Catering #2

There’s a huge gash through my right middle fingernail – yes, I just completed catering job #2.  Still not a professional, I muddled through with a relatively nominal amount of cuts and no burns.  The assignment – 50 people, 5 hours and various chicken parts.  I made Italian-inspired braised chicken.  I called it, “Tuscan chicken with tomatoes and olives”.  The flavor combination was black olive, tomatoes and orange with mirepoix and herbs thrown in.  The starch was a savory bread pudding with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and herb de Province.  I was afraid the bread pudding wasn’t going over well –a few plates come back to the kitchen with substantial pudding remnants left on them, but I had two guests compliment the pudding specifically so…it think it went off well.  My vegetable was a roasted zucchini/mushroom medley and my salad was romaine lettuce with roasted red and yellow peppers, pepperoncini, fennel and toasted pine nuts.  The soup was pea with ham.

Overall, I’m happier with this evening than my first attempt, but, damn, those five hours flew by. Luckily,  I had some kitchen helper assistance in the last hour or I’m not sure I would have made it.  Even though I only worked six hours total, I was absolutely and completely exhausted at the end.  This cooking stuff’s not for wussies.

Debut

January 22 was my official debut as a paid caterer. It was a “softball” catering gig – through the school. Yes, it’s the same one I flaked out on before, but this time, with the restaurant experience under my belt, I was a little more confident.

The assignment – catering for 50 people with an “assigned” protein (they gave me chicken airline), $250 or less in supplies – and make  salad, soup, main dish, starch and vegetable.

The weather here has been terrible – grey and rainy and cold.  My thoughts, of course, ran towards comfort food – something to warm the guests from the inside. On Tuesday, I was assigned the chicken, which allowed me two days to decide the menu and order the supplies.

My menu would be Eastern European influenced – chicken paprikash, pasta with dill, napa cabbage and lemon cream and roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic – nothing too risky, manageable and comforting.

Chef O. called me at 10 pm on Thursday night – theye decided to serve French wines so my menu needed to be French. Holy Fuck! Not only that, but since he had to order supplies Thursday morning, he just bought me some random things. Yes, I got my Brussels sprouts, but I also got apples, mushrooms, potatoes and Swiss cheese….now go, create!

I managed to stay fairly calm. Give me some white wine and I’ll make a Coq au Riesling. If they’re making me go French – I’m going Alsatian. I kept the Brussels spouts, made potatoes au gratin, added a salad with blue cheese and cream of mushroom soup.

The results? Not great, but I think passable. I’m notorious for beating myself up if things aren’t perfect. This wasn’t perfect, but it’s a start. It’s a benchmark to grow on. The school hasn’t called me to tell me not to come back. No one asked for their money back. My next attempt is March 19. I’m thinking Spanish.

Redemption

In 2010, I’m giving myself a chance for redemption.

Last October, I had the opportunity to cater an event for 50 people – my fear of failure resulted in my canceling and allowing another chef to take the job (read post).  These past few months, I regret that I allowed my insecurities to win.  I felt this failure to be a grey spot on my culinary report card.

In January 2010, I’ll have my second chance.  I’ve agreed to cater the same event again.  While I’m still feeling highly insecure, my time at the steakhouse has helped build my confidence – and I realized that if I DON’T do it,  I will always feel I somehow failed.

January 22 is my second chance – even if it’s a disaster, I will have tried, which, for me, is one step forward.