Yesterday was fun, although tiring.
I volunteered for my first banquet at Paragon. It was a wedding reception that was scheduled to start at 5:30pm. I got to the kitchen a little after 10am and got to work prepping some mirepoix and other veggies for garnish, etc. The rest of my time line gets blurry because I rarely looked at a clock other than to gauge cooking times (the rice pilaf needs to go in the oven in 20 minutes, the chicken will need 15 minutes in the oven then it goes in the warmer, things like that). The reception was plated, not banquet style, which makes the timing of everything a bit trickier. I grilled the chicken, getting it nice and crispy with some pretty grill marks, then threw it in the oven. The roast had been cooking for hours and was at the ideal internal temp. The salmon and pesto, which only takes a few minutes, was in the warmer finishing off. The rice pilaf was minutes from being light and fluffy and ready to go. We had all of our bain maries set up and our meez was rockin for plating. We only needed the green light to plate salads and finish off the entrees to be plated as well. We were ready.
Unfortunately, the 5:30pm go time we all knew and understood (and as it was printed on our summary) turned out to actually be 6:30pm. Guests didn't even start arriving until after 6. Apparently there was some miscommunication between the parents of the bride and our facilities administrator. 150 people toasted the union of the lovely new husband and wife over plates of dry chicken, overcooked salmon, and far-from-rare roast. What could we do? When we found out that nobody was there to receive our perfectly cooked entrees we had to hold them and then fire them again just before serving (that ended up being closer to 7pm) so that the food was hot, which resulted in gross overcooking. Not that any of them knew it, probably. No food came back, there were no complaints, but there also weren't any rave reviews or left over champagne being passed to the kitchen. Who knows, they were probably happy as pigs in slop, but we weren't. We knew how good it was and that we were ready when we were told to be.
Not bad for my first time in a service kitchen, eh? At least I got to get my hands dirty. It wasn't just diced carrots, celery, and onion. I got to cook. I sauteed the mirepoix, grilled and cooked the chicken, made the 3 vegetarian plates (which tuned out pretty nice, filet of green, yellow, or red pepper, quartered red onion, and mushrooms - all grilled and then doused with balsamic vinaigrette - it looked nice and tasted good, even to a carnivore), and plated salads and entrees.
I plan on working as many of these banquets as possible. It's 11 or 12 hours of hard work without pay on my only real day to sleep in and relax, but when I go looking for a job in a kitchen at least I'll have more to say than "I'm in culinary school!" I'll have some real hours of experience behind me and I won't be a complete Mel (thanks Chef Bourdain). Hopefully...