Posts Tagged With: catering

Close-Up Look at a Catering Event

Today I spent my rotation with catering both in the prep area under Hatfield’s and at the actual catering event held in the Mountainlair Ballroom in the Mountainlair on Downtown Campus.  The event, coincidently, is one that I was invited to – the Welcome Lunch for graduate students, held by the Office of Graduate Education & Life. The event was from 12:00 until 1:30pm and was open and free for all WVU graduate students, faculty, and staff.

The catering and production staff were told to prepare for about 500 people (even though the population of WVU graduate students exceeds 6,000).  There were orders for fruit trays, veggie platters, veggie dip (all of which I helped prepare), sesame chicken, Spanakopita, Swedish meatballs, tea sandwiches (egg salad, tuna salad, and cheese spread), top round & dinner rolls, a variety of desserts, and fruit punch, water, and coffee for beverages.I have experience with catering before, as in undergrad I worked a formal banquet for about 5 hours one night for some extra money. I dressed up in all black, learned a quick crash course in serving & catering etiquette, and was able to experience a behind-the-scenes look at how a catering event works from beginning to end.

The graduate luncheon went smoothly and the only food items left at 1:30 were dinner rolls, top rounds, and a tray or two of flying WV cookies.   For a catering event to occur, many different people have to work together and communicate effictively: the catering sales manager, catering manager, assistant director of catering, executive chef, chef, production team, and catering staff.

4 serving lines

Top round on the carving board

Sesame Chicken


Tea Sandwiches (tuna, egg, or cheese)

Vegetable High Rollers

Fruit & Vegetable Trays (with Ranch/Sour Cream Dip for Vegetables)

Cookies, mini cheesecakes, mini pecan pies, macaroons

Flying WV Cookies

Fruit Punch, Ice Water, & Coffee

Hot storage in the back room

Storing extras to re-stock the serving lines as needed

Over 400 students, faculty, and staff attended the luncheon

Enjoying the event

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Fruit Lover’s Dream

Today was my second day in production, under Hatfield’s in the Mountainlair.  First I was sent up for breakfast (ok!) and my assignment was to analyze the layout of the cafe and write a summary on what I think of it and any improvements I recommend. A lot of the layout made sense to me, but there were a few things I would change, so I’ll be sure to mention why when I write my summary.

After a breakfast of an egg white, spinach, onion, and green pepper omelet; whole wheat bagel; and skim milk, I headed down to help with production. I helped arrange vegetable platters for the catering event tomorrow, which involved weighing each tray to make sure it was at 19 pounds– 8 pounds of the platter and 11 pounds of the vegetables.  We used cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, celery, cauliflower, green peppers, broccoli, and cucumbers for the trays. It was a very green tray…if I were to change something about it, it would have been using red, orange, or yellow peppers instead of green peppers so that there was a little more color on the tray.

After a few other tasks, I then helped arrange 6 fruit platters for the catering event on Friday. This includes washing your hands, putting gloves on, washing the fruits, cutting up the fruits in a consistent fashion, arranging them on the platters, wrapping the trays in saran wrap, and storing them in the walk-in refrigerator until they need to be served. The only fruit we didn’t put on the trays yet was the watermelon. The watermelon will be cut up and added to the trays tomorrow, as we want the fruit to stay as fresh as possible.

Check out the delicious and colorful fruit platters! Who says healthy food has to be boring or taste bad…fruit is definitely a great addition to any meal and is great as a snack.  Aim for 2-3 servings of fruit per day.

A serving of fruit is equal to:

  • 1 medium piece of fruit (ie: apple, banana, pear)
  • 1/2 cup fruit, raw, canned, or frozen (ie: 1/2 cup canned peaches – about the size of a billiard ball)
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit (ie: 1/4 cup raisins, dried banana chips – about the size of an egg)
  • 4-6 oz of 100% Juice (Note: look for “100% juice” on label)

All 6 fruit platters for 350 expected guests

Cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, strawberries, red grapes, an orange, and the paper towel is reserving the spot for the watermelon to be added closer to serving time.

