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Catering Radar

Work is smacking me hard.  Don't know whether its my age, my attitude or the shifting of the stars and the crashing of the planets, but damn...

Every year it's like this - there's a long stretch of just balls out work craziness.  I know it's coming and I prepare, but this year it's just a grind.  I made the mistake today of looking at last year's planner and I saw that I had four days off in April and five days in May.  It put things in perspective because I couldn't recall any of the food I made for all those VIP, Must Be Perfect, The Bar is Sky High events for all those VIP clients that Have to Have Things Perfect Or They'll Just Die.  Well, that's not true - I can recall some of them because I have pictures and documentation (menus, recipes, etc.), but I looked at some of this stuff and couldn't recall many details.  It was a blur then and it's a blur now. I do remember doing a menu and cooking for Obama, but I couldn't be there to actually serve the meal because there was a More Important corporate client that needed my personal attention. I remember my incredulous look of astonishment and my instantaneous question to my boss..."More important than the President of the United States? Really?" Kind of a metaphor for the current state of affairs, doncha think?  Anywho, I'm in the midst of a daily cycle now that goes - wake up in the dark, get dressed, have cup of coffee, feed/water cats, stare at Facebook for ten minutes, go to work, come home in the dark, feed/water cats,shower, fall asleep watching Netflix, wake up at midnight, go to bed. Rinse and repeat until July 4 or thereabouts. Somewhere in there the Z-girl comes home from college and then she can wake me up earlier to tell me to go to bed.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the work, I really do. But damn.

From my perspective, people are spending money like drunken sailors again - it's just that there aren't as many of those people as when the shit hit the fan in '07. We're missing a few high roller clients who fell through the net during the recession. Clients who paid us so Things Would Be Perfect, but despite their efforts to entertain their way through hard times things turned to shit anyway.  I grew to have radar for the clients who would make it and the ones who wouldn't.   Caterers are a lot like canaries in the coal mine - we are inside, but not involved and we are some of the first to be able to see the cracks appear.  You just gotta see the signs. Forget about what food gets ordered - stopping booze service at corporate events is the first big blip on the radar. From there, if it goes quickly to only serving bottled water, then you know it's getting grim.

We had a client who's business was building and selling yachts.  The last big event we did for them was their annual sales blitz where they brought in their big money customers for appreciation and maybe an upgrade on their old yacht.  There were more salesmen than clients there - they served shitty Korbel champagne and Jones Soda and the food was hot dogs and hamburgers grilled on site.  The clients that did come, drove their Bentley's and Rolls' up to the showroom expecting valet service only to be told they had to park their own cars in a lot across the street and down a block.  I was treated to slightly miffed one percenters in Armani and Chanel trudging past and through the fog bank of charcoal smoke billowing off my grill full of cheap quarter pound burgers. A year later the company suspended it's yacht making operation and announced that it was going to work with a Dutch company to build props for wind turbines.  But that fell through when the Dutch found out the props they produced at home were better and cheaper. Since then the yacht company's been limping along on life support. They don't use us for catering any more. A local pizza shop proudly announced recently that they are now providing catering services to this company.  The clock is ticking.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 12th, 2013 12:10 pm (UTC)
Catering is one of the departments in our university dining service along with student dining,and offsite or satellite corporate dining which involves providing food to factories, r&d facilities, schools and even day care centers. Right now I'm overseeing catering and student dining, but am in the midst of a year long transition into strictly student dining where I really would like to be now. My sous is going to take over the catering department eventually, but the going is slow. Catering accounts for about a million dollars in sales annually for us, so it's very busy. Things being what they are in business these days - we run lean and mean. In the case of catering there are four chefs taking care of all the cooking for catering, usually three on and one chef on deck. I love it, but after 16 years I'm in need of a change. I can't do the consecutive 12 hour days like I used to.
Apr. 12th, 2013 11:10 am (UTC)
I love the thought of caterers as canaries in the coal mine. I think if you could turn that, into the central premise of a Gatsby-esque novel, you'd have a commercial bestseller on your hands. Really.

Edited at 2013-04-12 11:11 am (UTC)
Apr. 12th, 2013 12:18 pm (UTC)
Exactly what I thought,P. I have lots of notes and a few outlines. I'm primarily a short story writer so stringing together a series of vignettes lashed around a loose plot is how I'm going to have to approach things. Never have been good at sustaining things much beyond novelette length. Thing is - I'm going to have to wait on this sort of thing - presently,my work leaves me too brain dead and exhausted to funnel the energy into something like this. I just have to muster up the discipline and get it done once I have a clear calendar. I keep saying to myself that these are "retirement projects". Like I'm going to retire, or something.

BTW - Happy birthday to you! Even though we only know each other virtually I still feel the need to reach across the keyboard and give you a big hug and giant birthday smooch. Mwah! There! Now go out and have some fun...I know you can!
Apr. 12th, 2013 01:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you, sweetie. A big sloppy Mwah right back atcha! When I become fabulously wealthy from my Jeopardy winnings, I'll set up a writers' colony. In the meantime, take notes!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )