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Cooking for large numbers

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by modelmaker, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    What's the largest number of people you've cooked a meal for? How did you cope? Were there any unexpected obstacles to overcome?
    I've cooked for around 60 odd people on several occasions but these revolved around barbecue parties and all I did was plan the meal, prepare and cook the meat whilst others organised salads and so on.
    I was asked to cook a Christmas meal for our company staff and their families (around 15 adults and 8 kids) a couple of years ago that I largely did single-handedly. It was all going fairly well until I discovered that all the kids had converted to vegetarianism, whereas previously I'd been told there were only two and all the rest were carnivores.
    Shopping, I found to be unnerving as the dinner was being cooked and served in another home where the owners describe each other as being unimaginate in the kitchen so I didn't know whether they'd have things in their store cupboard I take for granted in mine.
    And then, of course I had to make do with with their utensils. Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to take a sharp knife and the type of pan I felt would be important for some specific parts of the meal I'd planned.
    How have you got on with more than usual numbers?
     
  2. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    200.....did a hogroast, salads etc.
    150.....did assorted curries, lasagne, chilli etc.
    Often cater for 'big eats' and find it quite simple really.
    Usually go for paper plates etc then just bin the lot. Otherwise have used a hire company that brings plates, cutlery etc then collects it all dirty and takes it away. Excellent!
     
  3. lapinrose

    lapinrose Lead commenter

    I really can't remember but havecatered for BBQ's, buffets, both hot and cold as well as theusual party foods, parent's evenings whenI had about 20 pupils all cooking different things for samples.

    Largest dinner party was for 12, all sit down and a 7 course meal.

    Most difficult was the kosher buffet for a Jewish couple's engagement.
     
  4. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    Blimey- you lot make me feel like a novice! I've never done anything on sucha grand scale and would probably faint at the thought!
    I regularly split the catering for family parties with my mum- there are usually between 25 and 40 of us and what we normally do is make 4-6 main dish curries/ casseroles, plus a range of starches and salads etc. My mum is generally in charge of cakes, though I makea couple of desserts.
    For dinner parties, the most I've ever had was 15, and that was quite enough! We had several tables joined together in the (thankfully large!) lounge- the dining room was too small to accomodate. None of the crockery or cutlery matched as I had to use 3 different sets, but it didn't matter as everyone was in good cheer.
     
  5. 350 for a wedding. I find catering for large numbers quite easy - it is producing a roast lunch for 6 that still catches me out. I can't remember what the menu was but it was a buffet and being in Scotland would almost certainly have had whole poached salmon on it. And raspberries too though not together!
    The trick is to have a list and tick things off - just like pre-flight checks: salt - check; butter moulds - check etc....
     
  6. Bethannie

    Bethannie New commenter

    I have catered for about 100 before. But not on my own, a team of four of us, and we had a nice large kitchen to work in.....We catered as a team on a number of occassions. Always starting with a coffe-morning for the team where we sorted out the tasks and who would do what.....we all got on well and had some great times.....this was as part of a large church.
    I have, on my own, done a cooked breakfast for 30 or so people. ...I wrote out a strict timetable and stuck to it rigidly!
    I worked for a while in a cafe, where we regularly cooked for large numbers....but I'm guessing that one doesn't really count!
     
  7. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Nothing on the scale you lot have. I tend to get asked to cook at barbecues and that, which I don't mind, and would rather be assured of not eating dried out, burnt meat by doing it myself, but it does get a bit repetitive, watching all our mates enjoying a day in the sun through a curtain of smoke. Tend to be for about 20-30. I did once do barbecue on a school residential trip for about 80, but given that it was just a stack of burgers and sausages, it was easy enough, despite having to do it under an umbrella in the pouring rain...
    I regularly get asked to cook round friends' houses, but that tends to be for small numbers, maybe 8 or 10 at the most, and encounter much the same pitfalls as Modelmaker states.
    At home the most has been about 20-30 I suppose. We have an annual gathering of all our friends at ours around our birthdays (both in July which means we can all be in the garden normally!). Always something easy - roasted spiced chicken wings or something else easily portioned for starters, and a massive vat of chilli or curry or a few lasagnes for mains - always something that can be prepared well in advance, . All that's generally needed then is a few salads and some bread which is easy enough. Our dos tend to be boozey affairs so everyone generally forgets all about pudding, which suits me fine, although I generally just have some ice-cream on hand in case someone really wants it.
    I don't think I'd get much pleasure from cooking for an enormous amount of people - I'm normally a fairly relaxed person, but I think the stress levels would kill me!

