Party Kitchen at Your Venue
Or maybe cook at home, then serve at the venue's party kitchen...?
So the party's not at your home. Maybe you can do some cooking and prep from home, then serve it at the party kitchen. Or maybe not.
OK - You’re going on the road!! Deep breath. Give our
site a good read. You can do this - it’s all here for you.
We are too!
Is There a Kitchen
Where the Party is Going to Be?
Plan your menu around your venue. Lots of places have kitchens which will work as your party kitchen. Local halls, churches, community centers, fire companies, VFW’s, schools, etc. usually have some kind of kitchen available. Ask for a kitchen tour, and here’s what to look for:
Is it Clean? Or cleanable? It’s just gotta be clean. No way around it. See Food Safety for tips and ideas.
Does everything work? Walk around and turn things on, stove and oven first. If someone is showing you around, ask questions. Before you leave, fire up the stove and oven and make sure they work. See Food Warmers for ideas about keeping hot foods hot.
How about the fridge. Up and running? Smells OK? How about a freezer. Enough room for your ice? See Refrigeration for some 'cool' tips.
Does the water work at the party kitchen? Let it run for a little and give it a taste. Drain works? Is there a hood to remove cooking odors? How about lighting… Your party kitchen doesn’t need to be perfect like out of “Kitchen’s Beautiful” or whatever… you’re not moving in – but it does need to have enough to see you through the day.
Counter space – room to work. It’s one of the most important things you’ll need. If the party kitchen is cramped, maybe there’s a hallway or area near it where you can set up a table or two, and stretch out the kitchen a little bit. Renting has some ideas to help you.
You’ll probably need to sign a contract, pay a fee and make lots of promises to use someone else’s kitchen. Be sure to plan for a super clean up job – leave it better than you found it.
One more thing – leftovers. Most venues don’t want them; they’ll just throw things out. Think this through and have a plan for your leftovers. Party Recipes and Ideas includes tips for leftovers in all of our recipes, but you can always make other arrangements if that works better for you.
No Kitchen at the Party?
Is it a picnic?, at a Fair?, or whatever place that doesn't have a kitchen? Check out the basics you'll need for your party:
♦ Water: Be sure to have or bring enough water - you’ll need it for drinking, cooking, hand-washing, clean-up, fire control and first aid.
Getting the water there is half the problem. Here’s what we do:
Five gallon “bottles” of water are easily available from shopping clubs. Filled with clean water that's perfect for drinking and cooking, your deposit will be returned when you bring the empties back.
There is also on hand pump available for these bottles – something you screw into the top.
We also use 5 gallon water coolers to transport water and beverages. The faucet allows for people to tap out a a cup at a time, or you can pop off the lid to quickly empty.
We’ve used these “jugs” for water, punch, iced tea, alcohol-drinks, hot chocolate, and coffee. They are not expensive, and have two handles to carry the 43 pound weight when filled. We tape a sign to the front of each to remind what’s in it.
Water for handwashing is essential. Have a handwashing area where guests and food-handlers can wash their hands with soap, warm water and alcohol gel, as close to your temporary party kitchen as you can. Speak with your kitchen crew about the requirement that they wash their hands often, especially after using the “bathroom.” (gotta take this seriously – it’s really important!!)
Water for cleaning: Keep everything clean, especially yourself and others handling food. Keep washing up food-contact surfaces, table tops, utensils, etc.
Water for emergencies. Nice to have it when you need it.
♦ Food Safety: All the rules of Food Safety still apply for temporary party kitchens. Read Food Safety, the whole section, but pay particular attention to food temperatures and the Four Hour Rule (the second of our five steps.) Keep hot foods hot. But how?
♦ Cooking: Where are you going to cook the food?
a) Cook at home, bring food to the party kitchen and warm it up there:
Let’s say you cooked and refrigerated the Orange Chicken yesterday at home. Bring it to the outdoor lawn party in a picnic cooler with ice. Set up a chafing dish, bring the water to a boil with two sterno fuels, place the Orange Chicken in the chafing dish, keep it covered, and within an hour it should be around 150°, ready to serve.
b) Cook at home, keep food hot and bring to the party kitchen:
Let’s say you prepared and cooked the Stuffed Shrimp at home today, and you want to keep it warm, bring it to the Recreation Center, and serve it warm. Hot from the oven, put the pans of Stuffed Shrimp into the warm picnic cooler we describe. Transfer the pans from the “cooler” to warm chafing dishes once you get to the Center.
c) Cook the all the food at the party kitchen:
When outdoors, barbeque is probably the easiest way to cook. But it is possible to other cooking too – with a little creativity!
1. Large propane barbecue grills can be used for baking by reducing their temperatures and keeping their lids closed.
2. RVs and trailers usually have modest kitchens, if you can park one nearby.
3. For larger parties, you might want to consider using a standard kitchen oven/stove that is configured to run on liquid propane. Camping supply stores have the accessories to connect such a stove to a regular 20lb. propane tank. Professional caterers use this trick all the time. Use Ask a Caterer for more information about this method.
♦ Refrigeration: Keep cold foods cold. Using ice and standard picnic coolers will work just fine, as long as you have enough of both.
When storing cold foods, use "picnic" style coolers, keep them iced and closed. If possible, shield them from direct sunlight with tarps, newspapers, or under tables.
Let’s say you have prepared the Caesar Salad at home. You want to keep it cold, and bring to the beach to serve with the barbecue. At home, store the salad in an iced picnic cooler. At the beach, there are a couple of different ways to go (other than just serving the salad from zip-lock bags in the cooler…):
a) A simple presentation is to place the pan of salad into a larger pan, which you’ve lined with ice. Cover the top of the salad pan with aluminum foil, rap the foil tightly around three of the sides and put ice right on top of the foil. Guests will lift up the open end to serve themselves. Keep an eye on it to make sure that ice water doesn’t drip into your salad.
b) Present the salad in a chilled chafing dish, using ice in the bottom pan instead of hot water.
♦ Electricity: Flashlights, battery lanterns, Tiki torches, Coleman lanterns, and/or more might give you enough like to see, but maybe you need more:
Extension cords seem like an easy, but often they aren't. More distance means a heavier gauge wire. Make sure they are grounded. Tape up connections when one cord is plugged into another. Think about how they are placed and where you'e guests will be walking. And turn everything off if it starts to rain.
Generators can help out. RVs often have 110v generators built in, if you can park one nearby. Renting a generator might be the best way. Talk with a rental shop about the kinds of appliances are going to be running, that way they’ll know how big a generator you need.
♦ Fire Control: We’re tempted to tell you lots of stories… Think it through, when you’re cooking, barbecuing, having a campfire, etc. – what would you do if? We like to put a bucket of water next to these hot spots, and we’ve always got a fire extinguisher on hand. Bet you don’t want your party featured on the late night news…?
♦ Trash: We like to leave it a little better than we found it, but that’s no easy thing, especially when you’re tired. Make sure there are lots of trash containers placed around, especially when you’re outdoors. Bring trash bags with you and put them to good use.
Need some suggestions? Ask-a-Caterer is free: