On The Cusp Of Silly Season


On the cusp of silly season is lost on those without an inkling of what my job entails. The magnitude of Christmas party season poised to ignite defies explanation. I could say I’ll be busy, I’m always busy, busy isn’t silly. Silly is working 18 days straight, working 80 hours a week, getting home at 4 am, showering and heading back to work. Silly is loading and unloading 3 cargo vans in the middle of night, silly is brewing hot chocolate at 2:30 am, loading 7,000 pastries out at 6:30 am and serving canapes to 2,400 guests at the ballet. Silly is how many pounds of turkey and bottles of wine we’ll transport in the next three weeks.

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Those of us crazy enough to embrace my profession live for silly season. Surviving Christmas party season is a badge of honour, we live for silly season. The more extreme, physically challenging, convoluted, impossible timelines or elaborate execution, the better. Bring it on! It’s silly season and I’m stoked. See you in a few weeks.

18 Minutes


Today my world wears a badge embossed with “18 minutes”, a private honour reserved for individuals who share my profession. 18 minutes is the stuff of legend, an accomplishment of mythic proportion meaningless to all but a team of elite lunatics brave enough to prove it can be done.

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So why does 18 minutes have me beaming with pride? Last night with two teams of five servers we served 180 guests the main course of a plated dinner in 18 minutes. I’m talking flawless execution, no screw-ups or dead plates returned to the kitchen for “they ordered beef not salmon”. It was 18 minutes of perfection, feathers in the cap of our existence, testament to the power of professional satisfaction. If there were a catering Olympics, my team would be standing on a podium collecting a gold medal. 18 minutes is why I get out of bed in the morning.

 

Annoyances and Bad Form


Time for my annual Christmas party ponder. A grumpy, exhausted caterer’s list of annoyances and bad form –

You failed to inform us “Sparky” is a very bad dog. You – executive of a major corporation hosting a Christmas party with your lovely wife. Never mind ridiculous expectations and timeline, we’ll make it fabulous. Pardon me? Sparky is snarling at my chef because he doesn’t like men wearing caps? Would you like a hair in your prime rib? Never mind. Oh, Sparky is hungry. You want my chef to feed him while carving the beef? Maybe you should feed Sparky and put him in another room. How silly of me, Sparky is much too precious. Just watch him beg for food as your guests awkwardly pretend Sparky isn’t drooling at their feet. Let me assure you – bad dogs are neither cute or entertaining, Sparky is a very bad dog.

Bad dogs have nothing on bad people. Being a reflection of his clueless environment, Sparky pales in comparison to blithering clunk-heads oblivious to their surroundings. You’re a guest at a company dinner – guests at 6 pm, passed appetizers and drinks for an hour, please be seated for dinner at 7 pm. Look around – this isn’t a restaurant, did you notice the kitchen we set up behind pipe and drape. Never mind, please be seated. Oh wait, you changed tables and now are making a scene because servers couldn’t find you to deliver a gluten free vegan meal? My sincerest apologies, if you would be so kind as to take your seat we’ll have you eating in no time.

Place setting jumpers and bad dogs pale next to passed appetizer garbage dumpers. Garbage dumpers catapult beyond canape lunges. Pushing guests aside to ensure first crack at a platter,  only embarrasses individuals oblivious to polite decorum. Taking an appetizer then depositing the pick, spoon or napkin back on the tray of canapes epitomizes bad form. Garbage dumping eclipses annoyance, forcing an immediate server about face to the kitchen. Clearly common sense eludes these geniuses – why should they care when a full platter returns to the kitchen for a scrub because their garbage prevents servers from feeding co-workers.

Baked Brie is not a pie. Yes, I see you put half a pound on your plate but no, I don’t have a fork. See the little knife for spreading it on sliced baguette? Notice scores of people politely waiting to spread a morsel of Brie on that bread? Is grumpiness trickling from corners of my forced smile? Fair enough, you probably haven’t seen a wheel of Brie large enough for fifty people – figure it out – I still don’t have a fork.

I’m sorry, your host didn’t order coffee. No, I don’t have any hot water with lemon. Can I make an exception for you? With all due respect please don’t confuse my good nature with perceived ability to pull a kettle out of my ass. I’m sure you’re lovely, mean well and truly desire a warm beverage – please look around, this isn’t a restaurant, there isn’t a pot of coffee in the back. This is the observation deck of an office tower – even if I could boil water, your host didn’t pay for hot beverage service. Can you understand my limitations, has it occurred to you one exception opens a can of worms I haven’t the staff, authority or inclination to deal with. Do you really think one exception ends with you, that none of 200 in this room will demand equal consideration? You don’t like my attitude, poor customer service? Take it up with your host – I don’t have a freaking kettle.

Why are you blocking our service area? Are you vacant, oblivious, gripped with self importance vast enough to deem it your right to stand where you damn well please? How many times have I politely asked you to step aside? Are you passive aggressive, amused by my servers struggling to maneuver around you, honestly this inconsiderate? Did you notice that one ton truck outside? What crosses your mind each time I ask you to move? Are you conscious of exhausted staff struggling with enormous loads, dolly after dolly of heavy equipment hauled outside, loaded on that truck? Silly me, of course you didn’t.

I’m tired – Christmas party season is over in a week. Like childbirth and tequila, destined to seem like a good idea the next time it rolls around.

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Nothing Worse Than a Sloppy Drunk


As I embark on the annual office party circuit – a gentle reminder of office party etiquette….

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Tired, grumpy, and ready to bite off the head of anything that moves, exhaustion has led me to pondering drunks. Most days I shrug off the inevitable “sloppy drunk” as little more than an occupational hazard; predictable, definitely categorized by species and sub species; dealt with accordingly. Years in the hospitality industry has honed my drunk skills,  becoming second nature. Very little surprises me, only once did my jaw hit the floor and who could fault me; I instructed a bartender at a beer stand not to serve an obviously intoxicated man. He looked me straight in the eyes and snarled “I thought they gassed all the Jews”. Despite my mind explosion I was able to fumble with my radio long enough to call security, it was their pleasure to show him the door. Oh, did I mention he had his 5 or 6 year old son with him, now…

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Office Party Refresher Course


Reblogging my Christmas party ponder from last year is a bit lazy – believe me when I say “lazy” has nothing to do with it – more like exhaustion. I would like to add a few more suggestions.

How about tipping the bartender? Your bartender is probably working a 12 hour shift, forced to smile at your shenanigans till their face cracks, and certainly not going to find themselves at a Christmas party enjoying free drinks.

A baked Brie is not a pie. Don’t cut a slice bigger than your fist and ask for a fork. Holy crap – spread it on a cracker.

Please don’t mob the servers as they try to pass appetizers – there’s plenty of food to go around.

On that note – every time you double dip or put your pick or used napkin back on the platter – the server has to return to the kitchen, dump the sauce and get a clean platter – find some manners. Yikes.

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My years in hospitality always peak at Christmas. Office party season; the “black Friday” for ballrooms, high end venues, caterers, and event planners. The spring and summer wedding spree pales in comparison. A wedding may take an exhaustive year to plan, follows an itinerary of speeches, dances and toasts. Most people know how to behave at a wedding. Restraint and manners apply to most gatherings. In fact the only function where common sense goes out the window seems to be the Christmas party.

Far from pondering human nature, reasons to “cut loose” on the company dime are clear. That said, I feel an obligation to offer an office party refresher course. In no particular order; some basic rules to consider…..

Dress appropriately, especially if you plan to “tie one on”. Do you really want to face co-workers on Monday morning as the “hot mess” who fell out of her dress.

Your company…

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