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personal chef or catering horror stories


chezlamere
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I'd like to hear about any interesting first time in someone else's kitchen stories from personal chef's or first catering contracts, or just horror stories from the above. I've just started this as a side line on my days off.

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I am a personal chef in upstate NY. I am afraid I have no horror stories for you. It's the best job in the world. :wub: As with any job, you try to stay organized, dedicated, and focused. Minor mistakes may include forgetting an ingredient, which sometimes results in a (pain in the ass) trip back to the store but other than that, I haven't set anyone's kitchen afire. My clients are all wonderful. :cool:

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I have a rather lengthy story of a spetacular catering disaster that I have been told to by friends I should get written down. Perhaps this is a good time to do so. Ill post back as soon as I can get it done.

I'm waiting

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Ok I am done except for the edit. Problem is its 2000 words long. Any ideas how to post something of this length.

If any moderators whould like to proof read and advise me what to do with it Id me happy to email it.

Edited by Lounge Lizard (log)
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I have a short story.

I am a cook in a restaurant in LI NY

we have a few clients that have us cater partys for them (mostly christmas partys)

Last december I was selected to go and work a party at this house.

it was a great kitchen with all the highend equipment (viking etc)

I turned the oven on to get it hot, while I set up and we began bringing the food stuffs from the van.

the host/hostess said they would be upstairs getting ready.

all was well until about the third trip in and out we heard a loud wailing siren going off and saw the kitchen filling with smoke it seems the hostess had baked earlier in the day and whatever she baked had dripped onto the bottom of the oven and was now smoking up the house setting off the house fire alarm system bringing the regular and the vol, fire department swarming all over..

I know it was not my fault i had no way of knowing the oven was dirty and the host/hostess where very nice but, man was it embrassing...

And upon returning this christmas to do the party they made it a point of giving us fire ext. for the kitchen just in case..........

I bake there for I am....

Make food ... not war

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I have sent my long story off to fat Guy. While we wait I do have a shorter story.

I was catering a retirement party in someones home and shortly after arriving and setting up I began to get very sick. I had eaten early that day in a questionable donair place and had gotten what I am sure was food poisoning.

I was heaving in the bathroom of this womans house trying desperatly not to be heard. Unfortunatly I was heard and had to try and explain how the Chef had food poisoning but not to worry about her dinner.

As it turns out the retirement party was being held for someone who worked for the city health department.

They had a great laugh at my expense and assured me they would pay that donair place a visit.

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I once catered an event in a place where there was a boil water advisory due to flooding. Also I had temporarily situated a lot of the food for the event in my home chest freezer, and the same storm that caused the flood caused me to lose power. (This was Isabel, yes.)

Fortunately I knew all this going in and gave myself enough time to make ample preparations. As soon as I arrived at the facility I set two stockpots on the stove to boil for cleaning up with, and kept one going all night. Nobody got sick and nobody noticed my last-minute switches with the food. Phew!

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Catering job in the middle of nowhere (country) on a Saturday night in the middle of winter. Sit down dinner for 30, tenderloin the main course. Spoke to client that morning, all fine. We had toured her kitchen when we took the job, were assured all was working properly.

Arrived on time only to have her say........."Oh, I hope you don't need the oven, it hasn't worked in months, but we never use it anyway." :angry::shock::huh::angry:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I've done Chinese catering - as a hobby. No disasters, but one amusing story. I was working away in a great kitchen as guests were starting to arrive. The host came into the kitchen, complaining of the smells (!?!?!?!?!) permeating the rest of the house,----- and turned the fan vent on. (Fine with me) But as the couples were parking in the back, they were treated to the wonderful aromas, and came in the house exclaiming how wonderful everything smelled! HeeHee!

I have never done a catering job without having someone come into the kitchen and tell me about their Chinese cooking experiences. Of course, they can't see that I'm trying to devote my time to the miriad of things that have to be done. Even with the best of planning, and because of the best of planning, things will go like clockwork, but you have to focus ---- and having some relaxed person with a drink in their hand, asking all kinds of questions and getting in my way ------ well, you get the picture. You have to be nice, but underneath, you are shooting daggers!

