On November 8th and 9th, my NOCCA classmates and I got to do some really awesome things. We got to work at Boudin Bourbon and Beer and Carnivale Du Vin. We worked with Emeril Lagasse and a lot of other awesome chefs like John Besh, Kat Cora, Mario Batali, and more! It was lots of fun and a huge honor to be able to work with all of them at those really awesome events.
Boudin Bourbon and Beer is a big food festival in New Orleans that raises money for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. When we got there it was like whole new world! We had been to festivals before but I think we were all amazed at how it really was “behind the scenes”. At first we just helped out with the little things like bringing plates and silverware to the chefs, picking the leaves off of basil, and putting up garbage cans. For a while we were just walking around asking if anyone needed any help. We got to taste a lot of the food and it was amazing! My favorite was Mario Batali’s Boudin (that we picked basil for) and chocolate bacon pralines (I don’t remember who made them but they were delicious.) Tasting was fun but then the festival started and people started flooding in. It got very crazy out there very fast and we got right to work helping anyone that needed help. At first I was still just bringing plates to people but now they needed it really fast. Finally, when we asked if he needed any help, Chef Josh Galliano (the chef of The Libertine in St.Louis) asked my friend Alyssa and me to help them with plating! We were all working together to very quickly get everything on the plate looking pretty for the customers. It was such a rush! I was kind of sad when we had to leave but I was glad to go home and get a good night’s sleep before another exciting day.
The next day we helped at Carnivale Du Vin. Carnivale Du Vin is a big gala dinner and wine auction that also raises money for the Emeril Foundation. It has been named one of the top 10 US charity wine auctions by Wine Spectator Magazine.
When we got there it was a bit awkward at first because it seemed like they really didn’t need us but then they found some jobs for us and we got right to work. I was assigned to pastries along with a few other girls (thank goodness!) We put pastry cream into pastry bags and then put pastry cream, bananas, and whipped cream on hundreds of crepes. Then we took a lunch break! After lunch we folded the crepes and cut them in half and plated them.
While we were plating, we were all called to a meeting in the plating room. When we got there, the chef that was in charge told us what was gonna happen during the gala and who would do what job. I was assigned to plating along with 4 chefs and 3 other NOCCA students. I was so excited! I had so much fun plating the day before at the festival but this was the real deal! (Squeeeeeeeeee!)
It still wasn’t time to start yet though so we went back to work on plating the crepes.
When we were done with the crepes it was time to plate the amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche literally means “mouth amuser” in French. It is a small bite sized dish selected by the chef to prepare guests for the meal. The amuse-bouches we plated had orange slices, leeks, radishes, tuna sopressata, and micro-greens. We were in a room filled with almost a thousand plates and we had to put an amuse-bouche on each one but we had a lot of people helping so it got done pretty fast.
When the amuse-bouche was done we were going to have a special guest come to help us with the chocolate. Jacques Torres, a famous chocolatier (a.k.a. Mr. Chocolate) was coming. We were all so excited! I mean who wouldnt wanna work with Mr.Chocolate? Well at least we were excited at first… He was so late. We waited, and waited, and waited but no Jacques… We were going crazy! There was nothing else to do until serving time so we just stood there and waited… Finally we just decided to take a break and go to the Starbucks that was down the hallway. By then it was almost time to plate and I was starting to get nervous. This wasn’t gonna be like plating at the festival, this was a real fancy gala dinner where people paid $1000 to get in. What if I messed up? What if I didn’t know what to do? What if I couldn’t do what they asked me to do? This was my first real experience like this and I was freaking out a little bit but deep inside I knew I could do it. (Also, the chai tea from Starbucks helped to calm my nerves a bit.)
When we got back from Starbucks “Mr.Chocolate” still wasn’t there but it was time to plate so we headed to the plating room. When we got there, we found out that it really didn’t start at the time they asked us to be in the room. They just said to be in there like 45 minutes earlier than we had to so that nobody was late. (Great… More waiting…) Thankfully, the music for the gala had already started so the wait wasn’t too painful. Before we knew it, it was time to start plating.
We were all in 2 lines of 4 people (Plus the people that handed us the plates and the people that took the plates when they were finished.) Each person in the line had a certain thing that they would put on the plate. Like for the lasagna plate one person put the lasagna on, the next person put the meat sauce on, I put the béchamel on and the last person put the micro-greens on top as a garnish and then a waiter took each plate to serve to the guests. It went so fast! There were 3 different dishes and we worked on each one for about 30 minutes but it only felt like 10 minutes at the most! Finally, I got to feel that rush that I felt the night before but this time it was much more. I didn’t even notice at the time but I burned all of my fingertips on the hot plates and food. It was so worth it though just to be a part of something so important.
I wonder what the guests at the gala would think if they knew me, the girl plating their food. If they knew how much pressure it was, how nervous I was, or how much fun I had doing it. This experience really helped me to appreciate all the people behind the scenes when I order food. It also helped me to realize that I could be the girl in a gown at a gala or the girl in the chef uniform preparing the food and I’d still have fun either way.
We were only allowed to be there until 10:00 so when we finished plating it was time for us to go. That’s ok though. We got to do some really awesome things. It really was amazing but I was glad to get home that night and rest after that long exciting day.