We’re talking about food and cooking and you have a great love of cooking. When did you first start loving it?
I have always loved food. I never grew up being taught how to cook. One of my earliest jobs was at a hoagie spot. So having the opportunity to be creative in what I made for myself is probably when I found out I could make what I enjoy the most.
Do you cook for a living?
Yes, I have gotten back into the food business after a long hiatus. I currently do some work with a catering company whose largest customer is a local concert promoter. We cook for many tours that come through our city.
That must be fun! What does that entail?
Well we feed the people traveling with the artists. We also feed local crews that do not travel with the tour. We are responsible for having breakfast up and ready to go when the first trucks start to pull into the venue. We provide a dining room with a buffet line. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is provided for all that are associated with the tour. We are responsible for filling all the requests that are listed in the typical tour rider. Our head chef sends a menu to the tour several days prior to a show to be reviewed. They will approve the menu and provide us with special dietary needs of any tour personnel. My primary role, as one of the chefs, is to cook all the items for the buffet lines. We also provide meals for the artists as well. It is rare for the artists to eat in the dining room with all the rest of the background musicians/dancers and other tour personnel. Most commonly we are instructed to provide a special meal at a specific time. Our Dressing room coordinator is most commonly the person that speaks directly with the tour manager and assistants to have all the small details worked out. As the catering company we’re generally first in and last out. Our job is not finished until the last bus and truck is loaded and on to the next stop. The job is fun. But it is also very, very long day. There is one aspect that is a constant and that is you can always expect something to change during the course of the day. As much as you try to set a plan in action, you know that a curveball of some kind is on the horizon. That’s part of what makes the job so fun at times but equally as stressful at other times. There is nothing like a day winding down and knowing that it has been a success. That feeling at the end of the night as I catch a song or two on the way out and I see nothing but smiles on all the faces. The crowd into the show. The bands performing. That guy who was super nice at the carving station who turns out to be the drummer or the sax player or something like that. Those times are some of the best times. And the long hours and travel could not happen without the loving support of my wife.
Do you get to get creative when cooking for artists or the people associated with the tour, that you’re feeding? Do you have to follow specific recipes?
Cooking by nature, in my mind, is creative. When given enough time, we certainly let the creativity fly. Most artists want basic food more often than not. The most common dish we are asked to make is plain old grilled chicken. I can’t say I blame them. They are under tremendous pressure to put on a top-notch performance.
As for recipes, once the head chef makes up the menu and it is approved by the tour, we go about putting those dishes together. The dishes don’t have to be the exact, same from night to night as most restaurants. We have a dish to make and our goal is to make everyone that we make that night look and taste great.
Beings that you work with feeding people, do you enjoy cooking when you’re not working?
I enjoy cooking. There are nights that I don’t enjoy cooking, and on those nights we order pizza or cheesesteaks or some of the typical things we all order when we don’t feel like cooking. What I enjoy is going into a Farmers Market and letting the ingredients call out to me. Most times I am making dinner at home, I end up doing it on the fly. I rarely go food shopping, planning meals out way in advance. If I get a craving for something I would rather fulfill that craving then say, put it on the shopping list for next week or whatever.
Is there favorite thing you like to make?
I really enjoy grilling. When we are cooking for the tours that come through, there are times I could be grilling for hours upon hours. What I really enjoy is the pace we work. Our day is a series of deadlines on show days.
I can remember a day, during one of the larger festivals we do, where we planned on serving 165 for lunch, 30 mins in, we were told that the number was incorrect. 250 was now our new total for lunch. When it was all said and done we ended up serving 341. The team was rushing like mad to procure ingredients to make it happen. So we made it through the lunch rush that was literally several hours long. We look up at the clock and lo and behold its 3:45, dinner is due up at 5. We look at each other and realize we have nothing to show for dinner. Those type of deadlines are part of what makes this kind of work so exhilarating for me. So going back to the recipe question. Auto pilot takes over. We get tons of compliments from the tours that come through. They say we have some of the best catering around. I cannot compare what we do with the other catering companies, but I know we put a herculean effort together to put together a product to be proud of.
But at home I enjoy making lasagna and I make a mean banana bread (recipe for banana bread shared below).
Banana bread recipe:
Be sure to use very ripe bananas in this recipe even black bananas are fine. The more ripe the bananas are the sweeter the bread will be.
I will usually use a loaf pan that is 8.5 x 4.5″
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 large very ripe bananas (peeled)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped coarse. (pecans work well too)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
2. Place five bananas in separate bowl, cover tightly, and microwave until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about five minutes. Transfer bananas to a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid).
3. Transfer liquid to medium sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about five minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher into mostly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
4. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4 inch thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of loaf in two rows, leaving 1-1/2 inch wide space down center to ensure and even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.