My First Gig

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by catciao, Sep 26, 2002.

  1. catciao

    catciao

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    Hey everyone - I got my first professional catering gig!! It will be for 75 people, buffet style with a Caribbean theme. When I was asked if I could do it, I said, "Sure" without hesitation. As soon as I put a sample hors d'oeuvre menu together and faxed it off I began to get real nervous. As soon as the client returned her selections and I needed to price out the menu for her I realized that it would be more than what she originally told me she wanted to spend. Even though this was a personal friend and my first event, my anal business sense told me NOT to do this for breakeven just for the experience. So I asked for an increase and got it. All my nervousness has now turned to excitement. :bounce: Wish me luck!!

    Any of you have an interesting first?
     
  2. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Catered tonight for a long-standing client an impromptu dinner for 22, they told about me last Friday. They are good crowd, the kind you wish for, just because of the food-rapport. I mean they really enjoy my cooking. And I cater for them often enough that at this point I just show up and cook and they could care less what I make. They like it all. Tonight was early too, they wanted apps at 5:30pm, dinner at 6:30pm. I was cleaned up and home at 8:45.
    Congratulations on your first gig! May it not kill you!
     
  3. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Congrats, Cat!

    My one piece of advice to you is make lists; lots of lists!!! Make grocery lists for each store you'll have to use; make your cost breakdown list; I do initial estimates, then have a second column for actual cost -it's a good way to see how your 'in the head' estimates price out in actuality. Make a list of the utensils you'll need, and the dishes, etc. Are you renting dishes, etc.? Or is this a 'paper party'? Make a list of your daily mise en place, and check off each item as you complete it. Make sure to list all the 'little' things that get overlooked so often; garnishes, sauces, etc. At the end of a very long day, when it seems you've been spinning your wheels all day, it's reassuring to look at your list with all the things checked off, and realized you've accomplished quite a bit! Oh, and as you get close to the event, make a list for your servers, with serving times and items, and post it in the kitchen, so they can see, 'hodo's from 6-7, dinner from 7-8', whatever.

    And good for you for not backing down on price. I've actually just done that, but I'm going to post a new thread to tell about it.

    Good luck!
     
  4. catciao

    catciao

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    Marmalady;

    I love your advice!!! I am THE LIST QUEEN!!! Every morning for the last 10 years I've made a list. I love lists!! So since I'm starting out fresh I've noticed that the most time-consuming task is the pricing-aaaaaghhh. It's utterly boring and frustrating but necessary. I can see though, that my next job with this menu will benefit from the time spent on pricing this one. I have one question though, I've made some rough drafts of my "presentation" of the buffet on paper - like my centerpiece and garnishes etc. Do you normally prepare all of that ahead of time as well or just wait and see what inspires you onsite when you set the buffet? And speaking of garnishes (okay, question 2)- since this is a tropical theme and I'll use sliced/cut fruit as a garnish, can that be salvaged at all? Like into smoothies the next day? Or am I being ridiculous and should just toss it.?:confused: I hate throwing away good food.

    As far as price goes - my background is as an analyst for a major financial firm. If a job doesn't make a profit it doesn't make much business sense. I don't care how much passion you have for it. It turns out that when I went to deliver to contract today, they paid "in full" and asked if I could cater a few other events. Can you see me grinning? :p

    I guess this is how it all starts???
     
  5. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Can we see you grinning?? :eek: Can we see you grinning?? :eek: Can you see us grinning for you ??!!

    LOOK! :D :D :D :D

    I'm soooo happy for you! Congrats!


    Jodi
     
  6. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Hey, Cat, add my grins, too!:D :D :D

    Re sketching out the table - I usually do a rough idea and then doodle with it as I do my prep, or when I plate, so I can actually see the dishes on the platters. I'm sooooo visually oriented! Oftentimes what looks good on paper sits a little differently on the table. So I goof around a lot at the last minute and change things around.

    Re saving/resuing your fruit garnishes - don't count on them not being eaten! I've had folks eat the flowers off the trays and even snag the fresh herb sprigs! But I wouldn't re-use them, as you don't know who's sneezed or pawed them over (gross, huh?!)

