Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Theme Meal Troubleshooting

Almost all dietetic internships require the interns to complete a theme meal. At the University of Maryland dietetic internship, the theme meal takes place at a retirement home. The foodservice rotation requires the daunting task of the interns to create a theme meal for 200 people.

The requirements of the meal included:
  • Soup
  • Salad
  • Two Vegetable Side Dishes
  • Two Starch Side Dishes
  • Beef Entrée
  • Chicken Entrée
  • Fish Entrée
  • Vegetarian Entrée
  • Two Desserts
  • Beverage

The week leading into the theme meal was spent entirely in the kitchen. Prior to that we researched our theme, tested recipes, made flyers, talked to residents to promote the event and even filmed a commercial. Considering we are organized individuals who like to have everything planned out, we created a schedule for the week outlining the steps to complete each recipe. Even with all the planning and preparation the weeks leading up to the event, there were challenges we could not prepare for.

Time Management
One of our biggest challenges was not accurately determining how long each task would take. For example, writing we need to chop onions for the soup doesn’t seem like a task that would take a lot of time until we started. The recipe called for 50 onions, which we thought would take 30 minutes with two people chopping. Two hours later – with tears rolling down our faces – we had sliced 50 onions for the soup. From that point forward, we knew each task would take much longer then originally planned.

Andie cooking the onions in the soup kettle.
Food Ordering
Another challenge faced was the correct amount of food we requested on the grocery list was not ordered. We needed sweetened condensed milk to make the toffee bars, and it was not ordered. We started making the recipe before gathering all the ingredients, so we discovered we didn’t have the milk until all the other ingredients were already mixed together. Luckily, another kitchen on the campus had enough cans to finish making the dessert.

I am making the toffee cookie bars.

Temperature Check
The morning of the theme meal was very stressful. My partner and I needed the help of two chefs to get every menu item ready in time for the event. Even with their help, we faced problems. We discovered our brisket was raw when we went to carve it and it had to go back in the oven. We had just enough time to cook it and have it carved for the meal. Now, we know to ask someone to double check the temperature of the meat before assuming it is done just by cooking it in the recommended amount of time.

Knowing these simple precautions in advance could have saved us time and stress during the preparation of our theme meal. Even with facing challenges every step of the way, our theme meal was a success.  We had about 100 guests and minimal food waste.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh the food, the staff and the Riderwood Pub added up to a wonderful meal of great tasting food