HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Cooking for 30 Help!

Hi everyone,

I have been enlisted to "cater" a film set for my friend and have some question re: servings.
Below are what I am planning to make, but I was curious about how much to batch up the recipes to serve 30 people, keeping in mind that I am preparing a variety of dishes for people to sample, so one standard "serving" as may be described in a recipe, probably does not apply here as people will have smaller portions of more dishes. So, lets say the recipe estimates 10 servings (just to be simple), do I make 1 recipe? 2 recipes? 3 recipes?
Your thoughts would be great.

Baked Mac and cheese
Corn, avocado salad
Apple, Cabbage Slaw
Sweet Potato Salad
Baked Beans
Pulled BBQ Chicken Sliders

Peach Cobbler/Crisp
Southern Banana Pudding
Melon Salad with Mint

Thanks in advance!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Is this for during filming? That is a very heavy menu for during filming- not too many light or non-carb options. Normally I would say make more of the lighter items and less of the heavy ones but I don't know what kind of cast and crew you're feeding. My ex is in film production and craft services generally focused on light/ healthy/non-carb meal options so that's what I'm used to. (If anyone is low or no carb or just plain vain...carbs=bloat..the slaw and melon will be all they will be able to eat.)

    1. lol, are you cooking for actual southerners, or just having a theme?

      is this the type of thing that will be out on a table all day, or will there be a meal break when everything is served? lots of guys, or women, who generally have smaller appetites? indoors, outdoors? will people be helping themselves to plates? if it is self-serve, err on the cautious side of making "more" of each thing, because people always take more than they actually eat from buffet lines.

      to my eye, you've got 5 "sides" and just one "main", so i'd plan on at least 6 oz. of meat per person --roughly 10 or 11 pounds. mac and cheese is always a big hit, so i'd make plenty of that, figuring 4-5 oz. of pasta per person, so about 9 or so pounds of pasta.

      the other sides i'd make about 10 servings of and let that be that. and honestly? i'd cut this down to just 3 sides, keeping the mac, the corn salad and the slaw. (although cabbage and apple are very autumnal to me, so i might opt for something lighter like cabbage and julienned carrots and red peppers) if folks are just getting a quick meal break, they're not going to be grazing. they need a meal -- and one that won't make them want a nap from a carb crash in 2 hours.

      as for dessert... what?! no chocolate? ;) you've got lots of savory food, so no need to make mountains of dessert. i'd make 15 servings each of the crisp and the pudding. enough melon for each person to have a few cubes.

      1. Thanks for your input. I am not cooking for southerners, just trying to stick to a theme.
        The reason why its so carb heavy is that I was told to keep the costs as low as possible.. so I was trying to come up with a menu that made sense thematically, that used predominently low-cost ingredients (that's why there isn't much meat, and all of the veg I use are mainly the less expensive ones).
        This is for the hour long filming break at 3 PM. I am not really worried about people not eating carbs for vanity purposes, the cast is small and they're not the type to whine about carbs.
        The mac and cheese could be more of a main course (for veg)
        Maybe if I make the corn/avocado salad a lettuce based salad, that would help?
        And maybe if the sliders put it over the edge on the carbs, then I could switch this to like drum sticks... any other ideas on really inexpensive Southern-style ways to serve a meat option? (doesn't need to be chicken.. but probably best to be either chicken or beef- no pork just in case we have people who don't eat it for religious reasons).

        10 Replies
        1. re: hungryabbey

          Just a kind word on serving pork or beef, it's OK to serve it. Those who don't want to eat it can simply skip it. There's nothing wrong with serving food that not every single person will eat.

          1. re: 1POINT21GW

            Fair enough. I guess just because my budget only allows for one meat option, I would be happy if it were as agreeable as possible.

            1. re: hungryabbey

              Completely understandable.

              Have you talked the menu over with your employer to see what they want?

              1. re: 1POINT21GW

                Yes- they're not my employers, just my friends. I am doing this to help them out. The instructions were: as cheap as possible, and enough energy to get some of the crew through the rest of the day who have been lifting heavy equipment etc. lol
                They aren't picky, they are happy to have any help they can get because it will save them from paying for external catering, which would likely just be like sandwiches and cookie platters anyways.

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  Gotcha. Sorry, I thought they were paying you for this.

                  Have you ever done anything like this on this scale or larger before? How much help will you have during the prep, cooking, transportation, and/or service stage?

                  1. re: 1POINT21GW

                    I have done parties (at my own place) around this size..
                    I think I will probably do all the cooking myself, but hopefully will have some help (one other person) for transport and service.

                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      OK. As long as you're experienced with this sort of thing because that amount of food can be a lot for one person to prep, cook, and safely hold until service.

                      It sounds like it will be a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy yourself.

                      1. re: 1POINT21GW

                        We do have a oven/stove on the site, so I will be prepping what I can ahead of time, refrigerating it, and then reheating as needed etc.

          2. re: hungryabbey

            what's your budget?

            i can get pork butt or pork shoulder super cheap and it's an easier meat to cook, reheat and pull, vs. chicken. check your grocer. you can also skip the rolls entirely and just make pulled pork. $$$ savings.

            mac and cheese is cheap.

            some kind of summery slaw can also be made on the cheap and making it a vinegary kind of slaw will make it a good foil for the bbq meat.

            the carb issue is not about vanity. it's about insulin/energy crashes. you don't need to stuff these people. make the pulled meat, a slaw and the corn salad. make lots so it looks really bountiful and friendly. skimpy platters for big groups look miserly, especially for just a short meal break.

            for dessert, i'd just make the cobbler and the melon.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              This is great help. I was thinking the same things. Thanks!

