Monday, November 11, 2013

How to pull of a $15,000 wedding for under $3,000 ($2,971)

My daughter Heidi, after many obstacles the prior year, got married to Bill Hopkins on October 13, 2013; Heidi was a beautiful, happy Bride.

I for one thought the wedding would never happen – too many delays, intentional and unintentional, kept popping up. By the time funding was available, it was crunch time.

Money was a big issue; hence puling off this wedding was a challenge. Heidi wanted a traditional, beautiful wedding. I asked my friend Josie if she would help with the wedding and she said she would be happy to. Little did she know how much work in the end was still involved. Believe me, we could not have pulled off this beautiful wedding without Josie.

Rather than rent a venue for the wedding, Heidi and Bill decided to have the wedding at their home (after Heidi convinced Bill that it would be possible.) I loved the idea because it is a wonderful setting for a wedding. At the same time it made me uncomfortable because there were a lot of cosmetic fixes that needed doing.

The big project of painting the house inside and out was done by Bill, Heidi and friends... The upgrade in the yard was done by a landscaper who charged too much for what he did. That is my opinion, ha, ha. Heidi and Bill ended up trading a few months free rent for the labor.

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Heidi, besides working hard to get things done, had engaged several friends to help. She also engaged family. Three of Heidi’s brothers – Neal, Paul & Rodmond – and I made a trip to Santa Cruz on August 1st to help with some big projects. Throughout August, September and the beginning of October, different friends came offering their help.

Five days before the wedding Josie and I arrived to get started on fine tuning everything from the rehearsal picnic to the actual wedding.

In the end, I have to say that the whole project was a family and friends affair. It was so good to see everyone stepping up to the plate. The tables you see in the pictures were built by Bill and a friend out of door slabs and pressurized wood. Family and friends, along with Heidi and Bill, then painted them off-white, yellow and teal (teal was Heidi’s accent color).

Heidi wanted wooden tables but they were very costly to rent. Building them saved around $1000. The simple design turned out to be a great idea and Josie worked wonders setting them up in a special design for the wedding. Heidi and Bill rented bamboo chairs which complimented the whole setting. The decorations were also created by Josie. It all came together so beautifully with the ocean front view.

Family and friends loved this outdoor special setting and I for one really loved it. Tears were always in the back of my eyes and still are when I think about the whole wedding.

My oldest son Walter walked his sister down the aisle, his two daughters Jesse and Janine were also in the wedding. As the Mother of the Bride I was escorted first by my son Rodmond to the front to be seated by the altar. The ceremony was simple and poignant.

The reception followed with a soup and salad bar. I was the caterer – and never did I think I would do the cooking for my daughters wedding, ha, ha. Heidi’s boss has a huge kitchen and his wife Jennifer, offered it up for us to use as the prep kitchen. Jennifer even cooked one of my soups. My son Rodmond and his friend Julie did the basic prep that still needed to be done for the soup and for the snacks we served when guests arrived. Some prep I had done here at home and transported it to Santa Cruz.

The menu consisted of four different soups: “Chili, Shrimp Leek, Zucchini, Apple, Peas with Tarragon Soups and Gazpacho”. A salad antipasto bar and breads were also served. I did the prep for the salad bar the day before the wedding at the house next door which Heidi and Bill had rented for two days for out of town guests. The kitchen had great counter space. People would come in and out to ask if I need anything. My friend Nancy helped me prep the fruits for the cheese bar.

The cheese bar was a thorn in my eye; I neglected to set it up myself and all the fruit I requested of Heidi to buy did not make it onto the cheese tray.

The luncheon went over well. We made it, just barely, but we made it, even though we had some wedding crashers.

We were so happy to see our relatives come from Arizona, and Long Beach, California. My friend Nancy and Heidi’s friend Sunny made it from Southern California. My family from Germany could not make it, nor my son Steven and his family from England. My son Paul, who lives on the East Coast, was also not with us. Bill’s daughters Liz and Katherine from Colorado walked their father down the aisle to the altar.

Dancing was had by all and even I did some dancing. It was a fun and casual affair.

Cost: Food and Beverages: $ 1,200 including the cake Flowers: $260 Decorations: $250 Tables: $315 Rental: $430, Dishes: $144 Labor: $120 Miscellaneous: $250 Venue: $0

The Memory Table

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Moving to Santa Cruz California! Troubleshooting for the Dream Inn Hotel 1990 - 1993

Moving to Santa Cruz California!  Troubleshooting for the Dream Inn Hotel 1990 -1993.

