Archive for May, 2009

Seated Meals Vs. Buffet

May 26, 2009

Ah, the age old catering question.

I hear it A LOT and it never really gets answered. Both really have their ups and downs. Personally, I favor the buffet because I just have to garnish a tray or pan ( I personally hate garnishing things, waste of time and distracts from the food, so when I do garnish I KEEP IT SIMPLE!) in stead every single plate. Then there’s consistency to worry about. It’s far easier to make 6 fruit trays look alike by yourself than having 4 other guys always assemble the plate the same. Doesn’t matter if they have cream of the crop training or they’re a server pulled off the floor in a last ditch emergency. People eye ball things differently, have different hand sizes and strengths. Not to mention all no fabricated foods are always different in shape, size, and density. An absolute nightmare for the perfectionist that wants cookie cutter food!

On the other hand, financially, the seated meal has many boons the buffet can’t match. For instance, a good caterer will always have a definitive count before the event even takes place, some times days in advance. This cuts down on waste, loss, and unnecessary prep time. (And for those fools like myself that took Salary this can be a deal maker or breaker.) Not to mention when you’re done with the last plate that’s it! You can start cleaning up and get the hell outta there!

But then I waffle back again, with a buffet you get one gigantic pow of color, texture, and flavor. People can pick and choose what they want with out anything being sent back or changing their mind on the entree. A buffet also requires less servers to run (generally) and has far fewer demands of the chef once on-site.

But the seated meal counters with one thing done very will. Where everything on the plate compliments the next so you don’t get any funky tastes. (You know, like toothpaste and orange juice?) And unlike a buffet where you know people will clean you out of house and home with the crab legs in browned butter whilst leaving the veggie platter full and unscathed, a seated meal makes for even portioning on starch, veg, and entree.

So yeah, it boils down to garnish for me.

I mention all this because we had two last weekend, and they went remarkably well! Granted, they were for less than a hundred each and only had four different entrees between the two. (3 at mine, 1 at Nick’s) But I still felt at the end of the day like I’d been drug across the coals, if you know what I mean. I don’t know if it’s the timed pressure that’s so very restaurant-esque of the seated meal that drains my soul, or maybe it’s the ever prevalent fear that 10 more people will show up and I won’t have anything for the staff and myself to nosh on before the day rolls over into tomorrow?

But I know this much, seated meals are by far no walk in the park and a little bit of me always groans inside when ever I see them come up on the billing sheets. Ah well, it’s a living. I got out of restaurants, returning to my catering roots because of the ease of work and the timing but it’s nice to see how the other side lives every once in a while.

So long as I don’t have to do it all day, every day. Kitchen’s closed kiddies!



A night at the theater. . .

May 14, 2009

Mother always said I would have really shined on the stage.

I’m not sure I agree with her on that one but certain degree of acting is required in this job and I will be the first to admit that I am not always willing ready and able for that task. Case and point the Sunday before last at the Broadway Center in my beloved down town T-Town. It had been an uncharacteristicly long week. With 6 events in three days I was running on a mixture of spite and honor by the time the Lord’s Day rolled around. HE may have gotten to rest on that seventh day but as my contemporaries will tell you, few caterers ever do.

The even was a fundraise for local schools and getting the Arts BACK into the classroom. Something myself, and my girlfriend have felt was direly needed when WE went to school and it’s apparently only gotten worse. So when this idea was pitched to me a month or two ago I had no problem doing a freebie. Which I generally abhor, I mean, if my food was good enough to sell why am I giving it away? And between three different owners and four different jobs it was methodically beaten into my skull that a bit of “Pay it Forward” and it’ll come back to you is required in small ponds like Tacoma and even works out in larger lakes like Seattle.

What I failed to take notice was that so many other things were coming to a head that weekend and I would be paying for my humanitarianism in spades this time. I have hence learned to ALWAYS consult the ordersheets and callendar before committing to anything. If you asked me if I regretted it now I would still say no. My home recipe for Herb Roasted Cocktail Shrimp Shooters cleaned up. So popular were they, I had one left afte what I saved for my fellow presenters in the appetizer portion of the evening. The Roasted Red Pepper Bisque with Gorgonzolla Drizzle were mildly popular, but it was much warmer than I anticipated, though the older crowd raved about it.

