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Mise en place redux

Tag Archives: Off-premise catering

Out Fox With Socks!

 “Here’s an easy game to play. Here’s an easy thing to say….
New socks. Two socks. Whose socks? Sue’s socks.” – Fox in Socks, Dr. Seuss

Socks are a really important uniform component.

In fact, good medical compression socks are the foundation, a critical tool for success — especially on a long hot day. So start with the right kinda’ socks!

Most of the time, I am twice the age and moving twice as fast as most of the staff I’m working with on any event. Often they ask, “Man, you been drinking coke or coffee all day?” I reply with, “No, I have magical compression socks on. Compression socks are one of my secret weapons. You ought to get some.”

I always recommend to staff to wear medical compression dress socks. Compression socks are critical for defense against sore, swollen, aching feet, legs, and being worn out. Besides they give a slight edge of improved performance!

Medical compression dress socks are special made socks that increase your blood circulation.

My interest in compression socks started years ago, in my other life as a Direct Marketer; I was reviewing SKU’s from a sales campaign at Uniforms To You (UTY), at the time, the largest uniform store West of the Mississippi. UTY was then acquired by Uniform Advantage.

I noticed several Doctors purchasing large numbers of medical compression socks. I asked the store sales associates, “What’s with the multiple socks purchases?” “Are the cardiologists giving or selling the socks to patients?” No one knew.

A day later another Doctor was visiting the store and I asked, “Are you giving or selling the compression socks to patients? … Because if you are — you could get a volume discount – we’ll include gift wrapping and even deliver for you…”

He replied, “That would be nice — I just wear these.” Then continued with,” When I perform surgery, I always wear compression socks. You see when you going in to 12-14 hours of procedures standing on your feet on a hard floor — you need all the help you can get — compression socks help you by improving the circulation in your legs and feet.”

How Compression Socks Help You

The main therapeutic benefit of compression socks is providing graduated pressure on the lower leg and foot, to alleviate circulatory problems such as edema, phlebitis and thrombosis.

Even if you are in good health, you will benefit from wearing compression socks.

Unlike traditional dress or athletic socks, compression socks use stronger elastic to cause more pressure on the lower legs, ankles and feet. Compression socks are tightest at the ankles, gradually applying less compression towards the knees.

By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased which causes more blood to return to your heart and less blood pooling and swelling in your feet. If you have worked a 14 Hour day, standing most of the time, you know the feeling.

Another benefit is improved efficiency and faster recovery by stabilising muscles and helps removing lactic acid that is collecting in muscles when you are very active.

There are two types of compression socks: Gradient and Anti-embolism. Gradient does the trick for most of us working on our feet for long periods of time.

“One can never have enough socks.” -Albus Dumbledore

Compression socks are available in a wide range of opacities, colors, styles and sizes, making it hard to tell the difference from dress socks.

You find them in light, to medium to firm compression. Most of us just need the light to medium compression. Start there as you can always increase the compression.

If you shop on-line at say, foryourlegs.com you will find a wide variety and plenty of information on the compression levels to make an informed decision.

Most medical uniform stores sell several types of compression socks also. You’ll find top of the line socks made by Under Armour, Futuro and less expensive socks at Walmart.

Get yourself some compression socks and you will immediately notice how much better you feel during a long event and at the end of the day.

BTW, since this is part of your uniform you may be able to deduct your cost of socks from taxes. Your tax advisor can advise you best.

In any case view the socks as an investment in your well-being – your feet and legs will thank you!

 Hold on to your aprons…

Review of the Catersource 2011 Trade Show

If you are involved in on/off-premise catering you must attend the annual Catersource conference and trade show in Las Vegas, NV.

I started to write this post the day after attending — however I have been consumed with several large and demanding projects. So here we go!

With very limited time this year – March 1st I headed out early Tuesday morning driving East across the barren Mohave desert towards the new city of lights — during the transition from a dark night to an Electra dawn.

With the windows rolled down, breathing in brisk desert air and listening loud to; The Ramon’s, Pink Floyd, Puccini, Sinatra, Country and some new electronica dance music while channel surfing thru an extensive menu on Satellite radio. This made the long drive pass quickly!

Industry trade shows and gatherings such as Catersource, are a rich depository of industry related information, education, relationships fostering experiences, and a library of trivia.

Later at some opportune moment – what was collected is called upon and used in some purpose, often not for the intended purpose. Basically you get to see a lot of new and very cool ideas, concepts and interesting people. I constantly found the long time pros helping newer players to excel!

What did I see that was new and or interesting to an information and idea junkie like me and perhaps you?

