These are comparing modern Chefs vs Medieval Event-style cooking.
I have been watching "Chef's Table" on Netflix, or watching Tony Bourdain eat his way around the world, and I've been percolating thoughts about period cooking for large groups. These chef's are able to perform their art every day. I spend time not performing my art, because I put firehouse/ambulance first. Just the way it is. But that doesn't mean that I can't learn from these things. I have expectations of then trying to put on something that should start comparing to what these people are doing. What they're doing is neither hard, nor expensive, or they wouldn't be doing it. Don't get me wrong, these are very talented people. They are making a meal into art, where they will provide a tasting menu of 20 to 30 items, and you're expected to sit and eat this, over a two and a half to three hour period.
The first issue is that the "Brigade" style cooking, where things are handed down from a central authority, is not medieval. Napoleonic, but not Medieval. OK, that's not a problem, we can cope with that. It means that I need to re-examine how I'm presenting meals. Do i place a chicken, a roast bit of goat, and a meat-pie on the table all at the same time? That's more medieval, where a "feast" would be more inclined to have a wider variety of food items, for people to select what they like, from what's presented. I know I've beaten this to death, so I need to move on.
When I look at a hall of 50 people, I need to think about their experience. Do I present a soup-type dish in the pot, on a cart with people dragging the cart around, do we deliver a serving bowl of the dish, and let the patrons select their own portions, or do we deliver the soup, already plated on one of the firehouse soup plates? How do I deliver the bread for their course?
The pros and con's are both compelling. They address pricing and labor, which is the expensive part of any volunteer operation.
- It presents each person with a portion. This is good for portion control.
- It relieves the issues of "does the patron have the correct gear to deal with this course?
- It presents a consistent presentation/plating of whatever it is we're serving.
- The soup plates are often not as pretty as some folk's feast gear.
- I have to plan to get the dishes washed between courses.
- We have a culture that expects that they should bring their own feast gear, and use it.
ve been doing smaller courses as part of the menu for AD&D, but we'
re offering four courses throughout the day, each spaced two to two and a half hours apart. I don't believe that's medieval, but it answers the question of "what will we feed folks throughout the day?" I don't have to plan out a sideboard, nor do I have to worry about how the sideboard will be eaten. Will people pig out on the sideboard early, and be less hungry come dinner time?
I'm trying to get away from the buffet/DIY sort of experience that many feasts have become. How many times have you gone to a feast, only to hear the kitchen call for servers, one from each table, to come collect the next course? The folks at the event are our *guests*, and we need to treat them that way.
I'm contemplating holding a dinner, as a dry run for the feast, worked out in the kitchen and delivered and presented in a manner that I can not only control, but change/improve as we go. There are a lot of good cooks out there, and I think that enhancing the meal experience is going to be a difficult, but rewarding task. I want to create an environment where the cooks get the opportunity to try their hands at different dishes, and techniques, because many of the ways that we do things at home work acceptably at home, but not in a commercial kitchen at volumes that we're working on. For example, browning lamb dredged in flour. What's the best way to do this, so you don't burn the flour, and in doing so, spoil the stew? I know I need more time spent in the kitchen doing it, but I can't afford to be making three gallons of lamb stew every week and either eating only that, or throwing it away.
I also need to migrate to working by weight, not by volumes. I understand that the bakery environment works in a volume system, and I need to migrate to that for cooking other food.
More to come, as I think about it.