Thursday, September 9, 2010

Food. Lots of food.

My husband and I are foodies.
That is to say, our lives really do revolve around food.
Well, not mine so much anymore, now that I'm no longer gainfully employed, but his world is all wrapped in milk, and cheese and ice cream, much like mine used to be wrapped up in all-things-Italian.

So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the very service opertunity I would seek out at our church would be one related to food. I love to shop, I love to cook, I love to serve meals to big groups. I love the looks on peoples faces when they see what I've created. I love the details; the serving dishes, the garnishes. I like eating too, but not nearly as much as I like making (which is a good thing, otherwise I might not fit through my front door.

A while back (as I'm sure I've blogged about before, but honestly I'm too lazy to go find the link and link-up to that post) I volunteered to cook a meal for a group of 15 once a month. The church pays for the food and I deliver it. Simple. This saves them money because they're only paying for the food, and it gives me the opertunity to strech my culinary wings. A few months later I was asked to do a monthly meal for 30, which I accepted as well. Then, I don't think it was very long after that, I was asked to do a meal for 70, one time.

This one, I had to think about. I had to figure out how I could pull this off without a commercial kitchen, and without an account with a food service providor. No walk-in cooker, no steam-jacketed kettle, no flat top. No steam table, no convection oven, no hotel pans, no staff of 30. And of course, no Sysco. What in the world could I pull off - ALONE?

Truth be told, I was plum out of ideas. This from the woman who's organized catering for over 1,000 - but the lack of all those important pieces of equipment & resources (and MOST importantly, the STAFF) really puts limits on what you can do.

In the end I settled on Italian meatball sandwiches on french bread, creamy pesto pasta salad, Sundried tomato pasta salad, garden greens, fresh watermelon, and oreo frosted brownies.

I could drone ON and ON about what I did early, and what I saved until the moment of, but it would likely bore almost everyone. Suffice it to say, the success of any meal is three fold: preperation and organization beforehand, punctual set up, and appealing, detailed presentation. Things like colorful serving dishes, multi-colored lettuces, and hand-cut rose tomatoes really do make all the difference. Of course, they won't make up for dry meatballs, or gluey pasta salad, but that's why I stuck with food I knew well.

My thanks go out to Lewis (my former boss/restaurant owner) without whom I would have absolutely ZERO knowledge of the food service industry, let alone the confidence to take anything like this on. I would also have no notion of portion sizes, or recipes. Also thanks to Costco. Man, I can't wait 'till 2011 when we actually have one here in Lincoln. And, Dani Gipe who gave me the magnificent idea a few years ago to add honey (yes, honey) to my pasta sauce to take away it's acidity. Man, that is a GREAT tip.

1 comment:

Chelsie Hardy said...

yummmmm. I read your menu to Chris and he listened with a dreamy look on his face. So, I guess you don't even need to serve the food to have an appreciative audience. :)

Some day I would like to cater for 70...I really like the accolades that come to those who cook well and enjoy impressing my eaters. I've cooked for 30- every year at my Christmas party, but that is only appetizers and much of the cooking can be done ahead of time...all that to say, I'm impressed and a little jealous. :)

AND, I would be one of the few who would like to kmow the particulars: what you did ahead of time, recipes, portion info, etc, in case you feel like disclosing. Thanks for posting!