Our first mass catering event

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by will raymond, Jun 14, 2015.

  1. Well this week has been quite a stressful one! On top of running my pub full time I was also in charge of getting everything together for a birthday bash for 50 heads on Saturday and then the next day (today) we had our first public event at a local food and drink festival in the local town.

    Our menu for this was Brisket, Pork Belly (sliced rather than pulled) and also BBQ Jerk Chicken Escalopes. 

    Some pictures:

    The set up for the birthday party - not ideal but the smoker didn't quite fit through the double doors at the back of the clients garage!

    12kg Blythburgh free range pork shoulder smoked and ready to start pulling

    Then for Sunday's event:

    10 Blythburgh Free Range Pork Bellies and 3 top quality beef briskets too. Lovely fat marbling on these, spent a long while sampling and searching for the perfect brisket.

    The final set up with a friend manning the stall.

    We ended up coming home with 3 bellies and quite a bit of chicken. Everytime a brisket came out the smoker it didn't even need to be put back in to keep warm, it sold just like that and was sold out only a few hours into the day which I didn't expect to happen! The same couldn't be said for the pork belly though and we ended up selling quarter bellies for a tenner just to shift some meat towards the end.

    Overall good day, and we certainly now know what extra equipment we need.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
  2. jockaneezer

    jockaneezer Meat Mopper

    I was worn out just reading that. Sounds like it was a success even if you took some bellies home, just put them on the specials board in the pub !
  3. Was a very tiring week! Happy it all went well but glad it's over at the same time.

    The next outing for the smoker is a 2 day event in mid-July expecting 3 times as many people as the event yesterday. That'll hopefully be slightly less stressful...
  4. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Will, glad you smashed it, weather was against you as well.

    All good experience to take home and ponder on.

    After most events we do, we can sit for hours discussing how it went what we could do better, and what would make it easier!!

    Smokin Monkey
  5. [​IMG]   Less stressful?  Well you will have a better idea of what you need and what is involved; but less stressful?  If cooking for me and the missus I am fine.  I can say "well, that could have been better".  BUT! EVERY TIME my smoked meat goes before the public I feel my "reputation" is on the line.  As you well know your "rep" is only as good as the last meal you sell.  That stress NEVER goes away for me.  I am not saying quit!  I hope your stress does go away.

    The food looks GREAT!  Good Job!..  The brisket is a "novelty" for the British public.  They have never seen anything like that.  AND on top. sounds like you made some GREAT brisket.  I am still trying to find GREAT quality brisket with good marbling.

    So now it seems we need to figure out why the bellies didn't really sell.  So how did you prepare the bellies?  I think the main problem is that the British public has a "fear" of fat!  Can we come up with a way to make the belly sell?  Maybe you might sell sliced pork shoulder better??

    Any ideas guys??  Keep Smokin!

  6. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I would of left Belly Pork ( which is one of my favourites) off the menu, and done Pulled Pork, as that's the craze at the moment.

    Smokin Monkey
  7. I think you and Smokin Monkey have hit the nail on the head with the belly pork. My business partner thought we should do something different with pork other than just pulled pork as that's what everyone else is doing... But maybe they're all doing it because that is what people are buying. Would certainly make my life easier for the numbers we're doing as I can fit much more weight in the smoker with shoulders for pulling than just bellies.

    I think again the brisket was a novelty factor which helped us sell it all but my pricing strategy was to make it easy on change so we priced at £5 across the board which meant we didn't make a huge margin on the brisket. Again, something to bear in mind for the next event.

    These briskets came in at about 19kg for 3 briskets at around £6.20 per kg and had a half inch of fat in some parts, still not quite as fatty as I'd like or think we need but tasted beautiful none the less!
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
  8. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I would stick to brisket & pulled pork, like Danny mentioned the UK consumer is not to keen on fatty meat, in other words they would be  paying for fat  and not meat.  