     
  8. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Nothing on the scale you lot have. I tend to get asked to cook at barbecues and that, which I don't mind, and would rather be assured of not eating dried out, burnt meat by doing it myself, but it does get a bit repetitive, watching all our mates enjoying a day in the sun through a curtain of smoke. Tend to be for about 20-30. I did once do barbecue on a school residential trip for about 80, but given that it was just a stack of burgers and sausages, it was easy enough, despite having to do it under an umbrella in the pouring rain...
    I regularly get asked to cook round friends' houses, but that tends to be for small numbers, maybe 8 or 10 at the most, and encounter much the same pitfalls as Modelmaker states.
    At home the most has been about 20-30 I suppose. We have an annual gathering of all our friends at ours around our birthdays (both in July which means we can all be in the garden normally!). Always something easy - roasted spiced chicken wings or something else easily portioned for starters, and a massive vat of chilli or curry or a few lasagnes for mains - always something that can be prepared well in advance, . All that's generally needed then is a few salads and some bread which is easy enough. Our dos tend to be boozey affairs so everyone generally forgets all about pudding, which suits me fine, although I generally just have some ice-cream on hand in case someone really wants it.
    I don't think I'd get much pleasure from cooking for an enormous amount of people - I'm normally a fairly relaxed person, but I think the stress levels would kill me!

    and
     
  9. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Nothing on the scale you lot have. I tend to get asked to cook at barbecues and that, which I don't mind, and would rather be assured of not eating dried out, burnt meat by doing it myself, but it does get a bit repetitive, watching all our mates enjoying a day in the sun through a curtain of smoke. Tend to be for about 20-30. I did once do barbecue on a school residential trip for about 80, but given that it was just a stack of burgers and sausages, it was easy enough, despite having to do it under an umbrella in the pouring rain...
    I regularly get asked to cook round friends' houses, but that tends to be for small numbers, maybe 8 or 10 at the most, and encounter much the same pitfalls as Modelmaker states.
    At home the most has been about 20-30 I suppose. We have an annual gathering of all our friends at ours around our birthdays (both in July which means we can all be in the garden normally!). Always something easy - roasted spiced chicken wings or something else easily portioned for starters, and a massive vat of chilli or curry or a few lasagnes for mains - always something that can be prepared well in advance, . All that's generally needed then is a few salads and some bread which is easy enough. Our dos tend to be boozey affairs so everyone generally forgets all about pudding, which suits me fine, although I generally just have some ice-cream on hand in case someone really wants it.
    I don't think I'd get much pleasure from cooking for an enormous amount of people - I'm normally a fairly relaxed person, but I think the stress levels would kill me!

    and always
     
  10. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    erm..sorry for the duplicate posting. Not sure what's going on there?
     
  11. I've cooked on scout camps for aound 30ish. Usually get either 2 gas rings or just a wood fire to cook on. Most 'interesting' experience was finding that the person who packed the kit had forgotten most of the cooking stuff so I had one dodgy knife and chopping board and not a lot else for utensils. They also forgot the box of plates so we had to borrow dirty plates off another group and wash those before we could eat anything.
    Now, if I know I will be responsible for any of the catering, I make sure I check the kit box into the cars (after checking the contents) and also plan the menu and do the shopping.
     
  12. impis

    impis New commenter

    My daughter, aged 16, was 'difficult'. She steadfastly refused to cook, clean, or do anything for others at all.
    She got a job working in an old folks home.
    One day she came home and announced that she'd cooked a full sunday roast dinner, with pudding, for all the residents and staff. She knew I wouldn't beleive her, so had arranged for me to ring her boss for confirmation. [which I did].
    I told her that if she could cook for them, she could cook for us.
    "I'd like to, Mom," she said, "but I can only cook for 25!"
    She had an answer for everything, that one!

    [she's now 30 and very different - and a great cook - for however number she's entertaining]
     
  13. ljr

    ljr New commenter

    I have four siblings, all married with grown up offspring, and somehow it is always my turn to 'do' Christmas, Fathers Day & other family occasions, so I regularly cook sit down meals for 25-30. I have my original Denby dinner service, from when I got married, added to until it was discontinued, and then I started on a second service, so everyone has decent china & cutlery. The problem is my kitchen is full of large pans and dishes, which only get used a few times a year, but when I need them I have to have them. For the rest of the time there are only the two of us, so I have cupboards full of china and dishes that hardly get used.
     
