A Catering Adventure
For the past 7 years, my friend Roberto Punzo of Taste it Now has catered an event for an International Mattress Company called Kingsdown. This is a five day affair that feeds about 800 guests. As I was going to be in Toronto for the renovations of my condo, Rob asked me to help.
Just a bit of background on Rob, a very talented chef. Rob has always been involved in the food industry, working at some of the best restaurants in the Toronto area for many years. I met him 10 years ago when I frequented his restaurant. We became fast friends and I soon had him teaching a couple of courses at my cooking school. I in turn would help out at his restaurant and we would collaborate on many catering events. Although Rob is unbelievably creative, in the past he has not been the most organized. Susie, his wife, and Debbie, his sister-in-law, have always been the organized ones for events like this. I knew I was going to have to work harder than usual as I was still trying to prep my condo for the reno.
Two days prior to the start, Rob bought all the product and I was left to prep, cook and pack the food off to the venue. Surprisingly, Rob was organized with lists and although the days were long, I really loved being back in the swing of things. I tried to stay one day ahead on the prep so that I could run back and forth to our condo in the city. Because I have worked with most of the staff in the past, it was like I had never been away. Rob had created stations for this event that offered the guests many choices like fresh pasta of any kind, personal pizzas , non stop sushi making, prime steak a la minute, and a dessert crepe station. Guests could graze all evening.
John the Sushi Master and I have worked together for at least 8 years. He provides food as well as the entertainment of making the sushi in front of the guests. My favourite is his smoked eel roll with spicy mayo. John is a very philosophical man and loves to discuss his views on the origins of the world. He tells me he is working on a new adventure which will please my friends in the King City area. John hopes to open his own restaurant on Keele and King by mid March. Although the name of the restaurant is not set, it will be a 30 seat establishment that offers sushi as well as an eclectic Asian menu. John wants to keep the menu small so that he can focus on quality of what he knows best. King City, you are in for a big treat! Just thinking about it, for those of you traveling from the city to cottage country, why not take a detour and pick up some take out for the road this summer.
Rocco, Rob’s new side kick, has worked in the culinary industry it seams forever. I met him for the first time at New Years where he showed up with some of the best ribs I have ever had. His job was to man the pizza station. Rental pizza ovens can be very temperamental sometimes but Rocco had the magical touch and produced pizza that tasted like you were in Italy. Rob was at the pasta station flying with 3 pans on a constant rotation. I don’t know how Rob does it but with a few ingredients he can make a pasta dish to die for. My favourite pasta treat that Rob makes is pasta with 4 cheeses. His kids just love this dish as well and always know if I have made it or Rob has. I think it is all the Italian Love Rob puts in to his dishes that makes them stand out.
Over the past 7 years of doing this event, this was the first time that Rob decided to do a dessert crepe station. The first day we started with fresh berries and I made an orange/Grand Marnier sauce to perk up the berries. It is amazing to watch people and desserts. I had one guest ask for no butter as it was too fattening but insisted on ice cream and then went to the cake table for a slice of caramel cake. Each day we tried to change up the fruit to make more interesting for the staff that had to be there for the 5 days so day 2 we added caramelized apples. By the end of the week we had a berry compote as well. Two very charming men from the Ottawa area came back several times to try all the sauces, maybe it was my personality?
As the days progressed, we were all getting very weary but had to pump up the energy for the last day when we served 300 staff and guests. It was a bit of a mad house with kids running around, the dj playing great reggae and bolly music and the crowd dancing. Once the eating was over, I thought my night was through (I was on hour 12) but I forgot that as part of the team, you have to help with the clean up and break down. I just want to let you know that I shared a bottle of wine with Debbie when we got home and slept like a baby. Now that it is all over, I can’t wait for the next one!
One thing I need to tell you is that we had live entertainment for the first 4 days. The girl that sang 3 days was Stacey Kaniuk, a singer songwriter with a lot of talent. Check out her website and vote for her on Canada’s got talent in March.
A Catering Adventure
Friday, January 20, 2012