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Posts posted by KarenDW

  1. I was told by the coordinator that myself and the other cook are over budget.  I totally dispute that.  I often buy meat, etc for future meals and I dont believe the main office takes that into consideration.  Additionally, when I'm told to cook for 50 ppl and only 35 show up, of course I'm over budget.  I plan on calling the main office today to discuss this with them. 

    Next meal

    Oct 11th( Chicken ala king using chicken breasts I bought back in June)

    Hi Randi.

    Do you keep copies of the food/supplies receipts that you submit for reimbursement? I actually started keeping spreadsheets for each menu, that I keep for my personal records. Also, I submit a monthly summary of expenses, including both the cash expenses (which I paid out) and credit billings (which suppliers will invoice the agency directly). Must admit, it really makes a difference to be here, near Vancouver, where there are lots of delivery possibilities. Even the Costco and Warehouse Club are only 40 min away by car. Our group is larger (average 100) and so our per-guest cost is lower.

    You are doing such great work. Keep it up, but only if you still *want* it.

  2. But where IS the tuna?  :huh:

    So, I figured out that I probably returned the tuna to the food bank. And now that a few weeks have passed, the food bank people are back to being really helpful, and offering food to our program again :-) Except that there aren't any large cans of anything there right now...

    This week I had everything planned out. Cheeseburger Pasta Bake (mac & cheese w/ browned ground beef added; plus the tomato pesto I made a couple of weeks ago). Mediterranean Bean Salad, Tossed Salad w/ Herb Vinagrette. Grapes were $25 for an 18 lb case, and gala apples were $31 for 100. It all sounded so good. Except that we had an INCH OF WATER on the floor at 2:30 (dinner is at 5:30). So, while one of the volunteers and I mopped the floor, the others started chopping the items we had already washed. We collectively decided NOT to use the sink any more, as the floor drain was backing up. Sigh. No pasta cooking. No lettuce washing. Sent the salad greens to someone's home to wash. Put the pasta away. Ordered pizza. For 100. 15 pizzas $150 + tax.

    And we continued on making the salads. I love that we make all our own dressings here. Everything tastes fresh. We get to experiment (just a little). Since the Sharing Farm had given us LOTS of carrots, I added a carrot slaw to the menu.

    Everything turned out ok. Turns out the grease trap in the kitchen needs to be cleaned more often. A clog had developed in the major pipes, which caused the backup. A plumber was on-site in 45 minutes, mostly because his client told him to "go right away, those church people need you more than me". We used paper plates, for the first time ever, to ease the load on the dishwasher and drain. Only a few people complained about paper plates. We set out only a fork and spoon, and no one complained about no knives.

    I finally remembered to take my camera today. Of all days. So, here are two of the salads. By the time I remembered to actually shoot anything, the carrot slaw was looking pretty "tired".



    Now I need to go back to work tomorrow to wrap and freeze the 20 lbs of hamburger I bought :wacko:

    but at least the drain will work next week.

  3. Hey:  we all spend thousands on our computers -- why not shell out a few bucks for a scale and have our baked goods actually turn out as they were meant to?

    Actually, an inexpensive scale is about as accurate as moderately made volume measures, IMHO. I have a digital scale which was about $100, and it does NOT measure to within 2 grams of accuracy! This is a problem if I am making one cake. Of course, in a higher production atmosphere where I am using 2Kg of flour and 1 kg of butter and 30 g of baking powder, then it works. But 30 g of baking powder or salt is actually quite a lot (upwards of 3 TBSP) So am I to have one scale for 2-10 kg, and another scale for 2-1000 gm?

    My personal peeve is more about the quality/calibration of commonly available measuring devices. Case in point, some very shallow measuring spoons... how can one even begin to measure accurately with those? The BP would just slither around... and if one was measuring a liquid, then the meniscus would be pretty large, too.