A “blooming” orange

Red, orange, yellow, green, and purple

One of the employees made this creative “flower” shape.


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Baking…for the Masses!

On Tuesday I spent the morning in the Bakery on campus, located in Towers on Evansdale Campus.  It is the only bakery on campus, which means it supplies cookies, cakes, desserts, and bread for all of the dining halls, cafés, and all the catering events for WVU. That’s a lot of baking!!

The famous “Flying WV Cookies” were being iced while I was at the bakery

Did you know?? The food in Café Evansdale is on a 5-week cycle, however the bakery works a little differently. Currently the dessert menu for the dining halls is created on a week-to-week basis. That means each week you’ll see different recipes…great! The head pastry chef said that he tries to make sure to alternate chocolate, fruit, and vanilla desserts so that there aren’t (for example) chocolate brownies & chocolate-chocolate chip cookies one day, and the next day there’s chocolate cake and French silk pie.  He tries to even it out with blondies, apple crisps, and other non-chocolate items.  Eventually a cycle menu may be put into place for the desserts, but with the new school year starting up, they’re trying to gauge the students’ preferences before putting a cycle menu in place.

Things to consider when baking on a large scale:

Mmmm snickerdoodles: the cookie that tastes as good as its name

-Be efficient with your time! When I make snickerdoodles for myself, I can afford the time it takes to make the dough from scratch, and individually roll each cookie dough ball in a mix of cinnamon and sugar. I can then back the cookies by 12s– a dozen on each cookie sheet.  When we made snickerdoodles in the bakery on Tuesday, we had to do it differently. Think about the time it would take to make 500 snickerdoodle cookies the way you do when you’re at home! Not a wise use of time or labor. So the bakery purchases pre-made cookie dough that’s already in IQF cookie dough “pucks”.  Instead of rolling each cookie dough ball individually in the cinnamon-sugar, we dumped the frozen cookie dough into a huge bowl of cinnamon sugar, and tossed ’til the cookie dough pucks were coated in the cinnamon-sugar mix.  In addition, we didn’t bake the cookies 12 to a sheet. Each baking sheet held 35 cookies (5×7), and we filled up more than a dozen baking sheets in less than a half hour.

Mini cheesecakes: still lookin’ good, hours later

-Presentation matters. When you bake an apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner, it looks great!  The host serves the guests even, neat portions and everyone’s happy.  But picture an apple pie placed in a dining hall that might serve 700 students each meal.  After 5 people have sliced and served themselves a slice of apple pie, the apple pie that is remaining looks pretty sloppy. Uneven pieces were taken from the pie…crumbs were spilled everywhere…and perhaps someone just wanted the apple pie filling, so they leave their portion of the crust on the pie plate. Pretty grim!  So when baking items like cake, pie, and cobblers for the masses, stick to individual portion sizes when you can.  Cupcakes work better than sheet cake.  Blueberry tarts look better than a pan of blueberry cobbler. That way the desserts presented at 1:00pm will look as great as they did at 11:00am, and you avoid the “dessert disaster zone”.  Silicone baking pans work really well for making pre-portioned desserts like individual cheesecakes.

I’m sure it tastes great….but how many students’ hands have been all over this cake? This is why its good to stick to individual portion-sized desserts…they maintain their original presentation.

-Timing. In order to serve desserts and baked goods that taste fresh, you need to time the baking correctly. If you need 500 cookies by Friday, you could make them on Thursday because the cookies just require a baker to take them out of a box, place 35 each on a baking sheet, and bake them in the (huge) oven.  Items that take longer to make you might need to bake a few days ahead of time. Consider weekends as well– students are still served desserts on the weekends even though the desserts are made during the week. So often times the weekend desserts will be cakes, because cake can stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days. So a chocolate crumble cake can be made on a Wednesday to be served in the dining halls on a Saturday and it will still retain its quality, while cookies may have gone stale and lost their quality in those same 3 days. Think about what day you are serving the dessert, when you have time to make the dessert, and make sure to pick a recipe that will retain its quality from the time of baking until the time of serving.

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