Junior League's Food & Beverage Manager talks about work, vols and those awesome orange rolls

If you’ve been to a special event at The Junior League of Houston (and, who hasn’t) you already know the food is consistently delicious and the service is friendly and super-efficient. 
What you might not know, however, is the name and face of the person who makes sure your experience there is always exceptionally good! 
 
Let me introduce you to “the man of the Junior League,” Malcolm Rowland.
 
Malcolm was born in London in 1946, shortly after World War II. When he was five years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States. They came by boat, landed New York City and made their way to Shreveport, La, to join an aunt and uncle who sponsored them.
 
A few years later, the Rowlands moved to Houston, and Malcolm was enrolled in           Pershing Middle School. He went on to attend and graduate from Westbury High School and, afterwards, the University of Houston, where he majored in business. 
 
HWM: When did you start working at The Junior League of Houston?
 
ROWLAND: My first day was November 4, 1985. And, my job title was the same as it is now — Food and Beverage Manager. 
 
HWM: What were you doing before you came to work at The League? 
 
ROWLAND: Though I didn’t major in the culinary arts in college, I developed an interest in the field over a period of time and, eventually, became the Food and Beverage Manager at the old Whitehall Hotel. I was working there when I was offered my current position with The Junior League. 
 
HWM: You joined the team at The League shortly before it moved into the beautiful building it occupies now. Was that just a coincidence?
 
ROWLAND: Actually, no; I was hired to get everything ready for the move (on April 1, 1986) and transition into the new, and much larger, spaces. The tasks included hiring more staff,           developing new menus, establishing a price structure for the menu items and all the details associated with running the department and hosting special events here. 
 
HWM: Speaking of special events, about how many are held in The Junior League        facility each year? 
 
ROWLAND: Between 600-700 events are held here every year. We host breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as afternoon teas and cocktail receptions. Really, we can do whatever the client needs us to do. 
 
Weddings, rehearsal dinners, galas and fundraisers are held in the ballroom, which can accommodate large groups of 300-plus. And, many other smaller events are booked in the Tea Room by Junior League members and patrons for their friends and families, companies, nonprofits and other community groups.
 
HWM: Just how large is The Junior League facility?
 
ROWLAND: The building has two levels and is 40,000 square feet overall. Most are familiar with the layout of the ground floor (at least the public rooms), but many don’t realize there is a second level, where the administrative offices are located. 
 
HWM: Many local clubs and organizations hold their regular monthly meetings in the ballroom and have been for many years. Could you name a few of those for us?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, I am happy to say we have developed long-term relationships with many local organizations and their members. These include the American Ad Federation, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Houston Estate and Financial Forum, as well as many real estate groups
 
HWM: The lot of nonprofits keep coming back too. Have they told you why they are so dedicated to having their events there?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, they have. They comment on the quality (and consistency) of the food and service, the free parking in our garage and how easy we are to work with. And, the   affordability of having an event at The Junior League. Of course, all of us here love getting this kind of feedback. 
 
HWM: The Tea Room is open for lunch several days a week, but it is not a public restaurant. Would you tell our readers more about that?
 
ROWLAND: The Tearoom is used for special events Sundays through Tuesdays. On the other days of the week, members and patrons of The Junior League can dine there for lunch. Though it’s not open to the public, all are invited to consider  a membership. A patron membership is just $75 per year. And, important to note, the membership fee is a donation; it goes directly into The Junior League of Houston Foundation fund. 
 
HWM: How many people can be served in the Tea Room?
 
ROWLAND: The room seats 100. However, the side rooms are often used for other offerings of a special event. For example, they might be set up to provide a pre-event reception or to accommodate vendor booths. 
 
HWM: Those of us who have eaten in the Tea Room or attended special events at The Junior League always enjoy the signature orange rolls. Please tell us about them. 
 
ROWLAND: The orange rolls were on the menu when I got here. Though the recipe has been passed down through the years, we don’t really know where it originated. But, you’re right; everybody loves the orange rolls, and they are a staple of our bread service at all our events. They are also available for purchase in the Junior League Pantry.  
 
HWM: Please tell our readers about The Pantry? What is sold there? 
 
ROWLAND:  The Pantry offers wonderful bakery items and frozen casseroles prepared in its Tea Room Kitchen. In addition, care packages, special orders and cookbooks are also available for purchase. 
 
The Pantry is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 
We tell people they can “stop by or call 713-622-5965 to check inventory or place an order. It’s like getting a taste of the Junior League Tearoom on the go.”
 
HWM: Is there a "most popular” item in The Pantry?
 
ROWLAND: Yes! We get more requests for the King Ranch Casserole than anything else. We offer it in two sizes, and it seems to be the perfect entree for many in-home gatherings.
 
HWM: The Pantry offers gift certificates. Right?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, The Junior League offers gift certificates that can be used to purchase items from The Pantry, including frozen meals, catering packages and cookbooks. Tea Room patron members and League members may also use them to purchase special event tickets or dine in the Tea Room. 
 
HWM: Would you tell us about the challenges and easiest parts of your job?
 
ROWLAND: One of the biggest challenges is creating new menu ideas for a gala, wedding reception, special corporate event or any special occasion. The easiest part of my job is meeting with clients to help olan their events.  
 
HWM: You’ve been at The League a long time now, so you must love your job. Can you talk to us about that?
 
ROWLAND: I enjoy working with the League members who are here — not because they have to, but because they want to. They freely volunteer their time to make our community a better place. It is the mission of The Junior League that is very rewarding to me. 
 
Beverly Denver is the editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine.
 
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