Connie Crabtree

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ... ?

March 31, 2007|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN

Connie Crabtree showcased her culinary reputation as an innovative chef while owning and operating several intimate and casual restaurants on and off for more than 30 years.

Today, she has swapped the daily restaurant grind for that of a successful and much in demand caterer.

In 1973, with the help of several friends, the former Towson State College and Maryland Institute student opened Cacao Lane, a funky informal French restaurant, in Ellicott City.

"The menu changed every day because we didn't have a freezer and entrees were chalked up on a blackboard," said Crabtree, with a laugh, from her Federal Hill catering company.

Through the years, the Cordon Bleu and Jacques Pepin-trained Crabtree has been associated with the Owl Bar in the Belvedere Hotel, Green Earth Caf?, Crabtree's, and the Admiral's Cup in Fells Point.

Her last restaurant venue was Pier 500, which opened in 1990 in the HarborView condominiums.

Just to prove there was culinary life after leaving Pier 500, Crabtree, 57, and her second husband, Woodie Burritt, a retired Baltimore deputy police commissioner, established Rand Yacht Charters and Catering by Crabtree.

"We do dinner charters aboard the Rubaiyat, a 53-foot Hatteras [yacht], for corporate clients or small groups of 30," she said. "I also do a lot of off-premises corporate catering, and the other day catered a lunch for 400 at the University of Maryland."

She also helped develop and teaches "Essential Skills," an eight-week culinary job course in food safety, handling and preparation, for women from the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter.

"So, I cater a little, charter a little, and teach a little," Crabtree, 57, says of her current lifestyle. "I tell people I'm semi-retired but don't know it."

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