Q. On plated private events

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Krista G, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. Krista G

    Krista G

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    Hi all, I've been asked to consider work for a Doctor who works at one of the best hospitals in Boston, so I assume there will be many guests who expect a certain quality. She's looking to have dinner parties of up to 40 ppl. Anything I've done in the past for over 15 was as family style or buffet. I can't afford to screw this up. My questions to you all are :
    For a plated meal to 40 ppl what amount of space should I be looking for in her home? She wants the cooking done on site and i dont have a cottage license to do it from mine.
    What items would you recommend for menu of such a large amount of plated meals ?
    Is there a rule of thumb regarding quantities I need to purchase. I know you estimate 1lb per pp for meats but what about veggies, apps, side..?

    Lastly, what would be reasonable for my time ? I will factor in the food cost and servers, but I see many articles stating the average is between 30-60 an hour. That's pretty vague.

    Sorry for so many questions, I want the gig as shes offering at least 10 per year but I dont want to underestimate anything or go overboard.

    Thanks so much for your replies and thoughts!
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    A lot of bits and pieces. Beef tenderloin does the best because it's easy to portion, takes up little space in a home oven, and holds well in a cambro. You need space for four stacks of plates to be efficient in plating. 3 or 4 half pans where you will be holding your veggies, meats, sauce, and starch. Lids for your plates if you have no one running the food out immediately. My suggestion is lids, always.

    As for your time, imagine you worked for a company and the company paid you, and paid the servers, plus include the tip, and the company would want to come out with 30-40% profit.
     
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  3. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    If she wants to do this on a regular basis I would have her buy 8' rounds and the chairs. I would also have her buy all the plate settings/silverware/napkins/linen and everything that is needed for future menus. Tell her to buy an outside grill and maybe even a smoker that could be used for all kinds of beef, chicken and fish.This will open up your menu to all kinds of varieties of ideas. It will also give you the extra space to accomplish it.
    When it comes to the sides it will depend on what vegetable you pick. When you're in the market take a portion of whats needed and weigh it. Then multiply it times the amount of people. When I did a catering I would count out everything. If I did a vegetable melody I would know I had three pieces of squash, two broccoli and so on. I wouldn't cut myself short but I wouldn't be to far off either. The whole thing about catering is, you don't know until you do it. In your case the chicken breasts are portioned. So is the fish and a beef tenderloin will have very little waste or shrinkage.
    I would have my wait staff in black pants, white shirt and black vest. Pay your waitstaff well and make them want to be there for the next dinner party........Chefbillyb
     
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  4. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Hi and welcome to CT! :)

    There's some excellent advice in the above comments.

    Here are your questions:

    Q: For a plated meal to 40 ppl what amount of space should I be looking for in her home?

    Without knowing the size and layout of the home, you want as much space as possible. I could not agree more with ChefBillyB's suggestion of 8 rounds and chairs along with the place settings, silverware, linens etc.

    Q: She wants the cooking done on site and i don't have a cottage license to do it from mine.

    That's fine. Generally speaking, if she is not opening her dinner parties to the public and doing them on a strictly private, social basis, there shouldn't be much in the way of regulatory issues. Your best move in this regard is to cover your bases with the local or state health department. You should, however, make sure that you and your staff are properly insured and factor the cost of that coverage into your fee.

    Q: What items would you recommend for menu of such a large amount of plated meals?

    This is where your creativity as a chef comes in to play. Generally, menu items such as soups, bisques, salads, pastas pretty much speak for themselves. They can be made in bulk and held rather easily. Where the issue becomes tedious is when the limitations of a home kitchen intersect with food items that won't allow the necessary volume of production you will need. By that I mean roasts, whole chickens/fowl, steaks/chops, fish etc. There's only so much that a home oven or stove can handle.

    Q: Is there a rule of thumb regarding quantities I need to purchase. I know you estimate 1lb per pp for meats but what about veggies, apps, side..?

