Look At Him Just Sitting There Making All That Money. ( Can you lift 150+ lbs dead body?)

20140621-_MG_4042

“There he sits doing nothing and he’s making money” or so it looks. I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times that I have had guys come up to me and say “dude you’ve got the best job in the world” because they see me sitting in a chair doing nothing. All the while the pig is cooking away. Now most times this is a party guest who is arriving about an hour before the pig comes off the fire, but it could be a customer too.

Yeah there I sit doing nothing while the money just pours over me right… I guess he should have seen the look on my face when the alarm went off at 4:30am and the look on my face when I walked out the door at 5:00am to start loading the trailers for the two parties I have to cater for that day… and what’s this stuff pouring down from the sky, why there no way it could be rain because the weatherman said “no rain.” Or the look on my face when I send crew #1 off to their job and I’m ready to leave for my event and my assistant doesn’t show up or call and I go do the job alone. Yeah that look on my face just tells anyone “life is so good.” Let’s see I guess I should have called the customer and say “duh sorry I can come to cater your party today, it is raining and just don’t feel like working today.” First off, that would never happen because my brain isn’t wired that way, I wouldn’t think of it and failure is not an option. In 20 years I have never ever once cancelled a job I was hired to do.

So that sitting and relaxing that the customer or guests see me or my crew doing while the pig is cooking is just a little break from the action. Now I know most people are smart enough to figure that all out, but not all. This crazy little business actually takes a lot of little skills and you have to put them all together. Can you talk on the phone with people in a proper manner? Can you cut firewood? Can you fix trailer brakes? Can you deal with the health department, IRS, state fire inspectors, insurance agents, event promoters, and wedding planners ect…? Can you calm a panicking customer because it is raining? Can you lift 150+ lbs dead body? Can you fix a walk-in refrigerator? Can you come up with your own recipes? Can you fix a chainsaw? Can you laugh at a joke you have heard over 10,000 times and it wasn’t funny the first time? Can you prepare your own taxes? Do you know how to use QuickBooks? Can you properly type and send an email? Can you drive a truck & trailer through midtown Manhattan? Can you fix a flat tire without taking the wheel of the vehicle? Can you put out a fire? Can you run your own website? Can you properly use social media? Can you take good photos with something other than an iPhone? Can you cook? Can you cook a pig?

These are just a few of the skills that you must be able to do to run this business unless you want to pay someone else to do it. So yes I need a break sometimes and I’ll sit down lol.

I knew going into this whole gig “I’m not coming out a millionaire.” I just needed to pay the bills because I was laid off from a job. Then it grew into something… I don’t know what, but it grew into something and 1000 pigs later I can’t stop it. We have a long list of regular and returning customers and most all weekends have been filled for years. My thoughts were always “if you’re going to do something and get paid for it you have to do it right.” Otherwise you look like a jerk.

 

Advertisements

Roll With the Punches

20141011-_MG_7037untitled-Edit

I love you honey… but

The day of the party frustration, I think it happens to everybody at some point. For me and my crew we always arrive at the customer’s house hours before the party starts. If we are roasting a pig on-site we arrive about 6 hours prior to the serving time. So it is normal for us to pull up to a customer’s house around 9:00am on a Saturday morning and this is about the time the tension is starting to build, especially if it is a younger couple. They are new at life and most likely new at entertaining and throwing a party. Like most they have bitten off more than they can chew and they have a lot to do and a short time to do it.

Logically there are two reasons why you can fall behind the 8 ball when it comes to getting all your ducks lined up in a row for this party that is going to happen. One is in reality most normal people are not used to doing all this crazy work. We have our routines and going on a scavenger hunt all week trying to gather all the “stuff” you need to make this gig happen, while at the same time juggling the day to day grind can certainly leave the most enthusiastic person with a “cup runneth over.”  I think most people under estimate time and how long it will take to clean the backyard, the house or decorate (if needed), these are just a few examples.

The second reason is good ole procrastination or simply put “bull shit.” And it might not be you that is the artist here; it could be the spouse that is throwing the BS. Either way it all leads up to frustration and at some point the pressure will blow off in one form or another. It could be the keg gets tapped very early or the wine tasted so good I think I’ll have another… and the guests are still two hours out.

