Cooking for an Army

So a couple of weeks back, I decided to do something different for my 27th birthday. Instead of a birthday celebration at the restaurant (Hibachi last year was incredible), I decided to challenge myself and see whether I had what it takes to cook for 20 people. Shortly after I sent out the Facebook event invite, the sheer size of the task ahead dawned upon me – I realized that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. Nevertheless, I did what I normally do. I took a deep breath and I told myself, that it’s going to be “Great!”.

Cooking for that many people presented several logistical problems. Apart from the fact that I was going to have to make a remarkable amount of food, I also had to make sure that I accounted for dietary restrictions, the cohesiveness of a meal in terms of flavors, and the timing of the execution. The fact that I didn’t have a car didn’t help either – it would mean that I needed to make multiple trips to the grocery store. There was also the issue of fitting that many people in my apartment without it being a fire hazard – the living space would need to be rearranged in order to make people feel more comfortable. Thus, I got to work planning this dinner party whilst I was procrastinating taking a short break from the demands of my day job. I planned a menu (catering to vegetarians / non-red meat preferences), created a list of groceries that I needed to get (it was a long list, and it took 3 trips to the grocery store to get everything), and a planned itinerary of how Saturday (or, as I’d like to call it, a significantly less important D-Day, for “Dinner Day”) was going to throw down. I also took the opportunity to share my plan of action with my friend, who (see text message exchange below), had nothing but the greatest of confidence in me.

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So Saturday arrived – I put on my apron, and got cooking according to my plan. While there were minor changes to the plan that needed to be made due to unforeseen circumstances (*cough* Star Market inexplicably selling you moldy basil / bad balsamic vinegar *cough*), dinner was a resounding success, and I managed to finish everything 15 minutes late[strikeout] on time for dinner! Again, the proof is in the pudding, or in this particular case, the lasagna (see happy faces below and pictures of dishes).

 

So couple of key takeaways when planning to cook for a large crowd –

  1. Planning the menu is important – go for larger casserole based dishes that can be done in bulk. These also tend to be more forgiving.
  2. Always plan ahead of time – it really does help to have an idea of when you expect things to be completed, and when you ought to start a new dish
  3. Have a Plan B – I downloaded the Dominoes App onto my phone.
  4. Be wary of moldy basil.

Some afterthoughts on this entire experience – I found the experience to be incredibly fulfilling, and I thought that it was wonderful being able to use my kitchen skills to bring friends and colleagues under the same roof to just have a good time and create lasting memories! The night did end with a discussion of Kpop and BTS, so things definitely took an unexpected turn at some point. I also found (strangely enough), that the systematic thinking and organizational skills I have developed in my workplace was incredibly useful here (shoutout to AG for equipping me pull of this great dinner party!). No doubt this skillset is probably going to be incredibly useful, especially in the next couple of months as I’m preparing to apply to MBA programs, start on new cases, live life etc. The fun stuff.

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