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Service:Catering:Practical organization

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Practical organization of the catering

Cooking for a small number of people is an artistic activity that requires more talent and practice than anything else. By contrast, cooking for large groups is an exercise in logistics. Although culinary skill is definitely needed to determine the menus, for almost all other tasks the main concern is to make sure the right quantity of the right ingredient is present at the right time in the right condition. For that reason almost none of the volunteers actually needs experience in cooking. What is really needed is time-keeping - and avoiding chopping ones own fingers off.

Because preparing meals for such a large group is very time-consuming, and volunteers are assumed to also want some time to enjoy the event as well as slaving over hot stoves, it is essential to divide the tasks over several teams. This also avoids conflicts between say cooking dinner and arranging breakfast. The dinner team does dinner, the breakfast team does breakfast. We also should have a seperate "logistics" team taking care of shopping (this can be a single individual). Note that only the coordinator of each team needs to be "dedicated", all other team members can be part-time volunteers who needn't even be official members of the organization.

Currently this is our working model:

Overall coordination


Dinner team 1

Cooks on days 1, 3, 5 and 7

Team coordinator: free

5 team members: free

Dinner team 2

Cooks on days 1, 2, 4 and 6

Team coordinator: open

5 team members: free

Breakfast team

Spends an hour every morning on breakfast

Team coordinator: open

3 team members: free

Logistics team

Drives around with shopping lists from the other teams.

Driver/shopper: open


  • Team coordinator: preferably some knowledge of cooking, capable of working to deadlines and motivating others to do so too
  • Other team members: two hands with which to wash, slice and otherwise prepare food.
  • Driver/shopper: driving license (B), ability to read shopping lists and keep complete track of all financial transactions involved (ALWAYS get receipts)


Because the coordination of something as large as catering for 300 people with essentially non-experienced volunteers is a huge undertaking, any and every opportunity to supply documentation in advance should be grasped firmly. In any event the menus will all be determined before the first day of eth-0. All the recipes will be fully worked out with the exact quantities of ingredients required and the time that each step needs to be started and is finished. Finally each team member should receive a sheet with exactly what he or she needs to do at which point in time (i.e. Step II, 15h45, cut all tomatoes, Step III 16h00 put tomatoes into saucepan B). That way the coordinators will be able to act like conductors, not having to explain everything themselves, but just telling each person when he or she needs to perform a certain step, and assisting or intervening where necessary.