From the ground it rose.....
Creating an off-site kitchen can be one of the most challenging feats that one can do in hospitality. I have been running a food van/off site catering business for 5 years now and it is tough.
My hat is well and truly tipped to all the festival stall holders and food truck aficionados., that work 'The Land', creating, not just a workable space, but also a feast for the eye's, - Presentation is key!
So, as I was standing in my Black Box Kitchen Marquee on Saturday night, surrounded by darkness and a balmy 5 degrees, I reflected back to the start of the day..........
7 am start.
Well it really started 1 month ago, booking and gathering all the equipment, planning where to set up, power requirements, access to water, access to the venue, staff requirements and rostering etc, etc.....
As the saying goes - Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
The more organised that you are, the less hours for staff that you will need to pay for - and unfortunately in a small business, wages can be a killer!!
Back to 7 am!
Head out to the venue, which luckily is only 40 minutes away, with all the equipment loaded into the back of two largish SUV's - loaded the day before with military style precision - Let me just say that Doctor Who's Tardis doesn't shine a light on us!!
40 minutes later and a couple of stops on the way to adjust apple crates that have decided to join me in the front seat, and you find that the gate is locked! Ok, what to do, call the venue manager - not answering. I could just sit around for 3 hours and wait for the official opening at 10 am or I could 'Go Bush' and look for a key! This I did and searched for a full 20 minutes until I found the little bugger under one of the many large stones. Phew, at least we are in.
We continue on to the allocated area and begin to unload Tardis 1 & 2. Now, I know that I said 'Military Style' precision packing, but a potholed gravel road wins every time!
Subsequently, once the door is opened, the avalanche that follows is expected, but never welcomed.
Moving right along and we spend the next 2 hours putting up the marquee( those metal pegs really do not like stony ground!!), setting up the trestle tables, loading in all the platters, bowls, utensils, gas burners, hot boxes, ovens, deep fryer,
butchers bins, urn, chopping boards, water buckets etc, etc.....
Next comes the power, This is definitely my least favorite part!
Now, you can plan as much as you want but without going into how many Watts and Amps you need, you are at the mercy of the gods.
So I plug in the ovens, turn them on and...... Yes! we have action. So far, so good. then comes the lighting. we need at least 3 spots to be operational, so here goes........Yes, working! By this stage I am am quietly confident that all is well. Next up is the urn, I hate the urn, as this bastard sucks up valuable Watts like a sponge in a trifle!
Plugged in, switched on, the lights dim.......and BAM, everything stops. Shit, the bloody urn wins again. So, now we do the power cord juggle, select different power outlets etc, until we get it right. The worst case scenario is that we plug and unplug during the night. Not great but it's something!
Obviously we could use generators, but they can be bloody noisy, so not a popular choice.
Our only saving grace, is the refrigerated trailer runs off 15 Amps and has a separate circuit. Hallelujah.
So we are all set up ready top go for a 6 pm service. Now to get the food down in the refrigerated trailer, set all that up and hope to God I haven't forgotten anything!!
A good friend of mine once said to me that the difference between a cook and a chef is the ability to improvise, but to do it well. I can agree with this. Being able to act quickly and effectively to any given situation is definitely a skill that generally comes with time and experience!
In a nutshell the night went well.....with a few power cuts, one no show staff member and I did forget a sieve!
Now, to pack down at 12 am..................(laughs maniacally!)
Still, we bloody love it!