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May's Featured Speaker: Sandy Korem 

Sandy will be presenting at the upcoming Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo and Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show.

Take My Sage Advice: Count the Carrots

I broke one of my own cardinal rules for catering recently: we didn’t count the carrots for a big sit-down off-site catering event.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Let me give you a little background. 

Catering a seated dinner is my least favorite style of food presentation for off-site catering. There’s only so much design that can be done for food presentation on a 10-inch dinner plate and the variety of food options at the event are very limited. Instead I love the details of large stations and multiple food offerings for the guests. But many times only a seated dinner will work for a specific event.

The tone for the dinner is set with one of the most chaotic and stressful parts of a sit-down dinner: setting the table. It’s especially chaotic if the dinner involves a committee where there are too many “chiefs” and lots of ideas. In many cases things like this occur: the organization’s president wanted the program only under the napkin, but the event planner wanted the napkin fold to only be done a specific way. And then, oops, the florist forgot to tell us that the diameter of the flowers was oversized for this event. It goes on and on causing my staff to have to set and reset the tables. 

The trick to not adding to this confusion is to approve and print checklists ahead of time.

We were fortunate with this event that we had the entire venue the day before for set up. Not only were the guest tables set the day before but even the 800 plates for the 250 guests were counted, divided and set at the appropriate prep stations. The dinner plates were even placed in the warmers, ready to be heated.

The next day the food packing went very smooth. All of the salad and dessert components were packed in specific ice chests so there was no time lost trying to find any of the necessary food items. We even had the pastry bags filled with whipped cream labeled and in the refrigerator well ahead of schedule.

The salad and dessert were pre-set, which made the dinner implementation even easier. There was tiny problem because the dinner plates were so hot they were causing problems with the waiters delivering them to the tables, but that is a coup for a seated dinner in an off-site venue. Hot plates and hot food is a big SCORE!  

We were about 50 plates out from the finish line when one of the kitchen staff asked, where is the last pan of French maple glazed carrots? There was not another pan. We were already serving the last pan.  We quickly dropped the serving amount per plate from 5 carrots to 3 carrots.  All plates were served and only 2 carrots remained in the pan. Whew! But, why were we short on carrots?

In pre-event production, my chef made sure to weigh a pound of French carrots and count how many were in a pound. There were approximately 20-21 carrots per pound. I multiplied the number needed for our guest counts and added three pounds. The kitchen then processed the order. 

You probably missed it, but that was where I broke my own rule. 

For a seated dinner ALWAYS, ALWAYS count anything that is a single serve unit that you are wanting to serve a specific number of on a plate. This applies to food items such as green beans, asparagus, French carrots or shrimp. Never weigh the amount and prepare an average weight. If you only weigh it, I can guarantee there will be a time when you will run out. It happened to me a few years ago with shrimp and then green beans, and I swore always to count that item and tell the kitchen to produce X number of that item. 

The problem is when you are at an off-site venue without a stocked kitchen restaurant a few feet away, you MUST follow this sage advice. Yes, that means a production list that reads 4,875 oven roasted whole green beans, not X number of pounds of oven roasted whole green beans.    

Really: 4,875 green beans? Yes, count the darn beans!


More about Sandy Korem:
Sandy Korem is the CEO and founder of The Festive Kitchen, a one-of-a kind catering company based in Dallas Texas. No other catering company in America has established such a diverse and profitable “take-home catering” division. Her company, The Catering Coach, helps restaurateurs maximize their off-site catering potential and, if desired, establish a “take-home catering" revenue stream. Sandy uses her 20+ years of experience to teach independent restaurant owners how to increase sales and profits with little or no investment and maximize earning potential by adding catering to their existing business. For more information about Sandy, visit





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