Catering critique

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by marmalady, Apr 16, 2002.

  1. marmalady

    marmalady

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    We were invited to a presentation last night at the NJ Governor's Mansion (the mansion's name is Drumthwacket - gotta love it!), to bring together different interest groups in the area of spinal cord research - clinicians, researchers, educators, pharmaceutical companies, and government. Group of about 200 of the highest movers and shakers in the state in these fields.

    The party planning and catering sucked. period. The event was held under a tent at 7 p.m.; last night, at 7 p.m., it was 80 degrees outside, no fans in the tent, and no vents. Inside, in the drawing room of the house (which is fantastic, so revolutionary era and so much history there!), there was a table set up with dessert munchies and coffe/tea urns.

    Critique - The desserts were all 'packaged', except for one - chocolate covered strawberries, bananas, and pineapple, which, yep, you guessed it - was melted all over the place. The rest of the stuff - cookies, mini-fruit tarts, brownies, petit-fours, all looked like stuff I could pick up at the grocery store. And there were only the hot drinks available; I asked the caterers twice for a glass of water for my son, and even suggested once that they bring out some pitchers of water, as I heard other folks questioning why there was nothing cold to drink, but no response.

    The gig was catered by a name I recognized as one of the bigger outfits in Princeton. Just don't understand it. I'm sure they (ultimately we the taxpayers!!) were charged top dollar, and was infuriated at the junk that was served!!! The servers weren't the sharpest nails in the toolbox either - I saw more of them catching smokes in the back than were circulating in the crowd.

    Another event we attended where I was grossly disappointed was a fundraiser for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, hosted by the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC; a full dress formal affair for about 2000 people, Paul Newman and other big celebs there. Full dinner, Russian table service (that was the only impressive thing about the dinner - those 60 year old guys with the white gloves sure could teach a thing or two - they were artists!).

    The food - well, the appetizer was some kind of stacked tortilla thingy - I've been trying to figure out for two years what the filling was, and have never been able to. Dinner was filet - cold; garlic/mushroom demi - waaaay too garlicky (and I'm a garlic hound), and lukewarm; asparagus - must have been blanched for about 10 seconds, still raw; roasted baby potatoes - underdone, and cold. Dessert was vanilla ice cream and pkg. cookies. I hope the Waldorf donated the food - sure hope the Foundation didn't have to pay too much for that!!!!

    Maybe my expectations were too high, but I really expected something better.
     
  2. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Three caterers prepared and served apps for 100 last Sat.
    The most prolific of us made "room temp" apps....salmon on pita with red onions and capers, spinach torta....imagine 1/4"dough with frozen spinach and cheese room temp, fruit kabobs strawberry 1/2 cantalope and pineapple all on disposable trays.
    ***The other one made veal wellingtons, goat cheese mousse on parmeson crisp, fougasse with portabellos and brie****
    I made morel duxelle in a mushroom cap served hot, apple slice with dillweed aioli and smoked trout, and fillo cup with creole sauce spicy boiled shrimp and a dab of reduced cream served hot.

    Everyone knew the one with the larger company...wanting to know if he made all the food....he swanned while we worked.
    UNREAL....to put out that kinda schlock and have people fawn over you.
     
  3. marmalady

    marmalady

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    I know - sigh. I'm seriously thinking of writing the gov's assistant, and offering my services for small events!!!
     
  4. suzanne

    suzanne

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    You should! But depending on the size of the job, there are probably a lot of convoluted channels to go through. It's not like bidding on a "normal" catering job. Nothing is ever easy in local government!

    Judging by what i know as an approved contractor to the City of New York, there is probably a list of vendors you can try to get on, through the NJ state govt. Especially good for Minority- and women-owned businesses. You'll have to submit a lot of paperwork -- an outrageous amount, really. And then they'll send you RFPs ("request for proposal") that are way off the mark. Usually it's just not worth jumping through all the hoops, but you never know! And if you DO get through it all, we know that they'll get great food!
     
  5. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

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    Dear Marmalady..
    Doesn't it urk you that the food sucked and you and I both know that you would have done a job that was magnificent, complete and fantastic to boot.
    I too had an experience that was horrible.
    I was on vancouver island, BC this weekend for the annual Brant festival.. They had a big reception and I swear to you.. The food was as if they had just thrown it at you for one, just layiong about the tables on trays.
    The waiters were eating off the trays as they were serving the guests. the food was horrific..
    And Iam truly not saying that I could have done a better job..
    Anyone could have done a better job!!!
    Iam just wondering how they could have gotten away with it.
    And how these guests are so accepting of this mediocrecy.
    Just my input..
    It sucks to be a perfectionist/
    Danielle
     
  6. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Danielle, I sure wish we weren't a continent apart - I have a feeling we'd make a great team!!!

