I was a caterer many years, and catered countless simchas. When my time came to plan for my children’s wedding and be a plain-clothes customer, Mother of the Bride, I had a “choice” between striking fear in the hearts of those caterers and bullying them around, and writing up for them the very golden rules I had used all my life, and making sure they play by the rules. Needless to say, I chose the latter. I just can’t tell you how many people have sent this letter to their own caterers: It has become a veritable template! My single meeting with the caterer lasted about 30 minutes for each of my three children’s wedding, plus signing this guide. Consider this guide the mother of the bride’s survival guide! Done deal! So, here comes!
It was a pleasure meeting you last night. I really look forward to celebrating our simcha at your place. I believe my husband has just mailed you a deposit for the date we agreed on, etc….
Years of working in the food business have taught me that some small details, while not encroaching in the least on our time or effort or budget, go a very long way towards upgrading any affair. In fact this is precisely my life work! It might sound a little quirky to you at first, but when you see the difference it makes you might want to use my personal guidelines for other lucky people, as many other caterers have. I assure you that once you have agreed to these very simple but absolutely strict rules, you will find me a very easy customer, and a very poised mother of the bride. We don’t even need to schedule another meeting!
I have put my recommendations in no particular order.
- Let me start by asking you not to hope I will be “too busy to notice”: It’s not happening! Nothing gets by me: It’s my profession and it’s in my blood!
- All the budget you usually allow for frills (fruit carving, ice sculptures and whatnot), please skip it and use it on extra fresh and seasonal ingredients.
- Chicken breasts: no smaller than 6 oz. Smaller is bound to dry out no matter how careful you are in the kitchen.
- No salt added to the chicken and all meats, other than the salt naturally contained in the koshering.
- Watch the salt in the soup: take out a third of what you would normally use. Everyone can add, nobody can remove. Likewise, watch the salt everywhere.
- No store bought salad dressing. Any homemade dressing will do except the use of white vinegar: lemon juice, cider vinegar, wine vinegar, balsamic, etc… with a good olive oil, salt and pepper, and I will be happy! A gallon will be plenty, and will cost about $25.00 (if that)!
- No heimish brand mayonnaise. If you can’t use Hellman’s, we will forego mayo altogether.
- No garlic powder anywhere: I can’t abide it!
- No MSG, no bouillons, no powder. I must emphasize this point as I have some severely allergic guests. Besides there is no excuse for it, as our simcha is costing us a good chunk of our life savings. Dice up some good veggies and throw in a good grain, good herbs and seasonings, and you have yourself a good soup!
- Good quality cold cuts. No baloney no salami!
- Do not run out of food at Shmogersbord time. No need to explain this!
- No raw onion or garlic anywhere. I find it really does a number on people’s social life J
- Brand name wine, liquor and soda. It’s all paid for! I will remove all inferior brands, and demand the real thing, so let’s not!
- No reheating any dish beyond the point of fully cooked, even if it means that some items like vegetables arrive at room temperature.
- No canned vegetables whatsoever.
- Small bread rolls only. Please try your best for variety, including whole wheat.
- Tea: decaf and herbal. Throughout the party. People come from all over and welcome a warm drink. Percolator and paper cups OK before dessert time
- Coffee: real please. No instant whatsoever (this is a wedding hall, not a shtible!) Decaf only. Nice and strong: 2 pounds per 100 cup percolator
- No non dairy creamer, in soup or in coffee or tea or anywhere. Soy milk or rice milk are widely available for the exact same price
- Half sour pickles, not sour pickles, at the tables
- Do not remove the bread from the tables
- Have enough dessert for absolutely everyone. One delicious dessert with one scoop delicious sorbet: none of that institutional Viennese Table (if you were making the real thing I would be thrilled, but we both now you aren’t, so don’t bother!) When ordering, do not count on the fact that some people leave. Everything is paid for, and my guests always have fun at my parties and don’t leave early.
Ok, I think that’s all the list. Just remember one thing: this is my line of work, and I am trained to notice everything, even on the day of my children’s wedding! Please note I want absolutely nothing luxurious or complicated or frilly, just very fresh and natural. Please sign it etc…. Once this is all agreed on, making a menu will take me just about another hour, and I will fax it to you, etc….