Recently came across “An excerpt adapted from Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business | Henry Holt and Co.” through the Longreads folks.
Two years in and I know this moment well — it’s the instant when whatever critical task you’re performing, on deadline, is superseded by a demand for labor so much more pressing that you have to drop everything and run to where you’re needed now. This culinary triage, re-prioritizing ever-escalating emergencies on the fly, is a state of being for successful caterers, for whom every night is a different venue and a custom menu tailored to a new client. And for all the attention, all the preparation brought to bear in the previous ten months on every detail of that night’s party — the minute-by-minute run of show, the mapped-out site plan, and the cook time of the potato-crusted halibut — none of that envisions the crazy contingencies that arise when the resources are summoned to prepare and serve a three-course dinner simultaneously to 760 people in a space that was empty at 2:00 p.m. and must be empty again and swept clean by midnight. Catering has more in common with a mobile army surgical hospital than a restaurant.