About 12 years ago, I was working at a beautiful cafe in mid coast Maine. We had a dining room, a lounge and a full gourmet bakery. I was the bakery manager at the time. The one thing the owner said was to make sure everyday the cases were full and looked their best. She said you never know who’s going to walk in that door. Her words rang true a May evening.
A well-known movie company was filming in town. That evening the prop master decided to come in for dinner. By then I had gone home after a long day of fresh baked breads and pastries. He commented on how lovely the cases looked and asked to speak to the bakery manager. The host informed him that I had left for the evening and so he gave her his business card with instructions for when I was to call. The following day I called. He wanted to ask me to come to the set and create a New England style continental breakfast for a scene they were doing. He especially wanted the scones to look like the ones he saw in the case. No problem. It was a long day but a great experience. I worked with them for the next three days.
A well known actor’s caterer happened to be there and asked me if I would fly to Georgia for 6 weeks to make his pastries and help with the desserts for the crew. This was a very good opportunity but I took a couple of days to think about. I decided to go. My plane left in mid June. I packed my favorite knives and some cake supplies (Thank God I did!). I get to the hotel and check in. It was a beautiful hotel. I went up to my room unpacked and then out to see the historic city. I got my itinerary from the front desk and needed to meet the crew in the lobby the following morning. We were taken in a van to an old warehouse with a Sysco refrigerated truck already filled with product and ready to go. The caterer had a small utility truck which had the grills, tables and other set up equipment. The catering truck had pans, sheet pans, some refrigeration and work stations. As I peaked around, I realized there was no baking equipment…at all! No mixers, no measuring spoons or cups, no scales…nothing. My heart sank. I went to the neice who was now my supervisor and her reply was simply this,”Next week you will get a check. Get what you need then.”.
I went back to the hotel room and buried my face in my hands and just sobbed. What would I do without the right equipment? What did I get myself into?? I thought…Hollywood…good money…best equipment. Boy was I wrong. I called a very good friend and told him I was going to book a flight home. This was a nightmare already. He said,”You? You’re going to give up without trying? You? The one that’s always saying never let them see you sweat? Put your game face on?” I told him this is why I called him. He was always there ready to reason with me. I got on my knees and prayed. I prayed hard too. I asked to just get me through this. It was only going to be 6 weeks. I went down to the bar and had a martini and thought about how I was going to pull this off. At 4:30am, the games would begin.
After a brief sleep and a good shower, I met the rest of the crew at the van. We headed over to the warehouse to prep for the morning. I decided that chocolate chips cookies would be my first attempt at beating the odds. All of my recipes were in weights so I had to do a conversion with each of them. I saw a few pallets stacked off to the side of the dock so I got my tea and headed over for a brief thought. After a few deep breaths, I decided how I was going to make this work. I would take a pound of butter and a plastic zip lock bag. I would hold the butter in one hand and put flour in the other. I closed my eyes and when the bag and butter felt at even weights, I had a pound of flour. The repeated the same for sugar, brown sugar, eggs and chocolate chips. I put gloves on and mixed the batch by hand. I portioned them out on a sheetpan and in the oven they went. If this worked, I would convert every recipe that way. Waiting for these cookies to finish was like being in labor. Deep breaths and constantly watching the clock. Even a few cramps found their way in my stomach. I had to pull this off. I couldn’t let them see me sweat. The timer went off and moment of truth was about to show itself. I opened the oven and there they were! Beautiful little cookies that said nothing more than “You did it!!”. What a relief. That was all I needed to give me the confidence to get through the 6 weeks. I tried everything, cookies, cakes, pies, cream puffs, cream puff swans even. When the cater saw what was coming out of the ovens, they presented me with a beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer and anything I needed. This caterer bragged he had a pastry chef that could make whatever he needed. He may have thought that but fortunately he was too busy all of the time to remember what he said. I kept it simple and elegant.
I didn’t have to use that first paycheck on anything more than a new pair of shoes.
By the end of the 6 weeks, I remember being in my hotel room and thinking about how I made it through that mess or challenge as I like to look at it. Then I sat quietly and looked down at my hands. I realized then that I had the right equipment all along to get this job done. I thanked God for getting me through this challenge, strengthening my faith and being there to colebrate my triumph.