Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Post-foodem Part 1: 30th Year Feast

I've taken a lot of time away from this feast, to digest and decompress everything that happened. I read through my notes I made, got feedback from patrons and fellow cooks, and now feel confidant to tackle this detailed breakdown.

To start...I kinda rocked the house. Everything went great, the food looked good and tasted good, there was just the right portions and I had a wonderful time. I had some of the best help a head cook can ask for, and some of the most loyal friends. This was an amazing effort from everyone involved, and we all knocked this shit out of the park. I know I already made a large thank you post right here, but I just wanted to stress that point home.

Top 5 What Worked - 

1) Study - I spent a whole bloody year putting myself out of my comfort zone, studying a new culture as well as cooking style. Spending all that time becoming so familiar with the food to truly know it was a huge advantage, when issues and errors happened I was able to quickly react to fixing it.

2) Trust the experts - Who prepares Japanese food better than the Japanese? I purchased pre-made pickles, pre-made miso and other critical ingredients from the culture to best recreate the food. The grocery store clerks gave me the best options for cooking many foods and often recommended ingredients that I normally wouldn't have purchased (but came out better because of their recommendations). Yes I studied for a year, but these people have lived this food for decades and they will understand it better in ways I never will.

3) Trust my volunteers - One of the hard things is always letting go and trusting others when they have the ball, even when you're the team captain. There were plenty of times where I trusted the fantastic instincts of Corey when it came to cooking food, when I couldn't see what he saw and let him go. When you assigning tasks to folks you are trusting that they'll follow instructions to get what you want, but also trusting that f they can improve it they will. A good example is the red bean paste desert, I had envisioned tall/thin cuts in a deep pan, but Corey was confidant that short/wide would get the better result and look. And he was totally right, I was so much happier with the finished cut he did than my own. That's trusting your volunteers.

4) Feast menu's, schedules and instructions - I loved how I posted everything on the walls. Having it out in the open for everyone to check, double the sheets to force me to double check everything, and having in high traffic areas really helped a lot. Definitely adding this to my feast prep package.

5) Portions - Nuff said, I portioned the hell out of this feast and am proud of my math. I went to the limit on so many dishes, I was very proud of my math and my purchasing ability (all which was double/triple checked by my wife thank goodness!).

Top 5 What Didn't Worked - 

1) No solid book - I loved how I did my menu's and schedule this time, having it posted in multiple spots was really awesome. But what I found myself missing was an actual feast book, like I've done in the past. I didn't like the loose leaf copies of recipes, and many times I felt myself looking for my book. I think I'm gonna do the postings and the books, for my own sanity.

2) Not scheduling enough water/food breaks - Yeah...I failed on this one. I got stressed a lot during times, and it took me a while to realize I wasn't eating/drinking enough. I normally have to schedule myself these breaks, and I didn't put in as many as I needed this time around. Next feast I need to take care and take care of myself better, so I don't get too hungry or thirsty.

3) Serving the H.A. room - I had a blast serving this room, and my two servers did a great job with me, but in the end it made me more twitchy than I prefer. I don't like being out front when I cook feast, I like to be in the kitchen and hear reports. I'm glad I did this for the experience, but in the future I will stick to my kitchen!

4) Measuring cups - Soooo much food was so tightly controlled, it'show my portioning worked as well as it did. But that meant I needed TIGHT portion control of ingredients, and the kitchen was lacking severely in various cups. I know for future adventures that I need to bring my own if I am in need of a specific size measuring tool.

5) No solid cleaning plan - Unlike Ocala or other sites, I've never had to worry a great deal about dirt and outdoor mess getting into the kitchen. Not true with this site, the doors and airflow bring in a crap ton of dirt and muck from the outside into the kitchen. I didn't have a plan for dealing with this, so I frequently found myself delayed as I wiped or swept various areas. Need to remember at least every other hour cleaning checks.

Next post I will break down each dish and make a few comments on each.