Santa Cruz here I come. This seaside community is a unique place to live, work and play. It was an easy move since my Son Rodmond lived in Santa Cruz. After a few days I went on a job hunt and landed the job as Food & Beverage Director for the Dream Inn Hotel. As the new Food & Beverage Director for the Dream Inn my challenges were about multitasking.

Being the new kid on the block and having to deal with a Chef’s Ego was not pleasant. In the end we parted and I hired new staff, the overhaul was staggering. The good part was I could put my stamp on the Food & Beverage Operation. I was responsible for 5 outlets: The Twelve Wind Restaurant, the Surf Diner, the Compass lounge, Banquets and room service. I had my work cut out for me transforming the Twelve Wind Restaurant into a California style Bistro.

The Twelve Winds Restaurant took on a new look; only cosmetic changes could be made as no money was available for a total remodel. To enhance the view, which was a look of the Bay, I first had the restaurant cleaned and some walls white washed. I added tablecloths, butcher paper and crayons to have the customer leave notes about the dining experience, good or bad (this was/is a good tool to correct any problem a Restaurant may have/had).  Add fresh flowers, candles on the tables and voila we had a pleasant environment. The menu was also upgraded to more current tastes. My Chef de Cuisine was Jerrie.  I have to say Jerrie was creative but easily rattled when the Restaurant was full.

We became very busy and I hired a new Chef, James, to head up the kitchen... He was creative and a good leader. He produced our first Winemaker Dinner at the Twelve Winds Restaurant with the Mirassou Winery Winemaker/ Owner. It was a roaring success and we had reservations for the next one. That did not happen because the owner of the Hotel wanted the marketing money spent at the room division. Needless to say I was peeved. The Owner did not see that the Winemaker Dinner brought in the locals and the VIP’s from surrounding companies.

A note of contention:
Hotels are notorious when something goes wrong with the room division to have F&B step in and sooth the customer with a basket of goodies or dinner for two, Champagne, Wine. This always annoyed me. The GM/Hotel Owner never gave Food & Beverages' budget a thought until you do not come up with the projected cost/profit. I then set up a budget to show how much it actually cost F&B. 

The second Restaurant was the Surf Diner. Breakfast and lunch was served, it was a typical diner, even though we upgraded the menu too. Breakfast was bedlam on weekends because the Dream Inn was, at that time a family Resort Hotel, and on weekends always packed. We served up to 300 breakfasts a day on weekends. At times the GM was recruited to help buss tables along with, of course, me.  Jerrie was my breakfast cook most weekends and she was great.

Banquets were a big money maker. I had hired a new Manager, David, Englander. David was very good at his job.

In 1992 I made another change and hired a very talented Chef, William Prime, and his sous chef Richard Vasquez. That team was a dynamo. Both Bill and Richard were creative with the food. The plate was their canvas.

I have to admit I was not an easy boss, I was always fair though. In the beginning of 1993 the Hotel downsized and eliminated the Director of Food & Beverage position. I did not see that coming. I received a generous exit package and within two weeks I took the job as Director of Food & Beverage at the Los Gatos Lodge in Los Gatos, California. The Sous Chef Richard followed me to Los Gatos which was good for my ego. He helped me do a turn around at the Los Gatos Lodge.

The drive from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos over Highway 17 was treacherous. Not a day went by that there was not an accident, yikes.

Working ten or more hours a day did not leave me much time for socializing - that is the down side working in hospitality. You really have to love it to be good at it and I was/am good. Now that I am retired I miss the hustle bustle and the attention I received from owners, the media and VIPs from companies I planned and did events for. Here is one of the popular recipes created by Bill Prime and Richard Vasquez while working at the Twelve Wind Restaurant:

Caribbean Style Linguine:

8 oz skinned, boneless chicken breast (cut julienne)
6 oz roasted andoullie sausage (sliced in half inch pieces)
¼ cup julienne cut bell peppers red & green
¼ cup julienne cut Bermuda onion
2 garlic cloves minced
2 shallots chopped
2 tsp. curry powder or to taste
½ tsp. ginger powder
2 oz dark rum
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
8 oz fresh linguini
¼ stick butter
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté chicken and sausage until half done. Add peppers and onions, stir add garlic and shallots. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add curry and ginger powder cook for about 3 minutes, deglaze all with rum, and cook for 1 minute. Now add the heavy cream (room temperature) and cook until reduced by almost half stir in the butter and incorporate cook all for about 3 minute.