Yeah this is what I see. Remember I have been standing is a backyard cooking a pig and catering for the past twenty years. It might as well be the same backyard because after a few years they all look the same. And the people are the same, if it is a young couple I can all most predict every time how it will play out. Same with an older couple although the outcome is most times not as dramatic. Older couples have the life experience to know “you need to role with the punches.” They also know it is life… you can’t always get what you want.

So back to the younger couple, because the pressure is building and that is more fun to watch lol. She is stressing because it is baby’s first birthday and she wants everything to be storybook perfect. I understand it and I get it, it is a big day for her to entertain and celebrate. But he’s out there with his buddies trying to put up a canopy and nothing is going right. Remember what I said about “stepping out of routine”… who the hell puts up canopies enough to know how to do it efficiently? Well I do, but that don’t count lol. Seriously though we find ourselves in these little dilemmas that we never thought would happen. So the next thing you know she’s looking at him like he’s just out in the backyard having fun with his buddies and he’s not listening when she says you were supposed to pick the cake up from the bakery 20 minutes ago and they’ll be closing soon. Yeah that keg is getting tapped real quickly.

So my advice is always try… notice I say “try” to allow enough time for the unexpected because it will happen. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, getting  friends and family to help is of course an obvious given. But friends and family can be a big fail because… well they’re friends and family.

But here is something that I have seen that can usually work like a charm. Friends and family do not always put forth their best effort because when you start barking orders at them, well now you sound like their boss and they though it was going to be a party. So I have seen this done several times and really it is nothing new. A host will find someone they are familiar with to help. Not a friend or a family member, but more of an acquaintance I guess you could say. They help you when you’re having a party and you in-turn do the same back for them. I have seen this in action and it seemed to work wonderfully.

I was working a party and I see a lady helping the home owners set up the party; she also had her teen daughter there. But it looked a little odd and something was out of place because it is usually a friend or family member and this lady knew very little about the house or the garage. She was working hard and fast so I thought she must be the hired help. However she knew homeowner’s sister and she seemed to get along with the dog very well. Later on she was serving food and cleaning so I asked her directly if she was the wait staff. She laughed and said “yes & no.” She was a friend from church and she actually worked with the homeowner’s sister. She said she was working for free because they (party host) will do the same for her when she has her son’s graduation party. She explained they had been doing this for years and they also looked after each other’s pets when they travel. She said we’re not really close friends, but we know each other from church. At another party I seen the same thing and the man had a few guys he worked with, who he called “work buddies” but they rarely saw each other outside of work. But they agreed to help clean the backyard for a party and he would return the favor.

Parties are a lot of work, plan it out, find help you can trust and most of all roll with the punches.

How Much Food vs Too Much Food

20140607-IMG_0331

Ringoes Area Pig Roast

How much food do I order? This of course is most likely the most frustrating question that faces the host of any party. You could of course rely on whoever you are ordering the food from and while this seems like the safest bet it could also be the most costly. All you want is to have a party or maybe you need this party. Some parties are actually a “needed” thing such as a birthday or a graduation. In any event you are on a budget unless you’re a Kardashian (oooh don’t get me started). So with budget in mind you need to come up with this magical and almost mythical answer as to “how much food is the right amount?” I have the answer; There is no “right answer” or is there.

Ok so let’s get serious here and break it all down. You have a budget, you need food, you need enough food, however you don’t want tons of leftovers. Most caterers are going to sell you more than you need this is a given. And most people will go into panic mode two days out from the event and start running over the food order in their head and stressing they won’t have enough. There are calculators and elaborate software programs that can be used to decipher this equation. But let me tell you as a young caterer who knew nothing about planning a party much less how much food should be served, I soon came up with an idea. How big is the human stomach? I know this sounds idiotic and Martha Stewart would digress. But seriously… look at the typical holiday dinner and think about how much food is left over and how stuffed you are when you leave the table. I’ll use my own experience with the typical Thanksgiving dinner. All this food is bought and hours, if not days are spent preparing and cooking only to have pounds upon pounds of left overs. In fact two years in a row the sweet potato dish was not even touched.

I guess what I am trying to say and get the reader to understand is a “human being can only put so much food down their pie hole in a given amount of time. Sure uncle Mort will pound down four of those pulled pork sandwiches and most likely never touch the Caesar salad, while cousin Lara with her 110 lbs figure will surely pass over the pork and nibble a piece of chicken breast. When we are ordering food for a party, whether or not we are cooking it ourselves or getting it prepared by a caterer, at the time of ordering we never really tend to think of it in this way. We are more concerned with “OMG will I have enough food.”