I started at one end of the trade show floor going aisle to aisle and booth to booth finishing as the doors were closing and people where preparing for the spectacular Tuesday night party.

After so many sales reps are asking the usual monotonous, “How are you?” I cut to the chase by asking, “What’s new? What’s unique?” Usually followed with “What are people attending the show finding interesting in your booth or with your company or products and services?” and the inquisitive “How does you product, compare to brand X.”

That’s the point where we get down to business and have an information exchange and usually learn something useful.

Setting aside the wonderful suppliers for a moment, it was really great to meet the people attending. Some I have been exchanging emails with – as readers of this blog, some new — we just met for the first time while scoping out a booth or demonstration — all united with a common cause to get better at catering!

Here is some of what I saw and found interesting at the trade show. You may already know about these ideas, perhaps you will find some new here!

Art of Flame "Fire on Water"

Art of Flame    www.artofflame.com 

Fire on Water!

As you may know, I’m big on “function over fashion” any day of the week – however the flame floating on water in a glass container, takes the prize this time.

Medrith Nolan, the inventor is a chemist. She figured how to make a unique safe, visually stunning multipurpose decorative flame. Her creation is simple, intriguing and so safe — it often passes the open flame limitation with ease.

I had a great chat with her and applaud her for turning her idea into a success! Yes she has some new design coming out – so don’t wait. Now you can make use all those glass vases collecting dust in the warehouse.

I expect to see her floating flame creation gracing tables at events and talked about widely.

 Vikki Smyth   www.vikkismyth.com 

Vikki is my favorite designer for working with acrylics in all shapes, colors, sizes. Jackie has managed blend the gray area of function over fashion, always with stunning results. She is simply the best for “floating food in the air concept.”

You will find she is full of energy, passionate with her infectious enthusiasm — morphing science, craftsmanship, and art into some really amazing wow attention-getting designs. Everyone I’ve sent to her for solutions and products over the years is always satisfied!

Black or white Honeycomb is her newest design — which can create a “vertical bento box” display. There are lotsa’ combinations that make this a crowd pleaser for displaying Hors d’oeuvre, Tapas (Small Plates), Dim Sum and Desserts.

ISI North America    www.isinorthamerica.com

Carol Kentis was showing off new “carbonator” aka as the “twist & spakle.”

Thru some incredible end of show discounting — I picked up a new “Twist and Sparkle” unit and a Thermo Whip Plus.

Already I have put the “Twist & Sparkle” to good use pumping CO2 into wide variety of beverages — all were great over-the-top experiences.

This has been a great hit at several parties carbonating a variety of juices; cranberry, orange, apple, pineapple rum, coconut milk, mango, guava, grape juice. I have been giving this puppy a work out. Jack Daniels, a few dashes of Reagan’s #6 orange bitters chilled and carbonated became very popular at one party for toasting shots — fizzy cosmopolitans at another. Lemon infused sparkling water at another. Adding air makes a difference.

Thermo Whip Plus

The thermo whip Plus is more than a whip cream on demand maker. Fresh whipped cream is always enjoyed for a high end coffee or dessert bar.

Warm Bailey’s Irish Cream foam was hit at St. Patrick’s Day parties.

However the optimal applications for the Thermo Whip Plus are far more exciting — especially when you blend in lessons learned from macro-gastronomy.

I have been fooling around separately with warm beet, carrot, sweet potato, and green pea foam to dress plates – an airy tempura bather with great success and I even experienced a few food fatalities. The Thermo Whip Plus – as the name implies is insulated — so dressing up warm plated food on a fast-moving plating line with a hot sauce-foam is a breeze and will keep you outta’ the weeds!

I’m on mission to create some tasty soy-based foam for those lactose intolerant and hard-core vegans. If you have ideas — let me know. I promised my newest “BFF’s” at ISI, that I would share and post my research so that others can benefit!

BTW I’ll being writing more extensive posts on these wondrous culinary tools here at the blog soon.

Sunkist Bar Buddy

Sunkist Bar Buddy

        www.sunkistresearch.com/index.php?mod=product&id_prd=510&idctg_prd=67

Sunkist Bar Buddy has been around some time, an indispensable tool for high volume consistent cutting (sectional) of wedges and slices of apples, oranges, lemons, limes and tomatoes.

What’s new? Additional blades such as the 10 piece wedge. The new 10 wedge blade saves you money on bar garnishes and is absolutely perfect for cutting lime wedges for small tacos. Besides the 10 wedge sized lime wedge fits better in the top of a bottle of Corona beer.