Toss with the fresh pasta correct seasoning and top with red pepper flakes.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Changing Gears: Courage, Cancer and Family!!!

The diagnosis of cancer is a very scary thing. It touched our family and many of yours. As I write this I am thinking not just of our family’s reaction but about my very special friend Josie’s Mother who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about one year ago. It was a shock to her family and friends. Anna Mariea went with the flow and did all that was requested of her with her very large family’s support. A few weeks ago she decided to have no more treatments. Anna Mariea told me that during the time she has left she wants to live it her way, “It does not matter how long or how short my time is, she says. This decision was not easy for her family; it takes courage to make that kind of decision against family. Anna Mariea. is holding her own, she has been traveling and intends to come back for a visit to Healdsburg. Her spirit and the love of her family are keeping her centered. I am sure there are other cancer patients who do the same to stay as self - reliant as long as possible.

I can identify with this need. My husband Marc made the same decision. I will try to solidify the reaction of our family. For 18 months Marc struggled with radiation, chemo and being a hero in spite of his health. He did go back to work for a time. He did have Histocistic Sarcoma Lymphoma.

Marc was diagnosed December 31, 1974. Talking to the children about his illness was hair rising. During this time, I took the job of opening the Restaurant “Annie’s Firehouse Soup Kitchen” in the spring of 1975. Every morning I got up at 4 am to go to work. Marc got up with me and made me coffee and some breakfast even though he did not feel well it was his gift to me for helping to keep things as normal as possible. Marc’s fight with his cancer ended August 1976.

One day after Marc died I received the job offer as General Manager for The Graduate Club in New Haven Connecticut an exclusive private dining club; which I accepted.

Walter our oldest was on a walking venture through the Western US and Alaska. He only found out about Marc’s illness month’s later. Walter never thought he would not see his Father again. Communication with Walter was sporadic because he never had a phone in the wilderness. I recall that a few days before Marc gave up his fight Walter called and I told him that his Father was holding on to know that he was okay. Walter said, “Do not tell him I called I am on my way back home.” I told Walter that I could not do that - his Father needed to know that he was okay and coming home. He never made it in time. Walter arrived the day of the funeral; I took him to the cemetery where he stayed awhile. After he came home he locked himself in our garage/work space and every time I tried for him to come out and join the family and friends he threw any thing he could find at the door. We could not get in to talk to him. After a couple days of this Walter did join us and since he was the oldest he chipped in wherever he could. Eventually Walter decided to go walking again which I believe was good for him.

Neal son number two has always been the quiet and very smart one with his father’s sense of humor. He just shut down and I could not reach him emotionally. Every time I had to go to work or just left the house Neal got frantic wondering if I would come back. Neal the joker of the family became more and more withdrawn. However he helped me with chores, now he hates to do them for himself, ha, ha. His academics dived (actually the four oldest boys academics dived). Neal also would help me with catering, but never among the guests he always stayed in the kitchens and did prep work or dishes. I always felt sad because he did not work up to his potential. He is the kindest man you want to meet, shy but has a big open heart.

Paul who is the third born did not feel comfortable with his own family. He wanted to go and live with his Uncle Russ (Marc’s brother) and Aunt Carroll, who lived in the LA area.  I let him move for one year. If that was good for him I am not so sure. Paul covered his sadness with being obnoxious at times. I hate to say this but I feel I lost a son during that year away from us.

Rodmond the family savior. Rod and the older boys were at Grateful Dead concert the evening Marc died. When the boys came home and I had to tell them that their Father passed away; Rod climbed on the roof of our house and did not come down for hours. Rod was very angry. Once he came to terms with the death of his Father he became the caretaker of the family. He made sure the house was in order especially the kitchen when I came home from work. Many years later he and the other kids told me that a big percentage of “Amity High”, hung out in our home while I was at work. what went on I can only imagine. Rodmond was only 14 years old; he took on all that responsibility with out being asked.

Steven the loner; Steven also pitched in when needed. The first few months were such a blur. I remember Steven going to his room and hiding behind a book. He would help with meals and work outside in the yard after homework. Once he decided to move Walters Mustang in our drive way and ended up in the ditch. Needless to say Walter was livid. Steve did not get hurt but could have he was but 13 years old.

