Behind Bash: Caterer Makes an Impactby Howard W. Hewitt • June 2, 2010
It takes a lot of planning to serve nearly 500 meals in 10 different locations on the Wabash campus. Bon Appetit Catering is a big part of the annual Big Bash weekend that leaves a positive lasting impression on Wabash men returning to campus.
It starts for General Manager Mary Jo Arthur Monday morning after Big Bash. She will place equipment and rental orders the week after Big Bash for the following year. “Our food orders are very last minute, the week of the event,” she said. “But we place our rental orders the day after the event.”
The caterer rents china, silverware, linens, tables, chairs, kitchen equipment, bars, and tents for each Big Bash.
The biggest challenge though is people. When Big Bash started seven years ago Bon Appetit would send in help from other accounts in the Midwest. Arthur would host company employees from Washington University, Oberlin, Otterbein, St. Olaf’s, and Trine colleges. But in recent years she has developed staffing from friends and family locally.
The Saturday night class reunion dinners, in 10 different locations, is the biggest challenge. “It takes 38 caterers to make Saturday night happen. We have 21 people in the kitchen and four managers.”
The real planning starts in January with Director of Alumni Affairs Tom Runge. “He holds the first meeting and it always catches me off guard,” Arthur said. “Literally, the e-mail will come and I’m like ‘we’re going to meet already?’ “
But a big part of the planning is in place because menus don’t change much from year to year. “We have a lot of events that don’t change. Commencement doesn’t change a lot. Reunion doesn’t change a lot because it works and the guests are different. If it was the same guests every year we’d want to change it. We change the wines to put a little excitement into that.”
Meals were changed last year, Big Bash’s sixth season, so those returning for their second Bash would see new meals. That cycle will probably last until the same group returns again.
Arthur and Catering Manager Kecia Tatman admit it is a very tiring weekend with long hours but they enjoy the experience.
“We get to show what we do to a lot of people who don’t’ normally get to see it,” Arthur said. “We get to meet a lot of interesting people. I’ve been working a lot with Omar Robinson ‘60 from Sun King Brewery . I can’t wait to meet him in person. That’s fun for us. We’re showcasing new beers. We decided to wipe out all the domestic beers and support them. They’re local and they’re alums and we’ll also have Barley Island (beers) from Jeff Eaton ‘85 … those are the options.”
It starts with Friday lunch and ends with a Sunday brunch. Arthur’s crew isn’t seen, but has a huge impact on the Big Bash experience.