Cutting limes for bar service often is often delegated to on-site bartenders. Really the preparation ought to be preformed by the kitchen or select staff — so that lemons and limes and other drink garnishes are prepared properly saving time, keeping on-site labor in check and maintain consistency and quality of cutting.

Bamboo Imports         www.bambooimports.com 

Extreme customer driven picks and skewers created from bamboo. Losta’ colors, styles, shapes, great service.

While talking with Ryan Young, he showed me several examples of customer wish created products. Ryan explained, “Caterers are in the food serving and entertaining business. We’re in the sourcing and production business to support caterers. Most of our products were created by requests from caterers. We’re always on the look out for new requests.”

Fresh White Endive

California Vegetable Specialties      www.endive.com

Belgian endive has been used number of times as an edible transport vessel-carrier for a large variety of toppings.

When I asked what’s new “Humus bars” was the reply. With so many variations on flavored humus there certainly is potential. Great ideas on how to use endive at the site above.

Belgioioso Cheese         www.Belgioioso.com 

Famous for their authentic Italian style cheeses — especially the mozzarella sheets — was another visit after the endive booth. So with the new concept of humus bars, so I asked, “Why not soft cheeses?”

Belgioioso creates 12 different flavors of soft cheese that when formed as cannels or piped would sit nicely in the endive. So another food presentation idea worth considering.  

Big Ass Fans New Pivot 180

 

I have been an advocate for several years. The fans do the trick of moving large volumes of enough air at low speed to lower temperature.

Showing off a new Pivot 180º Fan, that will be great for cooling event and kitchen-cooking-preping tents during warmer periods.

  

Blaze Products            www.blazeproducts.com

New clear container, looks cool behind glass blocks supporting a warming griddle because you don’t see the container. Another nice plus is that you can actually see how much fuel is left.

So instead of tossing ½ used fuel cans at the end of an event, cap’em and use the remaining fuel next time, you’ll same money and help the environment.

 

The new chork: a blend of chop sticks and a fork The Chork http://www.thechork.com The Chorkä is quite an idea blending a fork and chopsticks together. How many events do you take tons of forks and chopsticks for Asian food? The Chork solves the problem with one utensil that will certainly be a popular topic of conversation.I have another idea for the Chork -- which I’ll reveal in another blog post!Electric Buffet Burners

Buffet Burners    www.buffetburners.com

Bob Feaglery enlightened me about the applications, ease and smart use of this electric chafing dish heaters for adopting existing chafing dishes. Using existing chafing dishes is the key point here.

As you know many,  historical sites, office buildings, and venues prohibit any open flames – so instead of buying new electric only chafer dishes — adopt these heaters to your existing rectangular and round chafers.

The heaters meet the no open flame requirement and from further discussion if you are at a venue on a regular basis — I suspect the operating cost and safety consideration beats using the canned fuel.

 

 

Caviar Specification Tool Kit

Chef Rubber   www.chefrubber.com

Chef rubber is a great resource for macro gastronomy, tools, specialty pastry ideas. It was a lot of fun to see some many items — get your hands on them and ask questions about use. The staff was such a treat to answer questions and offer ideas!

If you have been thinking about adding Caviar spheres or perls to dishes or cocktails and weren’t quite sure where to start, this is the place. Order the Caviar Specification Tool Kit and start making tasty luscious pearls right away.

I have been looking at using round silicone molds to use to make ice spheres for drinks for specialty bars such as Scotch bars. The round sphere melts slower — so the cocktail is cooled and not watered down.

I found a 2” dia. silicon sphere mold here that’s perfect for a whisky bar.

Creations in Lucite     www.creativecoverings.com

Edgy display and in clear, opaque, black plastic and a willingness to  customize.

Demarle   www.demarleusa.com

Food grade fiberglass and silicone molds-shapes for well; butter, sorbet, chocolate, ice cream, bread, mac & cheese bites and more. This is one of those thrust your imagination into overdrive for possibilities companies.

I’m not a big pastry maker. However I often marvel at the creations, and am always borrowing techniques and ideas for other and cocktail creations and enhancements.

Sterno    www.sterno.com

“Flame on!”

New Sterno Jet Burner

Sterno was showing off their new Jet burner. This innovation will be outstanding for certain stations where portable fast heat is needed to finish off dishes that also has stylish form.

New Sterno Torch

The new torch was also on display. Seems the days of carmelizing desserts and such with my plumbing torch are coming to a close. The canisters use the same fuel source as the butane stoves.

Xroads Philippine Sea Salts             WWW.Philippineseasalts.com 

An informative chat with Lennie who founded the company. Her sources follow traditional sea salt farming practises long time in the making. The taste of her salts were fresh and clean!

