True Tales of a Caterer

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Getting There Is Half the Battle

The most horrifying thing that ever happened to us professionally was on the day of an òber-glamorous party in the Hamptons for a home-decor magazine. Having headed out east ahead of everyone, I was waiting at a friend’s house for the arrival of the bus transporting the staff, the van carrying the food, and the event planners and florist, who had borrowed my car. They were all running an hour late, and I realized I was in a cell phone dead zone. Where was everyone? My anxiety level had risen to the point where I could hardly see straight. I turned on the television for some distraction.

“We have late-breaking news of a multiple-car pileup on the Long Island Expressway. We have a chopper over the scene.”

There on the television screen was Adam, my captain, sitting on the grass holding his head and surrounded by the crème de la crème of Manhattan’s modeling community—a.k.a. the waiters. Ryan, the chef, was rifling through a big red first aid kit. As I squinted at the screen, I could see Linda and Maria, my event planners, asking anyone in a functioning car to transport them to their destination.

The whole thing was utterly surreal, but I’m happy to report that no one was seriously hurt, and somehow everyone and everything got to the event site in time. The waiters set up the bars in 16 minutes flat, changed into uniforms, and were statuesque and ready, drink trays in hand, by the time the first guests arrived—which only made me think I had radically overestimated the setup time. My car insurance policy was canceled, but the guests had a terrific time, so it all worked out, right? We are professionals, after all.

As food jobs go, “off-site catering” strikes terror into the hearts of many, but it thrills me to no end. It’s true, some jobs are filled with drama, but here are the things that make it all worthwhile: our brilliant flower and decor man, who will fight for the right shade of blue; the event planners, who toil through the weekend without hesitation; and the smart, dedicated, and talented cooks, who form the backbone of my kitchen and are so hardworking that they truly astound me every day. And of course, the appreciative clients, who are as excited as we are and give us the freedom to create a gorgeous event. Who knew all this would come from not finding change under the sofa cushions?

Serena Bass’ first catering party was for Andy Warhol and 60 guests. Author of the award-winning Serena, Food & Stories, Bass is a regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio and is writing a second book. She is happily still catering.

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