Maid of Honor Duties

I have always been on the food production and planning side of a wedding, so when my sister asked me to be her maid of honor, I was in for a surprise.

There is so much to planning a wedding and being in a wedding that is shocking, especially for my younger generation.

The biggest thing that I was struggling with was the time management aspect of everything. When my sister decided that she wanted a spring wedding, I wasn’t expecting it to be in less than a year.IMG_2029

But, between my highly-organized mom and my weirdly-organized self, we managed to help my sister who is the complete opposite of organized get it together.

During the month of February, I threw my sister a bachelorette party as well as a bridal shower. It was crazy planning two parties for her in the same month. Note to self: Never do that again.

The bridal shower was the party that took a lot more preparation. We have a big family, so it was hard to find a place and time that worked for everyone in the wedding and the mother of the bride and the groom.

After picking a date, I sIMG_2009 tarted planning the games and activities that we would do as well as the food.

My family and I made all of the food for the party. (I couldn’t have done it without their help!) But, one of the things that made planning this party so much easier was setting up a menu in advance.

Some of the things I learned from planning an event of this magnitude can carry over to other events as well.

My biggest piece of advice IMG_2007when planning a wedding or any other related event is to ask for help, plan ahead of time and to have fun.

You can assign different bridesmaids a job to help out for different aspects. For example, I had one bridesmaid in charge of party favors and another was in charge of games, which included the prizes as well.

Another thing that helped out was to plan far enough ahead of time that I could just do a little bit each week in order to get the job done.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun during the event.

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What’s Up with Special Diets?

When I was making dinner the other evening for a family gathering, I got to thinking how many different diets I had to take into consideration.  There were vegetarians, gluten free, dairy free, fat free, peanut and onion allergies.  Wow!  When did all this happen?  I couldn’t remember my Mom having to accommodate so many different diets at our large family gatherings.

This brings to mind thoughts of how important it is to relay your dietary needs to your host if you are attending any event where there is food involved.  When an event is catered, such as a wedding, don’t be afraid to let your dietary restrictions be known.  The host can then contact the caterer to let them know what type or types of special diets may be required.

In our kitchen at Special Moments we take all dietary requests seriously. IMG_2088 If we are not sure what an exact diet entails our Chefs and Kitchen Manager will research just what is needed to assure that proper safe handling techniques and ingredients are used. We will also discuss in depth with the client or better yet, directly to the guest themselves, the menu that we are planning to prepare.   If you have a life threatening food allergy you need to let your host know of this so they can inquire as to the ingredients of the menu items.  We have had some guests bring their own food, so as not to cause concern for their hosts.

When you are at an event and have not expressed your dietary needs to your host, don’t be bashful.  It is totally appropriate for you to ask the service staff if they know if a certain ingredient is in a menu item.  Our Staff is trained to contact the Chef if a question arises that they can’t answer.

Finally, as a host and you are working with a caterer or restaurant you may have to pay more for dietary requests, but it is certainly worth it for yours and your guest’s piece of mind.

Oh and just in case you were wondering, my dinner was a success.  Special diets and all!

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Assistant to the Assistant

I don’t know about your work load, but I can tell you that mine is pretty intense.  For many years, I was the sole “sales guy” within our company.  This left me with the daunting task of not only seeking out new business and creating quotes for those potential clients, but taking and placing orders for existing customers.  It didn’t take long before my cup was not only overflowing but leaking dangerously all over the ground. That’s when I got my greatest gift, an assistant!  (Yes, you can all hear my sigh of relief).

 

My assistant is to me my right arm and sometimes even my left.  I hand her just about every task that I don’t want to forget I have to do and that I don’t think I can possibly get done.  She answers the phone, she takes orders, she soothes nervous brides, and she sets up my meetings.  Seriously, she does it all.  And I want her to understand how much I appreciate her and all she does to keep me and our company looking good.  However, the other day I saw that look come over her eyes as I handed her a new project that reminded me of the look I saw in a client’s eyes years ago.

