Update: we have newly weds!!!!
Originally Posted by Mr T 59874
Eric, What a absolutely wonderful thread, very informative which will be beneficial to most anyone planning for a large group or even the beginner. Everything looks absolutly delicious.
Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a nice thread.
Thanks Tom! I'm still catching my breath (so to speak) the morning of the second day after, and trying to collect my thoughts from what seemed like a very fast-paced event, so maybe I just need to get started writing and hopefully it will all come back to me.
I haven't had the time to do a journal or diary once we hit the road to set-up for the reception and ceremony venues. It has just been a very busy time for 3 days until we got home yesterday evening...3 days of controlled chaos for approx 8 hours of celebration. As you probably can imagine, just getting anything more than 3-4 hours of sleep each night was a challenge, especially sleeping in a strange room and bed. I will say this: if you take on an event like this, being the father of the bride, things can swing both ways regarding stress levels...it can remove you from the idle time where you may be thinking about nothing but giving your daughters hand in marriage...this was probably a big plus for me, as I had so little time to dwell on anything other than food that I handled everything else just fine. And, while I made final checks on cookers and just finished slicing the cheeses to head to the church, I was still in street clothes...had to toss on the tux at the church like everyone else did, but I was only there for less than 10 minutes to see my daughter before the wedding ceremony.
Everyone was busy doing their part and I charged myself with the entire set-up of reheating (including troubleshooting electrical issues), buffet layout, and final checks of reheat progress before and after the wedding ceremony. My daughter-in-law put the garden salad together for me when I realized I was pushing the clock about 2 hours before the ceremony, so I was still able to see when I wasn't going to be able to handle things alone. If i didn't have to do so much troubleshooting for my electrical requirements for the roaster ovens, I could have done the rest alone, but we do what we must...don't forget to ask for help if you need it...keep things in perspective and be able to realize that when it's crunch time it's probably too late for plan "B"...suck up that lump in your throat and do what it takes to make things happen. I did have my moments of stumbling trying to get things on track, but managed to keep things under control in the end. I found myself so busy until the ceremony that I didn't have much time to think about why we were really doing all of this, being my daughter's wedding, but when I did take brief moments to ponder solutions to issues I was encountering with the food, it allowed me to look at the big picture and give me the energy to continue moving forward and make everything work out. I could not allow this to fall apart, no matter what it took, so it made my creative side show a few times before I left the reception venue to get to the church (only 2 blocks away, thankfully). The outdoor ceremony was moved due to...yep, rain...it happens, but my daughter was thinking of this possibility far ahead of time and had a back-up plan.
I did run into issues with cookers on site. The venue had 3 parties going that day/evening, and their main ovens were all in use, so I had to make due with one small oven for reheating the ribs, then deal with electrical requirements for the roaster ovens which needed to be spread out a bit to avoid circuit overloads. I had one roaster with the baked beans in a separate kitchen, the ribs in another area of the kitchen, then, the pulled chick, pulled pork and brisket (3 separated roasters) on the buffet table. This was the best plan I could come up with after finding out what I could get away with in the banquette room...and yes, I did trip circuit breakers repeatedly, while trying to spread out the load over different circuits in the room, which probably took over 6 hours to determine what would work the day before. My roasters pull 1,450 watts each, so 5,800 watts total...three of these pull at least as much juice as an electric water heater...
For transport of the meats, I simply placed all the meats into coolers just before the road-trip, as tightly packed as I could the morning 26 hours before the reheat, no ice of course. I had to remove meats from the cooler to get them thawed enough to load the roaster ovens for reheating. I managed my reheat timing based on the amount of meat, and when I checked temps an hour before serving, the brisket was 176-178*, which would have continued to cook it slightly, as I planned. So, I dialed the roaster back to 150*, along with the pulled pork and chicken when they reached at least 165*. The 150 qt marine cooler had the bulk of the meats and cold sides, with a 70qt that had 10 slabs of BBs along with some salad ingredients. The garden salad was prepped approx 5 hours ahead of serving time on-site, and the cheese was sliced and covered on trays about 3 hours before service. I left approx 14lbs of pulled pork in the freezer, along with 5 slabs of BBs. I took all of the brisket, but could not fit 7.5lbs into the roaster for reheating, so I iced it down after it was fully thawed...gave some to family, and ate some last night after we got home...and yes, it is very good...
What we ended up with for hot food on the buffet table was a 16-qt roaster completely full of brisket, another 3/4 full of pulled pork, the 3rd was 2/3 full of pulled chicken, 2 - 1/2-size steam table pans of sliced baby backs, and the forth roaster 2/3+ full of beans.
For cold sides: approx 22qts of garden salad with romaine, carrots, onion with bacon bits and shredded cheese on the side with dressings (forget what else now). 5qts creamy cole slaw, 6qts tropical fruit salad, 10qts creamy potato salad, 3qts pasta salad (all rested in ice before, during and after serving).
EDIT: For additional carbs we had my daughter-in-law's homemade rolls (approx 140 ct, her grandmother's recipe...these rolls are stupid-good...to say they are addictive doesn't even do them justice), a nice variety of crackers and chips, salsas, hot sauce...oh my gosh, it was a lot of good food.
Beverages were 1/2 & 1/2 lemonade/tea, and lemonade. The only thing I didn't think of (probably due to it being a summer event) was coffee, which was requested by a few folks after the meal...so, that said, don't forget your coffee!!! LOL!!!
Leftovers with approx 75 in attendance: 6qts creamy potato salad, 2qts cole slaw, a ton of garden salad (approx 14qts), 1/2 a roaster of brisket, 1/2 a roaster of pulled pork, 1/4 roaster of pulled chicken, maybe 18-20 ribs and 1/2lb of smoked sharp/extra sharp cheddar (pepper-jack was gone, which made me wish I would have sliced it first...sigh).
