Catering the leftovers

Becoming a caterer in my second life was harder than anything I had tackled so far in my life. Well staying married to the ex rates up there, but I digress. Basically in catering, you give up what I call a real life.. and live in the realm of no week-ends off and holidays at the discretion of everyone else weddings.

Having been a hairstylist with three salons in my first life, doesn’t even compare to the grueling, gut wrenching, heart stopping (ever had your pig catch fire?) out and out hard work, of being a caterer.. period!

We were not chefs nor were we magicians before this gig, but life threw us a huge curve ball and we stuck our hand out to catch it. So cooking and learning magic sent me on my next journey…

Possessing people skills and learning to be a doctor, therapist , marriage councilor, and lawyer.. to my clientele, kept me in high demand. I was privy to the most intimate parts of their lives.. trust me, I knew everything! As hairstylists we dispensed advice to all and what we didn’t know, we would find out by your next appointment.

Ok now where was I? oh right, people skills prepared me to deal with the public so why not be a chef too… ya right! So catering became my next life.. life number two. Catering and leftovers.. hmmm.. the bane of our existence, well catering was ok, but trust me when I say leftovers are a big problem.

We can’t leave leftovers with an event because of liability issues. When we started out we left a whole lot of beef with a charity organized event, they left it in the cambros (think Coleman cooler). We get a call next day that the beef has a funny smell.. they ‘forgot’ the beef in the cambros and it sat there all night and they wondered if it was ok to eat?

Our insurance (liability in particular) will not cover us for food we leave behind… period! This being our livelihood negates us from making anymore of those dumb mistakes. This doesn’t stop us from leaving food at events that have proper storage for said food, to a point.

We allowed our staff to take food home but they refused to work for leftovers.. dam!  We eventually found an inner city school where we could donate the leftovers and it was a win-win situation. Feeding hungry kids does it for me and who better to get this food? Ah well.. those were my catering days and having sold the business to the kids I thought I was done with all that.

I should mention here that because we were not chefs we had no idea how much food to prepare so we always had too much. Funny thing about that statement though, even when we knew how much to prepare, we still didn’t trust we would have enough, and that mentality was passed onto the kids.

So here I am at the lake getting a call from my son (well.. a text, nobody uses the phone anymore). “We have a whole lot of leftovers mom, do you want them”? I have been taking some for the inner school summer reading program in PA (Prince Albert is a small city close to my lake). So I shoot him an affirmative, on text.

Now let me explain to those of you not familiar with catering. We keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold and we are very careful about food safety. We do keep some food to use again because we know they are food safe (like beef can be used in sandwiches or stews).

We always prepare enough food and more because you had extra guests again, we had a hunch you would.. (and we make sure we can feed those big eaters as well) ok.. we are also still paranoid about running short.

One of our best clients booked another ‘customer appreciation’ event one year, this one always lowballed us with his final counts. (yes .. he was CHEAP!) But you know who looks bad when the food is gone and there are still a hundred hungry people that didn’t get fed? Not the CHEAP guy!

Cheap guys event rolls around and we have two events that day, his is beef on a bun and the other event is hamburgers. Cheap guy books for 200 people (we automatically add on the ‘job sheet’  take food for 300). We give the hamburger crew a heads up that we may need them, a long shot, but.. we are magicians after all, so we need to be prepared.

Cheap guy decides to announce to the world, on the radio (I suspect he got free advertising, because the radio is not cheap) that he is having a customer appreciation! Well our catering company is pretty well known by that time, and there is no way in hell we will be caught without food because of cheap guys stupidity.. period!!

We divert hamburger crew (which has just finished their job of feeding a couple hundred people) from going back to the catering kitchen.. to come to cheap guys event. Someone runs to Costco and cleans out all the hamburger buns, another person runs to Safeway and does the same thing. Hamburger crew makes a slight detour to stop at butcher shop (they make our own recipe burgers and we order a hundred cases at a time so they always have stock for us).

Kitchen gets busy dicing onions to run out to Cheap guys site. While the beef on a bun line is still going, the hamburger crew has shown up and is furiously barbequing burgers. The transition goes smoothly enough from handcarved beef on a bun.. to fresh burgers served off the grill with fried onions and all the fixens.

Total fed is 700 customers and cheap guy is really apologetic, and I am so furious!! I bite my tongue and think to myself .. just wait till next year you cheap b#%&* I am going to charge you double.. !! (but I never do)

Anyway I keep getting off track. So here I am 10:30 this morning, at the lake repackaging ten trays of potatoes, two trays of pulled beef, one tray of sliced ham, one and a half trays of kabobs, a five gallon pail of broccoli salad (ok I didn’t bargain on that, I have no idea where that is going). This is not how it is supposed to be, I am retired and.. and.. man, I hate leftovers! Throwing them away has never been an option as far as I’m concerned and my son knows that…..

Two trays of potatoes already went to a church function happening today, most of the other stuff is already in the freezer. The 120 barbequed hamburgers and 60 veggie burgers was much easier last week. The broccoli salad is weighing heavily on me this morning  hmmmmmm… I have one more day to figure this one out…photo 1