Tips and tricks

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by chefboyarg, Nov 28, 2011.

  1. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    Hey all,

    I am going out for a trial shift tomorrow at one of the top catering places in my city. They have told me depending on how I do there is not only possibilty for full time employment for the holiday season, but also beyond (if I really blow them away). I have only worked in restaurants and even then have topped out at a cover count of just over 200. The event tomorrow is for 500.

    I have already done a production trial shift and really like working with the crew; the owner is great and from what I saw the food is top notch and the production kitchen is wicked.

    Any tips on how to wow them or even just insights on how this is going to differ from a restaurant dinner service?

    Thanks!
     
  2. iceman

    iceman

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    Make sure you're wearing clean under-ware. So in case anything goes wrong you won't scare the nurses. 
     
  3. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    chefboyarG...

    The best workers are those that follow directions.  I'm going to repeat that very simple phrase: the best workers are those that follow directions.

    Ask how they want something done, best if they do a few and then you try while they watch.

    Come early, lend a hand.....

    be prepared to stay later than requested, just in case you are needed.

    Watch. seriously pay attention to how things are done.  

    Catering is not like restaurant work. 

    I'll elaborate later
     
  4. sherbel

    sherbel

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    Agree with Shroomgirl. I'll add:

    When you're doing volume plating, it's easy to get rushed, and therefore easy to get careless. Remember that every plate is as important as the other 499 plates. Every plate will be in front of an individual, each individual is a customer, each customer is a prospective client. Work fast and clean, but pay attention to detail.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  5. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    Thanks for all the advice guys n gals...the 500 person event is in fact next week so i guess i was stressing for nothing...today's trial was thankfully MUCH smaller....keep the advice coming though...the comments are much appreciated
     
  6. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    offsite or onsite?  Are there makeshift kitchens or real industrial kitchens?

    It's up to the kitchen manager or a higher up to check equipment.....nothing like being offsite with a major event and rented equipment or site equipment that's necessary to pull off your menu, with something not working.  An overloaded electric system blowing, an oven not being close to accurate or not having shelves, refrigerators being full, ice maker crapped out,  dishes being dirty or chipped, on and on........

    The difference between catering and restaurants is timing.....in catering you are typically feeding everyone at the same time, either buffet, stations, passed, plated....a good caterer knows that wedding receptions can be tricky if they are at a venue different from the ceremony, if there are many different ages, if there are photos afterwards.....

    hungry young children are not fun, as a caterer you guild couples in menu planning to make sure the little darlings have kid friendly food from the time they walk in the door.  things for guests to eat while for the hour or so that the wedding party is having pix taken.

    When I've worked with restaurant chefs they don't always feel an urgency to be prepared to get food out at a specific time.  There's a different type of mis en place involved.....you prep an amount you feel comfortable with but have backup ready if your business model requires it....(some sell an amount of food ie: 8oz of prime rib per person, some sell per person $40pp for xyz and it's not a specific amount, etc.....)  Keeping the backup food safe is important, in many cases if it's stored correctly and not put out, it can be served at another time.   Making sure the food looks good all the time.  Making sure it's maintained it's integrity in the ovens/cambros.  Making sure everyone is on the right page with what's expected.   Timing: if you provide food for 1.5 or 2 hours, that's how long it's available.....the kitchen is cleaning as it goes and hopefully wrapping everything well (took a lot of learning curve for this one......lost a lot of product because of my lack of training temp staff to ziplock everything or package everything going into the coolers.)  I cannot tell you how it's a juggling act to prep what you feel is needed and not over assemble time sensitive food.....then having to throw out the assembled overage after....that's profit going into the trash/employees cars/whatever.

    Catering....offsite, you are in a new space all the time typically....setting up a functional kitchen many times in very basic places ie: I've catered a wedding in a children's museum for 220 guests, 3 entrees (leg of lamb, salmon, chix fingers)...2 starches, salad, 2 veg, rolls.....passed aps, grilled cheese station (cojack on white, brie with chutney crostini, chevre with pesto/tapenade, morbier with truffle honey....NOTE: little kids were taken care of immediately upon arrival)  NO kitchen on site, just a room with one hand sink, we brought in tables, hot boxes, shipped the lamb from the kitchen close to service, had a crew pick up chix fingers from friend at nearby hotel, trying to dodge the mini train and get the antique elevator to work! That was a logistic challenge.  1.5 hours to setup....this was one of those events that takes a while to recover from.
     
  7. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    So caterers are pretty much culinary ninjas? The MacGyvers of the food world? According to the chef last night I did well - work quickly, clean and paid attention. The place I work for does offsite only and produces in a well equipped central production kitchen.

