dinner party for 12

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by cakes, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    I have an inquiry for a dinner party. The request is for a salad, chicken and beef entrees with starch and veg, 2 desserts. So far I have imagined an arugala salad with red pears, chicken marsala, I'm stuck on the beef dish, I normally love my braised beef dishes which wouldn't work for a dinner party. Stuck on dessert also, since I am not big on sugar. I do love clafouti. But it doesn't matter what I love.

    So, I guess my question is...Any suggestions for the beef dish and desserts? I like to cook seasonally and thought of acorn squash for the veg and the starch shouldn't be a problem.

    I will be sending a questionnaire for more details at which time I'll have a better idea of what they want, but it would be nice to have suggestions to offer. Comfort, upscale? I will price according to ingredients and cooking time.

    I will appreciate any help since I am new at this.

    Oh, I forgot. I thought of 6 oz portions for protein, 4 oz each for starch and veg. Do I have to have 6 oz of protein for both chicken and beef per person? If so, how do you handle leftovers?

    Again, thank you for any advice.
     
  2. chefedb

    chefedb

    Messages:
    5,516
    Likes Received:
    177
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    First with only 12 guest there should be no leftovers,. For the Beef if you give a choice  at dinner offer a Petite Filet Mignon or small Sirloin. Most guest then will order the steak over chicken.  Or if it's cost factor  go a Beef Strogonoff or Bourginoinne,with Noodles  or Braised Brisket .Jardenierre .

                Dessert

    I would go a Sorbet Trilogy with Berries   3 small scoops of 3 different flavors in a coupe or champ glass, mint leaf and berries.  Easy and nice. You need about a pint and a half to a quart of each depending on scoop size .  Your portion sizes are correct     2.1/2 ounces vege pp. will suffice  1 roll and a half pp for men  1 roll pp for woman . Arrugala alone is to bitter add something else to it.  Keep it simple and nice  ,Good Luck
     
  3. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    Thank you so much for your help!
     
  4. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    201
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    This is catering?  You're figuring out a menu as a proposal?  Or do you already have the gig?  How much can you spend on food per cover?  What's the general price structure?  Will you be paid "cost plus?"  Or will the food and labor (and everything else) come out of the same flat fee?

    If money is an issue, you might be better off thinking of a braise -- some sort of pot roast, "goulash," or braised short ribs for instance -- rather than roasting or grilling a cheap-grade, prestige cut.  On the other hand, some people like "luxury" dishes like Beef Stroganoff, and have no problem with using inexpensive beef to get there. 

    Without the budget for at least Choice, I'd stay away from filet mignon.  With a group of 12, the spotlight is going to sharply illuminate you.  Obviously, you're not catering the Plumber's Union Annual Banquet and any problems will reflect on you, instead of the "planning committee." 

    The first question to ask is what level of quality your guests expect?   At any given level of preparation, simpler foods usually require better quality ingredients.

    I hate to disagree with Ed, but if you don't have leftovers for a party of 12, you're either extremely lucky, or some people are walking away disappointed and hungry.   Talk to your client and work out in advance who gets the leftovers, if any.

    Don't plan the chicken portions by weight, but by the piece.  I'd use thighs,  skin, bone, and quarter them myself.  For 12 people, with another entree possibility, I'd budget at least two dozen thighs, and eight pounds of (fully trimmed) raw beef. 

    BDL
     
  5. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    159
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Are you serving chicken or beef or are you serving chicken and beef on the same plate?

    Tarte Tatin with crème fraîche.
     
  6. chefedb

    chefedb

    Messages:
    5,516
    Likes Received:
    177
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Reason I suggested filets is that given a choice, they will all order them.,and you will only need a little of any second entree. Few will order chicken when filet is available in this economy at same price.
     
  7. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    BDL

    This is not catering, Perhaps I asked my questions too soon. I recieved an inquiry for a dinner party for 12. I have no experience but a lifetime of cooking for family. I have insurance and business license and will cook onsite as a personal chef.

    I have sent a questionnaire to get specifics on budget and preferences. I thought it might be a good idea to give some preliminary suggestions. Again, I am new at this, maybe it wasn't what should have been done.

    Until I have more details I have not quoted a price. Individually plated or buffet, etc?

    So far I have suggested:

    Arugala with Red Pear Salad, Balsamic Vinagarette

    Chicken Marsala

    Beef Madagascar

    Roasted Potatoes

    Acorn Squash

    Clafouti

    Apple Crisp

    Do I know if they want upscale or comfort food? Not yet, but I did ask the question. Thought it would be a good idea to throw a ball in the court and see what happens.
     
