Catering Skills Never Fail MePosted: February 2, 2016
This past weekend when I was in Washington I stayed with great old friends John and David. David had been not just my great friend, but was my right hand in my catering business, à la Carter. We reminisced all about the weddings and parties we catered back in the day. We laughed about some of the situations we got ourselves in because I basically sold jobs I had no idea how we would do and then just figured it out as we went along. So many nights after we both had worked our day jobs he would come over to my house where we would cook from seven at night until two in the morning to prep for a party the next night.
Those years of catering-on-the-side were probably the best life training I ever could have had. Not just the cooking expertise, which is something I use everyday, but the organization, creativity, marketing, sales, management, people development, finance, customer service, but mostly hutzpah. Even though I took many jobs I had no experience in I was young enough to think I could just figure it out. I never said no to a customer, but I also learned how to price things that if I said, “Yes” I would come out ahead and the customer would still be thrilled. Delighting people was the most fun part of the job.
Although I no longer cater I use all those skills all the time. Today I was able to put actual catering to use for my dear friend Amy, a real chef and caterer, who lost her beloved mother Elizabeth suddenly. At four in the morning on Sunday I got a text from Amy telling me of her loss. Since she was going to have the visitation at her mother’s house tonight I volunteered to organize the food for her.
At this time in life you just can’t cater your own mother’s funeral. Another good friend, Jennings who owns a restaurant, volunteered a bunch of food and I e-mailed a handful of Amy’s friends who all quickly jumped in to make something. I got up this morning and made two hundred finger sandwiches. Thanks to my early career training it only took me about two and a half hours to make and package them.
This afternoon I went over to Amy’s mother’s house and was happy to get to hug her in person and then set up for the visitation. People started showing up early and the line at the door never stopped. Elizabeth had many friends and so does Amy. People came to have a drink and see each other and tell Elizabeth stories and love on Amy. I was happy to keep pumping out the food and washing glasses and making sure people had drinks. That old catering desire to make sure everyone is well taken care of never goes away. As Russ says, I used to use my skills mostly for weddings, but now at my age it is almost exclusively for funerals.
I had to leave before the visitation was over to go to watch Carter’s basketball game, but I trained my replacement before I left and I knew the party was in good hands. I think of all the things Amy has done for me over the years and I am happy to be there doing what comes naturally to me for her. I just hope I can train some other people to do funerals so when I need the help I don’t have to cater my own visitation.