I served in a banquet hall for years, so I know how things are run in large kitchens to feed hundreds of people at once. Despite the long and late hours, sore feet and back, and No tips, I really liked working there (no surprise haha). One day, when I own my home, I plan to design a traditional kitchen that incorporates the look of commercial / industrial kitchens (ie. through appliances, stainless steel shelving perhaps, etc.). I bought my stand mixer in stainless steel with that in mind. I just love the look of that contrast in a kitchen [staring dreamily into the distance]…
Anyways, I’ve never cooked or done food prep for more than 30 people. So when a co-worker asked me to volunteer in the kitchen to help her cater a small function, I jumped at the opportunity. This was her second time doing this and I was happy to be the kitchen helper. The event was for 40 to 50 people, held at the Upper Canada Academy of Performing Arts, Kingston, ON on April 9, 2010.
The food that was served: The theme was A Night in Paris and it was a buffet of hors d’oeuvres. My co-worker developed the menu: veggie platter, cheese platter with fruit, white bean puree crostini, olive tapenade with toast rounds, pearl onion and parmesan crostini, escargot and chive cream cheese in wonton cups, two types of quiche, bourbon beef with horseradish cream sauce on lettuce, dijon mustard pork tenderloin rounds, meringue nests with lemon curd, one bite brownies, and creme brulee.
My thoughts on my first “catering” experience: Other than offering three suggestions (1. to use wonton cups instead of pre-made pastry cups to cut down on cost, 2. to add meringues to the dessert list to use up all of the egg whites that were left over from the other recipes, and 3. to carmelize sugar for a crunchy topping on the creme brulee when the broiler wasn’t working), I didn’t have a part in the menu planning. So I was only able to gain experience prepping, cooking, and plating for more people than usual, without my own equipment, in a foreign kitchen. The kitchen facility was better than I was expecting, with plenty of counter space and a 10 burner, 2 oven stove. Since I wasn’t planning or coordinating anything, I just had fun following my co-worker’s lead and trying to actualize her visions. The best part of the night was that I got to cook with a gas stove for the first time 🙂 The temperature control is very different and I’m definitely convinced that gas is better than electric. I really liked trying all new recipes too. I was hoping that this experience would give me an inkling of whether or not I should consider catering as a possible new career, but other than cooking in a foreign kitchen, it didn’t feel any different from when I cook for my own parties. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to gain experience catering for hundreds of people one day.