Category Archives: Work

Behind a Caterer’s Closed Doors…

Have you ever been to a nice dinner party?  In case you haven’t, just imagine…

You walk into a dimly lit room and see dozens of tables all set in a very precise manner.  There are beautifully folded napkins, water glasses already waiting for you, and wine ready to be served.  

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There is a menu card so you can read over the night’s offerings, and many different types of silverware at each seat.  This may cause you to have a Pretty Woman moment in your head and count the number of tongs to determine which fork to use first.  (Really, 95% of the time, just start from the outside, work your way in, and you’ll be fine). 

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Dinner progresses.  You eat your salad, it’s removed by a server, and then replaced with your main course.  You eat that, the plate’s removed, and then out comes dessert.  Coffee is served around the table.  You enjoy the atmosphere, the company, the food, and then leave at the end of the night. 

Have you ever wondered what happens next? 

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What happens to all the beautiful place settings, the centerpieces, the menu cards, and the leftover desserts?

Madness is what happens. 

This was the scene in the break-down area from about 7:30pm until 10pm last night as a plated dinner for 400 guests went on and eventually came to an end:

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The event went very smoothly.  Clean up did not.

Trying to communicate to a staff of 20+ which of the four types of different (yet very similar looking) water glasses should be placed into the solid red glass rack versus the gray and red striped rack versus the solid gray rack is extremely difficult.

And that’s just the water glasses.  I also had two styles of wine glasses and five styles of plates to deal with.  I tried pictures.  I tried labeling the various racks.  Eventually I gave in and said to just put the glasses wherever because they’ll all end up at the rental company’s warehouse anyway.  C’est la vie.

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This dinner was for 400 people.  I determined that each place setting was made up of 13 items (the different silverware, plates, and glasses).  That’s a total of 5200 items to get returned.  Add that to the hundreds of extra glasses  and plates that were ordered as backups, and I think I had close to 8000 pieces of rental inventory.  Oh, and then with the all linen and plate covers — make it almost 11,000 pieces.  Oy.

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If you know of any magic cleaning fairies, let me know.  I’ll hire them.  Until then, I’ll just hope that the rental company doesn’t call to complain.

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How is it already April?

The first four days of April have just about passed, and I’m still in disbelief that we’re already in the fourth month of the year!  Maybe it would help if I changed my calendar from March to the proper month.

The past four days have been very unique — I’ve gone from temperatures in the 30s and scraping ice off my car to spending my Sunday outside hiking and touring a local vineyard in 80+ degree weather.  I love the extreme weather changes that come with spring in the Carolinas.  (Not really).  But at least it’s pretty.

Highlights from the past week:

1.  I hosted 220 business school students and Special Olympics athletes for a nice dinner and drinks event on Saturday night.  Very fun and something new as I’ve never spent any time with Special Olympians.

 

2.  Yesterday morning as I opened my door to get the Sunday paper, I knew that I had to spend the day outside.  It was warm, sunny, breezy, and flowers were blooming everywhere.  So I decided to treat myself to an omelette at a local German cafe and bakery called Guglhupf, and then make a trek out Lake Jordan and discover some new hiking trails.  I got a little lost, but it was such a beautiful day to climb some rolling hills right along the water. 

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3.  Today hit the 80-degree mark.  83 to be exact.  That’s the highest the temperature has been so far this year.  Now if it wouldn’t go any higher in the next couple months… 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, and get outside!

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Comfort Food

To me, one of the best feelings in the world is when you get home after a very long work week and know that you have a day off (or two, if you’re lucky).  It was a very comforting thought to know that when I left work yesterday, I had one whole day awaiting me in which I could do absolutely anything that I wanted to do.  It was only natural that I wanted food that comforted me last night.

