I’m fortunate in that I get to do some pretty cool things, food-wise. Benefits, charity events, book signings, cooking demonstrations and the like. You see, I work for Gale Gand and she very kindly asks me along as her assistant to a lot of these things. She’s very good to me and frankly, we have a lot of fun. Back home, I frequently entertain friends with stories from these escapades and they tell me I should write some “behind the scenes” posts. We’ll see how this goes.
At these functions, I’ve seen some interesting and hilarious things both in the kitchen and out. There was the time Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous Robin Leach stopped a cocktail waitress and divested her of the hors d’ouevre tray. The whole tray. That required a double take and endless rounds of “champagne wishes & caviar dreams!”
At another, I ran smack dab into John Legend’s chest with a tray of cupcakes. Lovely eyes, that man. Melty and twinkley at the same time. Not much phases me but that one, oh that one, made me stop in my tracks. Thank god I didn’t get icing schmears all over his lovely shirt. Horrifying.
Then there was the time Emeril (Yes that one. How many Emerils do you know?) jumped on stage at his annual foundation benefit to jam with Sammy Hagar (the red rocker!) on the bongos. The bongos! I’m told he plays 12 instruments. Who knew? Say what you will about the man but he’s pretty damn talented, deeply devoted to the kids his foundation helps out and inspires employee loyalty that I’ve not seen anywhere. He does good things, that Emeril. The next Carnivale du Vin is in New Orleans in November … I highly recommend it.
Fact is, kitchen folks are a tight, rowdy and friendly bunch. They greet each other warmly, ask about families and laugh frequently, often and loudly. Of course, they love to eat and drink and something funny always comes out of that! At the last afterparty, Mario Batali gave me the most hysterical advice on eating in India. If I recall correctly, his advice involved drinking a lot of beer and carrying a back stock of toilet paper. Oh my people!
At these events, I typically do what’s known as the prep & schlep. My responsibilities vary by event/location but usually I get the ingredients together, provide time checks during the demo, pass out samples, provide witty banter and clean up afterwards. Sometimes it’s a scramble because we’re cooking in someone else’s kitchen, the equipment and tools are different, things are missing. Often we’ll do a dinner for 600+ which is far and above what we’ll do in a regular service at the restaurant and requires HUGE quantities we’re not used to working with. Ingredients are often ordered for you, which means they might not be what you’re used to and can be stored in various coolers. Sometimes those coolers are in different kitchens and require quite a bit of searching. At a recent event in Vegas, they had to send out a search team as I’d gotten lost in the vast banquet halls and alleys of The Palazzo. (Though I did witness a golf cart full of fabulously head-dressed showgirls in full regalia zip by. Oh the things you see.) Basically my job at these things is to make everything run smoothly for Gale. This is where my account management skills from years in the business world really come into play. I can really rock out one of these events. In return, I am very well fed and find endless amusement in the happenings and going ons around me. It’s a pretty good gig.
So last weekend, Gale did a cooking demo for the Family Farmed Expo. I don’t think I was really needed because she did pretty much everything herself beforehand but I tagged along anyway. You never know what you’re going to see or who you’re going to meet and it gave me a reason to get out of my pajamas on a cold, rainy Saturday.
I sat behind the cooking stage as she started her demonstration and began to giggle. You see Gale, like me, is very short. Like pain in the ass short if you work in a kitchen with tall shelves. For whatever reason, the cooking stage counters that day were unnaturally high. Because her chin barely cleared the counter, she grabbed a few milk crates to stand on. From the audience perspective, it looked perfectly normal but from the back it was hysterical. I just prayed she didn’t step back. One minute she’s there, the next … whoooooopppps! Can you imagine?
So I snapped a pic because as a fellow shorty, I can totally appreciate this. And there you have it … the things we do to make it work.