 

I don’t spend a lot of time meeting with CEO’s and VP’s of companies.  I spend most of my days in conversations with their Administrative Assistants.  I know how loaded their plates are already but I’ve also noticed that a company “Event Coordinator” doesn’t seem to exist anymore. So, in the end, whose desk do you think events and their planning lands on?  You guessed it – that poor Admin’s!  It was on one of these such occasions, that I noticed that glazed look I mentioned early come over one of the Admin’s faces I was meeting with.  She had been given the daunting task of planning a fun and interactive event for over 500 employees and had called me to help with catering.  As I started probing for details on themes and entertainment, there came that look!  She said to me how in the world am I supposed to handle all of my responsibilities, the overflow from my boss’s desk and somehow manage to plan a stellar party?!?!  I remember I just looked at her and said, “Hire me.  I’ll be your assistant.”

 

I don’t think most of our customers realize how far we will go to ensure their event is a success, even if that means we book EVERYTHING!  Several of our customers take advantage of this service and literally give us a budget, guest count, a brief concept for the event and let us take care of everything from there.  We keep them looped in as we secure the vendors, entertainment, and/or rentals needs.  On event day we ensure all vendors show up, are paid, and do the job contracted.  Clean up occurs and then my customers get a much deserved pat on the back for creating a fantastic event.

 

Now, we must clarify…we are a catering company.  So, we need your food and beverage service first in order to provide you all the extra bells and whistles.  But my point is if one of these events get dropped on your lap, call on me for more than just the food and beverage.  We’ve been doing events for over 30 years. Planning and organizing them is in our blood. Take advantage of ALL the services we have to offer you.  I can’t do much to help clear the glazed look out of my own assistant’s eyes, but I can help to clear yours!

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Honesty is our ONLY Policy

The other day I went into the grocery store for a few items (which somehow always multiplies into at least half a cart).  Among those items was a greeting card.  I stuck the card near my purse in the upper portion of the cart so it wouldn’t wrinkle.  When I discovered all lines were full and that the self-checkout was empty, I headded there instead.  I quickly checked myself out, bagged my groceries and headed to the car.  Just as I finished putting the final bags in the car, I noticed that dang greeting card sitting in the front of the cart, not bagged and ultimately, not paid for.  Here in lies the dilemma.  Do I go back in and pay for this card even though I’m already all the way to my car, no one knows I haven’t paid for it and I certainly didn’t intend to steal it?  Or do I just throw it in the car and promise to do something good for someone else later on down the line?  Of course, I can even further rationalize my potential “stealing” by the argument that the store is charging like $4.00 for something which is in essence a freaking piece of paper!  It’s not going to hurt them one bit if they don’t get my money.  It’s probably like losing a quarter to them and I’m sure I’ve overpaid at least that and then some a time or two when they rang up the prices wrong.  Right???

No, not right.  I went back inside and paid for the card.  I’ve often wondered how many people would do the same thing but I realize it is irrelevant to the fact that this is the right thing to do and I just can’t shake that feeling.  I can tell you, hands down, that I was given this ridiculously annoying streak of honesty from my Dad (the elder Who of Special Moments).  He would go back into the store for something like that every time, without question.  He probably doesn’t even run that little dialogue in his head – he just goes straight in and pays for it.  Because it is the right thing to do.  And for my Dad – that’s pretty much all that matters.

This is an interesting trait to have when you run a business.  Honesty in business is definitely a good thing for anyone and certainly something that I would assume most people hope for.  But when you’re a true to the bone, no questions asked, painfully honest company it can sometimes cost you some business and/or cost you more to do business.

I thought about this as I paid for my greeting card and the many times that honesty has been a hard pill to swallow.  Like the time we got to bid on a 1000 person catering event when we desperately needed this kind of business.  The recession was upon us and not many people were doing large catered parties.  I remember how hard we worked to create the best price.  We cut as much profit off as we could and planned to labor ourselves even just to find a way to get some overhead money in and keep the employees on the payroll.  But we lost that bid.  That happens.  You can’t win them all but the piece that really got us was that we were out bid by 35%.  35%!?!?  We couldn’t even imagine how that was possible and we knew we would have been losing money to try to do it at that price.  Well, months later we happen to be talking to someone who had been at the event and on the planning committee.  When we asked about the event and the chosen caterer, she sheepishly said that it didn’t work out too well.  Turns out that caterer only brought enough servings for 650 guests.  (Pretty easy to do the math on that one…bid for 1000 at f35% less and bring 35% less food).   We couldn’t believe that a fellow competitor would outbid other caterers under the pretense that they would supply 1000 servings when they only intended to bring 650.  Totally dishonest.  But at the end of the day, their checkbook had revenues that ours did not.  Personally, I sure hope there was a repercussion but I will never really know.  All I learned that day though was that honesty can be painfully expensive.