I ask you this; think of your favorite place to eat dinner and think about what your favorite meal at that place would consist of. Picture it in your mind. I’ll tell you one of my faves and we’ll walk through it together. When I am out on the road traveling and I want a good sit down meal at a somewhat fair price I will eat at Cracker Barrel. I will order “Chicken Fried Chicken.” The meal is as follows; I’ll eat one biscuit with butter, there will be two pieces of boneless chicken breast with gravy, I usually get rice or steak fries (not both) a veggie and the mac & cheese (it’s a small serving). I drink one or two glasses of unsweetened tea and that’s it I’m done. No appetizer unless you want to consider the biscuit, and no desert. After all that I am full and satisfied and I am a big guy. I walk out feeling very full, but not stuffed. If I were eating that meal at home there would be no biscuit and most likely one piece of the chicken.

Mol-0733

Smoked Chicken

So I think by now you are starting to see my angle on this question of how much vs too much. Some people will eat like a pig and others pick like birds. If you are serving all of the same kind of person, let’s say fifty hungry construction workers well sure they are going to eat more than fifty people from the church. I would suggest looking at your guest list and determining things like is it a “normal crowd” or a specialty crowd (like fifty hungry men). If it is a normal mix of people you order a normal amount of food. The guide lines are the standard “full size” catering pan will general hold 25 to 30 servings of food depending of course what kind of food it is. I can fit 26-28 piece of chicken in a full size pan. That is assorted pieces of drumsticks, thighs and breasts are cut into smaller piece (no wings). However that same size pan will hold more than thirty servings of baked beans. But for the most part 25 to 30 servings per full size pan is the standard.

I suggest two meats as the main dishes and four side dishes with one being a green salad. But with choosing the four different side dishes you are going for diversity and not quantity, so there is no need to have enough of any one side dish to serve the whole crowd. In the realm of BBQ having rolls for about 50% of the head count because the other 50% will not eat them.

_MG_7097

Other things that factor into how hungry people are at a party is how long you make them wait to eat after they arrive. So it is a backyard party and you’ve told guests to arrive at 4:00pm with a serving time of 5:00pm. You should know, nobody is arriving at 4:00pm, most will arrive at 4:30 and the rest will arrive at 4:55 or later, remember I have been doing this for 20 years so trust me nobody is arriving at 4 o’clock, unless of course it is a surprise party or a wedding and that can force people to be there at a proper time. Either way waiting too long makes people hungry, a few minutes is not going to hurt. However asking guests to arrive at a certain time and making them wait more than one hour will certainly reduce your guest list for the next party. Appetizers of course should handle this problem, so don’t think you can leave guests hanging too long. I know some people reading this may find it hard to believe, but I have seen people of so called “reasonable intelligence” make guests wait two hours for the main serving with just chips and cheese to hold them over. This of course will affect your amount of food you have ordered and could cause a problem. One and half hours with appetizers is pretty much the limit.

 

First blog post

IMG_2040

Munn and a very happy customer. Cooking on the waterfront.

Ok so here I am starting off my 20th cooking season and I thought it appropriate to start up a blog for my catering business. I’ll warn you upfront I am the world’s worst blogger even though I am not a newcomer to the blogging scene. For several years I have run a blog to support my photography business and website. I will try to keep this blog free of click-bait and not clutter up the pages with advertisements… well at least not too many advertisements lol.

So what all kinds of content will appear here on these blog pages? Ok, so first let me say today I have also started up a Youtube channel to support my catering business and website. Not that they really need it, but I thought it would be nice to take “Have Pig Will Travel” onward and into the new era (so to speak) of blogging & vlogging. I’m 20 years down the road with this hand basket, I never ever set out to be a “BBQ guy” it was forced upon me due to being laid off from a middle management job as shipping manager for a small company. I had virtually no money and long story short I bought Have Pig Will Travel with money borrowed from a friend. So after twenty years I think I have learned a few things about a lot of things… people being one, outdoor cooking being another and just life in general. So I guess what I am trying to say is… the content that will appear here will be mixed and not just all about BBQ. BBQ is boring, sure it tastes delicious, but it is so simple a kid can do it (my opinion after 20 years lol). The content will certainly be stories of the places I have been to and the people I have met. Along with the food I find that other people cook as well as products I find and just all those little things I see along the way.

So please subscribe to this blog and also head over and subscribe to the new Youtube channel.