat iron steak
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh mint leaves, picked from stems
Vegetable oil
Mix in food processor all of the ingredients and taste for seasoning. May need more brown sugar depending on preference. Serve as dipping sauce for Thai Beef Skewers or pour over. This dressing/sauce is great on any salad.
For beef:  Marinate beef with garlic, salt and pepper and vegetable oil.  Let sit to marinate and then roast or grill steak until medium rare to rare. If roasting, brown in skillet and turn once. Place into oven preheated to 375 to 400 degrees until done. Let beef sit to absorb juices. Chill. Slice thinly against the grain. Place mint leaves on slices and roll up and secure with skewer. Serve with dipping sauce. May be served room temperature or cold.