  8. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    201
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Catering, personal cheffing... At any rate, you're cooking professionally and that's the game changer.  You simply must (diplomatically) get your client to nail down the budget as well as a few of the other, major choices.  You can't make choices without knowing what you've to work with.  As it stands, it's not fair to either one of you.

    I may be reading too much into this, but I got the feeling that the Marsala was a personal specialty.

    Beef Madagascar and Chicken Marsala are too similar for your purposes.  Not so much in taste, but both have meats served swimming in sauces of similar consistency, and shouldn't be be served successively or occupy the same buffet.  If you're serving one or the other, plated, to order, you're fine. 

    If not, you either need to go very thick, very thin, or no sauce with one of your choices.  Also, your menu is desperate for starches.  Try and choose two, either of which will go with either meat.  If, for instance, you went with braised short ribs of beef as your second meat choice, "herbed, buttered egg noodles" and "mashed root vegetables (potato, parsnip, rutabaga)" would be okay -- but those are examples more than suggestions.  There are lots of possibilities.

    Whatever final decision you and your client reach, try to keep a "flow chart" in your head.  You don't want to have to do too much at the last minute.  By way of another example, take a look at my Proposed Thanksgiving Menu (also a dinner for 12) and you can see how the menu is designed so the work can be done over several days without leaving much at all for just before or during service.  Of course, cooking for someone else and doing your own party are not the same, but they're not all that different either in that both require flow planning.

    Although you can get it "fresh" year round, you're fighting seasonality with acorn squash.  Perhaps butternut...  Or, if you want something green:  peas, green beans, sauteed spinach, or...?      

    Plan on "seconds," guests will want to try both entrees, so portion accordingly. 

    BDL
     
  9. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    159
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    In my experience as a personal chef since 2000, I approach dinner parties in a little different manner than BDL.

    First, no price quotation until the number of guests and the menu have been fixed.

    Second, a personal chef is not a short order cook, alternatives or substitutions must be planned for in advance unless the host(ess) is willing to pay for the food and help, knowing that extra food will result. A personal chef does not have the luxury of alternative uses for prepared food, it must stay with the client.

    On rare occasions, I have prepared meat and poultry on the same plate (for plated service). Buffet service, with a resulting higher food cost, may provide enough meat and poultry to allow choices, that is up to the client. A great majority of the time, the same thing is served to all, excepting only allergies and preferences known at least a week to two weeks in advance, generally at the time the menu is chosen.
     
  10. chefedb

    chefedb

    Messages:
    5,516
    Likes Received:
    177
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Everything told to you in advance by the client results in lower food cost % as well as less leftovers. If she tells you 6 meat and 6 chicken  bring 7 and 7 . If choice is made by guest based on their whims for that day , you will have leftovers , so charge more. Or try giving Beef and Bird on same plate, this way no leftovers and no choice .

         We did this in NY and did about 8-to 10000 covers a week It was banquet only mostly corp. and weddings . Believe it or not our overall food cost was an amazing 11 to 15 %.

        Again banquet only and based on a huge volume,  When I left  we were doing about 15 to 17 million $ per year, when I started we were doing about 11 mil.. It was the largest and busiest on premise catering facility in the world. Capable of 10 weddings at one time ,Out of 3  kitchens.      It was called "Terrace On The Park "and occupied the site of the NY Worlds Fair Helliport building. in Queens NY. I had 30 cooks and we would have 150 waiters and BT s  working at one time It is still operating , but its hayday is long over. In it's day it was thee place to have a function.
     
  11. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    201
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Posted by PeteMcCracken  
    Not very differently.  I wouldn't quote without knowing a lot of information, but  would "ballpark" the client as to how much different types of dinners and different options were likely to run, and wanted similar orientation from her.  I'm sure you do and ask very much the same.  The idea is to have no one in the dark at any time during the negotiations and early planning stages so information flows smoothly without wasted time.

    While I had a book, my clients came to me either by word of mouth, or (more often) had been guests at parties catered by my company, Predominantly French.  They had a pretty good idea going in of what I did, didn't, could, and couldn't do; and were seldom virgins when it came to hiring a caterer and throwing a catered party.  That knowledge helped both parties greatly.    

    I'd get a call from a prospective client asking me if I was available for a certain date.  If I were, I'd ask her, "What did you have in mind?"

    She'd say something like "Ben's got a new movie screening at Paramount.  I want cocktails and dinner for about 20 people on the patio."  And we'd take it from there, talking about the menu possibilities along with some ballpark pricing. 

    Here, I think, we're reinventing the wheel and if we want to help Cakes we shouldn't assume too much experience.

