Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cooking for a Thousand

Yesterday I wrote about the economy of buying in quantity at Whole Foods. My reader, Erica, posted a comment in response. Feel free to add your comment(s)

After all the talk about
buying in quantity, I have a story about cooking in quantity:

When I worked as a chef for Melbourne's then top catering company, Peter Rowlands, we catered a 3-day, weekend wrap-up party for The Man From Snowy River. Between the crew, actors, extras, hangers-owners etc, we were cooking for about 1000 people. And our managing chef was away, so at 22-years young, I was at the helm!

I have vague recollections of not sleeping for about a week leading up to the cook-a-thon due to daily, major panics over ordering the right massive quantities required to prepare the food we'd planned for the event.

Then during the actual cook-a-thon, my days ended around midnight and started again around 5 a.m. It's no wonder I was a bit foggy-brained and stressed.

Because Rowland's hadn't catered such a large function before (our big events were a couple hundred people not a thousand), I ordered containers to hold the planned butternut pumpkin soup and fancy salads. The containers were 30 gallon, plastic trash cans.

I'd proposed the butternut pumpkin soup because it's so easy, so delicious and the color is beautiful -- I knew the party-goers would love it. (It was a simple version of the recipe I posted on February 16th for Spicy Butternut Pumpkin Soup.)

As each batch of soup was finished, we poured it into one of the trash cans. At the end of that day, the lids went on 3, 30-gallon cans after which, we hauled them into our walk-in coolers for the night.

The following morning I rolled up half-dead with exhaustion but ready for another day of marathon cooking. With only a couple more days left before the weekend, we were on schedule and doing great work.

Shortly after my arrival the kitchen crew straggled in, made coffee, eggs, toast and hung out while I wandered through the walk-in cooler checking on our previous-day's work, lifting the lids on the trash cans.

When you cook large quantities of say, soup, it needs to cool slowly so that the temperature falls evenly on the outside and the inside. If the outside cools fast and the inside maintains it's temperature, the inside continues to cook and bubble and ...

I don't remember the superlatives that came roaring out of my mouth, suffice it to say I'm sure they were colorful. You see, the soup was bubbling. Furiously!

It had begun to ferment!

At least one, 30-gallon trash can of soup had to be tossed and made again.

Despite the behind-the-scenes drama, our food and the event was a huge success. Though, I have to say, I would never commit to putting myself under that kind of stress again!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it Louise! Thanks for sharing your stories and recipes and tips - I always learn so much and have a laugh too. Thanks again! Julie Ann Storr