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Lessons Learned While Serving 20 People…


Yesterday I cooked Pad Thai and Curried Chicken for 20 of my coworkers and some of their families. It was a little stressful, but I got rave reviews from everybody, and we’ll definitely do this again. We do it about every 6 months, but we’ve missed a few. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned cooking for a crowd:

  • Buying too much food is not that bad. Buying not enough food is a total buzzkill. It’s social suicide. Always err on the side of a little too much.
  • Not everybody will add toppings and condiments, so you don’t always need to buy enough for everybody.
  • Generate some buzz about your cooking. Don’t brag, but paint the picture and get people excited about your cooking.
  • Not everybody will bring a side dish at a potluck. Not everybody that signed up will bring a side dish either. See #1.
  • If they don’t bring a side or they bail, don’t make a big deal out of it.
  • Start cooking earlier than expected. You can always keep food warm, but you can’t speed up the cooking, especially meats.
  • Be safe. Wash hands regularly, use clean utensils, cook meats to the right temperature. The biggest buzzkill is people getting sick from your food.
  • Cook with a partner. When I cook for a group, I *always* get help. It helps pass the time better, and an extra set of hands can really help.
  • Most people don’t like spicy food. A lot of people are picky eaters. Give them choices. Let them add the hot sauce. The salt & pepper. Make your food tasty, but not overly spiced. Not bland either… this one’s tough.
  • Use a proven recipe. If you’ve never cooked it and it has 3 stars on a website, its likely to crash and burn.
  • Serve food that either: A)people are used to and can relate with, or B)is a bit exotic and unusual but most of the population likes to eat. Many people like Thai and Mexican, but fewer like Sushi.
  • Let someone in the group be the MC. I let my management team get the party started. My job was to make sure the food was ready, and if anything was needed on the table, I made sure it was there.
  • Be gracious with feedback. People may have good intentions, and they are likely not trying to be critical. Most people will not stop praising your food, if you have enough. (See #1)
  • Have fun!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

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