In 1987 I had registered the business name Cindy’s Classic Gourmet and was establishing my business by cooking lasagne and pate for my husband to take to work and sell to his colleagues, and I was starting to pick up catering for private dinner parties and birthdays. Then a good friend of mine, Cheryl Wilson asked me to cater her wedding at Hardy’s Winery in South Australia.
I said yes right away, and we agreed on the price, but I still had to do the job. I was filled with a lot of emotions all at once – excitement, nervousness, doubt – but this was my very first wedding, and I was going to do everything I could to make it a success for Cheryl, and for Cindy’s Classic Gourmet.
You hear people say that a lot actually – I’ll do whatever I have to do! Not only is it a great motivator that a lot of us use to psyche ourselves up, but it also falls under the ‘famous last words’ category, because we rarely realise just how much we’re going to have to juggle to really achieve that flawless result.
I have always had great organisational skills, and so I went into my first meeting with the Hardy’s Function Director with a big planning book which I filled with endless notes. I then went on to write out timetables, orders, deliveries, cooking times and every piece of information I would need.
Then…the big day arrived. The food was to be served buffet style, which I had designed to be a selection of salads, roasted vegetables, Webber meats with red wine glaze, and boards filled with cheese, fresh fruits and crusty breads. This was my first big learning curve: wedding guests definitely have eyes bigger than their stomachs when they’re faced with a full buffet. The buffet was quickly running low, so not wanting to run out of food, my staff and I started making salads out of anything we could find.
Don’t forget, this was the 80s, when ice berg lettuce was the height of creativity for a salad. But there I was making salads out of snow peas, apples and oranges! With the food service over, and crisis #1 averted, I was totally amazed by the fantastic comments I received from the guests, complimenting me on the exciting and varied salads available. If only they’d known.
Then there was the wedding cake. An elegant traditional French wedding cake, the Croquembouche arrived care of a flustered delivery person, who was anxious to be rid of such a delicate cake on such a warm day. As the delivery man handed me the cake, it collapsed against me – just like something you’d see in a movie. Luckily I was young and agile enough to catch it.
A chef friend who was working with me ran out for more cream and we stuck the profiteroles back into shape. I then made more spun sugar, and headed into the garden for flowers to fill in the gaps. The result was fantastic and no one noticed anything different about the cake. We never told the bride, and I don’t think Cheryl knows to this day how frantic it was behind the scenes…well, until now. Sorry Cheryl!
So, some important lessons I learnt from that day:
1. Always have the cake maker set up the wedding cake on the cake table.
2. Always have spare profiteroles on hand when the wedding cake is a Croquembouche.
After Cheryl’s wedding the Functions Director offered me a job at Hardy’s. However, I’d also learnt how much I still had to learn, so I turned down the job.
I believed that it was my vanity that had helped me get through that wedding by the skin of my teeth, as there were so many guests I knew personally and I wanted to make sure it was a good show. Even though it was my first wedding, I knew how important it was to remain in control of everything. A bride can panic over the smallest thing seemingly not going to plan, so if it can be dealt with calmly, just do it. Don’t let the guests know – just keep going.
And I know Cheryl still trusts me, because I have just catered her 50th birthday party. I still try and learn things from my everyday experiences in both work and day-to-day life, and even though I went in pretending I knew what I was doing, my organisation, passion and dedication helped me come out the other side a success.
Until next time,