Have you ever had to plan a large party or event? Ever thought about what goes into some of the events that you’ve attended? I recently had a wonderful experience of working in the kitchen with Chef Eric this past Sunday when we had to cater for the entire team of Les Terroirs restaurant. We had to cater to 32 people! Although it wasn’t my first time cooking for a large number of people, it was my first time making a multi-course meal for a large number of people. You can’t imagine what goes on behind the scenes.
It all started when Tom (a friend & owner of the shop/restaurant, Terroir), asked us to make him a proposal for a large luncheon, it was hard to say no. And Eric was feeling up for the challenge.
The sheer amount of planning that goes into organizing an event like this is mind-boggling. Not sure that I would have been able to handle this sort of thing myself. We were a small team for this occasion. The rest of us offered support, while, needless to say, Chef Eric worked the hardest, not just cooking up a storm. but also making multiple shopping runs, buying all the necessary tableware, coordinating with the local producers to get a large quantity of the freshest local produce, early mornings, and a lot of phone calls.
Most of the time, cooking for a lot of people feels like chaos in the kitchen, this, on the other hand, was not our chef’s first time in a busy, buzzing kitchen. Even though the sheer number of things to get done was quite daunting, Eric had a plan! He had the entire roadmap and I was just along for the ride. And what a ride! It felt reassuring to have someone who is patient and forgiving to follow in the kitchen. And follow him I did! I can’t remember the last time when cooking for so many people felt so organised!
The actual cooking part was spread over two days. The first day, we did the mise en place and stocked the fridge full of prepared ingredients that would be consumed the next day. The second day, we started cooking; roasting off the meat, searing the duck and the vegetables, making the mash, preparing the desserts. Whew! There was hardly any time to sit down and catch a breath. But it didn’t feel suffocating at all. We had enough time to plate everything up and serve the guests.
Don’t get me wrong, we did hit a few snags here and there but solutions (the great plan B), were easily found and our guests thought it all seamless. The weather forecast changed from one day to the next further compounding our seating arrangements. Chef changed his mind about the service but we were ready – definitely having the guests seated and waiting made a lot more sense. I do think we moved those tables at least 4 times! Backing up the whole orchestration was Yetunde – the Boss! Teamwork at its best.
The concept for this lunch was a mashed potato bar; who doesn’t like mashed potatoes? We made 4 different flavours of mashed potatoes: a plain one, one with wasabi, one with garlic and parmesan, and finally one with artichokes. Each mashed potato was paired with a different meat and sauce. Getting all those potatoes peeled, washed, boiled and mashed was no easy task; grunt work but what’s an intern for? And, of course, I kept a smile on my face.
The menu started off with 5 entrees: A salad of green beans and hazelnuts, a salad of squid and butter beans, caviar d’aubergine, oeuf mimosa, and a leek and celery soup topped with a truffle cream.
The main courses were: braised beef cheeks with oven roasted vegetables served with the plain mashed potatoes, salmon tataki and a confit of shallots in red wine with wasabi mashed potatoes, fried chicken tenders and Yetunde’s BBQ sauce with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, lamb leg with lemons and olive roasted in the oven for 7 hours with artichoke mashed potatoes, and finally, roasted duck breast and green pepper sauce with plain mashed potatoes.
The main course seemed like the easiest course to plate since we had all the mash ready, the meats seared and fried and roasted and all the sauces simmering away. It was just a matter of piecing together the ingredients to form the dish.
And now for the most important part of the meal (in my opinion ?) THE DESSERTS! The chef had decided on tartlets to be the theme for the dessert. We had 3 types of tartlets: a decadent chocolate tartlet topped with candied orange peel and vanilla whipped cream, a fig tartlet of fresh figs atop an almond cream & fig confit, & finally the star of the occasion the lemon meringue tartlet.
Chef Eric trusted me with the desserts, and I was responsible for making the lemon curd and the chocolate filling, and decorating all the tartlets (talk about huge responsibility on my shoulders!) As you might have already guessed, I was extremely nervous. (My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, Nah, just kidding!) I took a deep breath, told myself that I could do it, and I laboured on; I have to say that I was proud of myself. Take a look at the results and you be the judge:
All in all, I have to say that I had a wonderful experience working in the kitchen with chef Eric. While Cook’n With Class Uzès offers primarily French cooking lessons, this might just be another possible venture. . . In the meantime, you can pick up a few new recipes for your next function, when you join us in one of our delicious classes in Uzès. See you there!
Here’s a quick picture of Tom and his team:
If you’re in search of something unique for your next group luncheon, contact us.
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