Confidentially Forgotten

I’ve done it dozens of times – spent 40+ hours planning a menu, writing specifications for said menu, sourcing and shopping, writing the tick-tock of event day, and then finally cooking for twelve hours.  For some strange reason, each time I do it I will forget more than a couple of things.  One recent weekend the “I Forgot/Didn’t Finish List” included the following:

  • I didn’t finish the tick-tock of the days events – a schedule of each activity that needs to be completed in each 15 minute segment for things to happen smoothly.  I blame the Happy Hour I happily attended because the lovely Paige was in town from Philly.
  • I forgot that even the best plans collapse under reality’s weight the first time something goes to hell.
  • I forgot that something always goes to hell inside of the first hour.
  • I forgot a couple of random kitchen tools and left one key ingredient on my kitchen floor because I didn’t get to print my final checklist.
  • And for the first hour after I picked up the woman who would be assisting me in the kitchen, I most certainly forgot to breathe.

Lexa and I have been friends for a while now but this was the first opportunity that we have had to work together.  I wasn’t presenting the calm, everything’s-under-control image that I would have liked.  I drove and shifted gears like a man in a hurry, mumbled about traffic, rainy weather, and general frustration, before Lexa dissolved my tension by saying “Refugee, you know I don’t like having to be the positive one!”

That comment was enough for me to get my swing back.  The rest of the trip to get the rented glassware involved some clown car like moments with all of the supplies and four racks of wine glasses crammed into a Jeep… and I might have been uncharacteristically directionally challenged too.

After finally arriving at the client’s home, there was another key moment that added copious amounts of levity to the afternoon.  After unloading two armfuls of supplies and sundries, I was returning to the Jeep and walked right into the glass screen door just like one of those birds in the Windex commercials.  Lexa may have laughed hysterically for a few moments.

We quickly settled into our rhythm and began cooking.  About an hour before service, The Pistol arrived to help with final prep and to be the primary server.

The menu was a Standing Degustation with 11 courses:

  1. Caprése Salad Skewers with 10 year Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Shallot infused Olive Oil
  2. Guacamole Mousse with Lardons of Black Forest Bacon
  3. King Salmon Tartar
  4. Blue Cheese and Jalapeño Beignets
  5. Mini Asiago Cheese and Mushroom Frittatas with Baby Spinach
  6. Gazpacho Soup Shots
  7. Chicken Confit Tacos with Hot Pepper Butter and Arugula
  8. Truffled French Fry Cones
  9. Petite Grilled Cheese with 4 Year Cave-Aged Cowgirl Creamery Cheddar, Prosciutto and Hot House Heirloom Tomatoes
  10. Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Roquefort Butter, and Fried Shallot Rings
  11. Mint Chocolate Mousse with Frozen Peppermint Patty Crumbles

Except that it was only ten courses because right at that moment in the night when several courses had gone out and with a few more to go, Lexa dropped the whole try of the mini grilled cheese onto the floor and open oven door.  This was my turn to repay the calming favor.  I moved over to Lexa, gave her a big hug, kissed her on the cheek and said “It’s not a big deal, seriously, not a big deal, we gotta move on.”

That was the only food-hiccup in a night that began with more than a couple of client induced hiccups.  None of them mattered, however, because the food was inspired, and great food erases a multitude of sins.

After we had fed all guests into submission and before we started cleaning, I grabbed a couple of beers and Lexa, The Pistol and I went outside for a quick break and that’s when I realized I’d forgotten a couple of other things too:

  • Cooking for twelve hours is physically exhausting… like, no other frame of reference exhausting
  • Cooking for twelve hours is exhausting but when the food is great, and you know the food is great, the client knows the food is great, and the guests are giving you insane compliments that they cannot possibly mean literally, it’s also kind of exhilarating too.
  • No beer I’ve ever had in my life could taste better than the one I have at the end of a night… unless I shared the experience with friends.
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12 Responses to Confidentially Forgotten

  1. I walked into an OPEN glass door once. I still don’t quite know how I managed that one. (Hurt for a solid week after — I was full throttle).

    Fortunately, I wasn’t moving fast enough to cause pain to anything but my ego.

  2. lexa says:

    Sometimes, when I am having a bad day, I think of you running into that door.

    But then I think of dropping those grilled cheeses and get really sad again.

    Thanks for asking me to help. I loved it.

    It was my pleasure, and is my pleasure to have provided continuing comic relief.

  3. Foggy Dew says:

    Your “Cooking for twelve hours is physically exhausting… like, no other frame of reference exhausting” comment brought to the front of my mind another quote for the second time in less than 12 hours:

    Loki (from Dogma): “Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulphur is like an endurance trial man. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, outside of soccer.”

    Cooking or raining down sulphur, which is harder? Sounds like a push to me.

    Oh, how I loved that movie. Thank you for reminding me of that reference.

  4. Dara says:

    It sounds like it was absolutely delicious. Although, it really is a pity about the grilled cheese. I squealed while reading about that one. Le yum!

    It wasn’t really a shame about the grilled cheese. We almost needed that element of yelling fuck for three straight seconds (but only in your head because there are guest four feet away) for the sense of accomplishment to be what it became.

  5. kim says:

    There is something about the restaurant industry- serving/cooking great food that makes a beer with a co-worker or friend at the end of a crazy day taste like magic.

    I want to say that it is collective achievement that yields the magical tasting beer, but you’re right, post-service tastes better than anything.

  6. I have also walked into someone’s sliding glass door. And it was pretty embarrassing.

    Now, whenever I see a suspicious archway, I tentatively stick a limb towards it and wiggle it around, just to be sure. Which is equally embarrassing, trust me.

    I had never done that before (I don’t think) but it brought levity. If levity comes at the expense of my ego, I am fine with it as I am sure that my ego can always stand to lose a few PSI.

  7. magnolia2010 says:

    good GRIEF. i bow to your abilities there. i “worked catering” in college for a little while. this largely consisted of making breakfast for the lions club every friday. that about killed me. i barely got through reading the menu and imagining the outcome without wanting to cry. you’re a rock star for that.

    To be sure, there have been some disasters too… I guess they haven’t made it into this forum as frequently because I have yet to find a way to make them instructive, or funny, or whatever other intangible criterion I use for this space.

  8. Christina says:

    I get crazed like that before I have people over for dinner. The first time my Father in law came to dinner, I was a moody, cranky wreck making everything from scratch. But the meal came out and the company was more important.

    The company is always more important. When it’s your job, it is a little different but I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had great balance with my company in the kitchen.

  9. Sounds like such a successful event!! Albiet, stressful. But, mostly successful. 🙂

    Congrats!

    I think that we all engage in a bit of revisionist polishing when considering things we love.

  10. I’d apologize for being such a divine distraction but we both know it would be insincere.

    Thanks for coming out, for mingling, and for convincing me to drink something other than Diet Coke.

    Divine distraction described with alluring alliteration, yeah, that about sums it up.

  11. Grace says:

    That menu sounds phenomenal! I would have loved to be at that event!

    It was a really good time and we were really proud of the food.

  12. […] have a good conversation. We coverec her planned date (last Saturday,) how she came to contact me (referral from this client,) the number of guests, style of food, and then I heard the two words that stir concern in the […]

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