    BDL
     
  12. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,095
    Likes Received:
    434
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Steak Bearnaise ( Fillet Mignon stuffed with Dungeness crab) Topped with Bearnaise sauce...........or Beef Medallions Bearnaise using a Beef tenderloin and cut thin into medallions, cook in  a hot pan with sauteed mushrooms  then, either mixed with the Bearnaise sauce or topped with Bearnaise sauce..................ChefBillyB.............P.S. I'm on a Bearnaise sauce kick, my wife loves it.......
     
  13. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    159
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    One point to keep in mind, a residential kitchen is a far cry from a commercial setup and most PCs have to function within the parameters of a residential kitchen.
     
  14. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I have sent a questionnaire to get a better idea of what is required. That was couple of days ago, and I haven't heard back yet. I will inquire today to see if there is still interest. The dinner is scheduled for December 7th, so there is still some time left.

    BDL: I agree with you about the marsala, I do love my sauces. I realized later that if they were on the same plate it wouldn't work. I think a telephone call will be in order once I get more info and at that time I can suggest the menu with options, or the client can specify.

    Pete: Leftovers stay with the client (good info, it is not covered in the classes or I missed it).

    My daughter's wedding was catered and plated.  I think it helped with the cost. I made the appetizers. Wedding on a tight budget as it was a destination wedding in Hawaii. 
     
  15. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    Pete : I saw your post after I posted mine. I lost a job for a dinner party because of my request to see the kitchen beforehand. This was a birthday party dinner for an 80 year old with congestive heart failure who really missed her trips to a restaurant. When I asked for lessons learned for not getting the job I was told that another chef didn't require a look see and that they wanted it to be a surprise. I spent a couple of hours coming up with a menu that was 500mg sodium, a requirement. Tough being a rookie at 60 years old.
     
  16. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    159
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Almost as bad as starting at 58 /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rollsmile.gif

    At first, I thought why bother with looking at the kitchen, or for that matter the house and access, not only to the kitchen but the dining area. After getting burned a couple of times, my attitude became adjusted!

    Yes, surprise parties require some additional effort, but I will not work in a kitchen I have not seen ever again. On the initial inspection, I check to see if:
    • All burners function and also note size and guesstimate heat capacity, may have to use butane/induction burners, rice cooker(s), etc., and
    • Calibrate microwave, not difficult, takes all of maybe 5 minutes using the water test
    • the oven(s) thermostats are accurate (yes, I take an oven thermometer and check at least at 200°, 325°, 350° and 400°F and write a calibration card!)
    • the refrigerator(s) have sufficient empty space for me
    • the freezer(s), if I'm planning to use them, have sufficient space
    • is a grill available, gas, charcoal, etc., do I want to use it
    • trash disposal
    • counter space, may need to bring my portable tables
    • layout of dining area, possible station locations, buffet setup, etc.
    • inventory of china, glassware, tableware, tablecloths, etc., to get a handle on necessary rentals
    PCs, unlike caterers, have to work with what the client has, unless you have access to a licensed kitchen and have built up your own supply of essential items.

    And always remember, what other PCs do has nothing to do with your approach, just because someone else is a fool does not mean you have to be one too!
     
  17. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

    Messages:
    7,342
    Likes Received:
    581
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    I'm not a caterer so I can't get into the nitty gritty like these other guys.  But I have cooked for big parties before and although I prefer to serve family style I have done plated service before.  It might be worth a shot asking the host if you can do family style service which makes things a lot easier than plating, unless you have an assistant.  The key to a big party is making things in advance.  In your OP you said no braises but I believe that braises are especially perfect because you can make it a day ahead and they reheat beautifully. 

    For the chicken dish I would do individual roulades stuffed with whatever you like.  They can be assembled and chilled over night and merely seared and roasted in the oven pre-service along with making a sauce for it.  For the beef you can't go wrong with braised short ribs like BDL suggested. 

    Lemon herbed orzo cooked in chicken stock for a starch goes with both dishes.  Roasted baby carrots is seasonal and beautiful.

    Your arugula salad with pears is screaming for blue cheese and candied pecans.  Just saying.  Assemble the salad a day in advance minus the pears and dressing.  It's a 2 minute job to toss and plate.

    When deciding on desserts make them contrast.  One should be chocolate, maybe a dense chocolate tart with hazelnuts.  The other should be light and fruity like baked stuffed apples or fresh fruit salad with whipped cream.
     

    Haha, I've been to several functions there.
     
    foreignwords likes this.
  18. cakes

    cakes

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    Koukouvagia,

    Your menu sounds much more elegant and balanced than mine. I knew that planning was important but didn't consider starting the day before. That would make braising possible and reduce the stress level. I have received so much valuable information on this forum and am very grateful for the expertise.

    Cakes