I have been considering using finishing and or premium sea salts as lead generation offers or gifts to select clients packaged in special vessels. The different textures, flavors and colors is certainly appealing especially when finishing seafood dishes. Xroads has some truly unique bamboo packaging.

I learned that all sea salts are to be labeled with a notice about possible allergic relations to shell fish. Often sea salts contain some trace amounts of what causes a reaction. There’s nothing like a guest experiencing anaphylactic shock to dampen the enthusiasm for a party.

Mini Push Up

J.B. Prince    www.jbprince.com

Another kid in candy store moment with lotsa’ things — hard to find, unique culinary tools, and I didn’t have to travel to Manhattan. The booth staff was as always very helpful answering questions, and explaining new and different applications. What a joy!  

JB Price has the new push ups cups in two sizes that have become so popular for breakfast, snacks and desserts!

Vanillaness at it's best!

Nelson-Massey Vanilla     www.nelsonmassey.com

Beth was a real treat to talk with. I received an in depth education on vanilla —  a spirited debate concerning vanilla from Tahiti and New Guinea or Mexico, plus a review of some other new flavorings and extracts – which I will be experimenting with shortly.

Sensational vanilla flavoring that fills your mouth with wholesome “vanillaness” Ummmm so good!

Pick On Us   www.pickonus.com

There was the book: “Stick It, Spoon It, Put It In a Glass” signing with chef Eric B LeVine, certainly a masterpiece to add to your culinary library.

There was large display of so many different ways to secure and transport food; picks, skewers, stirrers, etc. of all types of color and shape and design.

3M

New “Scratchless” stainless steel scouring pads — that doesn’t leave marks on stainless steel. Essential for cleaning stainless steel display items that have accumulated crud – you know the kind where the only grime removal tools left are harsh chemicals or elbow grease.

New Safe Tray

Safe Tray                 www.safetrayproducts.com 

There was two nice lassies from Scotland. One was Alison Grieve, the inventor who was was pitching in a very charming way her new Safe Tray.

The Safe Tray I believe, has great promise.  The collapsible handle on the bottom is perfect for learning balance, stacking and a few new magic tricks and navigating thru crowds that have been happily drinking. see the video at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSgayqzrcks

Safe tray is “spot on” for training new inexperienced staff to hold, balance, serve and clear tables with a tray. We had good a good chat about establishing distribution and learning to drive on the “right” side of the road. I plan on using he trays for training new staff soon. I wish them well!

Must Have Sklips

Skipco    www.sklipco.com

I have seen the ads for the sklips™. This was the first time I could actually get my hands on them. A simple, functional design for turning sheet pans into stacking racks.

I bought a box and have been using them extensively on events since the show where counter and shelf space was limited.

Another great application is to use them give some height to buffet tables which are usually flat. Stack a few sheet pans add some draping to cover the pans and suddenly you are escaping flat land, safely.

Suggest you order a box or two of each size and add them to your culinary tools arsenal.

Cocktail Rimmers    www.cocktailrimmers.com

Rimmed cocktail glasses especially for specialty welcome or signature cocktails at events present an incredible visual, tactile-tasty garnish which instantly increases the perceived value to guest.

With over 30 prepared varieties of colored, flavored sugars and salts makes this the one stop shop for cocktail rimming. Every color and flavor I had been challenged to create and experimenting with over the past few years was here. Great, now I can move on to something else. 

 I love the Wrap-N-guard for at least two ideas; a built in nice stainless steel stylish wind screen — which comes in handy on windy days for outdoor events, plus the space saving design that require less space for transporting chafing dishes.

Space saving at first, doesn’t seem like such a big idea…until you try packing 26 chafing dishes for a large event. The space taken up is huge. Or if you are trying use one van to deliver several hot lunches to be served from chafing dishes. The space saving and bulk reduction helps a lot. 

 
 

 

New Misty Stix

 MistyStix                  www.dryiceflordia.com 

 

Having been challenged at some events like large outdoor weddings on hot summer afternoons in Southern California with getting 200 cold Moijtos or Margaritas served quickly to thirsty guests as the ceremony concluded.

Faced with no freezer or cooler and limited resources; time and staff – I often inserted small pieces of dry ice into the drinks, to cool and not water down the cocktails. The icy smoke cascading off the glasses always looks so inviting. However my dilemma was always guests grabbing a cocktail too soon and burning their lips on the pieces —  I was often fishing out the larger pieces as the trays left for passing.

