Catering From a Small Kitchen

Catering from a small kitchen is a common challenge for many off-premise caterers. Last weekend I had the chance to experience this challenge first hand. One of our long time Total Party Planner clients was in a pinch and asked if I would help serve a 4 course plated prime rib dinner for 145 guests. Sounds pretty straight forward – maybe even a little easy – huh? Here was the challenge : executing from a 90 square foot kitchen!

My first reaction was “No seriously… where’s the kitchen?”

Forget for a minute the physical space needed for the food and equipment. Where would the chef, 4 wait-staff, a dining room coordinator, dishwasher, and 6 food sloppers (hired hands to plate food) even stand in this kitchen? Most homes have a dining room table bigger than the stainless steel table available to us.

Had I not seen it for myself, I would not have believed it. The chef was incredibly organized – leveraging as much space as possible. Some of the things they did to manage space were:

  • A cookie sheet was placed on a garbage can to create a make-shift table.
  • The milk cartons that the square china dinner plates came in were stacked for another make-shift table.
  • The serving cart was turned into the prime rib carving station. It was weighted down with excess dinner plates to keep it from rolling.
  • Food was transferred from larger containers to smaller containers to fit on the serving line (table).
  • Equipment owned by the facility that was temporarily put into cabinets to clear counter space.
  • Staff was directed to only be in the kitchen if they were picking up food, or bringing in cleared dishes. Even then they were just doing a hand-off and not traveling the kitchen.
  • All of the hot food was brought in via hot boxes, so the oven itself was used as a cabinet.
  • The food sloppers (food platers) were all assigned a very specific area to stand so as not to cause congestion – or possibly even getting hurt.
  • As fast as the diswhasher was getting the soup and salad bowls cleaned, those dishes were going out to the truck. This cleared little more room for navigating around.

Whew. Soup course – done! Salad course – done! Dinner course – done! Dessert – done! All absolutely flawless.

At the end of the day, I do know the event ended with applause. A few guests had come outside by the catering truck for some fresh air and compliments were freely flying. The entire staff deserved a round of applause.

Do you have an interesting experience of catering in a small kitchen? Share your story!