Tomorrow I am cooking a four course meal for my friend's daughter. Or rather benefiting my friend's daughter. I offered back in October or November and the cards never seemed to line up. I sort of forgot about it until I got a call back in January asking if I was still interested and could do it the weekend after Valentines Day. I immediately accepted and started planning.
When they found out her daughter had DIPG, my friend started a charity in her name. I have sold bracelets (think Lance Armstrong style) to raise money and have bought multiple gifts for the family, including heated blankets and miscellaneous crafts. I turned down invitations to benefit after benefit because I just couldn't get down there...they always seemed to fall during restaurant week or other holidays that I couldn't get off work. (They live 2 hours away.) So I said fuck it and volunteered to do my own.
Originally, the plan was to find a banquet hall and have the charity pay the cost of the facility. Can you believe every single banquet facility they spoke with refused to help? Not even a discounted rate for the benefit. So, they decided to use someone's home. I am donating my time and the cost of the food. Another friend of the family is donating the wine and beer. I spoke with the woman who is hosting on the phone the other day and she was just lovely. I realize that is never a phrase that has left my mouth before, but there is simply no other way to describe her. I was on the phone with her for an hour. I have never met or spoken to this woman in my life. She called me sweet heart through the whole conversation. I love her.
My friend's daughter has terrible food allergies...dairy, gluten, egg, nut, soy, and I am probably forgetting 12 of them. I know there are a few fruits she can't eat either. So, I decided to offer to be sensitive to food allergies for this dinner since I know some of the people in their lives could fall into this same category.
To which I got the following list:
1 No Pork
1 Nut Allergy
1 Milk Allergy
Sigh. I don't want to be that chef. I don't want to be the person who is super annoyed by lists like this. I am allergic to olives (which is weird) and nobody mocks me when I ask them if something contains or has come into contact with olives. I totally get it. BUT.
I responded to this email saying I would offer two menus which cover all of my problems. A vegan menu and a non vegan menu. Everyone listed above would eat the vegan menu when a food allergy applied (except for nut person because I am not using any.)
Let the shit storm begin. No Pork just doesn't like eating it because pigs are cute, but doesn't want a bunch of vegetables either, so she will eat the pork. Milk allergy (which only applies to the dessert) would prefer not to eat the vegan ice cream, can I get sorbet instead? The vegetarians both want to eat dairy and eggs if it applies and would prefer not to have vegan dishes.
What the...just what?
Let's figure out what I should make on this, shall we? I have spent $200 on food...$8 a person. Let's say, for shits and giggles, that I get paid my former hourly rate (which is much less than my current) and I am making about $11/ hour. Start to finish, including shopping, prepping, travelling time, set up and execution, is about 20 hours. So we are at $420 (ha. 420) for a four course meal for 25 people. That is what it costs to have me there. Literally no profit. I took off work for this.
They are charging $50 a head for this dinner...bringing in $1250 pure profit. Which I support. I completely support this cause and want this charity to get all the money in the world. But, at what point does someone say, well, this is a charity dinner donated by a chef? At what point do we stop pretending to have food allergies when we really just don't like that food?
Is it selfish of me to be pissed that I am doing this for free and having to deal with this? If I was getting paid the $2000 it would actually cost for a private four course meal for 25 people, fine.
I cooked all the food tonight. It probably cost me an extra $50 for these modifications. I have a crispy mushroom terrine in place of pork belly and tofu in the place of short ribs. I have made vegan and non vegan sauces. I bought soy milk and fake butter and mother fucking vegan sugar. Did you know sugar wasn't vegan? Because it is not. It is processed through animal bones. So I bought certified vegan sugar. CERTIFIED VEGAN SUGAR.
Deep breaths. I am in a service industry and I do what people want. The answer is yes, what is the question...OH MY GOD I JUST VOMITED IN MY MOUTH.
I want this night to be perfect. I want everyone to have a wonderful evening and I will do whatever it is that they ask. I will make fifteen versions of the same dish and they will all be delicious. This isn't about me and petty bullshit. I just wish that everyone else didn't make it about them.