    I know a street trader who has a fantastic reputation, and he only sells brisket, pulled pork on a bun and a very nice bratwurst type sausage, with or without pulled pork for an extra 2 quid, plus the usual side dishes, and he sells out every day, and everything is smoked over apple wood. 
  9. Hello.  Just something to think about.  What is popular in the U.K. and U.S. right now is NOT pulled pork.  I mean TRUE Carolina pulled pork.  What the craze is now is smoked pork soaked in "usually" bottled BBQ sauce.  I prefer to slice my pork shoulder.  Trim the sliced pork and then the slices can be put into a good warm smoked Au Jus awaiting serving.  Of course you will have wastage by trimming fat but you have the same wastage in pulling pork.  As with the brisket  a whole smoked pork shoulder has a "wow" factor.  I would offer the brisket and the sliced pork from the smoked Au Jus" or smothered in sauce.   You may even just have to take a "hit" and just smoke 1 shoulder and give away free samples.  For pulled pork you are adding expense to the product.  NOT much.  It is a manual process.  A meat slicer is faster than pulling pork and leaving the slices in the Au Jus will help to hold either meat at serving temp for a longer period without it drying out.  An evenly sliced piece of meat will help with serving size unless you are weighing the meat before serving.  Just something to think about.  Just my thoughts.  Keep Smokin!

  10. Like the sound of just slicing the pork, I gave myself some nasty blisters pulling 4 shoulders with bear paws a couple of weeks ago!

    Got some lovely free range pork shoulder at about £3.40/kg so not too different to belly but I reckon would have more selling power over belly and yet still doing something different to pulled pork. Only slightly increasing costs with a longer cook needing more fuel but then cook time for brisket vs pork shoulder is fairly similar I reckon. How does pork shoulder reheat once chilled down? Ideally it'd come freshly rested off the smoker but for these kinds of events it's just not practical.
  11. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Will, I have done this method last Bonfire Night, for 280 servings, with Pork Loin. Cooked it Let it Cool, the sliced on a meat slicer, into trays add Au Jus, then bring back up to serving temperature when ready to served. I did Sous Vide the Loin though and used the juices from this cooking method.
  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great looking meat Will. I am glad it went well despite the weather. I totally agree with what has been said above about the belly pork - most people here do not like to see/eat a lot of fat - even though it is the tastiest.

    As you know, a lot of Pulled Pork here in the pubs/resturants is not really smoked - it is slow oven cooked and then has a smoky sweet dressing added. I have tasted street food where this has been the case too. If you provide real smoked pulled pork at these events it will sell out quickly and leave people asking for more. I usually smoke pulled pork and ribs together. I trim the ribs St Louis style before cooking and use the meat from the cooked rib trimmings to add into to the pulled pork. This adds another depth of flavour. You no not need much rib meat - about 5% is more than enough.
  13. Hello.  Wade and Steve have got ya covered.  Wade brought up a good point about mixing cuts.  Here is one to think about.  Making and selling your own smoked "signature" burger.  Start with some minced beef, add some minced brisket and then some minced meat from the ribs of beef.  Maybe even a bit of minced pork belly or even lamb??  Play with the proportions and adjust.  You will be selling the BEST burger folks have ever eaten.  Don't forget the fat content.  You may even get by with adding just fat from the brisket area??  Low cost.  Is something I want to play around with.  On the "to do list".  Try small batches ( maybe 1/2 kilo ) and just fry it to taste.  Get the meat mix right FIRST.  THEN think spices.  Just S&P, or maybe a little corriander, or ginger, or chilies, garlic, or??  Just fry test very small patties then change the spices for the next.  Let your mind and taste buds wander.  For ME; if the meat is right then just S&P is all that is needed but you may want to add a flavour level.  Nothing wrong with that.  Don't forget the other cuts of meat.  Beef shank?  Lambs liver?  Whatever??  Play around until you get " THAT TASTE".  Again you may need to give away samples but once you do: MONEY MAKER!  You would be surprised what folks would pay for a FANTASTIC smoked burger!  Especially the best burger in town.  As example: The Missus and I went to the new local burger bar.  Supposed to be the "mutts nutts".  £40 for 2 burgers, chips and 4 pints of lager.  NOW! it wasn't the price.  I would have gone back and paid that same price again.  The problem was it was the worst burger I have ever had in my life!  I didn't eat half mine nor did my wife.  The lager was good.  I would go to McD before going back there and I would not go to McD if I was on the verge of starving to death!  SO!  There is money to made there!  Just thoughts.  Sorry for the novel.  I sometimes ramble on.  Keep Smokin!