  4. In Vancouver, BC, we have a LOT of coupons... they are usually 2 for 1 for entrees. In the next two months, I will have at least half the tables each night use some sort of coupon, and then it will happen again in Jan/Feb. (yes, I do realize that we would have fewer guests if they didn't use coupons, but that is a whole other thread)

    Last weekend, we had a table of 5... they ordered 5 entrees, 3 soft drinks, and water. Used 2 coupons. Total bill FOR 5 PEOPLE was about $135 including tax. They left $150. Out of which the server then tips out 1% to the kitchen, 0.5% to the “support” (me) and 1% to the house (total $3.15). So, the server makes IN TOTAL, for 1.5 hours work on that one table, $24. I think he may have had 4 tables all night. Kinda rough, if you ask me.

    I am wondering whether it would be bad form for restaurants to add the service charge for coupon/promo bills... in the neighborhood of 15% of the pre-discounted amount.

    What say ye?

  5. One way to sift through the multitude of personal chefs is to check the on-line listings, find one in your neighborhood/city, and then ask for references. While you are obviously wanting to optimize your time/energy by hiring a personal chef, it would be prudent to invest the time in speaking with a few, mostly to see how your personalities mesh. Remember that this person will be coming into your home, and is as interested as you are in a mutually beneficial, positive experience. I always want to have an on-site meeting, in order to review how your particular appliances work, and also to plan the best way to enter your home with my tools, groceries & equipment on cook day.

    It helps to be prepared for the meeting by considering your own food preferences, allergies and dislikes. Also, any drugs or health concerns which may be affected by food (i.e., no grapefruit for people on certain medications; acidophilous milk for people using antibiotics). This would be a good time to share some recipes for your favorite foods, if you have a particular request.

    I personally know the chefs listed at www.personalchefvancouver.ca :-)

  6. So sleeves are required. But, I always have to roll up my sleeves, and then that runs the risk of catching on something, or something running down and into the rolled cuff. A rolled cuff also looks a little sportif and a bit messy.


    Pockets are nice, but not essential. Side on seam pockets, below apron tie height would be welcome.

    The jacket needs to be long enough to cover any chance of chef crack when I'm digging around in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, but not so long that it hinders walking.

    The fabric should be breathable and washable.

  7. As a personal chef, I am often in front of guests while I work. Standard men's jackets are too long in the body and sleeve, and too narrow in the hip [bust seems not to be so problematic :wink: So, I have invested in some women's tailored jackets from Blackwood Apparel in Vancouver. I have regular "shirts" for prep and behind-the-scenes time, but switch to the jacket when it's showtime. The jackets are available in several colors, including the red which I ordered... and then sourced a few pair of matching earrings, too.

    Otherwise, one could pick up the relatively less costly men's jackets in a size larger than required, then take to a tailor/alterationist for customizing. It works for jeans and jackets, so why not chef apparel. The overall expense for 2 or 3 jackets may be less than special order from somewhere distant...

  8. As far as denaturing the enzyme so it doesn't turn your shrimp to mush: heat treatment, AKA cooking, is the most reliable way, and the only thing I know of for sure that will keep your meal edible and non-toxic. The other thing you can do is keep the pineapple and the protein separated till the very last possible second. Put the prawns in one container, the relish in another, and put a little of each on your fork at lunchtime.


    Freezing may also work (another "heat" treatment)

  9. perhaps it depends on what they define as "good" bread. Personally, there are times when I don't mind Cob's at all. Besides, it DOES stand for Canada's Own Bread Store. Artisan Bakery has great stuff, although I wonder whether many people will think the difference is worth the extra $$.

    May be you could suggest they make their own bread?

  10. My AUNT, who is a serious foodie, actually told me to buy a JAR OF PATAK'S sauce... Can you imagine such a suggestion?

    I used Nana's jarred sauce mixed w/ 1L of whipping cream for my last sauce (large party, 50 ppl). Chicken had been marinated in yogurt & "curry powder, madras deluxe" from Galloways (available on-line), then baked, broken down, and added to the sauce. Was a hit. Was also easy. :-)

  11. A funny thing happened on the way to the Community Meal last night. For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how to use the case (a really BIG case) of tinned tuna we got from the local Food Bank. Some of my volunteers are not very dextrous, so I was concerned about all the can opening. Anyways, I planned a menu around the “tuna melt” sandwich. We also get donations for bread from a local bakery.