    No. Its really a matter of math. Again, ChefBillyB has provided some good guidance as to how to go about accomplishing this task when it comes to sides and apps. However, 1lb per person when it comes to proteins for a formal dinner party is quite large. Try to imagine a 16oz filet Mignon or chicken breast or salmon fillet. Those are big portions and will likely produce a lot of wastage. These you would want to cut down to around 6oz per portion, give or take.

    Q: Lastly, what would be reasonable for my time ?

    Well, what do you feel your talents are worth? Obviously, you want to be well compensated for your efforts. You can charge by the hour or you can charge a flat fee. But, before you know what that magic number is going to be, you must first know what your overhead is going to be. How much are you going to pay your staff? In terms of food costs, the best method would be for the Doctor to pay for the food directly. That makes things a lot easier for you and eliminates potential disputes. It also makes the calculations for your fee a bit easier. You will want to generate a profit between 20% and 40% to make it worth your time. You can start out on the lower end of the spectrum to generate some good will and trust, if you want. But, eventually, you will want to get it up to that magic 40% mark which should be calculated AFTER you pay your staff. Remember, like ChefBillyB said, pay your staff well so they will want to return to the next party. You are dead in the water without a good wait staff and kitchen staff.

    Lastly, this relationship is something that both you and your client should take your time and discuss thoroughly in terms of what's expected from both of you given your respective roles. Treat the matter strictly as a business relationship. Lay out the expectations in writing. It doesn't necessarily have to be a formal contract. But, writing down what is expected from each of you will really go a long way in preventing possible disagreements down the road. Provide to your client your professional opinion in terms of what the kitchen and dining area will need in terms appliances, cookware, utensils, holding equipment, tables, chairs, linen, silverware, glasses, salt and pepper shakers and so on.

    Good luck. :)
     
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  5. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    You have excellent advice thus far. My two cents is to Say It. The communication between you and the doctor is of paramount importance. Develop the relationship to discuss things openly, Especially those things you feel uncomfortable or nervous about discussing. Nothing is obvious until one of you says it. The phrase "It goes without saying.." does not apply.
     
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  6. Krista G

    Krista G

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    Thank you all for some very useful and sound advice! I am anxious that I wont deliver the experience shes hoping for by unforeseen events. I will try to think of all possible scenarios to get a clear description of what she wants and acceptable alternatives. I'm also going to encourage buffet or family style for anything over 20. It would make me more comfortable and I dont want to oversell my abilities, keeping it real I guess is in everyone's best interest.
    Keep the ideas coming if you have them, I want to make a name for myself and delighting her guests could be a start!

    Thanks
     
  7. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Plating for 40 will take some time. How much room do you have for plating up? How much help do you have for plating? How many guests at each table? Can you do 10 plates at a time? Do you have lids for plates? What about a warming cabinet? Do a dry run on 10 plates and time it. Multiple by 4 for total plate up time needed. You don't have to use cooked food for the dry run. You can use sponges for the protein, etc. Ketchup thinned to sauce consistency, etc. Get a feel for the ebb and flow of the plating process. Where do finished plates go, when to send first plates so that last plates aren't lagging to far behind, etc.

    Buffet or family style makes sense, however in many people's minds, served plates are more high end, more la-di-da, whatever. You never want to overreach your ability to produce, but the perception of the person footing the bill is to be given a fair amount of weight in decision making.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
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  8. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Krista, I think you already have the answers. Stay in your comfort zone and don't venture out until you're ready. Explain to the client that you are good at some meals and would rather stay with those until you get better at others. If you can't do something "SAY SO" to the client. It is better to be upfront about your experience then have it come out at a party. You will get better at everything in time. Every time you do a party you will learn something. Don't lose your drive and determination to learn and get better.
    I take nothing to chance when it comes to catering. I've had some of my employees ask me " You think your a know-it-all" don't you. I look them in the eye and tell them " You bet your ass I do" I better because there are no second chances. When it comes time to do the event I'm as calm as can be. I've gone over everything in my mind on how things will look. Now is the time to execute what I've already pictured.
    I tell my employees there is no screwing up anything at an event. We've had two months to insure that everything is going to be done right. Shame on me if I don't execute and give my client what's expected........ChefBillyB