  14. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    There are a couple of gourmet burger places in and around Manchester that charge similar prices, I cannot comment on how many they sell as I have not tried them, and I won't as I am not prepared to spend £10 - £14 for a burger.  (yeah I know tight arsed northerner).  On the other hand there is a pop up BBQ stall in Stockport and he sells gourmet burgers for £5 and also pulled pork on a bun for a fiver, and he can't make them fast enough and he is sold out before the end of the day, so there is certainly a market for the gourmet burger as they seemed to be called now.  The big question is how much do you charge!!! 
  15. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Burgers, Posh Burgers, Gourment Burgers, call them what you like, £10-£14, I'd rather eat the sole of my shoe!!! (not quite a Northener, but still tight!)

    With experience of Catering in the "Field" cooking 500-600 individual servings rather than cooking joints of meat and carving, is a hell of a lot of work!

    KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid!!!!! This rules in my world.

    Just my 2 cents!

    Smokin Monkey
    kc5tpy likes this.
  16. HEY!  GOOD point Steve!  Never thought of it that way.  Flippin 200-300 burgers and have them all turn out perfect is NOT my idea of fun.  " Give me a burger please.  You have under 5 minutes and it BETTER be good!"  Maybe in a restaurant where folks are prepared to wait but not at a food festival.  ONE bad burger in that setting and you are TOTALLY screwed for the rest of the day!

    SEE!  THAT'S why we keep him on the payroll and pay him the BIG money!  He is NOT just a pretty face.  [​IMG]

    Being American I LOVE a GOOD burger.  The best I have found here for me ( American tastes ) is Burger King.  Back in the States I NEVER went to Burger King.  I had MUCH better choices ( $5-6 for the "meal deal").  YES! I am dumb enough to pay £10-14 for a GOOD burger that I didn't have to make.  So far I have wasted my money and I haven't found that burger.  I have had to develop my own recipes for some American foods I cannot find here.  I LOVE sausage.  I don't eat British sausage.  I now have my own made for me.  Creating a "signature" burger I think would still be a money spinner in a restaurant setting ( the "FAD" should not be ignored ) and is on my "to do" list.  Just like having the newest mobile phone because it is the thing to have; there are "foo*; folks out there who will pay those prices.  The night we went to the "burger bar" it was PACKED; we had to book and folks were turned away at the door ( more than 1 couple ).  About 15 tables and a bar area.  That has £ signs in my eyes, at least for as long as the "fad" lasts.  Keep Smokin!

  17. All good food for thought. Have got a while to think about it as our next event isn't until July 19/20th at Essex Food Festival in Cressing Temple Barns (if anyone is remotely local).

    I love the sound of a smoked burger - and have never actually had one myself - but yep, flipping that many burgers would be no fun in my mind!

    Cheers guys, your advice is invaluable
  18. Hey Will.  I didn't say smoked burger.  I said "signature" ( as in special blend of meats ) smoked burger.  MONEY!!!  Just a thought.

    As you seem to travel to these events I assume we can look forward to meeting you at the smoking weekend??  [​IMG]

  19. As much as I'd love to attend i'm already stretching myself far beyond what is sanely achievable, as running my pub is a 6 day a week job and convincing the other half to let me go to these events is tough enough as it is! 

    I'll try my best though!!
  20. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Totally Agree with Smokin Monkey, Keep things simple.  Far to many people over complicate things and make a lot of hard work for themselves when there is no need.

    Hey Will, You are selling the Smoking Weekend all wrong to the missus.....now if the brewery said they were bringing out a new products and you had to attend "refresher training" you would attend, because it's in the best interest of your business.    Look at the smoking weekend the same way.  You have an up and coming outdoor catering business and all you are doing is attending a hands on training event that covers all aspects of BBQ & Smoking.   They have special guest speakers covering the different genre's of outdoor cooking.  Not any old guest speakers, they have been brought in from all over the UK, and unfortunately it is a one off event there are no other dates available, and don't forget that places are limited ..... Think outside the box...... but keep things simple! [​IMG]  
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2015

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