I’ll admit that was an extreme example (and I think you can still sense the bitterness).  But that commitment to do the right thing gets in the way almost daily!  Case in point, the other day we all stood around analyzing the quantity of food that was going to a customer.  We were a little bit short on a protein. The yield after cooking was less than we expected and it just wasn’t quite enough. It was potentially not even noticeable to the customer, but we knew it was less then what they had paid for.  And in the book of Al and therefore Special Moments, that fell into the not quite right category.  So, off we went to the store to do the right thing.  To buy the additional protein and get it cooking.  The cost of being honest often means a longer workday and more expenses then you budgeted for.

My intent when I sat down to blog about my honesty experiences was not to toot the “we are the greatest” horn for everyone.  But more to share the realities of what’s it’s like to live day in and day out in a family business.  I’m sure everyone has some things that Mom and Dad taught them over the years that echoes in their brains.  Some of those things, you’ve probably long since tossed out the window.  (I don’t have to eat the crust of the bread Mom…it is NOT where all the nutrients are.)  But some of those lessons stay with you and become a part of who you are.  In spite of the often frustrating curse of an honest spirit, I’m glad to have kept that trait and that our family still uses it every day in our business.  It makes it easier to sleep at night, lets me look people in the eye and I never have to watch my back.  But even better for me is when I get to say, “Of course I paid for the greeting card, Dad.”

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Where’s The Beef!

Well folks… I’m dating myself by starting off with “Where’s the Beef?”  I believe that quote got made famous by an elderly woman shouting it out in an old Wendy’s commercial.  Stuck in my mind though, so their campaign worked!  Anyway, as promised I told you in my last blog that I would help you figure your protein quantities for your next large group event.  I also told you I would assist in how to best use different cuts of beef.  I’m sticking to beef, pork and chicken this time around – maybe I’ll touch on seafood and fish another day.

Let’s start with beef because beef is the hardest cut of meat to figure.  There are so many cuts that are the same but they are called by different names.  This is a selling tool for FullSizeRenderdifferent parts of the country.  Flat steak, blade steak, tri tip etc.  Think about how much time you have to prepare your meal and choose which cut you want based on that.  If you have plenty of time, consider a beef brisket.  These cuts are great tasting but need a long time to cook.  Low and slow as we call it.  (Low temperature for a long time.)  You would not want to start a brisket at the same time as a prime rib.  The brisket is a much denser cut of meat and takes much longer to cook.  It also needs low temps to tenderize the meat.  So, if you’re in a hurry, pick a leaner beef that you can either throw on the grill or in the oven for a much shorter period of time.

Once you’ve settled on your meat choice, you now need to figure out how much you are going to need.  Let’s say you are having 10 people over.  Start with a portion size for each person such as 8 ounces.  Take 8 ounces and multiply it by the number of guests (so 8 ounces x 30 people wIMG_2013ould equal 640 ounces).  Take that number and divide it by 16 ounces to get your overall pounds.  In our example, the 240 ounces would be equal to 15 pounds.  This is where most people make a mistake though.  The 15 pounds is what you want to have left for your guests after it’s been cooked.  You’re going to lose some weight in the cooking process and in the fat count.  To be safe, order 30% more then what you need.  Using our example we would need 19.5 lbs of uncooked beef in order to get those 8 oz steaks for everyone.  Be careful if you’ve picked prime rib though, there tends to be more fat on this cut.  We recommend using NY Strip roast in its place.  We have found over the years that we have cut into a prime and got a big fat surprise.  Nothing like losing several pounds of product to a large fat pocket that you were unaware of!

