Am I glad I don’t cater weddings right now. Not that I won’t do it again when my children are free of diapers, daily tantrums, and a fondness for waking up at 5:30 am every day, but boy does it NOT fit my life right now.
I love the cooking part, of course. Having high quality ingredients, unique menus, and permission to fuss over flavors, garnishes, and presentation doesn’t get old. Working an 8 hour open bar event for 130 30 year olds is another story entirely.
I left the house at 11 am to get to the kitchen where I trimmed 160 organic chicken thighs of extra skin and fat, then coated them with salt and pepper and a Mediterranean pesto (artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, basil, garlic, Parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, capers). Then I helped another chef prepare beef stew, while cleaning the rented kitchen and preparing it for our departure.
I left the kitchen at 4, stopped at the market to get more butter and mint for the mojitos at the bar and drove the 25 minutes to the site. I met rest of the staff, including two young women who were grilling the rice flour quesadillas (very popular) and keeping the other appetizers plentiful and beautiful. Then I left to get the steamed rice from the Japanese restaurant about 2 blocks away.
When I got back, I saw that we had two rooms to work in but within no time, the barbershop quartet had taken over one of them, which really irritated my friend. That left us with one small room with two tables, a fridge and a small kitchen sink. I started to realize how difficult clean up was going to be, with over 600 glasses (five different kinds), 600 plates, and 500 utensils, not to mention 25 hotel pans, and about 20 platters and bowls to clean.
At this point I went into server mode, getting the chafing dishes filled with hot water, lighting the sternos, and making sure the food was placed in such a way that the rice would be served under the stew, and the vegetarian coconut curry wouldn’t be devoured by meat-eaters (which ended up happening anyway). The meal started about 7:30, a half hour late, but only because of the entertainment–a couple clad in spandex that did an amazing, sexy, and acrobatic dance together.
After the meal was served (I was responsible for eeking out the mesclun mix–my friend was afraid we wouldn’t have enough so I tried to go light, but it was the only green thing on the menu so most of them asked for “a little more please”).
After the meal, I carried tray after tray after tray of dirty dishes, glasses, and silverware in to the “kitchen” where it started to pile up despite the fact that there was someone at the sink the entire time. Running out of hot water slowed things down as well.
I was relieved to pour the raspberry sauce on the dessert plates, though it was stressful trying to keep the guests from taking one until the dancer-rapper-mimer was done performing (per order of the wedding planner). Some guests got huffy (“We have to leave!”). I didn’t blame them. It had been 4 hours since they arrived.
We spent the rest of the night in the land of dirty dishes, running back and forth between the floor and the kitchen. The only thing that saved it was listening to the 14 piece Mariachi band and watching the black-clad bride’s maids dance.
At 11:15 I asked my friend if I could leave, given that I had worked an hour and a quarter past my scheduled departure. She was in a daze but acquiesced. I wouldn’t be home till after midnight and my kids were going to jump on my head five and half hours later. This knowledge mitigated by guilt about leaving the crew.
The rest of the staff didn’t roll out till 1:30 (the take-out pizza was served at 11 on some unused rental plates much to the chagrin on my friend–more dishes!). I called a chef friend on the West coast on the way home so I could keep myself awake by chatting. She was shocked that I was up at that hour–my life as a private chef-writing-wife-mom has me in bed by 10:30 at the latest.
All in all, it was a successful event. We received plenty of compliments on the food, there was enough of it, and the clients and their guests had a great time. Next time though, I’m going to leave after the food is cooked!