Pink Bowties (featuring Rosemary Focaccia)
I remember bow ties.
And white dress shirts.
And black dress pants.
I remember all those cater-waiter legs marching into each venue like a pink bowtied millipede hauling flats of glasses or plates. Hup two three four, hup two three four!
I took it all for granted back then, that we cater-cooks would carry a few crates of food and our personal cheffy dop kits, but not much more.
A few weeks ago, I pulled into a nondescript office park with a Honda full of wine glasses and wondered why I’d been so eager to start my own catering company.
Huffing loudly, arms loaded with bags and boxes, I walked through the elevator door as it opened onto the second floor.
“Hi, I’m the caterer for the happy hour event.” I leaned against the wall trying to appear well-balanced and casual. “Love your dress!” I said to the office manager of the financial services team that had hired us, hoping I sounded as earnest as I felt. Her color-blocked dress was form fit without being revealing and communicated how seriously she took her job. Her smile let me know she was good at it too. She looked freshly laundered and unblemished, an accomplishment for 3:30 pm.
“Yes! Lovely to see you. We can’t wait to taste your food! The break room is right down here.”
She gracefully rose from her desk, led me down the hall, and key-fobbed her way into the office kitchen.
“Thank you so much. I have a few more trips, so…” I looked around to see if there was something I could brace the door with.
“I can’t leave the door open for security reasons. I’ll just let you in again, no problem.”
Appetizers for 50, 2 chafing dishes, napkins, utensils, 8 serving platters, and 25 wine glasses later…
By my fourth and final request for entry, the office manager’s perky smile had modified into a tolerating flat line of coral lipstick. She remained immaculate and me… well… I was appropriately shvitzing.
But that’s the job.
There’s a secret victory for me in carrying all this stuff. It’s a sense of independent tenacity over my body and mind.
In my non-chef life, I can’t run one city block without getting winded, but when my arms are full of the food I’ve prepared I tap into my inner Hercules.
Plus, there’s a math equation for how many wine glasses lifted added to hours in the prep kitchen multiplied by the number of guests I’m serving divided by spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that always makes me feel like I’m getting something for free.
The party was a breeze.
While I layered pulled pork sandwiches into the steaming chafer, stacked squares of grilled pesto veggies in rosemary focaccia, and balanced flakey salmon chunks atop my homemade potato chips dolloped with Peruvian aji verde sauce, office workers, required to schmooze prospective clients at this event, smiled through glassy eyes and Costco wine.
We washed glasses and plates as we went and had many things to load out as the guest count thinned. It was around 6:30.
“I’m going to start to take stuff downstairs.”
“Sounds good, chef!” my assistants sang almost in unison.
Heavy bags holding bubble-wrapped porcelain platters were swung over both shoulders and I knelt (with knees not back, I know I know!) to lift two stacked boxes of wine glasses too tall for me to see over. Out the door, through the elevator, through the double doors on the lobby level, to my car. Car open, stuff loaded. Carry the one, and I think that’s half a pint of ice cream right there.
I returned to the office building, the first door opened, second door: locked. You knew it was coming. I did too, actually. My hunger for this triumphant physical push at the end of parties has locked me out of more buildings than I can say. I was just about to call my assistants upstairs when one of them popped out of the elevator with another load. Libby grinned her freckly, all-knowing smile from inside the second, locked door.
“DON’T COME OUT! IT’LL LOCK BEHIND YOU!!!” I shouted, but she knew. She opened the door and held it open while I took the stuff she had brought down to my car.
Back inside, we hit the button for the elevator which binged open. #2 was pressed but did not light up. The elevator didn’t move.
“Oh no, this is a key fob situation,” I said, with a grim tone.
#3 lit up when pressed and up we rose to that level.
“Let’s try the stairs!” I said as we ran around the corner on the third floor. The doorway to the stairwell opened easily and Libby held it open while I ran down one flight. The 2nd-floor door would not open.
“What’s up with these financial advisors? Such security!” I tried to keep it light.
We returned to the deserted first floor.
I texted my other assistant, Melinda, who was still on the 2nd floor with the rest of the equipment.
“DON’T COME DOWNSTAIRS! WE’RE LOCKED OUT OF THE SECOND FLOOR AND THERE’S NO ONE AROUND TO LET US IN.”
“Ding!” the elevator sang and out walked Melinda.
“Where have you guys been? I thought you’d decided to make me clean everything up!”
“We’re locked out!” and we explained the situation to her.
“There’s no one upstairs either. I think they all left.”
And I thought of that beautiful office manager who’d had to open that door with a fob at least 10 times for me and my crew. Did it never occur to her when she shut down her computer and switched off her desk light that we might not be able to get back upstairs without her? When she started her car and drove through the lot, did she even consider that panting caterer with all those wine glasses? Nope!
Maybe she would have thought of us if we’d been wearing pink bowties.
We wound up trapped in the lobby for a half hour waiting for the person who’d hired us to come back to the office after I called her. No one freaked out. No one got upset. I can’t tell you how nice it is to work with such wonderful, classy, non-diva women.
Later that night, I paid Libby and Melinda on Venmo and wrote, “When they make a movie about us being trapped in that building, a beautiful actress will play you.”
And me, I got what I deserved…
Here’s my recipe for focaccia. It’s very soft which is necessary when I use it for sandwiches. When I’m just serving it on its own I cook it a little longer to brown the top crust more. The other tip is to not get too sad when the beautiful flowers you’ve decorated the loaf with fade and shrink. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the taste is undeniable!
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 ½ teaspoons yeast
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus 2-3 tablespoons more for the top
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
- Sea salt for sprinkling on top
- Stir the honey and yeast into the warm water in a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer. Let is proof for 10 minutes (it will get a bit foamy).
- With the dough hook attached, or just by hand, start to knead in the flour, salt, olive oil, and rosemary. Knead by machine or hand for 3 minutes. It will be sticky and you can add a little more flour but wet dough makes soft bread so don’t add too much. Form dough into a ball.
- Oil a bowl and turn the dough in the bowl so that the round is oiled.
- Let it sit covered for an hour.
- Lightly oil a 9×13 inch quarter sheet pan or sheet cake pan. Press the dough into the pan and let it rise for another hour.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- With the tips of your fingers dimple the dough and then pour some more oil into the dimples. Salt the dough. Then you can adorn the bread with edible flowers, vegetables, or herbs of your choice.
- Bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes.
8 thoughts on “Pink Bowties (featuring Rosemary Focaccia)”
Can’t wait to try this bread. Yummy and so beautiful.
Thank you, Donna! Send me a picture of yours when you try it!
gorgeous _ could dig in that right now – you are s food magician.
Thank you! I’m no magician, just stubbornly determined to up my game a little bit every day.
Great to hear from you after all you’ve been through recently. Take care and a belated happy birthday!
I love this story. I love that you’ve put together such a wonderful, caring staff, that the occasional slight from a client just bounces off. Brilliant!
The focaccia is so beautiful!
Are those flowers all edible?
Yes, these flowers are all edible and from our garden!
Beautiful! I will have to try this!
Thanks Tony! It’s going to be a piece of cake for a baker like you!