Thursday, November 22, 2007

700 for Thanksgiving Dinner


It starts months in advance, slowly, with emails and the occasional phone call in the hot summer sun. "Can I make a reservation for 8" "8pm?" "No, 8 people in November". There are meetings with vendors. Some of whom, being Japanese and Chinese, have never eaten or seen a turkey. Wine vendors, vegetable vendors, "We need 20 kilos (44lbs) of Cranberries" "Cranberry Juice?" "Cranbetty? nan deska?!?"...

Then the offsite stuff starts coming in. 50 people sit-down dinner in a investment bank board room. 2 people in small apartment. 46 for boxed turkey lunch Some want a whole turkey, roasted. Ya see, there are no ovens really in Japan. Most people have a fish broiler but no oven. Certainly no oven big enough even for a chicken let alone a whole turkey.

The week before the brakes start being applied. "Sorry madam, no seats on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, perhaps you can have the turkey lunch special on Saturday afternoon, in the cafe?".

A reasonably priced Turkey dinner is a draw. The only other folks offering a meal like this would be the big hotels. Of course its nothing like Mom used to make. Truffle infused Turkey covered with gold leaf or something and served with a whisked orange foam and some soy stuffing all for the low price of $100 a head, oh and don't forget to wear a tie.

The kitchen starts getting cranky 2 days before. Its when the size of the task becomes apparent to them. When the vendor starts delivering the whole turkeys and they have to figure out how to store them all. Walk into the restaurant in the morning and you will see every open surface will have turkeys on it, front-hall and kitchen, catering prep space, just everywhere.

The is always a number of people roasting, bone-ing, and storing turkey, always. Quietly working on hot turkey with sharpened knives and steam trays getting piled high with breast meat, white meat, dark meat. They will prepare 1,320lbs of Turkey and I don't know how many gallons of gravy.

The upstairs bakery (Its 2 ovens, and 6 feet of prep space) is always covered in pumpkin pie, either setting up and ready for baking, or cooling, or being cut and sent to the cake case. They will serve more than 550 pieces of pie over 3 days. The 2 bakers, who have been working in shifts from Monday, will have had enough of pumpkin pie by Thursday. They are all quite exhausted by the time the customers arrive for the 1st dinner on Wednesday. The 2 seatings on Thursday night, and 2 more seatings on Friday. Not to mention Turkey lunch special being served all week. Some people will bring their families in for lunch turkey instead of dinner. They called on Wednesday about reservations on Thursday and so they have to settle on Thanksgiving dinner at 1pm Friday afternoon on cafe tables. But they don't seem to mind. Its nice to have families in for lunch instead of the blue suited businessmen and chattering office-ladies who have 30 minutes for lunch.

You'd think the hall staff and the kitchen staff would be in a bad mood, but they are actually very happy. Chef is sort of cracking a smile, sort of. He is watching the empty plates come back in. Some look licked clean. They all are proud of having provided a home-cooked meal to some home-sick Americans. Restaurant people make and serve food because they love to and this is the perfect occasion to demonstrate that. In Asia, family is very important and at least 700 people have joined their family even if only just for dinner. Dinner of Turkey, mashed potato's, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, See you next year