    I have a clause in my little 'contract' that I use for servers, that basically says anyone caught 'nibbling' on a tray before it leaves the kitchen, or - God forbid, on the display tables! - they're dismissed at the end of the evening; base pay, no tip. I HATE that! Especially when you're doing items by a count, and you know you have exactly the amount you need, then someone swoops down and snatches a bite. I bring enough food so that my servers can all eat, but don't you dare touch my trays!!!!

    And a question for you restaurant folks - how do you handle the wait staff sticking their fingers into a dish as they're picking up?
     
  7. chefteldanielle

    chefteldanielle

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    I feel the same way marmalady..
    Wish I had a partner like you..

    Back to the subject..
    Well I have never experienced that one yet..
    I would have to restrain myself..
    Iam curious to know what others have done..
    Danielle
     
  8. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I happens at every party, you just might not see it but it does. Even with your best help! People even cover for each other so they can sneak a taste.

    You just constantly have to remind them that they are supposed to have eaten before work! It's like dealing with little kids over and over.

    I think the best you can do is stay active. That means don't be the only one cooking, go to your parties as a supervisor (if at all possible). You should see and hear the experinces for both the guests and staff. It's the only real way to know how you look, how good of a job you did and to head off any problems.

    It's hard because you know your the best chef you have, but don't get stuck in the kitchen. The caterers that I knew who suceeded got themselves out on the floor and micro managed their staff well. Every party was like their first, every party they had they covered all their points in employee meetings before any food hit the guests.

    It's a hard topic. You'd get people who had real reasons why they didn't eat before work. Sometimes they didn't because they pushed their schedule to get to the job because you begged them to help when they really didn't have the time... I think you have to take each person case by case. But if your going to parties with counts that close that one or two wait people could throw your numbers off then you're planning way too tight!
     
  9. fodigger

    fodigger

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    I also instruct my staff about nibbling and as a precaution I also prepare a 1/2 dz. more than needed of the items. That way if a accident happens or a couple find their way into a servers mouth the customer is not being short changed. If nothing happens and everybody follows the rules then the customer gets a bonus, and my prices cover this so I'm covered also.

    On the plate and tray issue a little story with a happy ending :
    About 18 yrs. ago I was in my first really big Exec. Chef job. The chef before me didn't care and alot of things happened that shouldn't have and when I got there I put a stop to alot of the items but the one I had the most trouble with was picking of the plates. I talked, counsuled, yelled, everything I could think of to stop them from doing it. Finally, I'd had enough, I was expediting and told the servers flat out that the next person I saw taking something from one of my plates I'd slapp their hands w/ a metal spatula. Well, not more that an hour later, This server is grabbing a french fry of a plate I took my spatula and slammed it on the counter as hard as I could about a 1/2 " from her hand scared the heck out of her and I never had a problem w/ plate nibbling again. The happy ending is the server has been my wife now for coming up on 16 yrs now though all the ups and downs in this business to the success we enjoy today. So all in all I guess plate nibbling resulted in a wonderful marrage and 3 wonderful kids. :D :D :D :D :D
     
  10. marmalady

    marmalady

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    LOL, Fodigger! Love sure works in strange ways, doesn't it?

    Wendy, I am out on the floor; and my servers are aware of my policy; mentality is just like little kids sneaking cookies from the cookie jar, tho. Counts being close happened the most when I was working for others, and they set the count amounts, not me. I always bring extra for the staff when I do my own, I just don't like it when I've just finished a display platter, and they snitch one right off the plate. They know I'm going to feed them, they just can't seem to resist!
     
  11. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I know what you mean Marmalady. You'd talk to everyone and tell them not to, they'd all nod their heads and say "oh, I never would" then you catch one of them with their fingers in your tray....it really is like dealing with little kids sometimes.

    Sometimes it helped to wrap in plastic any back-up trays in the kitchen....(even though the plastic wasn't needed) to slow down the sneaky fingers. We'd even place opaque garbage bags over trays to hide them. If it was hard to get to they didn't try until after it came back off the floor.

    It seemed to me it was always the same one or two people who didn't ever respect your directions. But the hard part was they were really good workers, usually pretty cleaver and forsaw problems before they happened and fixed them. They were the hard ones to deal with.

    We had a couple bartenders that fit into the above description. One day we realized they didn't mind taking the garbage out because when they did they were stealing liqueurs or whatever wasn't nailed down. It mainly happened on the big weddings and bar mitzahs where there'd be cases of candys and cases of this and that. You know how some people bring a backpack or a bag to change their clothes on the job... becareful.
     
  12. monkeymay

    monkeymay

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    I threaten to break their fingers as I get out my cleaver -
    it works everytime!:D