Today held a small and important victory for me.
One of the challenges in cooking for large functions is figuring out how much to make. We have a “banquet and event order” or BEO that delineates how many people are eating each entrée offered, but how many pounds of mashed potatoes we make is up to me. As far as appetizers go, I’m told to make a cheese platter or an antipasto tray and then what different passed hors d’oeuvres were requested, but nothing is quantified other than the number of folks coming to the event. All of a sudden my job becomes a word problem:
If one hundred and fifty people are coming for dinner and you are supposed to make sausage stuffed mushrooms, chicken satay, goat cheese and eggplant crostini, and coconut shrimp, how many of each hors d’oeuvres do you make?
Chef says there are formulas to help answer the question, but my guess is they play it safe. Catering concerns are supposed to create the illusion of excess. We’re supposed to make too much food so the people at the party think they’re getting their money’s worth because there’s so much left over. Making too much is easy to do and is too easy an answer. The first couple of weeks I was doing functions, I made as many pieces of each appetizer as there were people at the event: one hundred people, one hundred bacon-wrapped scallops. If there were one hundred people and four hors d’oeuvres, I made four hundred pieces and had most of them left over.
Today, I took a different approach. The BEO said a hundred and twenty were coming to the wedding. I made a hundred chicken satay, a hundred stuffed mushrooms, a hundred coconut shrimp, and I put the eggplant mixture in a pastry bag and piped it on to the crostini each time I made a tray so I could save the bread to use for croutons. When cocktail hour was over, all the shrimp was gone and I had ten mushrooms and eight satay for the servers’ snack.
Like I said, it was a small and important victory.
I kept thinking about the Truth Shop as I cooked today: do I want the whole truth or a partial version? The unquestioned belief in the food industry is more is better: always make too much, always hedge your bets, never tell the customer you’ve run out of something.
Why? Why? and Why not?
I’ll keep working on both my questions and my answers.