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Catering 100 ppl buffet


gfron1
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So here's the setup on this gig. I did this group's event last year and got burned. Its an adult ed group for affluent retirees who want hobby classes. Twice a year they hold registration events, and last year when they asked me to cater, they bid 75 people, I prepared for 75+10%, but 150 showed. I caught a lot of flack for not serving enough food - I was pissed and said I would never work with them again. Well, here we are a year later and they didn't even go out to bid this time - they are begging me to do it. Their budget is right within my limits. And this year, instead of tray pass, they want buffet for 100.

Okay fine. I can take back my promise to never do it again. But, I really shy away from buffets - just not my style. But, this is a group of the influentials in our town, so I really should do the gig. If you were going to eGulletize a buffet for a bunch of 60 year old hipsters, what would you want to serve? BTW, the event is one hour, standing-while-eating, no facilities for hots or last second prep. My facility is only 5 minutes away however.

Any killer, impress-the-hell-outa them buffet foods?

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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If there's room, set up a couple of different stations.

Cheese (but nothing overly exotic) and fruit

Hot snacks (mini yorkshire/tenderloins, crab or fish cakes, inside-out shepherd's pie)

Cold - ceviche in endive cups, poached shrimp

and, depending on the time of the gig... maybe some 2-bite sandwiches

whatever

But, with 100+ ppl, and only one hour to feed them... ya, I'd set up several places for them to eat.

And at least 2 beverages stations.

You're going to charge for at least 125, right?

Get lots of napkins, and you won't have to bother w/ plates.

Karen Dar Woon

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I love the ceviche idea, either in lettuce cups or on a rice cracker. A south american theme (departing from the oh-so-peruvian ceviche) might help to pull things together, and it isn't totally obvious and done-to-death. Grilled, chilled beef skewers with chimichurri sauce, grilled chorizo on skewers, yuca chips and a creamy dip, tiny creamer potatoes hollowed out & stuffed with a cilantro and corn salsa.....or cheese-stuffed arepas or tamales.

You can serve caipirinhas, if alcohol is part of the event. If not, an acai juice spritzer or other exotic-fruit punch might be a good choice.

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What happens when 150 people show up this year - is there a contingency in this contract?

Everything should be at room temp - screw the hot stuff.

I like a Mediterranean mezze table - stuffed grape leafs, pita crisps, baba, hummus, olives, mini pitas stuffed with something greek salady, etc.

High-end sandwiches - as mentioned above, cut into bite size pieces - lots of choices here...wraps, baguettes, mini rye/pumpernickel, mini pitas, etc. Pasta and/or potato salad, corn and black bean salad, etc.

If you do shrimp or something like that, it will disappear instantaneously. hated doing that stuff on a buffet, unless there's someone there to serve it.

Dessert table, with cookies, brownies, blondies, cut fruit, etc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Great ideas. And I hadn't thought of Peruvian which is near and dear to my heart from when I used to live there climbing up near Huascaran. That reminds me of my all time favorite dish - papas relleños - I could do minis of those (actually the inside out sheperds pie made me think of it first). And I'll be doing a killer dessert spread.

The station idea is also useful. They want to crowd me on a couple of tables against the wall but I've already expressed concerns because of congestion.

And as far as that attendance number...Their board has beaten this around ever since the last debaucle and they believe that this is the high number. So that plust my 10% overage should get us there. Also, in my response I outlined how I calculate the amount of food. In this case, they'll get 100 people's worth of .75 pounds per person. That's a lot of food that they're paying for. If we're short its not for lack of knowledge and prep on my side.

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Great ideas.  And I hadn't thought of Peruvian which is near and dear to my heart from when I used to live there climbing up near Huascaran.  That reminds me of my all time favorite dish - papas relleños - I could do minis of those (actually the inside out sheperds pie made me think of it first).  And I'll be doing a killer dessert spread. 

The station idea is also useful.  They want to crowd me on a couple of tables against the wall but I've already expressed concerns because of congestion.

And as far as that attendance number...Their board has beaten this around ever since the last debaucle and they believe that this is the high number.  So that plust my 10% overage should get us there.  Also, in my response I outlined how I calculate the amount of food.  In this case, they'll get 100 people's worth of .75 pounds per person.  That's a lot of food that they're paying for.  If we're short its not for lack of knowledge and prep on my side.

