Charles Richardson, 46, caterer with a flair, lab technician

July 07, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

When Charles Richardson saw unprepared food, he would envision a way to make it aesthetically appealing. For instance, when he saw a sardine, he'd imagine placing olive pits on it for eyes to enhance its appeal.

His distinctive visions were the roots and the philosophy of a small catering business he operated out of his West Baltimore rowhouse: Make it pretty and make it good.

"He always tried to make everything he cooked look real good. He was very artistic," said Lorraine Richardson, his mother. "He enjoyed making food look as good as it tasted.

"Everyone was crazy about his Swedish meatballs."

Mr. Richardson, 46, who died Tuesday of a heart attack at University of Maryland Medical Center, spent hours in his North Carrollton Street kitchen, tinkering with pinches of spices, herbs and flavorings.

And although his combinations sometimes seemed unorthodox, the results were usually tasty.

"He never fixed a thing that I didn't like," said Christopher Dixon, a friend. "Sometimes things had a little more tang to them, but it was always interesting."

Mr. Richardson began cooking for others shortly after he graduated from Carver Vocational High School in 1966.

His catering fees were negotiable, and if the customers were family, the only payment was to supply the food.

"He just liked people and liked doing what he could for others," his mother said.

Mr. Richardson's main job was as a lab technician at UM Medical Center, where he began work immediately after high school. He left that job because of health problems late last year.

He seldom missed a day of work at the hospital, and co-workers dubbed him "Snowman" because he came to work in all kinds of weather.

"He'd stay at the hospital when the weather was bad, and he'd walk there from home [about two miles]. He was crazy about that job," Mrs. Richardson said.

Mr. Richardson also enjoyed cooking and catering and put just as much zest into food preparation and presentation.

Nate Tatum, a niece who often went on catering jobs with him, said he would fix anything anyone asked him to make -- but with a special twist.

"He loved what he did," she said. "It was always special with him. He had a good time."

They went to a catering job at a West Baltimore banquet hall last year and found that the building had no air conditioning, running water or electricity. The event was held on a stifling summer day.

"We had to keep bringing the hot food home to keep it warm and keep all the cold food on ice. We were running back and forth there," Ms. Tatum said. "I can't tell you what he said, because it wasn't very nice."

They also suffered a caterer's nightmare once when they ran out of food. "We just had to cut everything in half and serve it," Ms. Tatum said.

In addition to his mother, Mr. Richardson is survived by three brothers, Jerry Richardson of Randallstown, and Larry Vines and Arthur Richardson, both of Baltimore; and a sister, Debbie Tatum of Baltimore.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11: 30 a.m. tomorrow at Morning Star Baptist Church of Christ, 1063 W. Fayette St.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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