MistyStix solves the problem. The capsule stirrer holds the dry ice and preventing burns from the dry ice. The unit can we washed and reused.

BTW the way I also learned of this terrific site for locating dry ice anywhere in the world www.dryicedirectory.com something to add to your computer and cell phone favorites.

Truffly Made   www.truffymade.com

What I liked best was the simple clean mold designs and a willingness to help and even create custom molds. I told the rep in the booth of my quest for round ice spheres. He promptly showed me a sphere mold that was just over and 1” in Diameter.

He provided me with samples for testing. Now I’ll be ordering a few molds to make smaller ice spheres for some special cocktail and drink events.    

 

Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Gourmet Blends         gourmetblends.us 

There’s a lot of good Balsamic vinegar floating around these days. Some OK, some good and what I found here had an exceptional clean, wholesome, satisfying taste — I dreamt for a moment I was standing in an aging room somewhere in Modena, Italy and that we were lucky to sneak a sample of something that had been waiting 12 years just for this moment!

The quality is high and the blends such as vanilla fig are sensational for dressing up some strawberries, persimmons and ice cream!

Best part two parts the boys can ship on large volume packaging – so you don’ have to fool around with all the smaller bottles and they work with you to create and work out the details  for special unique gift packages to give to clients!

Summary

As mentioned in the start of this post — I listed just some of the more interesting booths I saw at the trade show. Can’t wait to put to use many of the new and different ideas I found.

Mark your planner now for next year: February  26 – 29 th 2012 in Las Vegas, NV. 

Hope to see ya’ there!

P.S. Want more information on Catersource 2012?  Here’s where to go:      
                                         http://www.catersource.com/conference-tradeshow

 

 

Essential Tools For Servers!

What tools must every server have when showing up to work?

At most catering companies, banquet facilities and hotels — there’s no list.

You will find at better run, finer, high-end catering & banquet operations there is a list.

Let’s start with basic essential tools; a polishing cloth, waiter’s cork screw, flashlight, pen and notepad, a cell phone, and a can-do good positive attitude.

When working with catering companies to improve service, a recommendation to management usually includes this short list of tools as “conditions of employment” for the serving staff.

Notice is given to the staff, with time to conform, and then “inspect what is expected.”

If staff arrives at events without the proper tools — they can leave, get the tools on their own time, and then return prepared to work. You might be staff tight on an event or two. However, word will spread quickly among the staff and suddenly the “I forgot” excuse disappears and service improves!

If the catering company never serves beverages in crystal, glasses or stem ware – skip the polishing cloth.

If wine is never served at your events, drop the cork screw opener and replace with a basic pocket knife. A Swiss Army knife with a cork screw is a better tool of choice. Here’s why:

Years ago at an event, a guest showed up unplanned with several cases of wine. Being the only server on staff with a cork screw, the host gave me an extra $80.00 tip for opening the wine bottles with my Swiss Army knife cork screw.

Rethink the glass and wine service aspect, because there’s huge opportunity for increasing revenue proving these services.

Besides the perception of quality of an event with wine service, glass, or crystal vs. plastic cups is much higher.

 

Magical Polishing Cloths - Flour Sack

 

1.   Magical Polishing Cloth  

The high concentration of polyester and little if any cotton in table napkins doesn’t work for polishing silver, stainless, glasses, flat and stemware.

The best tool is a 100% cotton polishing cloths, AKA “Flour Sacks.” Yes, Grandma was “correcto mundo” on this point of using a good dish cloth.

If you don’t have the flour sack type polishing cloths — Bed, Bath and Beyond and Williams-Sonoma are great sources to get them.

Cut the cloths (32″ Width x 38″ Length) in half; hem the cut ends and you have twice as many polishing cloths. Add your name to the cloth with stitching, or a marker.

Once a fantastic member my staff Julie, dyed her polishing cloths orange, resembling her brilliant hair color. There was no mistake the orange colored cloths belonged to her.

Color coding like a name on the cloth helps with easy owner identification.

Flatware

When placing flatware, use the polishing cloth to polish-wipe-buff out any water spots, or film residue.

The trick is to place the flatware, in the polishing cloth, while holding the cloth in your hand. Buff out the flatware and gently “Push” placing the flatware onto the table, in the correct position.

This method leaves no finger prints or smudges on the flatware and knife blades sparkle. A little practice and you’ll get it.

Glassware

A polishing cloth is the bomb to “polish-wipe-buff out” any dust, residue water spots on crystal, glasses or stemware that’s not up to par.

Have cloudy or water spotted glass and stemware?

Steaming or boiling hot water with a shot of white vinegar is part one of the trick here.

