“Y’know… I usssssed to be in catering…”
“It just got to be too much for my body.”
She must have seen me from across the room and knew that this would be the perfect moment to declare victory over my profession. I was a mess. My hair was frizzing out of my ponytail, my eye makeup smeared, my chef coat stained, and my energy low from not eating for hours. I wanted to tell this woman two things… that I’m a motherfucking force of nature that will never be stopped by the failings of my body or mind; and that I’m so exhausted after a long day in the kitchen, I collapse into a useless heap of Alison the moment I get home.
I settled for “Yeah, it can be really tough, but I LOVE what I do” in a singsongy voice that sounded over-rehearsed.
I do love what I do. And I’m tired and sore and that helps me know I’m alive.
I had set myself up for disaster at this party though because I hadn’t stood my ground when the hostess decided against having a server on staff. It was just me vs. 25 hungry (some pregnant) women. I had no shot. The hostess had promised it would be a casual baby shower and that everyone would help. But, when push comes to shove, I can’t stand it when guests at the party I’m catering help. I always smile and say “thanks, but I’ve got it”. I’m not stubborn (um…), I just like to do things the way I do them. I think most people who run their own companies are like this. We know that explaining how to do something the right way takes twice the energy and focus as doing it ourselves.
The party went really well. The mother-to-be and guests applauded when I said goodbye. I took a cab home, walked in the door, and collapsed. The dogs think this is my greatest trick and kiss me until I can barely breathe, which is a reward all on its own.
The following week, I made sure I was loaded for bear. This time, it was a cocktail party fundraiser. I was renting my own glassware to save the client some money and had my bartender help load everything out with me. That party was a breeze. My team worked flawlessly – intuiting my needs every step of the way. By the end of the night, I wasn’t thinking about the Advil at home, but rather, how I could enjoy the rest of my evening. I hailed a cab, which my team helped me load, and knew I could handle unloading the stuff on my own.
So…there is a certain smell that emanates from a post-party chef that’s really not like any other odor. It’s not all bad. It’s not b.o. It’s a fusion of fry and sauté and barbecue and spices and onions and crab and mayo and vinegar and frosting and coffee and dishsoap. Yeah, it sounds gross, but I like to think of it as a depth of character scent rather than a flaw.
That being said, Martha Stewart isn’t making a scented candle called “cater chef”anytime soon.
I mention it because I had so much equipment in the cab that night that I had to sit up front with the driver. He seemed really uncomfortable and I attributed that to the smell wafting off me. I’ve had more than my share of rides with cab drivers who smelled so rank that I breathed through my mouth the whole ride, so I didn’t feel that bad. But I have developed a great rapport with cabbies over the past years of riding to and from parties and it felt strange to have this stiff silence. This cabbie didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to laugh, didn’t want to look at me. Ah well, that’s fine. I stared out the window, feeling strong and grounded. This feeling is what keeps me going.
We got to my block and I started unpacking the car. I was setting down two bags of equipment at my front door when I heard an explosive crash. I turned to see that the cab driver, who suddenly decided to help, had accidentally dropped an entire lug of glasses on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building.
There were no words.
I was in shock.
He started to say that the lug was broken and then ran to his car and peeled off my block faster than I’ve ever seen a car go.
I hadn’t asked him to help. If I had known that he was going to leap in, I would have told him how I like it done.
So there I was, a few minutes past 1:00 am, carefully sweeping glass shards from the 20 wine and 10 rocks glasses splintered all over my street and a man walked by.
“Oh wow, are you ok? Can I give you a hand?”
I looked up, holding the dustpan and broom.
“No, that’s alright. I’ve got it. Thanks, though.”
The man, closer now, focused on the big pieces of glass I was sweeping.
“Hey, clean this up! We have kids that play on this block!!!”
So everyone’s a boss.
And everyone’s always doing it wrong no matter what.
When I got upstairs, I could barely stand. Luckily, I had a few of these tartlets left and they lifted me up the way a cheesy, sweet, flaky pastry tidbit can.
These are SUPER easy, really affordable, and very cute at parties.
You won’t need any help at all.
Baked Brie Cups with Honey Garlic Sauce
- 1 package frozen mini pastry cups
- ½ wedge of brie (about 4 ounces), rind trimmed off and cheese cut into ½ inch squares
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Salt to taste
- Parsley, chopped fine
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and when the foam subsides, stir the garlic in and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the honey and let simmer for a minute or two. Add salt to taste.
- Place mini pastry cups onto a sheet pan, fill with squares of brie and 1/4 teaspoon honey garlic sauce.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, checking to make sure none of the cups have toppled over during the baking.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and enjoy!
And here’s a clip of me making these on Afternoon Live: