Food for the Multitudes
One of my favorite things to do is to cook for lots of people. By that I mean in the hundreds. I've done chicken bogs, oyster roasts, Beaufort Stews, BBQ, venison, gumbo, and (as you can see in my last post) bananas foster. I'm interested to hear other amateurs stories and recipes for cooking for the multitudes.
I'm not a caterer although I do have a small conference center with a commercial kitchen that certainly makes things easier at times but usually I'm still winging it.
For a number of years, I used to feed about 150 people for one weekend a year (dinner Friday night, continental breakfast Saturday, soup and salad and dessert luncheon Sat, dinner Sat, and brunch on Sunday). This was a weekend convention scholarship fundraiser, so in addition to the challenges of feeding that many folks, we had the challenge of keeping costs low. We always had a theme for the weekend, which helped with planning the dinners, and I concentrated on "peasant" type food. Here's an excerpt from something I posted about six years ago, on another chowish forum (sadly now defunct):
“ 'Because you couldn’t *pay* me to do this!' I respond to the lady who asks me why I don’t open a restaurant. It’s Friday night, and most of the 150 or so folks that we’re feeding have gone through the buffet line, although there’s plenty of food left. The theme is Kentucky coal mine food, and we’ve got soup beans and ham, corn bread, country ham and biscuits, red-eye gravy, corn on the cob, greens, potato salad, Kentucky fried chicken, cherry cobbler, and cupcakes. The drinks on the line are sweet tea and Pabst Blue Ribbon, in keeping with the theme, but guests are welcome to indulge in the hard ciders and other brands of beer available in the next room.
This is the fifth year I’ve volunteered as the Hospitality Chair for our local scholarship fund-raising weekend event, and I really mean what I told that lady. This is a labor of love, and if I’ve learned anything from the experience, it’s that food service is hard work. Folks pay a fee to come to our weekend event and while here, they can attend seminars, play cards and other games, dance, and most of all it seems, eat! We feed them dinner on Friday; breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday; and brunch on Sunday. The numbers vary from year to year, but we usually plan to feed about 150 folks. We also provide them with snacks 24 hours a day, ranging from a hot dog machine stocked with kosher dogs and Polish sausage, to an ice cream freezer stocked with frozen treats, to homemade chocolates, cookies, and brownies. My best friend once defined the basic food groups for a party as salty, sweet, protein, and fresh, so we have chips and dips, cubed cheeses and meats, veggies and fruit, in addition to the sweet stuff. Coffee, tea, soda (diet and regular, caffeinated and decaff), bottled water, beer, and wine are also continually available. Most of our folks tend toward white zinfandel preferences, so the only good wine is the stuff stashed in my personal wine bag ;-)."
I "retired" from the volunteer job described above a few years ago, but the lessons I learned and the stories I can tell will always be a part of me ;-)
Your events sound amazing! Good food, and good fun.
Labor Day breakfast. For a few years, my parents put on a Labor Day breakfast for about 100 people And it began at breakfast time (maybe 8 or 9am), not some soft mid-morning brunchy time. Meant we spent days ahead prepping. I still have very fond memories of people spread casually across our back yard, coming together for one last end-of-summer fling.