It's all about the flow and how easily the guests can get to the tables.

And if you're short, they'll still blame you...but it doesn't appear as if it stopped you from getting repeat biz.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Crowding might be your friend. If the flow is congested because of one station, that might take care of not having enough food for unexpected attendees.

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In my opinion, diversity is key in a buffet. That does not mean that you need a hundred dishes (this would be highly counter productive and to make sure people don't get angry at you for not providing enough of a particular dish, you will end up with a lot of waste) but that you should aim at delivering a mix or usual and more exotics offerings; offer a variety of textures and colors; hot, warm and cold dishes; etc.

There have been some terrific suggestions so far. Here's a few of my ideas:

- Verrines are easy to assemble and serve.

- You can shape parmeson truiles in muffin cups and stuff them with whatever you feel.

- Octopus almost always produce a great effects on those who try it for the first time and can be cut into small bites.

- Choux pasty can be savoury and used for canapes.

- A good meatball stew is cheap and is certain to please even the least adventurous eater. It also allows you to showcase your prowess by serving something better than what most people would expect from something that familiar.

- A soup is also easy to keep warm.

- You don't have to cook everything, cheese platter, pickles, nuts, fruits, etc. can have a great effect.

- Don't forget to serve really good bread

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So here's the setup on this gig.  I did this group's event last year and got burned.  Its an adult ed group for affluent retirees who want hobby classes.  Twice a year they hold registration events, and last year when they asked me to cater, they bid 75 people, I prepared for 75+10%, but 150 showed.  I caught a lot of flack for not serving enough food - I was pissed and said I would never work with them again.  Well, here we are a year later and they didn't even go out to bid this time - they are begging me to do it.  Their budget is right within my limits.  And this year, instead of tray pass, they want buffet for 100.

Okay fine.  I can take back my promise to never do it again.  But, I really shy away from buffets - just not my style.  But, this is a group of the influentials in our town, so I really should do the gig.  If you were going to eGulletize a buffet for a bunch of 60 year old hipsters, what would you want to serve?  BTW, the event is one hour, standing-while-eating, no facilities for hots or last second prep.  My facility is only 5 minutes away however. 

Any killer, impress-the-hell-outa them buffet foods?

I am not a chef, nor do I run a business, but I do a lot of cooking for mostly older (read:demanding) "multitudes" in my church. I do have killer recipes, but most are not doable in large amounts with little or no help. Last week I prepared food for a funeral reception - lunch for 200. I will post pictures if you tell me how, I am a total computer idiot.

After years of trial and error this is how I do it: I set up a long table (4-5 tables put together end to end) I mentally divide the table in half, each half has identical food in the same order. People approach from four ends and keep moving. No one starts from the middle of the table because plates & napkins are at table ends. (Separate stations are great when you have a waiter per station and runners)

Use small, dessert size plates, this way not only you will have no accidents that happen with large, harder to maneuver plates, people won't be able to take too much food at once. I used to use smaller platters and place plate piles around the table, so people could access all foods, regardless where they stood, but I discovered, that once they got there, they did not move, they just stood there refilling their plates. While others hovered behind getting mad at moi.

Now I use the largest possible serving platters and bowls because once the room is filled with people it is very difficult to replace empty platters with the full ones.

I don't do the so called "finger food" because it is time consuming. I do a lot of "fork food."

Last week's menu included requests from the family, that I would have not made otherwise, but here it is, the amounts are for 200 including 20 kids. Most of "my people" are health oriented, they don't eat cheese or fried foods and few use butter on bread. We did not run out of food, but had very few leftovers. For these events I shop mostly at a restaurant supply store. I spent a little over $300.

(Setting up the table - I put the stuff I have most of closest to the plates, and the food I have least of towards the center.)

starting with the plate end of the tables:

SALAD: This time of the year I have been making shredded carrot salad ($12.50 for a 25 lbs bag) with orange chunks, ($8 a case) nuts and dried cranberries, but mesclun looked so good, I bought a case(8.95), added (one of each) large cans of drained and rinsed black beans and garbanzos and dill (because it looked great, and was cheap). Did not have time to make vinaigrette, so I just used lemons, red wine vinegar and a bit of very mild Spanish olive oil.

PORK - brined overnight 40 lbs of pork loin($1.49lbs). I was going to make roulades with dry fruit, but the night before I had an engagement I could not miss, so in the morning I just roasted the pork, sliced it into bite size chunks and sprinkled with chopped dry fruit melange, (I had the fruit already shredded for roulade), and parsley. Never done it that way before, but it was a big hit. The meat was juicy and there was no need for knives.

The family asked for mac & cheese -- I used "Baked pasta with cream and Parmigiano Reggiano" recipe from Johanne Killeen & George Sherman. The reason I chose this recipe: tastes great, but needs less than 10 minutes in the oven. Comes out tasting a bit like fettuccine Alfredo. I used 12 pounds of ziti baked in 3 turkey size roasting pans.

Because about 20 kids were expected, I bought a 20 pound box of the smallest size "Italian" meatballs they had. Defrosted them overnight in the refrigerator and reheated very slowly for a long time over a rack, in order to get rid of as much fat as possible. Served with toothpicks. Had I been making the meatballs for adult taste, I would have added caramelized onions and lingonberries. Adults ate meatballs anyway.

When cooking for crowds I often include stuffed grape-leaves. I buy them by the case at my restaurant supply place. The night before I drain them and marinate in my own concoction of oil / lemons / fresh herbs. I think they are 5 pound cans, I am too lazy to go to the basement to check, and they cost about $6 a piece. (Last year they were $3.) But it is still a good deal. I always have a couple of cans extra in case I start running out of food. (I usually also have a 10 pound box of tortellini in the freezer, which I can cook and serve at a short notice.)

The family asked for asparagus - I bought 4 10lbs cases and roasted them for a few minutes at 450. (Otherwise I would have made roasted cauliflower with capers and kalamata olives. Fine Cooking - Ruth Lively recipe)

I also bought 2 10lbs cases of fresh salmon. Each box had three fillets, I roasted them two at a time at 400 for about 10 minutes in 3/4 sheets. The stove does not take full sheets. (I use parchment paper that I drizzle with oil, I also drizzle oil on top of the salmon. I remove the salmon intact using help of another person and four cake spatulas.

I used to serve salmon with homemade ponzu sauce, but I use grapefruit in it, I discovered that a lot of older people are on medication that does not allow them to have grapefruit. I now use Tom Douglass' Gorgonzola sauce or just lemons on the side.

Bread baskets & butter were spread around the table.

Dessert was three kinds of cakes requested by the family.

I had one helper in the kitchen. We started at 6 am. Service was at noon.

Sorry this is so long....

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I guess it depends on how much a head they are paying...

I'd keep it as simple as possible. They are getting older and pretty set in their ways so I wouldn't put weird funky ingredients on that they wouldn't have when they were younger.

Cold cuts - Roast Beef, sliced ham, salami etc

Simple salads - Potato, Pasta, Garden

smoked salmon?

basic desserts - mini trifles in a glass, cheesecake, poached fruit (e.g. poached stonefruit in saffron syrup), cheese platter, fruit platter.

At least if it's simple it will be easier for you and not as much manhours to prep it.

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So are you planning on doing this line style or separate stations? And when is it?

The event is early April and I'm going to push for, at least, separating sweet and savory, but the client has serious space restrictions.

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These are all really helpful suggestions - thanks. And thank you skipper10 for taking the time to share all of that info. My target events are usually small, high-end, cutting edge affairs, so even obvious suggestions like meatballs are very useful...I'll just have to fany 'em up. I'll post my menu next week - its due on Wed.

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I just attended a buffet dinner for about 150. My favourites:

tempura station

teppanyaki station

Those might not be do-able for you, as they were cooked onsite in front of the guests.

Other people's favourites:

Roasted meat plate--kobe steak, roast chicken, roast lamb, all served on a bed of roasted vegetables

shabu shabu station (vegetables, scallops, pork)

sashimi plate

sushi station (these last two were in completely different areas of the buffet, and the sushi was prepared onsite just like the tempura and teppanyaki)

There was a lot of other stuff--ikuradon station, some kind of lobster thing, grilled seafood (shrimp, scallops, etc.), salads, soba station (also prepared onsite), dim sum station (only two items--cute little chimaki and siu mai), pizza (least popular), spaghetti bolognese, gratin, some kind of fish in puff pastry (shaped like fish!). There was also foie which was interesting--it was served on a slice of daikon and the sauce was soy sauce-based.

The dessert table had a mix of French and Japanese-influenced desserts (shochu tea jelly!), and fruit.