Use a thermos, a small pot of boiling water or even water glass full of steaming hot water for the wetting powers of steam.

Expose the glass in question to the steaming evaporation for a moment, then wiping with a polishing cloth — usually does the trick.

If the servers setting up  need to to use stronger methods such as a full vinegar dip or making a paste from baking soda and water several glasses, then some one needs to addrss the problem be getting on site.

If the glass has lipstick on the rim, have the glass cleaned again.

If dusty, dirty, spotted, or cloudy glasses with mineral deposits are constantly arriving at your events — then you need to have a serious chat with the rental supplier or dish washer.

Staff should not have to polish, wipe out every glass.

Polishing Is Attention To Details

Clients, planners, coordinators, photographers, and guests who arrive early are always impressed when they see serving staff polishing various items.

Later comments heard include,” This is an excellent caterer. You know — I saw the staff polishing the forks, knives and glasses when we first arrived.” They figure if you pay attention to the flatware — the food and service will be “A Game” quality.

 Step Up The “Bling” At Buffets & Stations

Polishing cloths can add last minute luster and shine to silver service buffet chafer dishes, serving utensils or an elaborate silver urn coffee station.

If you are using stainless steel chafer dishes, the water spots, finger prints and smudges can be buffed-wiped away with the polishing cloth. A little stainless polish helps too.

A polishing cloth has many uses including; insulating hands from hot entrée’ plates during service delivery.

Once a guest fell during an event and fractured her arm. I fashioned a splint and made a sling out of polishing cloths. Her family drove her to the hospital. She returned later to join the party — giving a few hugs and a generous tip to the staff. 

 

Waiter's Cork Screw

 

2.   Waiter’s Cork Screw

A Waiter’s Cork Screw aka “pull or lever type wine bottle opener” is next. Carry the opener in your pocket all the time when working on events. Use the foil cutting blade for opening packages during setting up.

Try out a few different types. Some openers are small, stainless gracefully adorned with rosewood handles.

A few are big, plastic and easier for newbie’s to handle. Find one that feels comfortable to work with because some day the opener and your hand will get a real work out.

Avoid at all costs the F-18 drone wine bottle cork extractors, you know the ones where the arms like wings are pulled down to extract the cork.

Staffs often earn extra tips for opening bottles of wine table side providing they know how to provide wine service properly.

 

Mini Mag Pocket Flash Light

 

 3. Flash Light

Carry a small flashlight. Read the “Be Ready For Service” blog post “Let there be light.” 

Pocket Note Pad

4. Pen and Pocket Notepad

 A pen enables you to write information, special orders, directions, and changes.

A small (3”x5”) spiral top pocket note pad works best for easy quick reference and keeping track of details while nesting in a pocket.

Think of the small expense as an investment in yourself.

You may be able to deduct the expenses from your taxes. Your tax advisor can best
advise you on this.

Besides staff will make more tips!

 

Cell Phone

 

 

 5. Cell Phone

Nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. Often the cell phone is glued to fingers or ears.

Serving staff need one for especially for communicating. If staff is late to an off-premise event, staff needs to call and let the lead-captain know what’s going on.

Some times incorrect addresses or directions were given to the staff and the cell phone is the life saver.

Walkie-talkies are the tool of choice and need to be used on events for communicating among the staff. A cell phone works in pinch.

Staff needs to put away cell phones while working — so they are not making, taking cell calls, updating face book and twitter or checking the Nikkei Index for stock prices. When guests observe staff texting and talking they feel “dissed” and ignored.

I have been known to collect cell phones from offenders and return at the end of the event along with a stern warning.

 6. A Can-Do Positive Attitude

A good positive attitude is the most important essential tool to bring to every event.

A good attitude will get you through rough spots and challenging and unexpected moments that crop up in catering.

There are millions of pages, thousand stories and books written on the importance of, and having a good attitude.

I encourage you to read them often as they provide inspiration and assurance — a sorta’ “charger” or pick me up.

What it boils down to is; make a decision to have a good attitude and doing your best!

When you excel at any thing and do your best — there’s personal satisfaction.

Some times going home tired after an event where you gave your all and made a difference in some way, is a great physic payoff — even though there was no tip.

“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiseling and scraping and polishing.” –BC Forbes

Polishing Your Brand

Keep doing great work and find ways to turn your work and style into something outstanding, over-the-top, sensational service. Let’s call it “Your brand.”

Set an example, help other staff members out. Many will balk.

Ignore them and keeping pushing your limits, style and techniques. Others will take up the challenge and collectively most of you will get even better in small subtle ways. Remember, “All boats rise with the tide.”

