Market serves up Something Different

Published 9:09 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jason Roland and wife, Shannon McMahon, are owners of Something Different Catering and popular vendors of tasty fruit slushies at the successful first-year Helena Farmers Market.

“Julia Child appeared to me in a dream last night,” laughs Jason, by way of introducing his chef demo at a recent Helena Market Day. “She approved my choice of using her traditional crepe recipe from ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking.’”

Roland’s cooking technique tends toward improvisational –– as he believes that except for baked goods, where success depends on correct ratios of baking soda or yeast-it is perfectly fine to let your taste buds lead the way.

His crepes filled with fresh peaches with basil and feta goat cheese reflected this philosophy, as did the ratatouille dish he prepared earlier in the season –– assembled after strolling through the market and selecting fresh ingredients from the vendors.

Roland, a native of Dothan, was stationed in California while in the Air Force and remained to attend culinary school in Santa Barbara.

In the late ‘90s, he was part of a benefit/fundraiser dinner that honored Julia Child in her later years.

Child left her massive cookbook collection to the institution, an additional influence on Roland while receiving his training.

Roland and McMahon met there, and his recent five-year managerial stint with California Pizza Kitchen brought the couple to Birmingham.

Roland also worked with Harry’s Hofbrau, a restaurant featuring roasted meats and full service bar.

Conceptually the West Coast version evolved from Gold Rush times when food was free –– used to entice drinkers to indulge in the five-cent beer.

The hofbrau also has German roots and Roland sampled local beer gardens while visiting his brother in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“I always suggest trying the local food, wherever you travel,” Roland says.

Roland and McMahon began a private cooking club five years ago to meet new people in the Birmingham area. Rotating homes, the host chooses the menu and cooks the main dish.

The group has explored international cuisines and held dinners thematically based on tea, flowers, and color.

For a medieval-themed coterie, Roland’s own piéce de résistance was a French meat pie with cranberries, nuts, pork and chicken quarters made to look like a castle with crenellated crust and flying paper flags.

Shannon McMahon is currently a graduate student in nutrition with plans to work in pediatrics or metabolics. Both enjoy volunteer work with children through Jones Valley Urban Farm.

Something Different offers catering and meal delivery and is considering expanding into personal chef services and in-home cooking demos.

Current menus from the couple can be found at:

Columnist Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at