The Catering Manager was on the phone with a co-worker of hers, and looked pissed. This was their sixth phone exchange, and it was 3:45. The truck was at this point forty-five minutes late. Since the van held all the food and decorations for the event, we had little to do. I tried not to think about how rushed things would be once the van finally arrived. To pass the time, I looked at the client's cookbook collection and noted the faces in his framed photos.
Driving a catering delivery van (or truck) in the San Francisco Bay Area during the holidays must be terribly stressful. Sometimes, catering companies use one van for two events, if they are doing things stupidly and on the cheap. Trust me, it's worth the extra money to rent another van. I've seen it happen many times where one crew has to deliver and unload food and gear for more than one event. Going from SF to say, Mill Valley will always take longer than planned. The poor crews are always late, frazzled, and ticked off. Inevitably, something gets left behind. At our event, it was a grand floral arrangement that was left behind in the catering warehouse.
By the time the female driver arrived at our event at 4:15, she looked forlorn and zonked. "My Mapquest said to turn left, but it was a dead end. There were no turns. Then, I got stuck on Market Street, and could only turn right." Poor thing, it was Friday rush hour, and her first time driving in San Francisco. I'm not surprised she got lost.
We had to hustle to carry tables, food, booze, bins, and other supplies up not one but two sets of steep stairs. This heavy lifting is why I shy away from other physical exercise in the hours leading up to catering gigs. My jokes about "Where's the elevator?" were met with thin smiles, but I was trying to lighten the mood. Since we were now an hour and a half behind schedule, it was a rush to get everything set up and ready. Guests were arriving at 6 p.m., so we had to hurry.
Whenever I started to feel panicky about how much I had to do before six, I took a deep breath. One thing at a time. Not my fault we're late. Keep working. What's next on the list? We cranked out a buffet that included: hummus, olive tapenade, pita points; smoked salmon; thinly sliced beef filet with horseradish cream, on focaccia; cheese station with seasonal fruit; lamb lollipops with pear chutney; Asian noodles in a ginger-garlic sauce; and chocolate truffles, fruit tarts, and petit fours. Guess what time the first guest arrived? 6:20. Of course.