Mike, Fred and Bill on the BBQ!
Last Monday night, 280 members of our church descended on the social hall ready to celebrate the 125th birthday of the First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB). I was honored to be asked to run the kitchen end of the festivities. Our theme was an old-fashioned barbecue picnic. Revelers were encouraged to dress in western wear--bandanas, cowboy boots, etc. The social hall was decked out with an enormous facade of a big red barn. A stage was erected in front of the barn and various folks entertained as the evening went along. A special message of congratulations was read from our state's govenor Gregoire.
The pies layed out in the hallway.
Corn on the Cob
But what was happening in the kitchen? Well, it wasn't always pretty. The kitchen which is probably designed to feed about 100-150 comfortably was taxed way beyond its limit. The reach-in refrigerator died, and the chicken, which had been stored in that refrigerator, was discovered at the last minute to have gone bad.
Chef Michael, moi, sitting on my duff waiting for the chicken!
We sent out two volunteers to bring back about 100 pounds of ice and I turned the refrigerator into an ice box. The temperature in the fridge which had risen to 54 degrees went back down to 41 degrees and that disaster was averted. Food which had been taken across the street to another church for storage was returned and stayed nice and chilled in our makeshift ice box.
The dinner was prepared in a kitchen which was never designed to cook for those numbers of people by a cadre of hard-working, amazingly talented people who just made it happen by sheer force of will. We enlisted the help of adjacent rooms normally used for meetings and Sunday School to help spread out the preparation. Cole Slaw was served out of the board room, and the hallway was the staging area for cutting and plating pies brought in by the congregation. Fruit salad was served out of another hallway. The chicken was being barbecued out in the courtyard by three amazing guys on a smaller than expected rental barbecue.
Jean, on left, dining room manager par excellance!
Corn bubbled away on the stove top in huge pots and the baked beans baked below in the ovens.
So what of the rotten chicken? Well, when it was discovered to be bad, the smell would have knocked you over, a phone call to the local Fred Meyer was answered by a young employee who was taken compleely by surprise when I requested 400 pieces of chicken. "When do you want them?" he asked as if in slow motion. Perhaps it was my panic that made him seem as if he were in slow motion, but when I said I was sending two people over to get them right now, he sat up and paid a little more attention.
The chicken arrived and was whisked to the waiting barbecuers. The diners only clue something was not right was that the dinner was served about 45 minutes late. The news was carried to the mistress of ceremonies with instructions to S-T-R-E-T-C-H the speaking and entertainment portion.
Finally, about 7:30 dinner service began to the cheers of the crowd. At the end of the meal, my crew was beckoned into the hall where the crowd gave them a warm, appreciative standing ovation.
To my team of folks who worked so hard to pull this meal off, thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This was a tough one and you stood rock steady, were flexible, came up with great ideas as the moment required to help make what should have been impossible to do, not only possible but delicious! Jean, Fred, Mike, Bill, George, my sous chef Leslie and numerous others who stepped in here and there to serve, clean up and plate up, you were simply amazing!
The left overs went were delivered to the our local Lighthouse Mission at about 10 PM and was received by a small group of very grateful guys.