My sous chef and good friend CK hooked me up with a great lead this past weekend. His friend’s sister needed catering for her baby shower in Orange County. 25+ people. I hesitated a little, but knew someday down the line that I would have to handle larger scale events. So we stepped it up with the addition of another good friend, LL. There was no way in hell CK and I would work an event for 25+ people. We would DIE. It was a lot of work even for Best of LA’s event, and there were only 8 people. In my short career as a caterer, I’ve learned that larger events are much easier because they have a set 4-course menu. You cook no more than 4 dishes and have several people working different stations. The events we’ve been doing have required more detail and presentation since they are hors d’oeurves. Most of all, it was repetitive work, making sure that there were at least 25-30 items on each platter.
On Friday night, LL and I loaded up his truck and drove down to CK’s place in Orange County. We prepped from 10-2 am and threw in a few beers during our breaks. Drinking while working… awesome. We got up around 9am the next day and packed up all of the food and equipment. As soon as we left the cookie-cutter homes of Irvine into South OC, we noticed a drastic change in the communities. Wow, looks like we lucked out again... we would be blessed with a nice kitchen!
As soon as we walked in, I knew this would be a tougher event. The baby shower was also a pool party and the kitchen was right next to the backyard entrance. Meaning there would be a high amount of traffic and possible distractions. The stove was merely a glossy black top: oh no, electric stove!!! I was hoping for a Viking 6-burner. I haven’t used an electric stove since my college days in Irvine and HATED using them. You were gray and old and wearing Depends diapers by the time those irons heated up. And heat control was far from instant. This would pose some problems because we had to deep fry one of the dishes.
At around 2pm, people started pouring in. We were hammering away for the last 4 hours. I couldn't believe how fast time went by. Everyone gave us a surprised look because they obviously didn’t expect three guys in chef coats to cook for the party. About 30 minutes later, I started to freak out because we weren’t finished and more people just kept on coming in. I seriously need to get a headband. If you saw me, you would’ve thought I just beat a Kenyan in a marathon. I have to thank my two sous chefs for being there…. If not for them I would’ve jumped over the ledge of the beautiful house we were in, leaving 30 people angry and hungry. Such an intense and stressful experience that’s guaranteed to cut my life even shorter. With speed and diligence, the three of us were done with the first round. We laid out the seven dishes we prepared on a dining table and couldn’t help but smile and give each other fives. It was truly nice saying, “Ok, lunch is ready!” As soon as I said that, people attacked the table… going for the “tater tots of the sea” first… CK’s delicious crabcakes. We took a breather for a few minutes and watched as people ate. I really wanted a beer or a glass of wine, but we were only on round one of four. After the first round, everything was just set on cruise control. Here’s what we served:
A. Warm Korean Pear Salad - This was served with roasted Korean pears and a lemon & honey vinagrette. A lot of people were surprised that a 'warm' salad could actually be edible. I forgot to add in the candied walnuts and goat cheese. Oops!
B. Prosciutto di Parma-Wrapped Asparagus - Garnished with lemon and parmigiana reggiano. These went pretty quickly because they were fun to eat. Name one thing that doesn't taste good wrapped with bacon or prosciutto. I was tempted to steal some from the platter as I was cooking. I slapped my own hand... "bad dylan."
C. Trio di Bruschetta - We initially baked some crostinis cut from La Brea Bakery bread... but they hardened up like rocks. I took a bite into the bread and felt my teeth shift. We used fresh French baguettes instead. One was Smoked Salmon and Dill, another was your traditional basil/garlic/tomato bruschetta and the last was Duck Pate with Caramelized Pears. The duck pate was definitely more experimental and I'm sure I saw a few people eating them with strange expressions.
D. Hawaiian Tuna Poke Crisps - Lightly topped with spicy, avocado mousse. The three different textures made this a fun and tasty snack.
E. Double Citrus Grilled Shrimp with Thai Sauce - Anything on a skewer is good. I think of these as shrimp lollipops. Mmmm.
F. Crabcakes with Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade - We did four rounds of these. People gobbled them up like tater tots.
G. Duck Wonton Purses with Spicy Mango Sauce - I made the filling with duck, leeks, shitakes and water chestnuts. We baked these in the oven and served them with a spicy mango puree. These were gobbled up pretty quickly.
H. Final Spread - 7 dishes...almost 10 hours of total prep time.
As we cooked, it was weird watching the people partying. I was like "i wanna party too!", but no, we had a job to do. At one point, I saw them filling up baby bottles with beer and having chugging contests. Another time, I saw some people bobbing for something... like some kind of Double Dare challenge. We finished around 6 pm and packed up our stuff. The event was a success -- everyone was happy with the food.
As soon as we got back home, we all cracked open beers. There's nothing better than having a beer after a hard day's work. As I sipped on my bottle of Stella Artois, I looked over at both of my weary, yet happy friends. Not once in the two days of work did they complain about peeling and skewering shrimp, zesting lemons and limes, making wontons and crabcakes, lifting heavy stuff around, taking orders and working under pressure. This event was not only a stepping stone for future events, but a moment I would remember for a long time. It's nice to know that you'll always have friends to help you when you need them. We were successful today because we were there for each other. They worked their asses off and expected nothing more than a thank-you dinner. Good job CK and LL, you guys rocked. Can't wait for the next event.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Posted by e d b m at 11:05 PM