I was a bit disappointed in how the meats held at temp in the roasters, as some of the meat was drying due to needing more frequent rotation to get away from the sides where the heat source was located, but I also have to realize that this was the first time I used these (brand new), so I knew there would be a learning curve. What did seem to help was the fact that I had far more meat than was needed, so by taking from the center, the drier meats could easily be avoided. I also could have used a bit more liquids to compensate for this, but was being cautious about diluting the flavors of the dry rubs used on all except for the chicken, which were naked birds when smoked.
The bride and groom are very grateful for everyone's efforts in pulling together and making this day such a memorable event...they were pleased, and that's what counts the most...I'm still sitting here, somewhat in disbelief, that it all worked out as well as it did, right down to the ceremony, which was beautiful.
I did get a lot of compliments from guests, young and old, and many were interested in the smoked cheese as well as the meats. The smoked cheese was like having a plate of gold sitting on that buffet table, but really, there was nothing that wasn't good eating. Even the morning of, employees at the venue and others who were there for a reunion in an adjacent banquette room came in to visit briefly and commented on how nice the decorations looked, the buffet table set-up, etc, the aromas of the food (reheating) and asked if I was was a caterer. When told that I was the father of the bride, a few jaws dropped...one said I was lucky to have the opportunity and be capable of doing this for my own daughter...that really made it hit home, and I do feel honored that the couple would allow me the privilege to do this for them on the biggest day of their life. It really is a big deal, I just tried to stay humble and focused on doing the best I knew how.
Oh, the night before, I got to the motel at around 12:30 am, and by the time I got to bed it was nearly 1:00 am. I'm laying there, almost asleep, when I had this strange feeling that I would come up short on food...something that there would be a high demand for, like maybe the pulled chicken, or the BBs...and extra 60 people show up unexpected...something just didn't seem right. After a few moments of mild panic which quickly brought my pleasant thoughts of sleep to a screeching halt, I realized that it was just those last-minute nervous "oh, crap!!! something's wrong!!!" moments, and dismissed the whole thing and reassured myself that there was no possible way that I could run our of food, and was asleep soon afterwards.
One of the main things to consider which I had to deal with head-on is being able to remain somewhat flexible in how you can reheat the meats or cook other hot side items. I had very limited options to make this happen, and this caused a very real and urgent need for finding a solution the morning of the wedding...not a lot of time, so I was getting a bit panicky now and then when plans "F, G & H" didn't work. Keep a cool head and work on the problem until you find a viable solution...then test it out as soon as you can so you know if it will work or not...don't ever assume.
Be sure everyone involved in the planning is on the same page, and if any changes are made, everyone effected knows of these changes...we had a minor glitch about 10 minutes before food service due to not being informed of a change in who was doing the beverages, so yes, I'm speaking from experience. Work it out, learn from it and move forward.
Lastly, don't expect perfection...that's not gonna happen...people who do this (catering) for a living rarely achieve perfection (I've never seen it, unfortunately), and you don't do this for a living or a side business, or you probably wouldn't be reading this. Just realize that what you put into an event like this will be directly reflected by what you get out of it, and I'm not speaking in terms of money, time and sweat...it's what comes from the heart. Give it everything you've got and you will not be disappointed in the outcome.
In hopes that this helps others make the decision to take the plunge, or, encourage them to do a little more research before they take on the challenge, my best wishes to all. Don't just walk away feeling overwhelmed and deny yourself the opportunity...you may regret that decision later. This was a milestone for me...something I'LL NEVER FORGET...I would hope that everyone who has the opportunity will step up to the plate, if for no other reason than to have a chance to put together a great meal for your loved ones on their big day. I can sit here now and say I have no regrets.
As I recall, I made mention of sliced pics of ribs when they were finished smoking, and when it was all said and done, I probably wouldn't have grabbed the camera if it weren't for that statement...just way too much going on...so, to fulfill that promise...these two pans were piled high...for reheating, I crowded all 10 slabs into a full-size liner covered with foil and a cup or so of apple juice in a 260-270* oven for ~5 hours...chine-bones down, cut tips up:
Wish I could have taken more pics of the buffet line, but many eyes were on me and a few others who stepped in to help as finishing touches were made releasing the food to the wedding party and guests. Someone who was there may have take some pics...if I get word of this I try to make them available.
I just realized something: even with several good bottled sauces on the buffet line, very little condiments were used except for salad dressings (the sauces had little use)...it must have been good BBQ, even if it was reheated!!! Overall, my experience throughout this event has been humbling...some things I thought I knew didn't always take me where I wanted to be, so it kept me thinking and looking for better ways to get what I wanted to see...never a dull moment. And, with the amount of leftovers, I knew that my secondary goal was met...NO ONE LEAVES HUNGRY. The primary goal being make great Q, of course, and I'm reasonably certain that goal was met with ease...if it wasn't worthy of the occasion, I didn't want to serve it...just me.
Anyway, that's the bulk of what my memory has stored from this event at this point in time which I thought others may be interested in. I will add more if anything pops into my tired brain. I'm still recovering from this most joyous celebration, so as the excitement begins to dissipate more, I should be able to remember more details...eventually I would like to break this all down into an easier to to use format of do's and don'ts to write a Wiki for future reference. I do have a lot to do for the next month or so which will likely prevent me from doing the Wiki for a while, but this extra time will also allow me to jot a few other things down before then so the Wiki will be more complete from the start, including things I may do differently if given the chance again in the future.
If any questions come up, don't hesitate to ask...we're all here to learn, and believe me, this event had many lessons to be learned and I'm still picking things up as days slowly pass.
Best wishes and great smokes to all!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 6/25/13 at 8:47am