This is the year that I learned I do not want to be a caterer. I am about to cater my second event, a wedding reception for our dear youth minister and his lovely soon-to-be bride. The first was also a bridal reception. And the thing that makes me know I am not cut out for this career is the math. Oh, my God. The math.
How do you know, for instance, how much 50 people will eat at a 6 p.m. reception? That was my first dip in the catering pool. I thought, “Geez, it’s dinner time. They’ll eat a lot.” So I made a lot. Too much, as it turns out. Of course, if you have a choice – and you almost always do – you’d rather have too much than too little. But there was way too much. Those people ate like birds.
This time out, it’s for 150 people. That’s a lot of people. The reception is also at 6 p.m. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been madly consulting catering websites to figure out how much pasta salad to make, among other things, for 150 people as an appetizer portion. The recipes are daunting. One of them calls for starting with nine pounds of pasta. Nine pounds! If I cooked that much pasta at once, I’d be standing at the stove (and liberally drinking) for about 12 hours. Fortunately, there is a committee to help me with this.
I have discovered two very important things as I’ve gone about my almost-done catering career. First, ask a professional. I have one. His name is Christo Gonzales and he’s a private chef in New York City. In the flash of a second after I asked him how much food to make I got this back via Facebook: 3 pieces per person for a single appetizer and 4 ounces for something like pasta salad. OK, then. Math. Math. If I need 150 portions of pasta salad at 4 ounces per serving that would be (pulling out calculator now) 600 ounces. OK, 600 ounces. Now, 600 ounces divided by 16 ounces (1 pound) is 37.5 pounds of pasta. No, that can’t be right. Can it? I hate math. Did I tell you I had to have a math tutor all the way through high school? My dad, who was an accountant, tried to help me but I would just break down sobbing so he stopped.
Then I turned to my other new discovery, a website called Yummly. If you go on this site, and find a recipe that’s close to what you want to do (or just use one of theirs), you can type in the number of servings and it will calculate the ingredients for you! No math!
OK, my head is hurting now. Here’s the pasta salad I’ll be serving at the reception, cut down just for your own home use. It makes about four cups. I think I can at least get my head around that.
Tri-color pasta salad
3/8 cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces tri-color corkscrew pasta
½ red pepper, julienned
½ yellow pepper, julienned
½ green pepper, julienned
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ounce sliced black olives
4 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, cubed
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and mix with the dressing in a large bowl.
When pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the peppers, tomatoes, black olives and Monterrey Jack cubes.