Here’s another first: On Saturday, we did our first real paid catering gig (along with my mother and my uncle Kevin – my mother was the head chef). Marcia has worked as a professional chef before (at the Bed&Breakfast she used to manage), but this was my first time in the professional arena. It was the first time doing catering on someone else’s site for both of us. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.
The event was a wedding reception with about 150 guests, with an Italian food/decor theme. The menu was a mix of traditional Italian and non-traditional Italian-inspired food. The entrees were Grilled Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo (traditional), and Inside-Out Ravioli (a non-traditional but very delicious creation of my mother’s). We also did a fruit salad, a chef’s salad, some REALLY good breadsticks, a cheese tray, and a few other tasty morsels. We did not do the wedding cake, though we did provide a chocolate fountain which was a real BLAST, as you will soon see…
But let’s start with the strawberries – In talking with the mother of the bride, it became apparent that the bride’s favorite treat is chocolate-dipped strawberries. It was decided that we would provide a plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries for the bride and groom to enjoy. At first, we were just going to do some simple traditional dips, but then my mother got a crazy idea – and when she gets those ideas, there’s no stopping her. She wanted to use white and dark chocolate (dark in color, not in flavor) to make half of the strawberries look like tuxedos, and then use white to make the other half like like wedding dresses. It took a little bit of [very tasty] experimentation, but when she figured out how to do it, the results were great:
We offered a few of them to the pastry chef who did the cake to put them on or around the cake if he wanted, and he loved the idea. The rest went on a plate for the bride and groom to share. We also made some more plain dipped strawberries for the rest of the head table to enjoy.
The pastry chef (who was a friend of the bride’s family and also a wedding guest) had his daughter with him. She was probably 6 or 7 years old. While he was putting the strawberries we gave him on the cake, I was talking to the little girl, who said “my daddy made the cake.”
“It’s pretty,” I responded, “and you can eat everything on it!”
“Not the flowers,” she said.
I went into teacher mode. “I bet you can.”
“What kind of flowers are they? Are they carnations?”
“Then you can eat them. What do you think they taste like?”
She half-shrugged, half rolled her eyes at the idiot who thinks you can eat flowers.
“They taste like pepper.”
She’d had enough. I was clearly insane. She laughed at me, said “Nuh-uh!” and scampered off.
Later, I was lucky enough to serve her her food. I asked if she wanted salt, pepper, or flowers on her pasta. Again, the “for a grown up, you’re really stupid” look.
For the record, you CAN eat carnations, and they DO taste like pepper. Just be careful when you buy them that you get ones grown without any pesticides, because pesticide not only tastes nasty, it’s not very good for you.
Chocolate Fountain of Death
About halfway through dinner, we were all serving or preparing more food, when someone came in, grabbed Kevin, and said “the chocolate fountain is exploding!” We thought that perhaps it had spilled a little, or maybe overheated and ruined the chocolate (it does happen on occasion).
No. This was pretty literal.
A piece of food had fallen into the bottom of the fountain, and worked its way into the auger that moves the chocolate from the bottom to the top. It got stuck inside the auger tube and began acting as a lifting shelf for the auger, so the auger started climbing up the tube – like it was unscrewing itself from the fountain. Once the auger got above the top of the tube, it started flinging chocolate about. To make matters worse, a few moments after that, the whole fountain started to spin about because the movement of the auger had thrown the balance off. Then the rotation caused various pieces to come apart, and very soon the whole thing had come apart, flinging chocolate all over 4 bowls of strawberries, pretzels, and cookies, a white tablecloth, and a surprised little boy.
The fastest way to clean up the mess was simply to clean the fountain, swap the tablecloth for a fresh one (luckily, no chocolate got on the floor or walls), and get things moving again quickly. Kevin put the soiled tablecloth in a freezer so it could be easily cleaned later (you can peel the cold chocolate off of the cloth and have a pretty good chance of saving the tablecloth). After things calmed down and dinner was done, we took a moment to take some pictures of the tablecloth (this is after being frozen):
I wish we had gotten some pictures of the little boy who was equally chocolate covered, but he got cleaned up too quickly. Thankfully, the bride and groom and all the guests thought the whole incident was quite funny, and nobody was upset at this minor disaster. I think it’s the only thing that went wrong the whole day (which means my knife skills have improved!).
In the end, we received many compliments from the guests, and the bridal party (especially the mother of the bride, who hired us) was very pleased. We were happy with a job well done, and a buffet table well-eaten:
A number of people asked us if we had a catering company, or if we were available for hire. The four of us have threatened to start a catering business before, but have not actually done so. Perhaps with a little more experience, we would feel comfortable doing that. Only time will tell.