    Re your 'pd in full'; how are you arranging payment for your servers? Will that happen at the event? I usually state in my contract what the server's fees will be (including gratuity) and ask that they have cash on hand to pay the fees. I hate giving servers checks; there's something about the gleam in their eyes when they see the greenbacks!
     
  7. catciao

    catciao

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    I did tell you this was my First gig, right? So it's buffet style and I'm the server. I'm doing everything on this one. I realize I'm going to be running around but again, since the budget was not so reasonable, i put it all into the food and left the serving up to me, I'm not that worried about it. I'll just have to convince my hubby to give me a foot and back massage afterwards. How many people can you reasonably handle in a buffet?

    BTW, what are some creative items you've used to "raise" your platters either under or over a tablecloth?
     
  8. marmalady

    marmalady

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    I don't know, Cat - for 75 people, I think I'd want at least one other person there with me. There's going to be a lot of 'timing' issues going on; getting the hodo's all out (I'm assuming they're all stationery?); are you doing chafers for the hot dishes? And for 75, there will be last minute runs to the kitchen for refills. Not to mention the cleanup! You could do it yourself, I suppose....! Do you have a friend who thinks you're the greatest thing since sliced bread and worships the idea of your going out on your own?! Maybe you could recruit him/her for slave wages! On the other hand, husbands have often proved to be the source of cheap labor!

    Raising platters under the tablecloth - just about anything sturdy and big enough to hold the dish; large baskets with flat bottoms; little wooden boxes; sturdy cardboard boxes; and a beautiful tablecloth - just be sure it's big enough to handle all the draping!

    Over the cloth - go to yard sales and flea markets and look for pedestal cake plates, etc. Pretty soon your garage is going to look like a funky kitchen store anyway - may as well start now!
     
  9. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    My weekend-
    Saturday. I have a take out bread order for 20 people, a dinner and dessert for 16 people, and a wine and appetizer function for 40 people. Along with my usual stuff I had to make mesquite-smoked salmon, pate and a cheesecake(first one in oh, 10 years). Everything turned out great.
    Sunday. Appetizer buffet for 100 people, 3 hot and 7 cold apps, with cedar planked salmon as the main deal. They liked everything. The big lovefest. Oh, did I tell you? I did it all myself.
    A piece of good free advice:
    never forget the" 6 P's"
    Proper Preparation Prevents P1ss Poor Production.
     
  10. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Way to go, Peach! And I'm sure Catciao will soon be up to your level of skill and speed! L oved your 6-P's, too!
     
  11. catciao

    catciao

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    Yes, I'm sooooo impressed Peachcreek!! I had my first event last Friday and it was wonderful. I can say that I had all my Ps in a row. I did end up hiring one other person. Marm, you scared me so I thought I'd do it just for safety. I wouldn't want my first event looking unprofessional. At the last minute I made some business cards and ALL were gone by the end of the evening. I have two more parties, one this Friday and one the following Thursday. Things I've learned:

    1. First and foremost, the 6 Ps rule!
    2. Don't combined too many high-maintenance hodos, have a balance so you're not exhausted and up late in the kitchen.
    3. Presentation is key - I received so many compliments on my arrangement of the table and the props I used. (fortunately the next two parties have the same theme)
    4. Always bring business cards (& don't give any prices during the evening)
    5. If using a new recipe, test them out a week in advance to perfect technique, flavor, timing and how to preserve for transporting (i.e. had to change from coconut shrimp to crab balls rolled in panko and coconut two days prior because my shrimp would have been soggy by the time it was served. They absolutely loved the crab balls.)
    6. Make lists and label platters for each hodo to be served.
    7. Bring 2x as many plates and napkins (I ran out of the nice plastic plates, even washed a few)
    8. Shop at antique/flea markets for platters. today I just found 3 of the coolest large round wooden cheese boxes for $10 each. I'll do my cheese display on them this Friday.
    9. This definately takes stamina that your body may not be used to if working a desk job previously.
    10. Don't make any comments about how much time or energy it took when guests remark on your work, just take your compliments gracefully.

    Well, I can say that this week I'm not nearly as anxious as I was this time last week. I seem to be on a roll and my husband keeps wondering where I got all this energy. It's been awesome and I'm so glad I took the risk to pursue my passion!:D
     
  12. marmalady

    marmalady

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    :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

    WAY TO GO, GIRL!!!!!! Sounds like you're hooked!