  14. anon468

    anon468 New commenter

    I have tremendous respect for anyone who can cook for double figures! The best I've ever done is for 6 and that nearly brought me to meltdown.
    I am a very badly organised and easily stressed cook. I wish I knew how you folks do it!
     
  15. camronfry

    camronfry New commenter


    Preparation is the main thing - if you don't plan well for large numbers then your bound to get really stressed and probablly not be very happy with the outcome.
    Making lots of lists: to do, shopping/orders, equipment, timings, who's doing what all of that sort of thing might seem a bit OCD but will save you a lot of hassle. Checking where your going to do the prep and the serving is also crucial, as is meeting several times with whoever your going to be doing the cooking with. Another key thing that has saved me many times is doing as much prep as possible the day before and on the day itself start as early as poss - make sure you have planned in at least a 'spare' couple of hours as there will always be problems, disaters, things you've forgotten, people or orders not turning up etc... And probablly the most important thing: fridge space - you can never have too much.
    The biggest thing I've done is a community bbq where I was cooking with a group from a drug and alcohol rehab programme, we'd planned really well, had loads of meetings, done most of the things I've outlined above - even informmed envirnmental health and got some advice from them. However, we'd planned for about 250 and sod's law the weather was very un-English and very good so over 400 turned up. We somehow coped and it was loads of fun but not everyone got fed and I think I aged about 10 years in the process.

    Oh and one last peice of advice..... avoid drinking too much when cooking for large numbers, belive me it rarely ends well.
     
  16. Done a couple of dinner parties for 20+. One was catered - to our requirements. It was a French food only night. Absolute bliss. The other I just did - four courses! - with only the family to help for a church group. Not casual. Fancy all the way to specially folded paper serviettes in a fan style I can still do in my sleep, with flowers at each place setting. (Easy really, just camellias picked from beside the front door.)
    A few others for 12-16, mostly family events.
    One I really enjoyed was a weekend away with a group of friends. About 20ish as I recall. I did the main evening meals - a lot of rolling up thin beef with ham, then roasting for one meal, don't remember the details of the others. Organisation is the key. The shopping was a breeze. My car at the time was one of those little minis. Take out the front passenger seat and voila! Stacks of room for several large cartons of food and utensils.

     
  17. lapinrose

    lapinrose Lead commenter

    Just a point to make, a very crucial point and one I always emphasise in my teaching. Timing is the most critical thing, especially back-timing.Especially things like putting the oven on to allow for preheating!

    When I was doing O level Cookery, my HE teacher used to insist on minute details for our time plans. It really helps.

    Start with the time you want to serve the meal, then work backwards to allow for dishing up, carving, cooking, prep time etc. Try not to choose too many dishes which require last minute finsihes, serve some cold dishes, all of this will help the meal to be a success.

    (HE teaching hat now off)
     
  18. 240 - when I used to help a friend out with his catering business. Nothing like being up to your elbows in a baby bath making up a mix for kofta [​IMG], or grating goodness knows how many cabbages and carrots for coleslaw.
    Privately - 30 to 50 for parties (mostly finger food and soup), apart from my wedding buffet, which I did on my own and was for 150 (I was mad but I refused to fork out silly money).
    Dinner party - 12, but I much prefer cooking for 6.
    Mind you, making 36 involtinis was a bit of challenge as well (but I wasn't doing that on my own, thank god).
     
  19. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I'm reminded of an evening the staff at work organised a christmas party. Lots of bowls of various things they'd prepared intending to make a rice dish of some kind with, but as the bowls wer full to the brim, nothing to mix them in. I grabbed a rubish sack, emptied the lot into it, tossed it around and returned it to the bowls. They though I was a genius. Next came the task of cutting pineapple slices without a chopping board. Simple, do it in the tin. How the girls swooned at my imagination... I almost got off with one.
     
  20. Oh lordy, that reminds me of some truly forgettable Christmas lunches at work. A couple of hundred blokes, about half a dozen young women - I'm talking late 60s early 70s here - so who got the jobs of preparing and setting out mountains of salads and buttered bread? The blokes seemed to be in charge of organising the chickens and prawns and cold meats, even getting to the point of actually getting most of it onto platters and tables.
    But they were pretty good about getting rid of the vast quantities of rubbish and leftovers - couldn't leave food scraps for four or more summer days in a building with the airconditioning turned off and about one refrigerator for every second floor of the building. The whole rigmarole came to a halt after a couple of years when a couple of work areas didn't get their rubbish outside before closing down time.
     

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