    Thank you for the advice shroom girl!!! Much appreciated
     
  8. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I used to refer to it as "balls to the wall, by the seat of your pants cooking" to potential new hires.
     
  9. chefedb

    chefedb

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    The hardest form of catering is OFF PREMISE . One never knows what you will encounter.Truck breakdowns, electric going out, running out of gas not enough refridge space.,staff no shows, not enough room in general, weather. There are so many factors that have to be considered. Mushroom girl I am sure has had all of these things happen in one form or the other. Big thing don't panic, think on your feet get it done, talk about it later.
     
  10. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Offsite Catering rocks.....there is nothing like pulling something off in the middle of nowhere (I have fed 200 mushroom hunters shiitake risotto meal in the middle of the woods )

    or co-ordinated a farm event for 100, with the entree chef getting lost and hungover being a NOSHOW (pre cell phone).....getting a couple other chefs at the event to gather food and cook on butane stoves that I'd just brought along with chutney, evo, basalmic vin......the desserts had been made, but we rocked out several dishes using what was available on that farm first part of OCT in 1999.  That was one of those great times where you pull it off by being very prepared.

    For 7 years, approx 24 weeks each May-Oct I managed a chef owned farmers' market with the mission statement "teach people how to cook local food".....we had cooking demos using food from the market every week.....it was a challenge for many of the visiting chefs to realize that there was no fridge/electricity/frills like running water in the middle of the street.  It was a huge learning curve for many many talented restaurant chefs to cook what was available at the market......and even more painful to write recipes for said demo/sampling dish.... a standard line I had was, "I'll be at your kitchen door tomorrow with pen and paper in had to write the recipe I've got to have printed in the newsletter handout & email"  this was 2000-2007.   My dear friend, Cary McDowell (chef extrodinaire....worked at Le Cirque, Daniels, had a few of his own places) called it commando cooking.   Imagine the chef who makes butternut spatzel  the end of a really really bitter cold Oct Saturday....his hands in ice cold water....outside in the middle of the street.

    Or the chef that says, "Julie, I fall asleep on line Sat night if I demo at the market Sat morning" or "one time a year I wake up for the 9am demo, only for you".....Now that's loyalty!

    There are certain personalities that thrive on creating & logisitics......we are a special breed......

    Restaurant chefs Creating the same food everyday is a skill, making sure that every customer has a great experience is a huge challenge.....I've always admired those that want to be in a kitchen all day every day creating their food.....to power through boredom, to not see daylight often......seriously I don't know how they do it long term.
     
  11. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    My two biggest adjustments so far are the sheer volume of items needed to be produced; I cant help but feeling like I am being really slow as all I have done in the past is small batch production. For example I have NEVER made cookie dough for 400 let alone in a SMALL stand mixer.

    The second is seasoning. With these ginormous batches I am hesitant to throw down large amounts of salt and pepper and so taste and adjust a number of times for one batch (which does end up slowing me down) -- I just keep thinking that if I oversalt something it's a huge amount of food down the drain then I have to start it allllll over again.

    Aside from that all is well. The big 600 job is fast approaching (Thurs).
     
  12. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    experience.....lots of experience will help with amounts of seasoning......you are so smart to go under rather than risk over salting.  

    economical motions also take experience......and a desire to increase speed.....there will come aha moments when you figure out what makes things go faster, and you've started in a great place. Cheftalk has an amazing depth and bredth of great knowledgable sharing chefs, who through the years have shared their experiences (good and bad, sometimes you learn more from fixing mistakes).....explore the archives, ask questions like "tips and tricks"......we wish you well and are around guidance when you need it.

    Let us know what happens at your 600 event.  
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I have been doing this a long time and still taste as I go. Example a chicken dish, depending on brands all chicken is processed slihtly different by lets say Purdue and Tyson. Tyson may use more salt in processing then Perdue therefor you must adjust accordingly. As Mushroom girl says start low go higher gradually,. Your job is to produce good tasting foods ,not win speed contest. 600 or 10,000. all you need is more food and more pots and more hands to help , but the basics are the same.A good consistant product and happy customer faces. Good Luck
     
  14. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    Excellent. Thanks for all the help and encouragement folks.
     
  15. chefboyarg

    chefboyarg

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    The 600 person gig was seamless, thanks to our fearless leaders. The exec chefs and event co ordinators were awesome and made it seem like it was dinner for 20. I had a blast chatting with the guests as they passed through my station as well. All that worrying for nothing. ;)
     
  16. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    easy peasy.....so glad it went so well! welcome to our ranks.