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Ordering Food in Large Quantities


essvee
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Hi all. Long story short, I went to family camp (something my city has run for 80 years) and the kitchen was in chaos. I jumped in to help out a little and the director begged me to come back and run the joint for the last week. Fine, I said. I've got the recipes and the skills. No problem.

But what I don't have is the feel for ordering. My last kitchen job ended in '99, and I can't remember how to do it/how I did it. The camp is gonna have 250-280 people.

I know I can do this, and I'm actually looking forward to it. They are supposed to fax me the menu, and I'm going to get recipes and punch lists together before I go. I want to get my ordering together too. How can I figure quantities? Is there a website or any other resource I can use? How do you do it?

Your words of wisdom will help a lot. Thanks in advance.

essvee

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Look through their files and try to find as much documents, complied by the last team, as possible. Look for the following:

Order sheets, listing the companies the camp deals with and take note of the quantities. Schedules of delivery. Follow their parstock sheets. They should have invoices from the previous purchase orders. Look at functuon sheets. Look for forecast sheets. Notes on VIPs, returning guests and their preferences and allergies.

One week is a breeze. :wink:

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Is there anyone who has worked there (or still works there) that you could reach out to for some guidance (which would save time and short circuit tons of research)? Where did the old chef go? Can s/he be called for a few minutes of wisdom over the phone? Not sure how big the kitchen staff is, but there's usually one person (could be in any position) who ends up knowing way more than you'd expect. A few quick conversations might save you time. Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

-mark-

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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Okay, large volume purchasing is my specialty since I've been doing it for the last 30 years :biggrin:

I would assume that some of the menu will be from scratch and some of it will be convenience (i.e. you're probably not making bread items or growing produce)?

In addition to the menu, also ask the folks you're talking with to fax you a current inventory so you know what they've already got on hand. If this is the last week of the program the last thing you want to do is end up with a bunch of unused food. You'll also need a list of their vendors and vendor contacts.

Once you've got the menu in hand, an inventory of on-hand products, and know who to do business with, go day by day and list out what you need for your recipes and divide those items into primary food categories - meat, frozen, dairy, produce, bakery, snack, beverage, sundry/grocery and paper good (or cleaning/chemical if the camp is using reusables and not disposables). Then compile/consolidate into one order list by category and compare it against the on-hand inventory. Cross off what you don't need to order and modify what you do until you've got a master list of everything you need for the week.

If you need yield information and don't have it, go to the library and check out Food for Fifty, it's got a great section on what yields how much, including IIRC, #10 cans. If the camp is using frozen or prepackaged items all you need to know is the case count. Are your recipes standardized for a specific yield amount, like 50 or 100. If so, then you can probably figure the factor to use to adjust the recipe (i.e. if the recipe yields 100 servings and you're planing for 275, multiple the original recipe by 2.75 to determine how much to purchase in order to prepare that amount). You're also going to need to take into consideration the serving utensils used for your menu items such as salad, vegetables, starches, casseroles, desserts, etc that tend not to be unitized and more difficult to get consistent portion sizes. Transfer your yield information to the shopping list and you're at least in the ball park for being accurate with your order.

Since it's a camp I'm guessing they're doing the bulk of their shopping with a major distributor such as Sysco, USFoodservice or perhaps a smaller regional or local house. Call the service rep for the distributor and have them help place the order, that person will/should have not only an idea, but a record of previous orders. If the camp is working with one of the major houses, it's probably 1-stop shopping and you can get everything there including produce, dairy and paper products. Or, they may be using a warehouse store such as Costco or Sam's Club for their food needs. In that case, get the money up front, take your list with the yields on it and go for it.

Good luck, have fun cooking

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Guys, thanks so, so much. I mistakenly put this in Cooking and wasn't getting any replies. I went to bed feeling sorry for myself and look at what was here when I woke up!

Food for Fifty, Kalypso, I totally forgot about that. That's exactly what I need, because where I'm hung up is stuff like how many #10 cans of tomatoes make marinara for 250 and so on.

And all of you, super and nicely specific advice. I feel way better. Thanks again.

essvee

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  • 2 weeks later...

Could you post the menu when you receive it? And the city this camp is in.