I'm sure there was more, but I can't remember it all.

I don't normally care for event buffets, but it was quite well done. There was enough variety for everyone to be satisfied--from the pickiest eater to the more adventurous. And although the food was all over the place (French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian), as I was eating I didn't feel any one dish was out of place (I didn't eat everything, though).

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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I've done savory tart assortments for a few events. Things like cornmeal tart shells with corn custard and pork carnitas and rye shells with mustard-sauerkraut custard, corned beef and swiss. Basically just various classic (and sometimes not so classic) combinations converted to tart-friendly forms. Nothing ground breaking but fun and always well received. The shells are a lot of work but I haven't seen any evidence that you factor difficulty into your cooking decisions. :raz:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Other than "needs more food", what sort of feedback did you have from last year regarding the menu? That may guide you in selections for this time around.

The lack of hot prep space, and also the directive to avoid tray pass... will make some of the choices obvious.

You might be able to incorporate the vertical space above stations. Try repurposing a small bookcase or plant stand. I've used tiered plant stands for: cutlery/napkins, cookies, sturdy hors d'ouvres. A tapered corner bookshelf was great for stacking glasses. For your large crowd, make sure to anchor the stands somehow.

Karen Dar Woon

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...so even obvious suggestions like meatballs are very useful...I'll just have to fany 'em up....

Ron,

I was just reading in an old Gourmet (May '07, yeah I'm behind in my magazines......so?) a recipe for "Asian Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce" that I thought sounded pretty damned awesome. They have cilantro & water chestnuts mixed into them, and I think you sure could make them appetizer size. I'd guess the recipe would still be available on Epicurious.com but if not, pm me, and I'll send it to you if you want. I'd marked them to make for dinner soon.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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...so even obvious suggestions like meatballs are very useful...I'll just have to fany 'em up....

Ron,

I was just reading in an old Gourmet (May '07, yeah I'm behind in my magazines......so?) a recipe for "Asian Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce" that I thought sounded pretty damned awesome. They have cilantro & water chestnuts mixed into them, and I think you sure could make them appetizer size. I'd guess the recipe would still be available on Epicurious.com but if not, pm me, and I'll send it to you if you want. I'd marked them to make for dinner soon.

I've made these before and they were a big hit.

I also have a really good Rick Bayless shrimp ceviche recipe. It's not a traditional ceviche where the shrimp marinates in the lime juice, but it also gets lots of compliments and is very easy to make large quantities. PM if you would like the recipe.

Edited by santo_grace (log)

I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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Other than "needs more food", what sort of feedback did you have from last year regarding the menu? That may guide you in selections for this time around.

The lack of hot prep space, and also the directive to avoid tray pass... will make some of the choices obvious.

You might be able to incorporate the vertical space above stations. Try repurposing a small bookcase or plant stand. I've used tiered plant stands for: cutlery/napkins, cookies, sturdy hors d'ouvres. A tapered corner bookshelf was great for stacking glasses. For your large crowd, make sure to anchor the stands somehow.

Everyone loved the food. One of the big problems that led to the feedback was that they coordinator didn't include the volunteer staff of 25 in the headcount, so when students were walking through the registration area in front of the staff, and they were raving about the food, the staff weren't able to leave to get food which pissed them off, and somehow that translated into my problem. That's also why this time they are holding the registration in the same area as the food which will make for a lot of congestion (as someone pointed out this could work to my advantage).

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Here's my menu:

Asian Inspired Items

Miniature Spring Rolls w/ Dipping Sauce (actually salad rolls)

Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce (perfect idea for this crowd --thanks!)

Asian slaw in tuiles

Miniature passion fruit cheesecake cone

American Inspired Items

Sweet potato biscuits with BBQ Chicken (the favorite from last event)

Whitefish salad with crackers (I have lots of whitefish in my freezer)

Stuffed potatoes (actually these will be papas rellenos minis)

A big ass filler potato salad so there will be plenty of food.

Lemongrass punch

I can still modify this, but its a good starting point. All can be room temp. All are finger food. None are too out there. A few things for vegetarians. I'll be sure to post the results when it happens.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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This is a very nice menu! I think it is very smart to divide it in two categories like that. It might even help with the flow as people are likely to focus on one table at the time.

It looks like it's a bit short on fruits and vegetables though.

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