A sampling of my work with Roquette Catering. And a story...
It wasn't like any other Craigslist job posting. From what I remember, it asked for a paragraph on why you'd want to take on freelance catering in Red Hook, Brooklyn. My 2015 self is cringing at the informality of my response and all of the exclamation points:
Hi there !
Just came across your craigslist post!
I'm interested in freelance catering this summer because I'm currently enrolled at the French Culinary Institute and cannot commit to a full time job yet. I just want to get as much supplemental opportunities and hands on experience as I can because I'm just a student and will be interning at Murray's Cheese shop (on Bleecker!) starting in August. I have a mediocre knowledge of wines, but I can learn quickly. I'm currently reading Stephen Jenkins' Cheese Primer (kind of an encyclopedia of CHEESE!) and it lists bunches of wine pairings.
My goal in life is to cater small scale and local music events, so I'd welcome any chance to work with you! My resume is attached. Thanks for the consideration!
However, it must have worked because I had a job interview that week. It was a gorgeous May day and I was an hour early for the interview. I was shading my bag as best as I could because along with copies of my resume, I had a wheel of Mt. Tam Cowgirl Creamery cheese. What could go wrong if I bribed an employer with cheese?
Everything went right.
Upon entering Tini Wine Bar (now known as Home/Made), I gasped at the color palette and flower arrangements. It was a cozy 10 seat restaurant, one of the table settings was a couch with a low coffee table. I was very honest about my lack of experience but Monica and Leisah took a chance on me. I had two weeks of shadowing Monica in the kitchen and she let me fly solo.
For the next 4 years, I'd embark on a challenging yet super rewarding apprenticeship through restaurant service, a restaurant move and dozens of weddings under the name Roquette Catering. I admired the Roquette style because they balanced beauty and flavor. Where most weddings failed with food and quality, Roquette was a burst of sunshine with abundant appetizer displays, fresh-out-the-oven flatbreads and family style piles of yummy short rib.
Sometimes Monica would also book herself as the wedding florist. I'd arrive at the venue, survey the kitchen, unload the truck and then check in on the menu. We worked so well together that I'd wander over to Monica while she had buckets of flowers around her and I'd talk through timing for the day. Little did I know that independence was a real life job skill. I also started calling Monica and Leisah my moms.
My favorite memories include the several times a bride and groom didn't want to cut the cake, so I awkwardly cut it in front of everyone. Several family members would try to stop me and say, "Isn't that bad luck?" and I'd squeak back," It's what they wanted!"Or the Thanksgiving party where a big guy said my knife "didn't work" as they were cutting the turkey. And I ended up carving up 4 turkeys with another cook. Our knives most certainly worked. Or the time no guests danced at a wedding and all of us working staff broke it down on the dance floor to "Brick House."
I did have my "Ugh not again" moments, for sure. I'd finish cleaning a package of mushrooms to discover there was a whole case of them. Or breaking my 3rd wine glass that week. But I'd persevere, biking the 4 miles from my house to work so I could cut the brunch potatoes. Many "culinary school graduates" would come and go during my tenure and I couldn't quite articulate it then, but they just didn't have what it took to manage a small kitchen on their own. Many moved on to be line cooks at larger places or as I would refer to them, "cogs in the machine." I was perfectly happy taking notes and learning so I could eventually own a catering business, too.
I've since moved on from full time work with Roquette but I come in every now and then to help with the big weddings. In fact, it all came full circle when Monica and Leisah tied the knot this past fall. It was poetic and wonderful to see two ladies who have catered hundreds of weddings, finally enjoying their own. And I, their culinary padawan, along with a few other alums ran the kitchen while they enjoyed the party.
Seriously, it was one of the most fun weddings, ever. It was flipped on its head: it started with the reception with a small intermission for the 10 minute ceremony. Instead of vows, they toasted each other and I went running around with champagne bottles, filling everyone up. The rest of the food came pouring of the kitchen and from a Neopolitan pizza truck. We had a cut off time for the kitchen staff, we threw off our aprons and joined in.
How lucky am I to have found family through a Craiglists ad in 2008? Even now, my goals and enthusiasm from that first email still ring true.