Maxwell’s Speakeasy and Lounge was in attendance, I recall eatting there when they first opened a while back and it was the BEST porkchop I had ever eatten. I often come across food far superior to my own but they even beat my old meat loving training Chef Hawley from SSCC and that’s saying something. Not to mention porkchops are so commonly used and abused by chefs either ignorant in their preperation or worse, use the item as filler. So I was surprizing disappointed that they their jalepeno shrimp curl was overly strong and chewy. The chicken wrap they paired it with was also a bit chewy, but they complimented one another. I would probably be less critically if their fat assistant chef hadn’t been running his mouth about how much decor we had. Espeically when they had nothing but a chalkboard and a flat table.

Brix 25, a small restraunt out in Gig Harbor, that until this event I had never heard of. Brought some decent competiton, with their napa roll and a lettuce roll. Moe didn’t care for the lettuce roll but I thought it’s semi-crisp texture paired with a creamy center was a nice addition to their spring roll. Albeit, Monica would never let me serve something as colorless as that, but if the flavor is there that’s an easy fix. And further kudos to them for slicing them on site. That’s no easy task espeically packed in with four other chefs in a 6 square foot area and 200 hungry socialites chomping at the bit for more. Their presentation was also very nice, and their chef quite cordial.

My only real complaint for that evening was the rentals.  I ordered shot glasses and small demitase cups, I had ordered these before, and expected shot glasses and small demitase cups. Granted, these were a donation and not paid for on our part but even then, the equipment I received was more than substandard. Their idea of a shot glass, resembled a clear glass votive that one puts a 6 hour candle into that you’d find in cheap bars. The demitase cup, turned out to be an undersized coffee cup instead of a petite bit of china.

As a Chef I have certain limitations once I get “On-Site”. Things can only bend so far before quality or quantity are compromised. This is doubly so when it’s done in front of the guest in a live action station. So after starting off the day at my wits end and coming across this bit of news I will be the first to admit that I lost it. I was a right certifiable ogre that afternoon and worst of all it showed. Not to the clients that found me both quote, “Enguaging.” and “Very professional.” but to my peers. Apprently I snubbed both my Boss and the event coordinator with some sort of curt answer about how my day was going. I can only apologize to all the parties involved and take it as a learning experience.

Kitchen’s closed.


Hail to the King

May 12, 2009

I have never been what you would call a winner.

I’m pretty big, but not strong enough to be good at any sport. Some have said I have a decent head on my shoulders, but I’m a far cry from a genius. I have skills yes, but there are plenty others in my field that have just the same or better that are also my close competitors. And while I’m still considered “young” I’m certainly not getting any younger if this last week is any indication.

So when I DO win at something it’s first met with disbelief, then shock, and finally the smug sense of victory I’m sure the turtle felt as it crossed the finish line in that childhood fable we all know so well. Case in point, the Herban Horsederve challenge that happened last Friday in Seattle. I had completely forgotten our meeting when we discussed what we’d be doing for it until I peeled back my stack of notes and other paper dietrous to find that it was Veggie Cakes with a new Lemon Thyme Parmesan Creme Friache.

My first thought was that we’d get stomped by a chicken skewer or a spring roll. A vegetarian dish couldn’t win against Seattle’s best and brightest with a much larger budget and time allowance, right? We’ll sure as I’m sitting here now, staring at my Brussel Sprout Crown presented to the Boss and myself by the local plant guru himself, Cisco. We sure did win it.

Admittedly, there was only four companies competing (I was led to believe there would be more like 8 ) but all the same. It’s a nice feeling to know that some one from T-Town was still able to clean up in the Emerald City. Two of the competitors brought Ahi dishes, which really surprised me that we won, because Ahi is the new mango or avocado. It’s the IN food of the moment. The last dish was a personal potato salad that I’m told was a bit too much potato and not enough of the good stuff as far as the flavor department.

Moments like this really put it all into perspective for me. I had put in a ton of hours this week and am glad to see it paid off more than just a paycheck and the knowledge of a days work done well. This is our second victory in a row and I personally look forward to making it third time’s the charm!

Kitchen’s closed.