Life Behind the Party

Wine & Spirits event at the Palace Ballroom

After enduring 9 months of rain, Seattleites relish summer. With clear skies and temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, we make the most of our short, blissful summers. To celebrate, there are an endless number of events throughout the season.

I work with one of the nation's hottest new chefs. Along with his rise in fame, he is approached to participate in every event imaginable.

Trust me.

It's positively staggering.

Typically, the requests roll in months in advance. In February, events are placed on the calendar for August. In the equivalent of restaurant time...that's light years away....

In contrast, for the event coordinators, there's a considerable amount of leg work that takes place months in advance. In one of my past lives, I was a party coordinator, so I understand this perspective. A smooth event depends on a million details, and it's key that each person fulfills their assigned task in a timely manner. Things go sideways in a hurry if they don't.

Juggling between all the players is a huge challenge. I'm sure this list is in no way comprehensive, but a typical event will include considerations for: the main event coordinators, sponsors, board members, patrons, donors, employees, a slew of volunteers, restaurants or caterers, valet & parking lot attendants, entertainers, photographers, sound & electrical technicians, equipment rental companies, health department officials, the liquor board, and in some cases...grounds keepers, auctioneers, film crews, and assorted media.

Behind the scenes for every event, there are a number of "go to" people who make things happen. They are the glue that holds everything together...and it is no easy feat. An event may last just a few hours, but it's mind-boggling to consider the amount of work that goes into one. (If you've ever planned your own wedding... take your guest list, multiply it by 20, have 10 or more restaurants preparing the food, and just for it all under the spotlight of the media. You get the idea.)

For my part, I'm the middleman between the chef and the event organizers. A few weeks beforehand, event coordinators will request the chef's head shot, bio, recipes, written statements, etc. It's a test for me to manage all the deadlines, which usually have printing schedules behind them. Miss a deadline and your copy does not get included in the printed material.

Not only does he depend on me to manage the details, but I'll also nag the chef to write the recipes for publication. And remind him write another recipe when I receive one for rabbit and for this event, we're actually doing fish. (I suppose it's no secret that most chefs hate writing recipes...)

I'll also try to identify what our needs will be in advance. I like to get a visual picture of the space where we'll set up. Will there be two for display and another table behind it where the food will be prepared? Or will chef need to prepare food on the same table as the display? Are the tables rectangle or round? (Depending on the set up, different linens are required.) Is there room for a banner? Behind or in front of the table? What's the clearance? How can we hang it...tape, clamps, or wires? Will the event organizers provide flowers or will we? Who is providing the plates, napkins and utensils? Will they provide ice or hot stations? Will we have access to a kitchen? Will we have power and will it be shared? What's the lighting situation? Where is parking and how close can we get? It's an endless number of details that set other tasks in motion. Of course, you can't plan for every situation, but I try.

This that once seemed so far off in the future, suddenly came in quick succession. It nearly pushed my social-loving self over the edge! Not only did we participate in FIVE of these events, but back at the restaurant, there were the usual large parties, VIP reservations, and a wine dinner.

Here's a peek at the event schedule, with individual servings for each:

Friday: 1200*

Saturday: (early) 1200

(late) 400

Sunday: 1000

Wednesday: 600

*Yes, that means 1200 portions of heirloom tomato gazpacho with avocado oil that some how, miraculously, made it to the event. You see, it was transported on a cart through the crowds at the Pike Place Market. And since the interior gates were locked, we were forced to take gallons of gazpacho over deeply rutted cobblestones in the street. That's typical of the many joys that can happen during off-site events...

But now...the parties are over.

The big hurdles are behind us.

Reflecting on the blur of events, I'm still in awe. I walked away with a deep respect for both the people who organize these events and those who work in restaurant kitchens. They are the hardest working people I know. It truly takes an artist's passion because, honestly, the money is insignificant for most of these folks. (Don't even get me started on the fact that the brainless guy who bags my groceries...makes a higher wage than most of finest cooks in this country. That's for another story...)

I'd like to raise a glass.

To all those who earn their livelihood...making sure we enjoy the party.

I celebrate you.