    So, imagine my surprise when I arrived at work on Thursday afternoon and COULD NOT FIND the tuna! Quick switch of gears; tuna melts become Italian Cheese Bread with the help of a huge tin of tomato sauce, a big jar of Prego Italian sauce and dried basil. Which is all well and good until I open the box of “cheese” to discover that it is the powdered cheddar for sauces, not the soft kind. Oops. thank goodness for freezers! We had shredded 2 lbs of cheese left from another meal last month, so out it came.

    Our menu last night (for 90 guests) was

    Italian Cheese Bread

    German Potato Salad (with a no-bacon option for vegetarians)

    Corn on the Cob (with Becel)

    Tossed Salad with buttermilk dill dressing

    Swiss Chard Tart (recipe from my friends at Rare resto in Vancouver)

    Apple or cherry strudels (from Quest, the food exchange)

    Vanilla Ice Cream (generic; 72 scoops per 4L pail)

    I plan for 120 servings every week, so there was a lot of take out. A couple of people asked where “the meat” was, but we told them it was in the potato salad (real bacon). I told a story about how the Tart recipe came from my friend who is a resto chef, and reminded people that it was not sweet. It was a hit.

    Sorry no photos, I’m camera-impaired. Should have asked one of the kid-volunteers to use their camera-cell.

  12. here in Vancouver, BC, there are a few options for demo-kitchen w/ chef.


    Barbara Jo's is a bookstore w/ a demonstration kitchen. There are a variety of events, ranging from book signings to authors's talks w/ sample items from the cookbooks. Most of the demos are done by the house chef. There is usually a bit of technique, and a lot of book-talk. Very informative and enjoyable.


    Cookschool at the Cookshop offers technique and menu demos by local chefs. Each class includes generous tasting portions. Subjects range from menus featuring local produce, baking, party menus, seafoods, meats. My favorites have been the bbq menu and also the crab/lobster class. Both provided excellent value (wine pairings included!) and good tips & techniques.

  13. Be sure to watch your posture, and check your table height...it might be too low. You might find yourself stooping a bit and not realizing it. Also, what helps me a bit was switching out shoes...danskos one day, tennies the next, italian medical clogs the next. Yes, you can never get too much stretching!

    Switching up your shoes, even during your shifts, if you can, will really help your leg muscles. Table height and repetitive motions are common factors in workplace related injury. Check heights; adjust if possible--raise your work surface on blocks if you are tall; build a platform below if you are short. Get anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

    Support stockings/socks will help manage blood-flow in your legs; your legs tire less, then your back doesn't try to compensate (as much).

    Try and switch-up the tasks a little so that you can spend time moving around (i.e., up & down the stairs or around into the storeroom) rather than always standing at the same *#&% cooktop/bench.

    Get out of the kitchen and go for a walk. Then stretch.

    80 hours is too long. But I am old.

  14. Maybe it is because I have been living abroad for a year, traveling about in various places where I don't speak the language well if at all, but personally, I have grown weary of translating menus. And especially so if I am home! I go out to eat to eat, not to take a language lesson.

    How about having a "plain-text-only" menu card available in other languages (English, French, German, Arabic?) This could include the name of the menu item, and brief list of key ingredients plus any common allergens and the existence (or not) of meat. There could be reference on your Italian menu in small print, in the language(s) you have available. i.e., To read this menu in English, please ask your server.

    That way, the diner is allowed the esthetic experience of the beautiful menu, while at the same time able to make informed choices independent of his/her server, if that is desired. Guests who want to engage w/ the server will just start a conversation.

  15. oh, and about the menu itself: if your servers & support staff are comfortably multi-lingual, then Italian-only menus please. Name of dish w/ brief description of key ingredients. Of course, staff would have a cheat-sheet in the back, in order to answer the "I have an allergy to..." queries.

    Can you post a photo of your menus? :-) please?

  16. Are your menus hand printed or machine printed? If done by machine, maybe just make a few "extras" for souvenirs; can they be made in miniature form?. I used to work in the printing & publishing trade in Canada, and would recommend this to restaurant clients who had pretty menus. The cost "per each" becomes less when you print more. :-) You *could* even make some mention of that on the menu or bill... suggesting that visitors who would like a fresh/clean souvenir menu to take home could ask at the host... possibly less expensive to print the souvenir menus than to purchase advertising space elsewhere. Just think of the worldwide distribution possibilities.

