Well, Caerthan Twelfth Night has come and gone. All in all it went pretty well. It was not, however, exactly as originally planned, this article is going to mention some of the crises that developed and how they were dealt with or planned for.
The actual number of people we were expecting to serve was 150, so with that number firmly in mind I prepared for my part in the cooking.
The kitchen was to be divided into a hot and cold section, with the "Cold Kitchen" being run (splendidly I might add) by Allyn Douglas. I myself would run the "Hot Kitchen". Now, anyone who has ever run a feast at The Jefferson County Fairground is aware of the drawbacks of the kitchen there. It is is tiny. By splitting the kitchens we gained a large deal of counter-space, the kitchens were still very small. As a result we decided to cook as much as possible ahead of time.
To me fell the cooking of 40 or so pounds of brawn, 40 or so pounds of roast beef, 6 gallons of leach, a herd of fritters, the spinach tarts and the various sauces (oh, and some mushrooms for head table). The cooking of these items was pretty straightforward, if somewhat time consuming.
Except for the fritters. The fritter recipe did not scale up as well as I had hoped, so somewhere on about Wednesday I called the autocrat and asked if the fritters could be bailed upon. The answer was yes, and I was mightily relieved.
The chickens and game hens were to be distributed far and wide for pre-cooking. This meant that all that needed to be cooked at the site was the rice and the sausages, niether of which had been in the original menu but which had been added to fill out the size and the diversity of the courses.
Saturday morning at the site, I arrived early - and due to some sort of miscommunication, my kitchen help did not. However, a call to those milling about in the hall produced several helpers (advice to would-be Head Cooks - make lots of friends, you'll need them.)
Panic set in, we had a lot of frozen food - brawn, roast beef, spinach pies, chicken and game hens - and only a couple or three hours to get it not only thawed but warmed. Water was set on immediately since water in huge quantities takes roughly forever to boil. By placing trays atop the water, firing up the steam table, both ovens on low, and the warmer thingie we started to make warmth out of cold. Since the hens were to go out last they were prioritized the lowest. Since the ovens heated the fastest, things were shuffled madly between the ovens where they warmed and, for example, the steam table where they merely were kept warm. Several coolers in which frozen food had arrived were washed and lined and then filled with warm food to try to keep them warm.
All looked more or less in control until about 1:00 (remember, the feast starts at 2:00) when a new batch of frozen food arrives. Hens, thankfully, which go out last and give us some breathing room. Room is quickly made for them somewhere to begin the long cold thaw.
So, as D-Hour approaches every surface capable of being made warm in the kitchen has food on it being made warm, several crockpots are loaded with sauces warming (crock pots are very useful for this sort of thing), and we begin to cast about looking for counter space on which to place trays in order to load them up. A very minor crisis ensues when we discover that we have nowhere near enough trays to do the entire feast, so we will have to wash as we go.
Well, the long and the short of it is this: the food got out, on time, in sufficient quantity and mostly warm. And period, let's not forget that part.
The various things to keep in mind from the above are things which should be done as early as possible:
Look at the kitchen and figure out what is going to be cooked on-site and what will be pre-cooked. Ideally, at least one major course item should be pre-cooked so if, say, the gas is off you can still serve food.
As part of the above, figure out exactly what is going to be done with the various bits of kitchen hardware at what times. Otherwise you will discover that of your four burners you need to be using all six. Since I was recruited sort of at the last minute to run the kitchen, I couldn't really do this step. On the other hand, I have worked in that kitchen before so I had a rough idea of what was needed, and as soon as I arrived I planned out the rest.
Well, that's enough for now, I think. Next month, I'll see what I can come up with.