Some one will notice your actions and with that comes acknowledgement and more opportunities and better financial rewards.

Basic To Basics

This list here of serving essentials covers the most basic items.

Depending upon the season and locale bug spray, sun screen lotion, a snack, some bottled water, a lint roller and shoe shine brush, plus a few other items might be in order too.

Since I don’t know it all – and if you have a suggestion for the list – let me know.

Keep polishing and hold on to your aprons,

In The Bag!

“Man that’s the biggest lunch bag I ever saw.”

The voice came from a disheveled looking guy. He was leaning against the wall as
an effort to keep it from falling down. 

“It’s not all lunch. The rest is some things that we might need — so today’s event is a success!” I replied with a smile.

“You probably were an Eagle Scout too.” He says after taking a long drag on a cigarette.

I replied, “Matter of fact — I still am. Like a Marine, you always are. Being prepared — doesn’t get old — it doesn’t fall out of fashion. Sometimes I never touch what’s in the bag of tricks. Other days, I’m in the bag a lot. It depends — I just like being prepared.” 

A minute later the wedding coordinator (The bride’s sorority sister from college) arrives and says distressed “The bride’s maid dress seam split. Do you know where I can get a needle and thread?” 

Reaching into my bag and handing her my sewing kit. “Here you go. Please return this when you are finished.”

“In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular
preparation to produce spectacular results.”
                                                                                            — Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Football Player

Things happen at events. The MOB (Mother of the Bride) wants to know if someone has aspirin, bobby and safety pins. Power out on a wall. Swinging door needs a stopper to hold it open. The client’s Vice President of Sales wants to hang a banner from the T-Bar Ceiling and has no idea how to. Photographer needs a “sun blind.” Equipment breaks. The “DJ” (a family friend) has no tape to safely secure cords or wires. You’ve heard all the stories before.

Often little things evolve into a big nuisances — the bar tender stung by a bee and is about to pass out. A can of Sterno gets knocked over and sets the table linen on fire.

I would not expect most servers or bartenders to take the time and assemble a magic bag. In Los Angeles, in most cases, servers can hand you their latest script faster than a band-aid.

Event leads and captains ought to make up their own bag. Then there are those few dedicated Special Forces type staff that will do it on their own. I either case building a bag is a very good investment!

Will it cost some money? Yes, not much.

Some off-premise catering companies may make this bag up for the staff. .. a smart move. Otherwise think of the bag as an investment — not just some expense. If you are the most reliable, problem solver staff member, chances are you will have more work. Oh yeah, check with your tax advisor about how you “might” be able to deduct the cost off taxes.

So the next questions are: What sort of tools need to be assembled?

Leatherman Multi Tool
Leatherman Super Tool 300

I always wear a Leatherman® tool on my belt when working events. It’s “function over fashion” statement. The Leatherman® tool is indispensable Swiss Army knife on steriods — a real work horse for off-premise catering. I reach for this trusty companion during events to cut, hold, fix, tighten loose screw, saw off branches in the way. Etch your name on the handle; otherwise it can grow legs when borrowed.

Bag of Tricks

Magic Bag of Tricks

 

“To be prepared is half the victory.”
                                                                                                              -Miguel de Cervantes

So what’s in the magic bag?

The large carrier is a Marshalltown (Mason) tools bag. It has pockets inside and outside, which makes for practicing “Mise en place;” Door stopper, work gloves, polishing cloth, etc, all have their own pocket. 

Some colleagues have opted for a “box dolly” a box on wheels. Use what ever functional container you like.

Inside the larger bag is smaller bags. I like the multipurpose document holder bags found at Home Depot. Smaller items go in the documents bags labeled; First Aid, Service, Tools, Staff, Misc. This makes it easier to sort and find things in a hurry. 

Depending on where you are — you may want or need modify the contents to deal with seasonal and local weather or environmental issues. The contents are not cast in stone. I usually find myself adding a new item or replacing something every so often.

Here’s the list of what’s in my magic bag.