If you asked 10 random people on the street what their top comfort food was, I bet that at least a couple of them would say pasta.  I would even venture to say that out of that 20%, one or both would say pasta with alfredo sauce.  Alfredo is the definition of comfort — rich, creamy, warm, and cheesy.  While all these things are wonderful, it doesn’t make alfredo the healthiest sauce either.  I decided to make a few changes to make it a little lighter in terms of fat and calories, but not give up anything on flavor.  I think it’s just as yummy as alfredo that you’d get at your local Italian restaurant and doubt you’ll even miss the heavy cream.


Meg’s Penne Alfredo

Serves 3

6oz. penne pasta
1 tsp. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. flour
2/3 cup skim milk
4oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried ground mustard
8oz. Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Firm (about 2/3 of package)
dash of ground nutmeg

In a large pot, boil water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

In a pan, saute garlic in butter over medium-low heat.  When butter is melted, add in flour and stir well to combine.

Slowly add in milk and bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes while milk lightly boils until sauce thickens slightly.  Reduce to medium-low heat.

Add cheeses, tofu, and all seasonings to sauce.  Break up tofu with a spoon and allow cheese to melt, taking about 5 to 7 minutes.  When cheese is done melting, transfer sauce to a blender and blend for 30 seconds or so until smooth. 

Add sauce to drained pasta and stir to combine.  Top with fresh parsley or more parmesan and enjoy.

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The Past Three Days…

Here are some photos of what I learned, ate, and saw in the past three days at my conference.  It was a very enjoyable experience and I met or reconnected with many great people in the hospitality industry. I did many fun things in a very short time, and wanted to share through the pictures (all from my phone, sorry if they’re a little blurry).  Enjoy!

In the past three days, I saw cherry blossoms bloom at the nation’s capital…

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I sampled world class food from around the world including fried clams with onion slaw, sushi made to order, Fluffer Nutter sandwiches (I was in heaven), freshly pressed beet juice with parmesan crisps, and duck confit.

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I was able to live out a day in the life of my dream job as a Top Chef judge and sample dishes created by top chefs from 8 different countries and watch them compete in the Copper Skillet Competition (watch it here!).  Two of the most interesting dishes – sweet saffron risotto and champagne gelatin with gingersnaps.

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I experienced Cisco’s Web-Ex technology by participating in a hybrid meeting (combining virtual and face-to-face together) and also heard fantastic jazz singers from Howard University.

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I learned a lot (and did a lot more than eat), and had a very successful conference.  I fly back to NC late tonight and then it’s back to work tomorrow.  Regular posts with recipes should resume shortly as soon as I digest all I ate this week.

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Superhero’s Smoothie

It’s been a rough week in the world.  The type of week that makes me wish there were real live superheroes to come save our planet and people when we need it most.
 
Captain Planet…can you head to Japan for a bit?

 

Instead of just focusing on how horrible everything is in Japan, I think it’s also a good time to sit back and think about why you should be happy today.  Here’s my reasons for why I’m smiling this week…

  • RemixYourHealth has an AWESOME March Madness-themed food bracket:  The Belly Buster!  It’s interactive, gives you info you probably didn’t know about your favorite fruits and vegetables, and also provides links to easy recipes.  Just click the link to the bracket (or go to www.remixyourhealth.com) and cast your votes for the produce you think will win.  Very fun.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say Team Spinach all the way!
  • I’m attending a training class this week that focuses on growing leadership skills and learning how to leverage them for the better in your work and personal life.  It’s always fun to meet new people, learn new skills, and get out of “the office” for a while (a.k.a.– the dining room).
  • Flowers, flowers, everywhere.

  • Warmer weather means smoothie time!  My blender has received some quality attention from me lately, and last week I remembered that I used to live with a superhero…  

I worked in Vegas for a summer and during that time lived with a roommate who had a three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.  These two were quite entertaining, particularly the little boy who tried to convince me that his name was Batman Spiderman and that he could fly and scale walls.  I successfully assisted his mom on multiple occassions in talking him down from bookcases and fireplace mantles that he had climbed atop of, ready to take flight into Gotham City.  One of my tricks that worked like a charm?  This smoothie.

