Restaurants throughout Oklahoma City, Okla. took on the challenge of a lifetime, something only most chefs might dream of doing: cooking, plating and serving a 100-course meal spanning 15 hours. Imagine the tabletop need — and potential.
The Tasting Room who trained under the acclaimed Chef Bernard Cretier at Le Vichyssoise outside Chicago 30 years ago. "We grouped into five teams of two chefs each, prepping throughout the week leading up to the event.""For 15 hours we averaged one plate every 30 seconds," says Kurt Fleischfresser, the award-winning, internationally recognized chef/owner of
Fleischfresser and two additional chefs manned the plating area set up in front of the guests and cameras in the private dining space at The Tasting Room, taking turns with breaks as needed. Chefs from The Coach House as well as friends and former apprentices came by to man the ambitious setup. Proceeds from the charitable event, which drew in about 220 guests from the area and well beyond, went to a local food bank. A per person fee of $100 included 10 courses plus wine pairings.
"The event was probably the most positive thing I've done in my 33-year career," Fleischfresser says. And we did the whole thing out of a tiny space — only 2,000 square feet."
From 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m., each chef team, armed with a list of 20 assigned menu items, plated and served in 40-minute rotations. In a heavily organized setup, Fleischfresser's core team prepped and packaged up the mise en place for each menu group ahead of time, making it easy for participating culinary staff to grab what they needed from the walk-in and go right to work.
A breakfast theme kicked things off and transitioned into a lunch theme, followed by a vegetarian seating that eventually gave way to an eclectic dinner of seafood, fowl, pork and beef, and desserts. Rounding out the evening's festivities was a New Years' Eve-style champagne and hors d'oeuvres course. The dining room was set up with two tables of 20 seats each "so we didn't skip a beat" and the new group could comfortably take their places as the current group finished. An additional group of four was set up for the handful of guests sitting for the entire marathon meal.
To handle the tabletop needs, Fleischfresser and team scoured inventory at The Tasting Room as well as at Fleischfresser's other restaurants within the Western Concepts Restaurant Group, including The Coach House, The Lobby Bar (also at Will Rogers Theatre with The Tasting Room), Musashi's and Sushi Neko.
"We had to have 24 of everything so we went and bought about 4 more sets of 24 because we didn't want all the plates to look alike," Fleischfresser says.
The group worked with Oswalt Restaurant Supply to address their silverware needs for the event, while local stores also filled in some of the other items.
With substantially sized portions, the team couldn't get away with just a spoon here and a carrot on a stick there. Instead, a variety of bowls, jars, glasses and other vessels were used in addition to differently sized plates to handle the volume. Cut up old menus from The Tasting Room and The Coach House were used in place of doilies. White was the primary palette color to showcase the artful presentations, though touches of orange, blue glass and other colors showed up at different points in the meal.
Little tasting spoons that came with dish sets from the local kitchen stores were also used in place of all traditional flatware. The servers used rectangular glass plates to carry smaller dishes to the tables.
A series of speed racks held the food, rolled out from The Coach House's walk-in cooler, where the prepping occurred, into a rented refrigerated truck that transported the goods to The Tasting Room. Dining tables were decorated simply, with red and white wine glasses, black napkins, wine corks for keepsakes and a few clear square vases holding green and yellow flowers.