Saturday, February 16, 2013

I really do love you, vegans. Just not when I have to cook for you.

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 Vegan
2 Vegetarians
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.


J o s e y said...

Making up allergies b/c you don't LIKE something is ridiculous, ESPECIALLY in a case like this. You went way above and beyond.

monique said...

Good Luck!

Brooke said...

This made me laugh really, really hard. When we are in these situations, because our food preference is a *preference* and not due to an allergy or inherent death if we touch certain foods... we don't request anything specific. If there is a vegan or vegetarian dish offered on the menu, we will take it... but if not, we live and make an exception for said event. I know we're not the norm though, and I'm sorry.