Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ooh La La--Volunteering is so much fun!

Especially when you get home at 1:30 in the morning and have to get up at 7 on Saturday for work. The old gray mare ain't what she used to be...and I'm not gray, either, and won't be according to my hairstylist, but you get the drift.

In the interests of my grade and completing the program at Fine Technical College, along with some karma points, I volunteered, along with a few of my fellow students, to work at a fundraising event for the local metro area food bank. This event raises a ton of money for a very worthy cause, and it allows us, as students, some access to local chefs in a more relaxed atmosphere.

The food bank provides food and other donated products to nonprofit partner agencies serving many poor and low-income people. The way I understand it is that the food bank is sort of a clearinghouse for donated foodstuffs and other goods, and the non-profits who need these items, can come "shop" at the food bank to get what they need for their own missions. I have strong feelings about people, especially children, going hungry, so I usually donate whenever possible to food-based charities. It's hard to think when you are hungry, much less try to figure out how you are going to survive the week if you haven't even got a blue box of mac and cheese.

I may have mentioned before that Fine Technical College donates all the stuff we cook in class to a halfway house for folks getting back on their feet, and we provide sandwiches for the USO room at the airport. I often wonder what those folks at the 'house think when one day they get pork and beans, and the next is creme brulee...which might or might not taste like pork and beans, depending on which class cooked it! I hope they and their stomachs are tolerant of our attempts. : )

Anyway, this event was a black-tie affair, and there were lots of pretty people there. There were 20 food industry representatives, who were serving all manner of goodies. These chefs brought some mighty tasty things, and I was glad we were encouraged to visit all the stations and eat when we took a break. FTC brought a marinated pork dish and some very elegant looking desserts. I had seen the baking class making these desserts earlier in the week and wondered what they were and at what event they were destined to be served. I wish I had a picture, because it would have spoken volumes about how presentation is 9/10s of the battle. Baking Chef had ordered these fancy little fluted "shot glasses" for lack of a better description, and the classes made miniature layered desserts. One dessert was a bottom layer of chocolate mousse, topped with a raspberry gelee and Bavarian cream and a giant fresh raspberry and a little pirouette of chocolate. (These were the favorites.) The other was a blueberry compote topped with a buttermilk panna cotta (an Italian custard) and a wee tiny almond macaroon and a chocolate pirouette. People were just ooh and ahhing over how elegant they looked...and taking them away by the handfuls, too.

A rival culinary school was in attendance as well, and they had a wonderful cheese display that I really wanted to spend a lot of time at, but I resisted. I am but 2 pounds away from my 20-pound goal by the end of this semester goal, and I didn't want to completely blow it. (The Man and the poodles did think I was weird when I came in at 1:30 and immediately hopped on the scales and squealed about losing a pound...yeah, yeah, it was dehydration of sorts, because we sweated our heinies off, but it was nice there for a few hours to only be 1 pound shy of the goal...we takes it where we can gets it.)

Dimmer Switch showed up to volunteer, and immediately she had some issues about the event. She started rambling on to Introductory Chef, who is also Volunteer Chef as well as Chef who procures all food items and goes strictly by your project requisition that you might have left a whole buncha stuff of off, but that was another post, about how she can't stay for the whole thing, because she has to get up and go to work in the morning in "the real world." (She is forever spouting off about how things are different in "the real world," when it comes to culinary stuff and nonsense.)

Now, if I had a dollar for every time we were told how the volunteering procedure works, I could own a vending machine. Volunteer Chef started indoctrinating us in the cult of culinary volunteerism pretty much the first week of class. In the little family orientation meeting we do every quarter to size up the newbies, there is a slide or two on the various volunteer opportunities, and the upperclass people are always called upon to talk about their experiences with these events. It's not a new concept to any of us, and the rules and procedures aren't a big surprise, either.

The biggest rule is that everyone arrives together and leaves together. We always meet at the school, divide into various carpools if necessary, and caravan to the event. After the event is over, we load up, head back to the school, unload, clean up, and then we all have to leave the building together. If it's nighttime, we all have to leave the parking lot before Chef leaves.

It's a good system in that it helps the instructors know where their peeps are at all times, no one gets left behind or put in a situation where they might get hurt or cause the school liability, etc. It also presents a united and professional front to the folks we are volunteering with, and you never know who might be able to help you out with a job, et cetera, et cetera.

So, Dimmer is working her show with Volunteer Chef about how she can't stay for the whole event, blah, blah, blah. Chef says if you can't stay for the whole thing, reiterating the policy, then you can help load up and go home. Dimmer then starts in with Head Chef about not being able to stay, and how she took off work especially to help out with this, yadda, yadda. Chef reiterates what Volunteer Chef said, and I think this is the last we'll see of Dimmer that evening.

Somehow, the culinary gods shined on me, and Head Chef selects me to travel with him to the venue and assist him with setup of the signage for the other food service folks and direct them to their booths as they arrive. This was actually great fun, and beat the heck out of loading the van with stuff to bring over.

Imagine my suprise when Dimmer shows up! I think she is just going to suck it up and lose sleep like the rest of us, who will have to get up at 7 in the morning for work.

It's showtime, and we do our gig. It's amazing some of the things that people wear to formal events, including 6-inch clear stiletto heels with blinking lights...think those goofy sneakers that kids have that light up when they walk and you get the picture...blinking lights. Stilettos. I had to follow the woman for a couple of paces to make sure I wasn't seeing things. They looked a lot like (WARNING: Possibly NSF link!!) these, except the lights were multi-colored. (Go ahead and check that site out...see if you find it as interesting as I did. Amazing what you get in Google when you type in "clear heels with blinking lights." Go on--you know you want to. I'll still be here when you get back. And, notice those puppies ain't cheap.)

Anyway, we did our gig, packed up, and headed back to the ranch. I was with the last group to get back to the FTC ranch, so missed the departure of Dimmer Switch. Evidently, as soon as the carpool she was in pulled into the lot, she hopped out and into her own vehicle and left...not bothering to say "hi, bye, or kiss my grits" to anyone. This greatly displeased Volunteer Chef, and I'm sure has won Dimmer Switch the grand prize lecture about how to listen and follow directions. Chef specifically told her that if she couldn't stay to the bitter end, meaning the unloading and washing up, that she shouldn't even show up at the venue. Oughta be pretty entertaining on Monday.

That's it for was a busy day at work, and my tootsies are tired, so we are going to bed early in hopes of recovering by Monday. Monday's going to be fun, since we'll all be working for Team 2 and creating their New England menu. Let's hope they doublechecked their requisition!! : )

1 comment:

Erin said...

Sounds exhausting, but at least you got to see people in silly outfits eat miniscule, beautiful desserts. That has to count for something.