Last Saturday we executed a sit-down 3-course dinner for 250 where I work. This was not a huge chore except for 3 things: The client decided at the last minute to change the dinner from a buffet to a sit-down; the budget was adapted but not significantly, giving us very little money to work with; it was the first large event I would oversee and in the wake of the previous chef’s reign there was a lot of concern over how it would go.
I kept the menu KISS simple with a mixed green salad with dried cranberries, candied almonds, house croutons, a slice of poppy-seed crusted goat cheese, and a home-made raspberry vinaigrette. Followed by the entree which was a spinach and roasted red pepper stuffed airline chicken breast, saffron mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, and lemon-garlic cream sauce. The menu finished with cheese cake topped with mixed berries. We also made some vegetable napoleons for anyone wanting a vegetarian alternative. Very simple, very direct, very cost effective.
I had to do a tasting for the event cooridinator who has been very reluctant to do these kinds of dinners because of the elaborate production they would become under L’s management. Too many components, too much fru-fru foods, too much staging. She didn’t like the huge production these dinners would become because she felt it allowed too much room for mistakes. Realizing this, I presented her with a simple menu and did a tasting for her, which she loved. Even though my staff had worked pretty hard during the week, I had them come in to handle the plate-up because I knew we would handle it better than brining in some temps or other staff less familiar with what I was doing. It didn’t help that we had another breakfast/lunch buffet for 250 people that same day, but we got through it and the dinner went off without a single hitch. That has been very rare at this location, to have a hitch-free event. But we did it. I was even able to cut the staff early so they could have as much of Saturday evening free as possible.
L was in the kitchen, working on another event. He’s not really supposed to be in the kitchen, having been banished from the premises, but he had prep that needed to be done. He was constantly over my shoulder, shaking his head and smirking and rolling his eyes. Despite all the praise and compliments we got from the diners and organizers, he didn’t have one good thing to say about the evening. That came as no surprise.
Monday the organizer came to me and said how well everything went and that the customer was very happy with everything, especally the food. They said they would book our facility again next year for their annual event. She was delighted and clearly relieved. She asked me to create some sit-down dinner menu options that she could sell, now that she had more confidence that we could pull it off successfully. That was a huge coup for us and a nice step forward in repairing the relationship between our company and our client.
Yes, there were somethings I was unhappy with… To safe money I bought some berries from a vendor who could deliver them quickly and cheapy. Half of them were over ripe and not suitable for putting on the plate. I ended up turning them into a sauce and blending them with the good berries to rescue the dessert, and actually improve it. I wanted BD to take a more active and leadership role in dealing with the hot food, instead he complained and wanted to play the victim when things weren’t going perfectly. He wanted to take short-cuts not because it would actually safe time but because he was afraid he’d be stuck doing some mundane task. He used way too much turmeric for the potatoes, cutting back on the saffron, when I had said use a lot of saffron in the cream and butter and a little turmeric in the water for the potatoes. I think he was just being chintzy with the saffron, whining that “a little goes a long way and they won’t appreciate it anyway”. Instead we ended up with bright yellow potatoes that definitely tasted of turmeric and not as much of saffron. Still, this is a good thing, since it allows me to identify weaknesses and problems in our team that need to be addressed, gently or forcefully.
Everyone else performed terrifically and it was by far one of the smoothest and most organized dinners we have executed since we have been there. With that I am pleased.