Culinary Showcase Behind the Scenes – Planning

We are in the midst of preparing for our culinary showcase on Friday. The showcase represents a kind of last hurrah for our class, even though we have two more weeks of class following it. We’ve invited 150 industry guests and friends to come taste our food and learn about what plant-based cuisine can be when well executed. We’re going to host two separate sessions of 90 minutes each, with a 30 minute reset period in between.

The planning and execution is a learning experience itself – this event is part of learning to be a well-rounded chef. Chef Marko Ellinger from Balcones Springs Resort and Chef Alex, two of our instructors, are mentoring us through this process.

I’ve been working on the front-of-house team, mainly devoting my attention to invitations. However, I also developed a watermelon-basil-lime appetizer recipe and have been working to support the printed menu and materials. It’s been fun so far and a lot of work.

Below: During one of our early planning sessions, the smaller group of students selected for event leadership brainstormed this event logo and invitation vision. The final result was pretty true to this original concept.

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Below: Another early planning project was a brainstorming session on menu items. However, I must add that a ton was work was done ahead of time by our student chef and student sous chef, as well as several others who weighed in on menu ideas ahead of time.They laid the foundation for what we ended up with. Apparently in past classes they just started with a blank slate and a room full of students, which sounds like a nightmare when you figure there are 20+ of us.

One of our goals is to balance our menu across all of the cuisines and health modalities we learned – vegetarian, vegan, raw, macrobiotic, and ayurvedic.

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Below: I was tasked pretty early with getting guests to come to the event and one thing I got to do with kitchen manager Todd was to drive all over Austin over the course of two days personally inviting chefs and kitchen managers to the event. Here I am refueling with a dairy-free shake at Daily Juice/Sweet Ritual in Hyde Park while I ponder the stack of invitations.

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Below: One of our briefings with Chef Marko.

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Below: A couple of plating options for the showcase.

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Below: Todd and Emily leading a kitchen planning session. At this point we were checking in on the status of each of our menu items, all of which were totally new to all of us, although they also all drew on things we learned in school.

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Below: Chef Marko provides ongoing coaching and oversight to make sure we stay on track.

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Below: One of our classmates, Kim Gallogly, painted a scaled up version of our event logo.

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Below: Emily, the sous chef, and Todd, the kitchen manger, hash out the produce order with the students testing recipes for the event. Overseeing the recipe development, testing, requisition, and delivery is a massive job. Chefs Marko and Alex wisely created a leadership team to help provide structure to the project and it seems to be helping.

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Below: Chopping peppers fast and furious…

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Below: Until now, this quantity of peppers would never have been used in our daily labs. But since we plan to serve 150, the quantities for everything get scaled up. These are for a roasted tomato soup.

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Below: The kitchen is only half the story with an event like this. It takes work and planning to arrange invitations, develop written materials, visual production, service plans, and to think about hospitality. Below, we work on the menu layout and wording. I spent all of my day working on front-of-house tasks, while I spent yesterday in the kitchen finalizing my watermelon kanten recipe. It’s been useful for me to see both the front and back of the house operating on the project.

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I’m hoping to have more photos and reports from a successful showcase event soon!

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One thought on “Culinary Showcase Behind the Scenes – Planning

  1. Pingback: Time is Flying By | diet is correct

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