It’s 9 a.m., the start of another busy day at Roy Metzler’s catering business. Roy sits in a booth in the far corner of his restaurant, twiddling his thumbs. His periwinkle shirt matches the blue of his eyes: eyes that are restless and anxious. Catering to 300 people is no easy task.
The clink of dishes in the kitchen provides a steady backdrop as he talks about his business and wine—particularly Beaujolais. Not just any Beaujolais: Beaujolais Nouveau.
Every year millions of cases of Beaujolais Nouveau are shipped from Paris to shop owners around the world at midnight on the third Thursday in November. Wine merchants put up banners shouting “Le Beaujolais est arrivé!” as the wine trickles into city after city by air freight, eventually finding its way to Denton and the arms of Roy Metzler, who distributes the wine at the annual Beaujolais & More Wine and Food Tasting.
The 10-year-old event is the sole fundraiser for The Campus Theatre, the 60-year-old movie house that’s home to the nationally recognized Denton Community Theatre. Funds go to the upkeep and repair of the 1949 building, allowing the theater group to stage seven to 10 plays and musical shows a year.
Managing director Mike Barrow, who performed his first play at DCT when he was just 10, credits two Denton residents, the late Gary Kirchoff and his wife Carol, with creating the wine fundraiser. It started with them inviting friends over to share Beaujolais Nouveau they shipped in from France. Every year, the party list kept expanding.
“At some point, they said, ‘We can actually turn this in to a fundraiser for The Campus Theatre,’” says Mike. “The next year they asked friends for donations and it just grew and grew.” It outgrew the Kirchoffs’ house, in fact. Last year, more than 400 people showed up for their “little” party at the Denton Civic Center.
Metzler is happy to spread the Beaujolais Nouveau word and to raise money for the theater. On average, he orders 60 bottles of Beaujolais for the festival alone. He also includes 10 other wines for those craving something different to go with the Thai, Mexican, French and Italian cuisines served at the festival.
Food, rather than wine, is the attraction for some folks. Pam Chittenden, head chef at Wildwood Inn, created a duck gumbo (by accident) for last year’s festival. She had gotten a shipment of duck instead of the duck breast she wanted. It was noon, the day of the festival, and she needed a dish to support the frail French wine—and one that would serve upwards of 200 people. “Almost every year I’ve done something smoked but last year, I thought, ‘I’ve never seen anybody do soup before,’ so I thought I’d try soup,” she says. Working with what Pam likes to call her “intuition,” she came up with the Cajun dish.
“That was my favorite! So many people loved it,” says Kyla Welch. “We all kind of went, ‘Hmm! That’s interesting! I think I’ll give that a try. Oooh, I want some more of that.’”
Local restaurants cater the event, hoping to build business. “For $25, you get a sample of 20 different restaurants,” says Kyla. While guests stroll the room, taking in the French music and sipping French wine, they can also taste test grapes in goat cheese, mini tacos and chocolate truffles. “Literally you eat and drink for two solid hours,” says Kyla.
Mike Barrow hopes to direct future funds to a specific project at the DCT, perhaps to renovate the Campus Theatre’s dressing rooms. Seven local businesses underwrite the festival expenses. Beaujolais Nouveau may have a short life span, but the benefits for The Campus Theatre last for years.