Now let’s move on to the pork.  Pork is a bit easier because there aren’t as many cuts to deal with.  Chops, short ribs, baby backs, shoulder (Usually called butt) and tenderloin are the most common.  (Trivia Break…why would you call shoulder meat “butt”?  Well back in the day, pork shoulder was shipped in a container called butts.  Handy piece of info for you to pull out at your next event!)  Figuring the portion size is the same as beef so follow the same mathematical equations I gave you above. Ribs are different – just figure on about two serving per rack and you should be pretty safe.  (Chef’s tip – cut the racks in fourths to keep people from taking more than they can eat. Leftovers are more fun than wasted food on plates.)

Finally, we end on chicken.  Chicken is the best on “yield” (waste).  You don’t need to plan for as much waste but if you keep it at 30% you will definitely have leftovers.  If you’re wanting to make a grilled chicken breast or some other whole chicken breast dish, use 6 ounces as your portion size.  If you want to cut costs, choose dishes that can be made with white and dark meat instead.  Breast meat is more per pound than leg and thigh so if you can cook the two and then mix them you will save yourself some money.  Things like enchiladas or tacos work well for this.

And for fun, consider having a mix of your proteins.  You could offer both chicken and pork enchiladas instead of just having one kind.  Or you could pair your steak with some chicken.  I recommend having a smaller portion of each protein if you do that rather than going half and half since you will always have some guests who want to sample one of each.

There you have some of the secrets of planning a large meal!  And I can’t stress enough how fortunate you are as a consumer to have a restaurant supply store at your disposal.  So, don’t forget about the Chef’s Store I mentioned before. (They are located at McClintock and Southern in the NE corner shopping center.)  You’ll save yourself a lot of money as a host if you learn to break down those larger cuts of meat.  And if you’d rather not figure that out, that’s what we here for.  You can always scrap all this math and shopping and cutting meat and just hire us to do all that grunt work for you.  Either way you choose…Party on!

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Why Pinterest Might Not Be Your Friend

Pinterest?  Not my friend?  How can this be! I’m not trying to be harsh with the Pinterest lovers (I’m one myself) but when it comes to weddings, it is not necessarily your best friend.  Many budding brides that search on Pinterest are still in that new first excitement phase right at the beginning of their engagement.  And Pinterest is a great place to start when you’re searching for ideas or trying to get a general feel for the kind of wedding you want to have.  Unfortunately, Pinterest can often give an unrealistic expectation of what your wedding should look like without enough information about the massive time or cost it will take. I have been in the bridal industry for a couple of years now and I have noticed that when I ask a bride what she is looking for the first thing that comes out of her mouth is “Well, I saw this on Pinterest and I fell in love with it”.

I don’t want you to view this blog post as me bashing on Pinterest, but more of an educational experience on what can actually help you plan your wedding. Pinterest i55e4bbce1700004301569192s the perfect place to get ideas and to begin your planning. But remember it cannot tell you exactly the time and money it took to create a beautiful masterpiece like this candlelit ceremony isle. Here’s where I say it’s not your friend.  I’ve experienced many brides who are so incredibly disappointed when the reality of the cost of this idea that they had their heart set on rules it right out of the picture.  If you use Pinterest as a starting point and then move forward with actual pricing research, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and potential disappointment.

And get help along the way as much as you can!  If it is in your budget, hire a Wedding Planner. They can become your best friend because they too have loads of ideas of great ways to make your wedding special.  But, unlike Pinterest, they have connections to professionals that can make those ideas a reality and hopefully pricing information to keep you from turning down a path that’s just not in your budget.   It is also a good idea to take your online research past Pinterest and into wedding sites where you can read reviews and articles about previous weddings and what worked and didn’t work for those brides.

When it comes time to choose your food, bring those ideas with you to your caterer.  But remember to trust us when it comes to letting us advise you on how they will work.   We really want to helebc59af9-4988-41d5-b5f2-84c3e3d998afrs_2001.480.fit_p you and we know what the limitations are for certain items.   And sometimes those cute simple things you find online require a lot of labor which unfortunately will cost you more money.  We can advise you on what those things are so you can decide what’s worth paying for and what’s not.  Trust us, we spend our time on Pinterest too.  It’s filled with cute, trendy things that we wouldn’t want to miss out on. But our years of experience have given us a better understanding of what can be recreated within your budget and requests.

