My Riderwood rotation is coming to a close this week, which finishes out all my food service requirements for the internship. I have learned a great deal from working in food service, more than I expected.
During Riderwood, my biggest project was to host a theme meal. This sounds simple, right? Well, we started from scratch. From start to finish we had to:
- Come up with a theme
- Research recipes that fit the theme and worked well together
- Forecast attendance and then scale our recipes accordingly
- Determine what to charge based on cost of food
- Develop marketing materials to build resident interest
- Film a commercial to advertise
- Sell tickets and interact with residents
- Decorate the venue
- Cook all of the food
Not so simple. We definitely got the full experience and have a greater appreciation for how much work goes into a single meal. But it was so worth it to see the final product.
The theme that we decided on was “Caribbean Cruise Buffet”. We served on January 18th, right in the middle of winter, after the rush of the holidays. For our meal, we wanted to take the residents away from the snow and cold (which arrived just in time) and let them get a hint of a vacation.
To harness the tropics, we included a lot of fruits like mango and pineapple as well as traditional seasonings like jerk and chili. Here is our menu.
And here is my TV debut with our commercial. We filmed right at Riderwood and their TV studio staff edited it. They did an excellent job and were really fun to work with.
So after 4 weeks of planning and marketing, we actually got into the kitchen and made everything. We planned for 150 people, so you can imagine, we had a lot of food to make. For Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Melissa and I did most things on our own. The regular chefs were there, so we used them as resources when needed. On the day of, we got some more help because timing was so important. Once everything was cooked, we trayed it up, set up the buffet and then mingled with our patrons while going back and forth to the kitchen, just to make sure everything was running smoothly.
Here are some highlights from the day.
Something that was extra special was that my mom and grandfather made the trip down from Connecticut and Massachusetts respectively to come to the meal. We are all pictured below along with Laryssa, a former intern who now works to help run the program. It was great to see my family and it meant a lot that they were willing to make the trip just for a meal! (they said the food was worth it. High praise indeed!)
Overall, the meal was a success, we ended up making money and we got a lot of great feedback from the residents. This project definitely had its stressful moments, but I ‘am a stronger person for it and I now have a much greater appreciation for food service employees.