# Qnt Bag Item Notes
1 1 First Aid Kit, First Aid (See List) Things happen
2 2 Misc Apron, Short W/ Big Pockets Repetitive tasks tool pouch
3 8 Misc Bobby Pins Pull hair back
4 100′ Misc Cord, Clothesline 1/4″ Tying, hanging or lashing
5 1 Misc Finger Nail Clipper W/File Fix finger nails
6 50′ Misc Fishing Line, 30 Lb. Test Tying, hanging or lashing
7 10 Misc Gloves, Latex Clean up or handling food
8 4 Misc Lighter, Long Stem Lighting candles and canned heat
9 25 Misc Ties, Wire – Plastic Repair and secure 
10 100 Misc Rubber Bands Securing what ever
11 10 Misc Safety Pins – Various Sizes Just in case
12 1 Misc Scissors Cutting
13 1 Misc Scouring Pad, Cleaning 3M brand
14 1 Misc Sewing Kit, Small Repairs
15 1 Misc Soap, Dishwashing Small Washing dishes & hands
16 1 Misc Spray-Spitzer Bottle, Small Refreshing flowers
17 100′ Misc String – Mason Line Aligning, tying, hanging or lashing
18 20 Misc Table Linen (Cloth) Clips Securing table linens in the wind
19 1 Misc Library Wax Tub Secure things
20 50 Misc Pins, Long Stick Pinning decorations
21 12 Misc Clips, T Bar Hanging from T-Bar Ceiling
22 1 Prep Flashlight Seeing in the dark
23 1 Prep Headlight, Seeing in the dark
24 2 Prep Batteries, Flashlight Back up
25 2 Prep Batteries, headlight Back up
26 1 Prep Knife, Pocket Opening boxes, cutting things
27 1 Prep Note Pad 3 X 5 Writing notes and labeling
28 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Black Labeling
29 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Red Labeling
30 3 Prep Pens, Blue Writing
31 2 Prep Post It Notes – Pads, Large For temporary labeling
32 1 Prep Writing Pad Lined Write things down
33 8 Oz Prep Salt, Kosher Kitchen back up
34 2 Serving Opener, Paint Can Prying pans in chafing dishes
35 1 Serving Bottle Opener, Speed Style As needed
36 4 Serving Candles Emergency
37 4 Serving Cloths, Polishing Flour Bags Polish stem and flatware
38 2 Serving Cork Screw Open wine bottles
39 1 Serving Crummer Clear crumbs from tables
40 1 Serving Spatula, Heat Resistant Back up for cooking-serving
41 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Slotted Back up for cooking-serving
42 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Solid Back up for cooking-serving
43 1 Serving Tongs Back up for cooking-serving
44 1 Staff Mints, Breath Breath freshener
45 20 Staff Cough Drops Coughing staff
46 1 Staff Brush, Shoe Shine Last Minute Polish
47 2 Staff Razors, Disposable For staff not shaved
48 1 Staff Shaving Cream For staff not shaved
49 1 Staff Deodorant, Spray Freshening up
50 1 Staff Sun Screen, Spray Skin Protection
51 1 Staff Bug Spray Keeps the bugs off
52 1 Staff Lint Remover Roller Serving staff looks neat
53 1 Staff Pain Reliever, Advil Minor pain management
54 2 Staff Power Bars Back up energy supply
55 1 Tools Count Down Timer Reminder-special timing
56 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fix things and first aid – cuts
57 4 Tools Door Stop Hold open swinging doors
58 1 Tools Magnifying Glass Assist in removing slivers
59 1 Tools Pliers, Offset Fix or repair some things
60 1 Tools Screw Driver, Phillips Head Fixing-repairing
61 1 Tools Screw Driver, Flat Head Fixing-repairing
62 1 Tools Shims – Wooden – Pack Leveling
63 ! Tools Tape, Duck 2″ Roll Securing – hanging “bombproof”
64 1 Tools Tape, Masking 2″ Roll Securing hanging – closing boxes
65 1 Tools Tape, Clear 2″ Roll Securing runners -closing boxes
66 1 Tools Tape, Painters 1″ Roll Securing on delicate surfaces
67 1 Tools Wrench, Crescent 6″ Fixing things
68 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fixing things & finger cuts
69 2 Tools Gloves, Work – Pair Protect your hands
70 1 Tools Voltage Circuit Tester Check for working circuits
 
“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
                                                                                                                      — Abraham Lincoln

Hopefully you will build your own survival-success magic bag of tricks. The first time you show up with it many will laugh – just wait for them to come and ask you for your help.

BTW… Got a suggest about something that ought to be in the bag? Send me an email. 

First aid kit contents will be covered by another blog post. 

There’s another tote I take along and usually leave in the car, it contains 100’ and 25’ extensions cords, a 300 Watt “clampable” work light, more table clips, trash bags, 100’ of 3/8” rope, 2” wide tape and extra hand tools and jumper cables. 

Remember: Being prepared starts with a state of mind — a resourceful  “MacGyver” and “can do”  attitude. Having the right tools to help you survive and succeed will certainly help!

Hold on to your aprons,