Big point --- Keep kids OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

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Big point --- Keep kids OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

And may I add... PETS?? It's in my contract that while I am cooking in the client's kitchen, all pets must be kept contained in another room. All I need to do is step backwards on someone's cat "RRRRAAAAAAARRGHHHH!!!" :unsure: and not only injure IT, but myself as well. So...all kids and pets have to amscray. What's a "donair place"?? That one has me puzzled!

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Catering job in the middle of nowhere (country) on a Saturday night in the middle of winter. Sit down dinner for 30, tenderloin the main course. Spoke to client that morning, all fine. We had toured her kitchen when we took the job, were assured all was working properly.

Arrived on time only to have her say........."Oh, I hope you don't need the oven, it hasn't worked in months, but we never use it anyway." :angry::shock::huh::angry:

So what did you end up doing? How did you resolve the problem -- inquiring minds want to know!

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I was doing Chinese catering for parties or for other event --- all as a hobby. But what happened to Lounge Lizard is one of the reasons I finally gave it up. since this was a one-man (woman) job, I began to lose sleep wondering what I would do if I became ill, broke a leg, or something equally disastrous.

Small things, like fund raisers in my home, or making dumplings for someone to pick up, were OK, but the thought that someone was planning on ME, for a big affair, finally got to me --so I stopped.

They were fun, but no one can appreciate what actually goes into it, until you do it yourself. The shopping or cleaning up is nothing. Even the schlepping is OK. But the minute planning and execution is a feat. There is nothing quite like the feeling ----- when it is all over, and it was successful!!!! LOL!

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Sounds a little like how I feel after a good recital, jo-mel. Catering, in other words, is a performance, in real time.

Exactly!

When you give a concert, it may look and sound as tho it was simply a God given talent. Only another performer, and you, know just what you had to do to make it successful.

I remember being so impressed by Isaac Stern, who said that after a performance, he immediatly begins practicing again.

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Catering job in the middle of nowhere (country) on a Saturday night in the middle of winter.  Sit down dinner for 30, tenderloin the main course.  Spoke to client that morning, all fine.  We had toured her kitchen when we took the job, were assured all was working properly.

Arrived on time only to have her say........."Oh, I hope you don't need the oven, it hasn't worked in months, but we never use it anyway."  :angry:  :shock:  :huh:  :angry:

So what did you end up doing? How did you resolve the problem -- inquiring minds want to know!

Well, the tenderloin turned into individual steaks that were done stove top. I actually had a grill pan with me (no idea why, but what luck)Had the merlot jus done for the tenderloin, reduced it a bit more to compensate for the flavour of the grilled meat. All the veg had been prepped earlier and the ones I would normally have done in the oven were done stovetop too. Much juggling was required, admit to using the microwave on the veg to get the temperature up as needed. All in all, I don't think too many people noticed. The client remained completely unconcerned throughout. Quite possibly on large amounts of medication.... :biggrin:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I completed my last catering job this Saturday after doing gigs part time for 2 years. I really don't have any horror stories either. One major pet peeve of mine though is guests ordering prime rib roast well done. Other than that it was really fun, though a lot of work. It was enough fun that I decided to make it a carrer and am quiting my current job to attend culinary school in Chicago. Have fun with it as much as possible and stop doing it if it quits being fun.

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Not that this has to do with catering, but it does have to do with ordering food and not taking something for granted.

It was a school fund raiser, and I was in charge of the kitchen. We had plenty of pot-luck donations, but I also ordered 200 pizzas from "Joes Pizzaria" on Bloomfield Avenue. I called them, well ahead of time, by phone, ordered the pizzas and gave them the time and place for delivery. A day before, I called back to make sure they were ready to go with the order.

On the night of the affair, the pizzas arrived, and I paid the delivery guy. His truck had no soon pulled away, than another truck pulled up and started unloading 200 more pizzas. I had no idea what was happening, but he had the order slip, and I had no choice than to pay him also.

What had happened, was there were 2 Joes Pizzarias on Bloomfield Avenue, but they were in adjoining towns! When I had used the phone book, they were on the same page. If I hadn't called back to verify, I would not have had the problem, and the person on the phone in the 2nd Joes Pizzaria didn't question me.

