'Creativity' sets Upper Crust Caterers apart

A passion for cooking and entertaining is the primary ingredient in an entrepreneurial endeavor that's now being savored by Park Rapids area residents.

A passion for cooking and entertaining is the primary ingredient in an entrepreneurial endeavor that's now being savored by Park Rapids area residents.

Upper Crust Caterers Melissa Spahn and Nancy Baer began conferring at Curves exercise salon, Spahn the manager, Baer the client.

Initially, their shared penchant for East Coast food stirred conversation. "We couldn't talk about anything but food," Baer recalled.

Out of this friendship and their appetites for cooking grew the idea to share the passion with others.

"I was on my way to retirement," Baer mused. "And I started a business."


Baer's husband Howard, who serves as chief taster and "buggy lugger" came up with the Upper Crust name.

"As soon as it was spoken, it was 'the name,'" Baer recalled. And the two moved forward to establish a limited liability corporation and become certified food handlers.

Their mission: Providing high quality cuisine with a beautiful presentation.

"We try to step out of the ordinary, try things we haven't tried before," Baer said.

"We pull from recipes to create our own," Baer said. "Tantalizing" fresh herbs are key ingredients in creating a memorable meal.

"Our menus are set apart from the norm. They are kicked up," Spahn said. "We take cheesy potatoes to a whole new level," she said of the four imported cheeses blended with spuds.

The two specialize in custom catering, meeting with clients to learn their culinary preferences. That may include making a family favorite for a crowd, upon request.

"There's no set menu," Spahn explained. "It's created for the client. Each one is unique."


Their venues: weddings, corporations, private parties at home, birthdays and "business after hours."

"People eat with their eyes," Baer said. "It has to be beautiful and taste even better than it looks. And no one goes away hungry," she said of "abundant portions."

The duo has served parties ranging from 4 to 400, using the commercial kitchen of Camp Emmaus near Menahga. Chafers and insulated bags keep food warm in transport. Most meals are served "on location."

A sample menu emerging from that kitchen may include: Beef Wellington; chicken breasts stuffed with cranberry, wild rice and pecan dressing; baked sweet potatoes, green beans and "upper crusty" rolls served with assorted butters.

This could be topped off with lemon cheesecake in a toasted pecan crust and (always) Caribou coffee.

Appetizers can serve as the "main menu." A sample of their hors d' oeuvres: shrimp ceviche in wonton cups, beef tenderloin canapés, olive Tapenade canapés, hot spinach artichoke dip and stuffed Brie with apples, pecans and Kahlua.

Chocolate covered strawberries sate the sweet tooth.

The chefs will tackle ethnic foods from ports around the globe.


Serving is mostly buffet but they also serve family style, with platters on the table.

Presentation, they agree, is key. That may include themes and colors suited to customer wishes.

"We are so proud of what's happened," Baer said of the burgeoning business, created in the spring of 2007.

"Our base of customers has expanded word of mouth," she said.

Taste buds, specifically.

For more information on "making your event a cut above," send an e-mail to .

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