I have spent the last 3 days in the best catering company I have ever had the pleasure to work for.
This place makes just about every chef, pastry chef, prep cook, dishwasher, sous chef
If catering isn't organized, it's nothing.
And if food coming from a catering kitchen doesn't taste good,
You might never catch me saying this again, so take your seat:
Sometimes too much organization can be a bad thing. In commercial cooking environments.
An insane amount of organization is linked with
and Master Pastry Chefs.
It's a fine line we walk when the imperative is NO WASTE.
There's a lot of math when it comes to organizing recipes in catering kitchens.
Allow me be more specific.
Today I needed to bake off approximately 200 pot de cremes.
In demitasse cups. (They are a bit larger than espresso cups.)
The little ramekin-like containers needed to be placed in "200 pans" = meaning shallow stainless steel Hotel Pans. Very tightly.
First I spaced them nicely and counted 18 per pan.
Pastry chef came along shaking her head.
Reminding me that I had about 800 custards to bake today, she said cram 'em in tight.
This goes against my internal overprotective pot de creme baking parent, but I did as she said.
In convection oven we could fit 3 200 pans. In still oven, 2.
I had about 125 custards baking at the same time for about 6 hours straight.
I managed to lock in 23-26 cups per pan.
Some ovens move faster than others.
It was a fun day.
This catering kitchen employs a big gun. A lot of ammunition.
They are using restaurant tricks, but in a large scale environment.
They hire restaurant chefs and cooks
and then play the game better than restaurants
Restaurant cooks think catering is for wusses.
There's a whole hierarchy in restaurant cooking mentality that places restaurant cooking at the top
and a whole slew of other food jobs below.
It's a macho thing, yes, but also
a creative gripe.
The idea is that catering is about repetition.
But not in the same way that actual line cooking is.
Catering is about numbers.
Of guests. Of dollars. Of food you can re-heat on the fly.
Of desserts that can wait out side for people to get married.
The concept is that there's more spontaneity in line cooking or restaurant work because little is set in stone, (the exception being, of course, Corporate environments. Example above.)
But what if for every party you book you do not offer the same menu as the last party or the party this very same client got last year or month?
What if every catering chef could pick his or her team and ingredients?
What if the prep team actually did their job and finished their list and was held to as high a standard as the higher paid officials?
What if all that organization meant there was more time for creativity because one wasn't always putting out stupid fires?
What if that catering company hired the best cooks and pastry chefs and butchers in the land?
And made everything from scratch?
And, [are you sitting?], paid everyone a living wage?
Just like restaurants.
Oof. Watch out.
/Now who's the shoemaker?
No kitchen is perfect.
And not every type of cooking environment is for the next person.
I don't think I'll ever end up in a hotel kitchen, for example.
But my g-d has been known to have a sense of humour before.
So I never say never.
But this catering kitchen is nice.
And if your restaurant mind is open to the possibility
you could learn a few
or a thousand
In 3 days, my highlights:
Made a full sheet pan & a 1/2 of cream biscuits.
Cornmeal-Thyme crisp topping for peaches.
Big batch of cracker dough.
Sheeted cracker dough into transparently thin full sheets all day.
Brushed crackers with egg white wash, sprinkled with salt and some of them took seeds as well.
Made the largest batch of creme brulee base I've ever encountered ~ @180 egg yolks, 5 Gallons manufacturing cream & 1/2 & 1/2, and over 5 # sugar... !
Learned how to use a hand held stainlesss steel conical liquid dispenser/portioner!
This is my new favorite tool.
Today I will work "on site." The catering company is packing out 5 or 6 parties for today. Unlike a lot of restaurants in the Bay Area, they're busy.
Yes, it's nice to be in challenging environment where learning is possible no matter which way I turn.
Not married to any one particular kitchen.
Still "At Large."
But so happy to be of service.
~ p.s. the coconut cream pie faerie has visited me again btw...