I had no idea what to do about the costs for the extra pizzas, (this was a fund raiser, and I didn't want to mess it up because of my stupid mistake) but finally was able to talk all the Mothers and Fathers who were working on the affair to buy the extras and freeze them. I, myself, bought about 50 of them and my kids ate them for months afterwards.

Lesson learned --- don't depend on the phone. Go face to face when ordering in bulk.

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I was catering a wedding for 350 folks and had to do all the work out of a coat closet. (Second time that's happenend!) Cooking the beef tenderloin in a small altosham we'd brought and part way thru, the circuit fuse blew and no one could fix it - big old building.

The only place to re-plug in the altosham was the men's room. A bit strange knocking on the door to check the temp - I'm female. All worked out fine though!

The first time cooking in the coat closet was in upstate New York in July - hot as could be. We were promised the whole space, but the guests thought oterwise. No ventilation and guests wandering in and out getting in the way big time.

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That cooking out of the coat closet think is whack.

IIRC, (and my memory of this particular incident is hazy at best),

in the worst incident I remember, the party chef was speaking to the client or a member of the family.

The client pointed behind/to the side of the chef.

The chef looks over.

He sees his chef coat, which is hanging on the side of the tent, on fire.

The chef quickly throws the chef coat onto the ground and stomps the fire out.

The chef resumes the conversation with the client.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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So, all these experiences lead me to wonder....I love cooking and I love entertaining. I find that it's a LOT of work doing both and extremely exhausting on my part even tho I enjoy it. I would love to have a personal chef at least once in awhile though. What would you say are the things you appreciate most, being a private chef, in your employer? I mean, what things make it a nice experience for you? I cannot even imagine any of my guests going into the kitchen to regale a chef of their own experience, so you can leave that out. I wouldn't even allow that to happen, I mean, how gauche to have a professional in your home and then have some yayhoo wasting his time yammering about their vast experience. Gag me. And I'd personally see to it that that didnt happen (hey, if I'm not cooking and plating, I've got plenty of time to monitor the guests, LOL). If you don't mind, I'd love a list of your tips and hints and preferences. I think I have most stuff, but I'm not a professional, so I don't really know.

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So, all these experiences lead me to wonder....I love cooking and I love entertaining. I find that it's a LOT of work doing both and extremely exhausting on my part even tho I enjoy it. I would love to have a personal chef at least once in awhile though. What would you say are the things you appreciate most, being a private chef, in your employer? I mean, what things make it a nice experience for you? I cannot even imagine any of my guests going into the kitchen to regale a chef of their own experience, so you can leave that out. I wouldn't even allow that to happen, I mean, how gauche to have a professional in your home and then have some yayhoo wasting his time yammering about their vast experience. Gag me. And I'd personally see to it that that didnt happen (hey, if I'm not cooking and plating, I've got plenty of time to monitor the guests, LOL). If you don't mind, I'd love a list of your tips and hints and preferences. I think I have most stuff, but I'm not a professional, so I don't really know.

Do NOT, under any circumstances add 30 extra people to a guest list of 100 3 hours before the appointed hour.

If you plan on having an event including children, and those children are going to eat, (even buffet) you must include them in your count. Feel free to let us know they are children and may eat less, but we must know. And keep them out of the kitchen at ALL costs....pleeeeease!

If the chef will be bringing staff, please treat them like the professionals they are -- they are not there to clean up your children's/pets/husband's mess before your guests arrive. (Ditto for the chef)

I know these all seem self-evident, but believe me, I speak from personal experience! :smile:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I like a certain amount of creative freedom within the cost and dietary requirements of the job. Making sure that there is a continuity in the courses of food.

Having the proper equipment and tools is great. Room to move around, store food correctly, cook and clean up is important.

A client willing to pay for the needed service staff as well as quality food supplies is good.

Being treated as a professional with respect - not being asked to "keep an eye on the kids for a few minutes" is appreciated. And having that respect extended to my staff.

Finally - getting paid on time with a gratuity for the staff.

These are a few of the things that have made me say "yes" to a repeat job.

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