The person who really thinks, learns as much from failure as success
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Staff lunch at the HPTH

At best I would describe myself as a “wannabe” cook, I sure as hell would never use the chef. As I have mentioned before I like to put myself in positions I have not been before, outside my comfort level. I like to test myself in this way. So when I was leaving a recent job, and I was invited to cook a staff lunch for 30 odd people, it was too tempting to turn down. Equally me being me, I had to take it to another level beyond what was expected, so it was to be a three course lunch for 30 people, ninety plates of food.

Planning it, every detail, was the key to making it work. I had learned that from previous experience. So a week before hand I set about thinking up the menu, trying them at home, and playing about with the visual element. But nothing can prepare you for actually doing it, and as I was to find out, cooking for those numbers is always going to be different.

I had settled on the three courses. First up was a salad, rocket, chives, cucumber, grilled smoked salmon and caviar. It was peppery, salty, sweet, fresh, with a nice mix of texture and colour. The full prep time on it was about 30 minutes and for me it provided a certain wow factor to start off with. The main course, chicken breast cooked in a homemade tomato sauce, with coconut mash potato, hot pepperdew peppers and tiny baby tomato’s was always going to be the hardest part, but it worked. I had to make the tomato sauce at home the day before so I knew I would get it right, and had to make a number of smaller batches as I was not sure how to make it in such quantity, if I wanted it to taste right. Finally for pudding I did a chocolate mousse with orange and chilli sauce, which everyone ate, but only I knew had really not worked as I had intended.

However for me I learned quite a bit about myself from the experience. The main thing being that if I ever do something like this again, I must find a way of coming down after the high of doing the job. What I learned was a similar feeling to when I played football, in that, after a game, or in this case a session in the heat of the kitchen, the adrenalin in me must be gotten rid of before I interact with people. I find myself too pumped up, it is a focus and concentration thing, that when it is over I need time and space to calm down. I really think this was a great life lesson and so doing the task paid real dividends.

If you are a cook and you like to cook at home I really would suggest that at least once in your life you try doing something like this. It is different, it is a different experience, and one that I believe really helps with understanding the whole process of cooking food. I like to good inventive and visual food, but doing it for 90 plates is a very challenging experience. Doing something like MasterChef was also different, cooking on telly makes it so, but also cooking outside your own kitchen makes it challenging. But when you have done it, and you go back into your own environment, it makes a positive difference. One big thing that I feel I improved on by cooking on telly, or cooking en-masse was with regard to timing. Little tricks like slowing things down, part cooking items and properly preparing for the end result are skills you need for something like this, and when you get better at it, it really helps when you get back home.       

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