Kurt and Heidi; neither child was home when Marc died. Both had been in New Jersey spending a couple of weeks with friends, Christina and Thomas who were the same age. Margot and Jim their Godparents brought them home the morning of the funeral.
It was so hard to tell them that we are going to the cemetery to bury their Father.
All the friends and relatives comforted them. I really did not see many tears; I am sure in the comfort of there room they were. Heidi found refuge in playing the piano. Kurt just hung in there and found a good friend Charlie who he spent time with along with his family. Heidi also had a good friend Lisa and she did spend time with her and her family. A few years later, Heidi also spent a lot of time with another friend, Andrea and her family. It was a relief for me because I had to work and at times I had to work in the evening when I had a big event going on at The Graduate Club.

Part two of this blog will follow, writing about this is not easy. I will elaborate next about some of the antics the kids managed to get into and survived all of them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

California Adventure Continues Part 2

California Adventure Continues Part 2

The last post ended with the Irvine Ranch Farmers Market. While still at the Irvine Ranch Farmers Market I was recruited to become part of the opening team of the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, California. I took on the project with glee.

Me & a colleague at the employee opening party,
Four Seasons Hotel, Newport Beach, CA
My part in that venture was training the banquet personal in French service. This was not an easy task -most hotels or restaurants do not go with that venue. The Four Seasons Hotel did and, I presume still does. Of course a lot of grumbling went on and on. I had the service personnel train with raw eggs, (want to guess how many dozens of eggs ended up on the floor?) Yikes! In the end they managed the task.

I also took charge of the banquets themselves which was not one of my favorite parts of the Food & Beverage Catering Department. However, I knew I had to do it if I wanted to move up at the Four Season Hotel Company. It was hair-raising at times. I decided I needed to get out of banquets and move either into catering sales or take on one of the Restaurants. The F&B was a woman and she was on top of things; people always thought of me as a drill sergeant but Nicky beat me by a mile. We had to wear suits and heels which, of course, I always did anyway. But, one evening the sub-banquet kitchen floor on the eighth floor was wet and I slipped straight onto my back. Oh boy. That was when I decided I needed to move out of being in charge of banquets.

My friend, the General Manager for the Meridian Hotel, offered me a job in outside catering. Like a fool I went back to the Four Seasons right then and there and resigned, which was another bad choice on my part. The job offer from the Meridian had to be approved by corporate in France since it was to be a new division at the Meridian. Well you guessed it. Corporate did decline the creation of the division. To make a long story short there I was with no job, a condo I had leased with the option to buy and could not, and I had to move with Heidi and Kurt. We relocated to Costa Mesa, Heidi and Kurt rented their own apartment and I rented a one bedroom for myself. To supplement income I did some private catering.

It was not a happy time and I ridiculed myself. How could I have been so stupid to quit the job at the Four Season Hotel before I had a contract in hand from the Meridian? My advice to anyone contemplating changing jobs: never quit your job until you actually have a new one.

After dwelling in my misery for a while I had to snap out of it. My son Rodmond in Santa Cruz suggested that I move to Santa Cruz which I ultimately did. It was a good move for me.

 Heidi and Kurt opted to stay in Orange County. Heidi was in College and had a job. Kurt also was employed.

After a few days in Santa Cruz I went job hunting and landed the job as Food & Beverage Director for the Dream Inn Hotel. I was so happy you can imagine. I will write more about Northern California in my next blog.

In response to requests for my“Eintopf” (Meal in a Pot) recipes I will add my Lamb Pot. It is so good this time of the year.

Lamb Pot

1 pound lamb (stew meat is fine)
   Pepper and salt to taste
2 tablespoons dried basil (fresh basil is better)
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 tablespoons olive oil (vegetable oil can be used)

2 quarts of beef stock (bouillon cubes can be substituted)
   salt to taste (do use salt sparingly if you use beef bouillon cubes)
1 pound carrots (peeled and sliced)
1 pound celery root (peeled and sliced)
4 leeks (cleaned and sliced, do not use the end of the leeks)

Cut lamb into cubes, (if you do not use stew meat). Season with pepper, curry powder and basil. Make sure meat is covered well with the spices. In a heavy saucepan heat the oil, add the meat and brown on all sides. Add the beef stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Correct seasoning. Add the carrots, celery root and simmer 20 more minutes. Add the leeks and simmer 10 more minutes. Finish of with fresh ground pepper and fresh or dried basil.

NOTE: Fresh farm bread or any fresh sour dough bread is great with this dish. Can be frozen up to three month. This is a great party dish.

Makes 4 to 6 servings