The picture and ingredient list may throw some of you off, but I dare you to try it.  I don’t think I’ve steered you wrong yet with a recipe, so just trust me on this.  And if a three-year-old asks for seconds, I’m hoping you will, too.

Superhero’s Smoothie
Serves 2 

1 frozen or fresh banana
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup fresh spinach leaves (if using frozen, you’ll need ½ to ¾ cup)
½ of a ripe, small avocado
1 cup skim milk of choice
¼ to ½ cup water
10 or so ice cubes
sweetener of choice (such as 1 tsp. sugar or ¼ tsp. vanilla extract)

 

Place first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend on low until smooth (depends on your blender speed, but about 30 to 45 seconds).  Add in ice cubes, water, and sweetener if desired, and blend on high for about 45 seconds.  Once blended to a smooth consistency, split into two glasses and enjoy!

 

If after consuming you feel the need to climb walls or jump from tall objects, please refrain from acting on your impulses. 

And in case you want to be a superhero to someone else, here’s a list of charities you can donate to in order to help those in Japan.

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Bon! Ratatouille

You know the stereotype about American women loving foreign accents, particulary British or Australian?  While I’m sure that’s true, I am here to tell you that there is nothing American women find more irrisitible than a man with a French accent and a fabulous joie de vivre.

Meet J.M.

J.M. is a Quebeçois on-call cook where I work.  He used to be a sous chef, but decided he wanted to pursue more college degrees and teach philosophy at a local university.  He simply stays on-call because he loves to cook and enjoys mingling with the variety of people that come through the hotel.  Whenever I see J.M. at work, I immediately get a smile on my face because he is like a breath of fresh air.  He is incredibly bubbly, looks like a jolly Père Noël, and always gives excellent wine suggestions.  I never tire of hearing him say, “Ahh, bon!” after finishing off a fruit display or setting up a buffet.  Everyone could use a little more “Bon!” in their life.

The thing that gets me everytime about this friendly French Canadian is how J.M. attracts women.  It is like moths to a flame.  The chefs and I tend to make a sport of guessing how many women he can charm in the course of an hour while working the dinner buffet because it is so fun to watch.  J.M. is probably in his mid-50s, but females of all ages blush immediately when he says, “Bon soir, how are you tonight?  Now do not forget dessert, all women (pronounced wooo-man) must enjoy un petit chocolat today.”

I think he should record his voice and sell Podcasts on iTunes of him simply speaking nonsense.  He could make millions.  And he would make millions of women happier all over the world. 

Read on, there’s more!

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Slow Down with Sweet Potato Chili

If you read yesterday’s post, you learned that I was the recipient of some bad luck in that ice cream exploded all over me twice before 8am.  How this came to happen makes me laugh because I think I only have myself to blame.  

I am a very curious person.  I tend to notice things that other people don’t, and then wonder why things are the way they are.  So, when I saw a milky substance leaking over the floor of the employee break room yesterday morning at work, my first thought was, “What is milk doing on the ground and how did it get here?  I’ll open up the cooler.” 

Turns out it wasn’t milk — it was ice cream.  That one of my employees left in the refrigerator overnight because it was too big to fit in the freezer.  **Shakes head** 

Well, you think I would learn.  Sadly, I did not.  Because 20 minutes later when I noticed a milky substance pooling underneath the ice cream machine in the dining room again my immediate thought was, “Why is this milk here?  I should open the ice cream machine and see what’s wrong.” 

Side note….but do you remember Gusher fruit candies and how the juice squirts out as soon as you bite into a piece?  Imagine that, but with ice cream rather than fruit juice; that’s exactly what happened when I opened the machine’s door.  Melted ice cream splattered everywhere and left a huge mess over me and the floor.  I just started laughing, went back into the kitchen and poured myself a third cup of coffee because I knew it would be “one of those days.” 

Read on…

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