Renee Scharoff grew up on a Connecticut farm, where her mother, who ran a modeling agency, organized some serious dinner parties. Scharoff put the glamour in the kitchen with Blonde on the Run, her locally sourced, Boston-area catering company. This summer she has really been running, having taken over the catering concession on the Cape Flyer, the revived vacationers’ train now in its second season.
Q. How did your relationship with the train come about?
A. One of the guys who helped create the Cape Flyer, I had a catering relationship with him. He reached out to me.
Q. Was your initial reaction, “Really? I’m going to ride the train every weekend?”
A. Yes. My first reaction was, “Oh my goodness, there’s no way, I’m too busy.” The weekend they wanted me to start was my birthday weekend, and I was going to New York City — I had all these plans. But some people I work with said, “Renee, you have to do it. This is an awesome opportunity.” So I took out my schedule and canceled all my plans. I had no staff. I had literally days to figure out how I was going to make this all work. Thankfully, it did.
Q. So you’ve made a few hires.
A. Yeah, I had to hire four people who ride the train all weekend. On big holiday weekends when I know it’s going to be super insane, I’m usually on the train, just to make sure everything’s running decently and in order.
Q. Your catering business does not look to me like day-old tuna sandwiches and bags of chips, which is what you get used to when you take the train to New York.
A. Right. It was a stretch for me. It was comical – on the first weekend I took the train, someone came up and said, “Oh my goodness, the sandwiches are so good!” In my head I’m going, “They are?” ‘Cause I’m used to doing such different food. But hey, good food is good food, whether it’s a sandwich or a slice of beef tenderloin.
Q. Have you tinkered with the menu?
A. We tinkered a bit. I know we have things posted, a few of those things have changed. I have this exotic menu in my chef brain, and you figure out that by the time you prepare it and hit the train and it sits for three hours, you can’t do a roasted vegetable and hummus sandwich — it’s going to get soggy. You figure these things out. You go, “OK, I’m going to go with these sandwiches that are classic, tried and true, and they’ll hold up for the whole train ride.” And they taste good, which is most important for me.
Q. How busy has the train been?
A. Friday nights are super fun. I love working on Friday nights. It’s like a party car, honestly. We’ve got music going, and people are buying rounds of drinks. I’ve made so many friends riding the Cape Flyer. People are so excited they can leave from South Station and don’t have to sit in traffic. I spoke to one woman who said on Fourth of July weekend she sat in traffic for five hours. The next weekend she was on the train, and she was so excited. She had a glass of wine and a sandwich, and she was making friends with everyone, telling her horror story: “I’m never doing that again.”
Q. What was your experience with the Cape before this?
A. I have friends who live on the Cape, and my catering company, a lot of my Boston clients have second homes on the Cape. I love working out here.
Q. Now that you have a summer under your belt, is there anything you think you’ll do differently next year?
A. I’ll try to create some new sandwiches this fall. It’s been a great season; it’s run very smoothly, but I think it will be even better next year. I’ll probably do some menu things I’ve wanted to do, like a cheese box. Just figure out what people want and like, and I think we have a better understanding of that.
Q. When you work on the train, do you plan a weekend around it, or do you get on the next train and go back to work?
A. It depends what my schedule looks like. Most times, I have to come right back. But I have stayed the weekend. There’s a great little bed-and-breakfast that I love. I’ll ride down with friends and hit the beach.James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.