          3. I understand your feeling skittish of serving just one meat option & it being pork. You could also offer a large pot of chili, economical, easy & not carb heavy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              Mmm-chilli with cornbread (and honey) can be quite a hit with groups. Shredded cheese, chopped onion, sour cream, and maybe some tortilla chips for toppings. Also avoids the pork issue for people, although it brings up the issue of spiciness.

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                thats a good idea. I ran it by the crew and they are all for the pork option, so I will probably do that. It's super easy to pull off too, so that's great.

              2. Regarding dessert, what about doing something like cookies or brownies? Or even lemon squares. It's a little neater to eat than a cobbler/crisp, simple for people to pickup, and super easy to make large batches.
                We also often had "dump cakes" (messier again...) at many southern gatherings. Always a hit and quite easy to do.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ama658

                  Hm, I like the idea of lemon squares too.. That's a possibility.. though what i like about cobbler/crisp is that its super easy for me to batch up in a large tin foil pan. I will see what the crew prefers.

                2. A question for you all:
                  With the mac and cheese, I have access to an oven, so I am thinking of prepping the sauce and pasta ahead of time (the day before), then when I arrive early on set, I will do the baking with the crumb topping.
                  Has anyone ever prepped a baked mac and cheese like this (prepping the cheese sauce and pasta, mix them together the day before, then baking with the crumb topping the next day)? That should work fine, no?

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    Only mix the pasta and sauce when both are cool, otherwise the pasta will absorb too much of the sauce and also continue to cook. But yes, it will be fine.

                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      And don't cook the pasta all the way if it will sit in the sauce overnight.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          oh no, I wouldnt cook the pasta all the way for a baked mac and cheese anyways... but in this case how under should i cook it? If the box says 10 min, for example, would you cook it for 5? 8?

                          Also, would it be better to make the cheese sauce the day before, then boil the pasta fresh on the serving morning, then combine them right before baking?

                          1. re: hungryabbey

                            I did this once for a ski trip, and I just prepared the mac and cheese recipe as written but I refrigerated it instead of going immediately to the baking process. It turned out perfectly!

                            Even after it's cooled, a really good baked mac and cheese is so much better than what most people are used to that it'll be a big hit.

                            1. re: modthyrth

                              and how MUCH then did you undercook the pasta by?

                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                I undercook pasta for mac and cheese by about 1 minute if I'm baking it immediately, maybe 2-3 mins if I'm holding it overnight. What I find most important for an overnight hold, though, is that the cheese sauce should be VERY loose - way, way runnier than you think it should be. When I make my bechamel for mac and cheese, I use about 4T. flour and 4T. butter to 6 cups of milk instead of the usual 1T:1T:1cup ratio, and if I were holding overnight for baking I'd probably go even runnier - add an extra cup of milk, or cut the flour by a tablespoon. It's shocking how much liquid pasta can absorb!

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  Do you think it might be safer to just make the cheese sauce, hold that over night.. then boil the pasta the next morning and mix together, then transport to shoot and do the final baking?

                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                    Perhaps, although I've never had trouble holding unbaked mac and cheese overnight in the fridge. For a large quantity, though, the transport would probably be easier if you kept things separate.

                                2. re: hungryabbey

                                  I don't remember! I just remember that I followed the recipe (a Martha Stewart one).

                        2. re: hungryabbey

                          It should be fine, as long as you can serve it relatively quickly, fresh from the oven. Mac&Cheese can be pretty fickle in a buffet service. It goes from a perfectly gooey, piping hot treat to a coagulated pasty mess in no time. My only advice would be to aim for a wetter, soupier than usual texture, figuring that it will get colder than you like on peoples' plates.

                          1. re: BernalKC

                            good advice. Thats usually my approach with baked mac and cheese anyways.

                            1. re: hungryabbey

                              You COULD think about doing the mac&cheese in buttered-and-crumbed muffin cups. It will be firm that way, but has to be. No chance of aiming for a big pan of creamy and overshooting your way to overly pasty.

                              An aside - I hope this is an outdoor set, because delicious as your menu sounds, the crew is likely to be tooting through the rest of the day, unless you spike the platters with Bean-O! ;-)

                        3. Additional/alternate protein sources: fried catfish nuggets, chicken and dumplings, and deviled eggs. All can be inexpensive, especially the deviled eggs. I bring several dozen to get-togethers and they always disappear.

                          1. I think we've responded to everything except the question you asked: how much food to make. This is a perennial problem for me and I've tried various ways to answer it. I'm pretty sure you don't want to make 30 portions of everything unless you want lots of leftovers. Likewise, 10 portions seems skimpy to me, especially if the eaters are fairly young.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sr44

                              Yes, so to update my menu (as discussed with the film crew in charge), I don't have to make all of the above. We have decided on:

                              Pulled pork sliders
                              Sweet potato/corn salad
                              Cabbage slaw
                              Mac and cheese

                              Peach cherry crumble
                              Melon salad

                              I am thinking of making like ~20-25 portions approximately.