  17. I would freeze pre-cooking. Then when you want to use, make sure the oven is pre-heated. Cook from frozen; add 10-20 min to the cooking time; check temp w/ a thermometer when cooking. Or, check on a package of frozen stuffed chicken at the grocery store... for cooking times. Keep in mind how your portion size relates to the package, though.

    Make sure all your stuffing ingredients are cold before you start!

  18. here I am repeating things... but that sounds TOO heavy!

    4 gal. bowls can probably be procured from a resto supply dealer. Here in BC, most of them have a "cash & carry" desk, and showroom. "regular" people can buy there, too.

    Personally, I can't imagine trying to carry the bowl, full of anything.

    On the other hand, as a base for some sort of awesome flower arrangement... WOW

  19. I was in the grocery store the other day( for the 10th time this week) and the butcher was chasing me down asking me if I wanted boneless, skinless chicken thights for .99 a lb.  I bought 8 packages and each pack has 17 thighs.  Each pack was a little over 2 bucks. 

    How do you suggest I prepare those?

    The chicken coleslaw was really easy. I cooked all my boneless chicken the day before at my other work: Baked in paper-lined, covered pans, about an hour @ 325. Slower is better. Cool. Coleslaw was pre-shredded, $4.25 for 5 lbs, with some green onion added. Dressing was basic vinegrette proportions, using cider & rice vinegars, canola oil, a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce, brown sugar and black pepper. Maybe you can use all cider vinegar and canola oil if rice vinegar and sesame oil are hard to find. Fresh ginger and garlic are nice to include, but dried will also work. Another friend of mine also adds a couple packages of those dried instant noodles (crushed), without the seasoning packet. I left out the noodles, because I have some celiac guests.

  20. Karen,

    Your meal sounds great.  I'd love to see some pictures. 

    I'm really bad w/ photos... in 3 yrs of catering, have only had about 4 pics worth posting anywhere, and so don't even take my camera to work any more. Sort of embarassing, but I have no idea where it is, even. I think that what happens is I get caught up in the kitchen, and then don't have time to shoot any of the plates before they go out. :-(

    Maybe next week?

  21. (A co-worker with a migraine  problem used a  bag of  Mixed Veg as an ice pack. Management was not amused.)

    I like to keep a few bags of CHEAP frozen veg just for First Aid purposes. That way, the same bag(s) get used over and over, and I'm not worried that I might eat them. :raz: Frozen peas/corn make the best ice packs for joint injuries... they bend.

  22. Tarts look yummy! I'm thinking of blueberry for a Community Meal soon.

    Funny how what you and I might *think* are easy meals turn out otherwise.

    Like our menu on Thursday:

    Asian Chicken Coleslaw

    Tossed Salad w/ herb vinagrette

    Southwest Corn Salad

    Pasta Salad w/ Sundried Tomato Pesto

    Fresh Grapes & Melon for dessert

    Fresh rolls, donated by the neighborhood bakery

    Ice Tea, Coffee, Hot Tea

    total bill was about $265. We served 90 ppl with lots left for take away. Last 4 weeks we have had 100-110.

    the cleanup took FORever, most likely due to the number of large pans & bowls because of the salads. I totally thought it would be easy to clean up because there were no pots to scrub. HA!

    Each rack of the D/W only takes one bus pan or full size insert. Each salad was AT LEAST two bus pans plus a large bowl.

    The lettuce for the salad was donated by a community garden. The people who harvest (bless their hearts!) pull the lettuce up, including roots. At least they try and shake off the soil. But there is a lot of dirt. It usually takes one person 2 hours to wash the lettuce, then another 30 min to tear & spin dry. Today I had 4 volunteers for prep. The chicken was cooked the day before. Cabbage for the slaw was ordered pre-shredded from a food-service supplier; then we added some donated cabbage from the farm. Thank goodness I bought a food processor last month!

    This work is really gratifying on a personal level, but hard on my body, and the pay is pretty low. On the other hand, people "in need" in this neighborhood are eating at least one great meal every week. So really, what more could I ask for? Some of the guests have asked for recipes. :-)

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