Once again, this isn’t a bashing blog on Pinterest.  It is exciting getting married and I don’t want to discourage you with what you want to eat or decorate or even wear.  Search on Pinterest to your hearts content, just be aware of what can actually be recreated and how much time and money it will take.  If you follow that path, you might actually find Pinterest can be your friend after all.

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CATERING SECRET (One of the them at least)

As the owner of a catering business, it’s not always in my best interest to give advice on how to throw a party without us.  I mean, obviously, I don’t want to disclose all the catering secrets and create a world of DIY caterers out there!  But let’s face it – you’re not going to use a caterer for every event you throw and my hope is that I can offer you enough useful advice for those smaller occasions that you’ll remember me for the bigger ones!

Ok, so let’s just say it’s one of those occasions where you’ve decided to have some people over and handle the food yourself.  Although you thought you’d save money by not using a restaurant or a caterer, you’re still feeling like you need to take a loan out just to buy all the food.  And maybe you thought since you were going to do it all yourself, you could serve some good steaks and some shrimp but now you’re blown away by what that is doing to your bottom line.  Perhaps you scour all the grocery ads to find that great deal but even the headlining specials are still insane.  Top Sirloin at 7 bucks plus, and tenderloin, well, that is out of the question.  Shrimp is not looking much better either.

How does this all work you wonder.  Here is the scoop on the protein portion of your meal.  (If you’re a vegetarian, the rest of this blog is probably not for you!)  Of the protein options you’re most likely to select from (beef, chicken or pork), beef is the most expensive choice.  I’ll spare you the details but it comes down to supply and demand folks.  To get a cow ready for market takes 2 years, whereas it takes 18 months for a pig and 60 days for a chicken.  So for that party, if you’re on a budget, chicken or pork would be your best option.  And trust me there are so many different ways to prepare those proteins, you really can’t go wrong.  However, if you still want those steaks and shrimp, I have an option for you.

When doing larger parties, GET OUT OF FRY’S (or Albertsons, or Safeway, or B1385058022101ashas – any grocery store really.)   Load yourself into your car and head to the Chef’’Store at McClintock and Southern in Tempe.  This store is as close as you are going to get to buying wholesale.  You do not need a business license to buy from this store like you do at most restaurant food wholesale locations either so it’s a perfect place for the DIY caterer.  This location is run by US Foods.  Since you are buying a larger quantity, you can take advantage of bulk pricing.

Now to get your best value, you have to know your beef cuts. This is US Foods, you are in essence buying from the same place most valley restaurants do.  This means good quality.  Most of the meats are “choice” which is the best cut by US standards.  You won’t find pre-cut steaks at this store so look at the roasts in the cold food section.  You will find roasts that range in price from $11.59 per pound (Tenderloin) to $3.79 for Ball Tip.  Ball Tip is not very good for a grilled steak.  It is used to make deli roast beef because of the long cooking process.  If you want a good cut of beef for close to that price range (around $4.00 per pound) grab a Tri Tip roast and cut your steaks out of that.  Keep in mind these roasts range in weight from about 17 to 23 pounds.  You can always freeze a portion of your roast or of the steaks you cut for a future event if you don’t need this much.  Yes, it is going to take some skill on your part to butcher that roast into steaks, but that’s what Google is for.  (You’re on your own for this – I can’t give you all the secrets!)

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Your shrimp meal is back in the picture as well.  The Chef’Store has frozen 21/25 shrimp which makes great skewers for the BBQ.  The 21/25 is the approximate amount of shrimp per pound.  These flavorful babies come in 2 pound bags, so you have around 44 shrimp per bag.  For the BBQ, you want raw, tail on and deveined.  The bag sells for $12.95 to $15.95 depending on the time of year.  Put them in a marinade and cook ‘em til they are pink.  (You’ll have to google that marinade too because again…caterer secret!)

So that’s my best kept secret.  The Chef’Store.  (No, they aren’t paying me to say this.  I’m just a pretty big fan of their product and service and a firm believer of passing the word when something is done right).  Go take a peek at this place.  You can buy everything you need at this store and probably will end up with things that you didn’t need but couldn’t resist.  And stay tuned for my next blog where I will tell you how to figure quantities of proteins and how to determine the best use of beef cuts and why to pick them. (More caterer secrets – don’t tell Michelle!).

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