So, I've had a couple big parties in my time - I've made over 200 cookies and 100 biscuits for a Christmas party before - but that pales in comparison to the large-scale food preparation I witnessed last week. I worked two days in the pastry kitchen at the Georgia Aquarium as extra help they brought on to help with prepping and serving 8,000 Microsoft employees for dinner. Yes - you read that right - dinner, drinks and dessert for 8,000 people - now that's alot of food! It was an amazing feat to witness - thousands of pounds, pieces and portions of food being washed, prepped, peeled, cooked, mixed, plated and garnished by over 50 people. The planning, organization, and execution was very detailed, complicated and intense - this was not a task for the faint of heart - but it was fascinating to watch and great experience to be a part of such large scale food preparation in such a well-run kitchen that was committed to turning out excellent tasting food. Needless to say, my contribution was fairly limited to mixing, plating, and prepping - but, still - it was fun and I learned alot.
On the pastry side of the house (in most professional kitchens, restaurant or catering, the pastry staff is a different group of folks who work in a separate space from the rest of the food prep) we spent the day Thursday prepping most of the different elements of the 10,000 individual desserts so the final prep and assembly could take place on Friday. Tartlet shells were baked, cream was whipped, chocolate was melted, nuts were chopped, melon was sliced, cookies were rolled out on sheetpans - and all of it was counted, wrapped, organized and stored in coolers so it could quickly be put together the next day. Friday morning was spent putting the final pieces together so that by afternoon we could begin plating hundreds of individual trays with desserts, then decorate and garnish them for serving at 5:45 pm. The aquarium was closed to the public by late afternoon and the thousands of Microsoft employees from around the globe took over the place. Of course, there was no one room in the Aquarium that could accommodate all 8,000 of these hungry folks, so food was served in multiple rooms throughout the place - requiring that we prep trays in such a way that they could be transported by carts to the various serving stations without disrupting a single crust, marshmellow, pecan or raspberry - it all needed to arrive at its destination looking as beautiful as it tasted. The final few hours before service were fast and furious - and pretty high-stress - trust me, I just kept my head down and kept on placing blueberries on fruit tarts - but, when all was said and done, an amazing amount of food was delivered warm, delicious and beautiful to thousands of guests. By 6 pm, it was all over but the eating - our job was to simply make sure that the many servers had their trays replenished and that all of the edible orchids and garnishes were properly placed as the trays went out.
So - even though it was a fascinating day, make no mistake, it was a long one...12 hours on my feet in a hot kitchen, lifting heavy trays...as I said above, not for the faint of heart. It was a great day, though - like I said, an amazing learning experience that was topped off with a crazy, fun, treat. Even though I was feeling pretty beat as we finished cleaning up the trays after service, I quickly perked up when my boss asked if I wanted to "check out the entertainment". You better believe I did - after all, it was Jon Bon Jovi...no kidding. Didn't take me long to perk up and untie my apron so I could slip out of the kitchen and join her at the outdoor concert....seriously, what 49-year-old female intern wouldn't love that? Tartlets and Jon Bon Jovi - my idea of a perfect nite! (on a side note, I need to consider applying to Microsoft - they had both BonJovi and Maroon 5 as the entertainment for a private concert for this employee event - no wonder we pay so much for software!).
|One of several batches of dough I made for biscuits...mixer came up to my chin
and recipe called for 17 pounds of flour, 3 pounds of sugar
and 4.5 pounds of butter.
|That's a lot of key lime!
|Thousands of tartlets lined up in rows...how cool is that?
|Fruit salad - each bowl weighed almost 20 pounds...
|...and we made 20 bowls!