Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thursday night I started my new serving job at Holland College. It was a banquet for about 220 people and it was a huge change from the kind of work I have been doing lately. It was so fast paced and there was so much to get done before the event started. Plus everyone was all flustered since the school was juggling this event and one of the dinners for the Shellfish Festival which they were also helping to cater for. It was a 5 course meal which included 4 different wine pairings. So much cutlery to many wine glasses so clean! But the guests were incredibly appreciative and the night got a raved review (plus a standing ovation from the crowd).

The following night was a big wedding of 230 guests and I really enjoyed this event a lot. I was feeling really run down since I didn't get out of there til quite late the night before and was dragging my feet considerably when the tables all had to get set and the glasses all needed polishing; but once the reception started and people started to come and the atmosphere lightened up, I was able to have a good time. Plus I recognized some of the faces in the crowd and was able to chat with a few of the guests during the pre-meal appetizer/drink mingle before the bride and groom arrived (I was walking around offering people Moonshine Punch). During the main reception meal, we are not allowed to clear any dishes or really do anything when any speeches were being given, so after standing around and listening to speech after speech and story after story about the newlyweds, I started to get all emotional as though I knew these people and I had shared these precious moments with them. I think it was somewhere after the home video slideshow that I started to become related to these people. I found myself laughing at jokes I didn't even get just because everyone else seemed to know the punch line. I'm lame.

This was my favourite part of the speech of the Father of the Groom - "When we drink we get drunk. When we get drunk we fall asleep. When we fall asleep we commit no sin. When we commit no sin we go to heaven. So let's all get drunk and go to heaven." It's a famous Irish toast but I'm not Irish so I've never heard it before.

I think my favourite part of these two nights is the time spent in the kitchen in which I got to watch the culinary students and their instructors prepare and plate up the meals. It took me back to when I was in culinary school and we were putting on these giant events and having to over-plan and over-prepare every single detail of the night. Would people suddenly indulge the important detail of having an allergy? Or would there be an extra vegetarian meal needed? Or maybe the lady on table 23 suddenly decided she didn't want any garlic in her food. Then what would we do? I remember the feeling of having to have everything look and taste beautiful and the apprehension of not knowing if people would enjoy the part of the meal that you were in charge of. And your chef barking orders and wiping splashes off of plates and telling everyone to step it up! Or keep up the good pace!

I remember one event in which I was in charge of the dessert and I made over 250 cream puffs which were in the shape of swans. Each little swan was placed in a pool of vanilla cream and strawberry sauce was spread around the pool as well. Was it Valentine's Day perhaps?? YES! Because we also made tons of red tuile hearts to place on the plate as well. Anyway, I made an enormous mistake and well under-estimated the amount of vanilla cream needed, or someone had used too large of a ladle when measuring. Either way, I had no time but needed several liters of this cream made up. So myself and another student made 2 huge bowls of instant vanilla pudding to use as the cream pools because the real stuff needed hours to prepare. The problem with this is that we needed to use hot water for this particular pudding mix, so to get them chilled at an accelerated rate we sat in the walk in freezer with the bowls on our laps and whisked and whisked until our arms nearly fell off. No literally. My arm nearly disconnected from my body.

I guess I went off on a bit off topic there with my walk down memory lane, but the point of the story I guess is to share that I appreciate and truly understand all of the hard work that people in the food industry do to have these amazing functions go off successfully. Those who attend rarely know the amount of coordinated time, energy, talent and man-power needed and what really happens back in the kitchen. I love that I have been on both sides of the table, the cooking/plating and the serving, because it makes me respect it that much more.

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