Assume nothing, take a real good look at that kitchen, even twice as in day before you have to cook. The wrong time to find out you don't have a china cap is when you are about to use it.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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that is a great suggestion to look at what you have before you start. As a former caterer - I remember one of the first couple of parties I did in someones home to find out that commercial sheet tray sometimes don't fit in home ovens! Great suggestion to see what you have

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Few years ago they changed the fittings on propane tanks meaning you had to change the fitting on your grill. Poor guy at a Sunday Golf outing found out the hard way. I think the golf course helped him out but you talk about a look of pure panic.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Hi all. I not only survived but thrived. When I left the business, I was tired, sore, fat (still am, unfortunately) and angry. This past week was priceless because it reminded me of something I had blocked out of my brain- cooking is my best thing and the only job I've ever loved.

I've done a little cooking in the past two years, taught many cooking workshops at CCSF Extension, but hadn't been in a regular ol' kitchen since 99.

It all came back, including my endurance, which was one of the things I was most worried about. 12-14 hour days kicked my ass, but I still woke up ready to go every morning.

Anyway, with you all's help, and Food for Fifty's, I nailed it. Food was hot, plentiful (the kitchen had been running out of food all summer, causing panic and hoarding among the campers), and tasty the whole way through. I sailed through my biggest chance for screwing up, turkey dinner for 250 (Unipro potato granules, I love you, and I take back all the abuse I've previously heaped upon instant potatoes. Of course 4 pounds of butter nad a half-gallon of heavy cream per can helped a lot, but they tasted pretty darn good!). I got so much love from campers and staff alike, and I sang and laughed and fooled around a bit and hustled my ass off and generally had a blast.

I will say, though, 3 meals a day will grind you into bits pretty fast. My whole career had been getting ready for one meal a day, either restaurant dinner every day or catering dinners. Big big difference.

About midway through, I had an epiphany: this (feeding people) is what I'm supposed to be doing. Screw all the other stuff; this is what touches you and makes you happy. Now what? I'm never going back to the restaurant or catering biz. Guess I need to find a convent or retreat or something that needs a fat 'n' happy cook. Wish me luck and thanks, so so much, again, peoples.

essvee

P.S. To all that suggested I work with the recipes, par lists, etc. from the kitchen, there weren't any. The food service manager got drunk and screwed early on and left nothing but chaos behind. Combine that with a bunch of fellas in the kitchen who couldn't have given less of a shit if dinner got out on time or if there was enough, and you can imagine how this summer had gone and how thrilled everyone (except the lazy-ass, drinking and weed-smoking kitchen guys, two who left soon after I got there) was to see me. Good times.

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Congrats, I think I know how you feel.

P.S. To all that suggested I work with the recipes, par lists, etc. from the kitchen, there weren't any. The food service manager got drunk and screwed early on and left nothing but chaos behind. Combine that with a bunch of fellas in the kitchen who couldn't have given less of a shit if dinner got out on time or if there was enough, and you can imagine how this summer had gone and how thrilled everyone (except the lazy-ass, drinking and weed-smoking kitchen guys, two who left soon after I got there) was to see me. Good times.

I was a line cook back in 78, it's amazing the lack of professionalism that is tolerated in some of the kitchens I hear about from cooks today.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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About midway through, I had an epiphany: this (feeding people) is what I'm supposed to be doing. Screw all the other stuff; this is what touches you and makes you happy. Now what? I'm never going back to the restaurant or catering biz. Guess I need to find a convent or retreat or something that needs a fat 'n' happy cook. Wish me luck and thanks, so so much, again, peoples.

Hey, congratulations on surviving and thriving :biggrin:

There are lots of options other than restaurants and catering if you're willing to consider the non-commercial side of the business. Your could do a lot worse than look into collegiate food service especially if it's a self-op and not contracted out. This segment can no longer be categorized as mystery meat dorm food, there is some pretty respectable food being served in many colleges, universities and (to a lesser extent) community colleges around the country. Almost all of them are looking for employees with solid production and cheffing skills. Pay is very good, benefits even better, 40-45 weeks are standard, you rarely have to work holidays and you usually get generous paid vacation time off.

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