Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My very first Catering Gig

For the past two years I have been Tori's personal "Caterer" for all of our events with our friends. This usually just entails making 3-5 appetizers or something along those lines and I'm usually running behind as they arrive and sit patiently while I toss plates of things at them. After each event Tori and I always have our side chatter of someday starting a catering business together - me doing the food her the decore and rentals. Particularly after the Bridal Shower last year we felt confident that maybe somewhere down the line it would be fun. Well she and her mom decided (unbeknowst to me) that now would be a good time to start. About 3 weeks ago they proposed I cater Tori's mom's annual dinner for her friends. In the past her mom has cooked or had a pot luck but this year she really wanted to jazz it up and hire a caterer to do a full sit down meal. What better deal than your daughters friend who is just starting out? I had no choice but say yes feeling a bit thrown in the deep end but if experience has taught me anything is that this is often the best way to get started. I quickly came up with lots of menu options for her and we had a meeting to sit down and decide on what she wanted to serve. Here is the menu-

Citrus Chili Crab on Fried Won ton
Puff Pastry Cups with Mushroom, Bacon, & Feta

Butternut Squash Soup with Creme Fraiche and Ginger Snaps Crumbles
Baby Green Salad with Candied Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, & Crumbled Blue Cheese

Filet Mignon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Brandy Cream Sauce
Black Truffle Scented Creamed Spinach
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus Spears

Individual Apple Galette's with French Vanilla Ice Cream

From the start I knew she wanted to steaks, which I will fully admit is not my specialty, and she was very adamant that she wanted them a particular way. We decided to compromise, that she would do the first stages and we would simply keep them heated and plate them. She also purchased a favorite brandy cream sauce from the restaurant By-the-Bucket that she really desired to go along with it. With 8 other things to prepare I didn't mind her taking this off my plate. In our pre discussions she also threw me another curve ball - her boss was going crabbing the morning of the party and planning to bring her fresh crab. At first I had a minor heart attack (I'm not super skilled in retrieving crab meat and all I could think was this is gonna take me hours!) but then she assured me she would have her husband crack and clean them so I would be left with just a nice bowl of the meat to work with. Woo hoo!
Still I knew I was going to need an extra set of hands to really pull off a plated dinner for 20. Thankfully I have some excellent cooks in my crew and I was able to enlist a "Sous Chef" in my friend Abbie. What a life saver. After all is said and done there was simply no way it would have gone as smoothly as it did without her.

Friday night I started to prep anything I could do in advance to save time on Saturday. I made the soup, 5 batches of pastry dough for the desserts, and the biscuit dough so I would be all set to go the next day. Saturday morning was spent assembling each of the individual Apple gallette's which required lots of dough rolling and thin apple slicing. I have made lots of gallette's before but never 20 individual ones. My plan to be at the house at 3 quickly turned to 3:30 as I realized just how time intensive each one was. But with my trusty Sous Chef in tow I wasn't worried!

We arrived at 3:30 with our supplies in tow and got down to work setting up. Tori's mom has just about every cooking apparatus you can imagine however- finding/ digging them out is another matter! We managed to get everything we needed and got right to work. It's amazing how much faster things go with two sets of hands. We were able to prep everything we could before cooking with plenty of time. Thank goodness we had it. As I pulled the crab out of the fridge I found it had been cracked however had not been taken out of it's shell! My biggest fear come true and with not nearly the time I would need to do it myself with everything else going on. Thank goodness I had an additional side kick, Tori's sister Angelina, who was able to step in and save the day. She worked tirelessly till we had plenty of crab for the appetizers.
Since our night of experimentation with my mini fryer Abbie has become a pro and she did an excellent job evenly frying the won ton crisps for this appetizer. Don't they look nice all lined up on the serving tray! I was able to prep everything for the mushroom app during our ample prep time in the afternoon so all I had to do was throw them in the oven right before guests started to arrive.
As soon as the appetizers were being passed around we started plating the salads. We decided pre setting the salads would be an excellent indicator to the guests that dinner was about to begin. Once the salad plates began coming back to the kitchen I began to ladle up the Butternut Squash soup. Tori's dad was extra excited for this course as he declared "My favorite!"

Next came the major plating feat of the night - the entrees. Thankfully we had decided to serve the green side dishes family style so it was easy to get those ready to go out however 20 plates with steak and mashed potatoes took some more doing! We set up a quick assembly line squeezing a ghandsome pile of mashed potatoes on the plate with a bag, carefully placing the steak just off set on the pile, and finishing with a generous swoop of the sauce on the opposite side of the plate.
Although I didn't take a picture of the plates (speedy timing seemed more important) I did get a picture of the spinach cooking!
Sauted down with the black truffle oil it smelled soooo good! We got to breath a bit as I put the desserts in the oven but realized that we didn't have plates! Thankfully my trusty "staff" made quick work of washing the salad dishes and we were in business. Everyone filtered in after they finished the main course to watch the fight that was on TV which ended up working out perfect because we could stagger out the desserts and coffees.
Over all we had a great time. It was a really good learning experience and I think it has really given me the confidence I need to start pursuing more opportunities like this. Of course just small things at first but you never know where your passions might lead! I'm just grateful I have so many people who believe in and support me and I can't Thank Tori's mom enough for giving me my first real shot and helping it be so successful!

Now to finish- a lovely picture of Abbie enjoying the fruits of our labor after we were finished:


  1. That was amazing to read Jenny!! I am so excited for you that catering is working out well. And I wish you luck in your future catering escapades. I will remember to call you whenever I need a caterer!!