This blog describes my very own personal experiences from being a young English man, from a tiny village in South Wales UK, to living the life and rubbing shoulders with the stars in Los Angeles. this will demonstrate my development and should hopefully provide a few entertaining stories of my experiences. I hope you enjoy it, and feel involved with my time here in the United States.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CaterArts 2010

In the catering industry, you need to have a thirst for knowledge, because there is always something new to learn. Weather it is a new technique, negotiation method, or just keeping up with the mods and cons of the modern day world.

CaterArts is a conference put together by chefs, for chefs. This year it was held in Louisville (or shall I say Loolville) Kentucky, and over 100 chefs from not only the United States, but the world came to gain knowledge in order to aid them in their respective companies.

So I packed up my Brand new, never before worn chef’s jacket, chef’s trousers and other necessities, and off I went to Kentucky.

First impressions of Kentucky were fairly average. It was a lot greener than Los Angeles which is always nice, the weather at that point wasn’t too hot, and the accent in my opinion was very entertaining. So to start, a solid thumbs up.

Dan Smith and I arrived to the hotel, only to discover that everyone else was out taking care of their duties, so of course we had to wait for them to return, and as a result we ended up at the bar.

Before I go on I feel I have to back track. During the shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, the driver got hold of my accent, and of course I told him I was from England, where he then said that he had picked up an English lady and her daughter the day before, they dubbed her “The Queen” because she had such a way with words and getting what she wanted…. Could you possibly guess which English lady and her daughter flew out the day before? Hmmmm I wonder who?

Back to the bar.. So Dan and I were sat at the bar, and as I ordered my drink, my accent got recognized again. “Oh I love your accent! Can you say Harry Potter for me?” of course I had to oblige, you never know there might be a free drink in it. The bar maid then went on to say that she had an English woman and her daughter in the bar last night… she said they begged her to keep the bar open, “one more glass” they said. She too referred to this lady as “The Queen”. By this time Dan and I looked at each other and said one short simple name, but with such a huge meaning…. Pauline.

Great to see Good Gracious! making their mark nice and early.

Time goes by and Joanne, Pauline, and some of the other board members arrive. Time to go to our rooms.

Joanne and I had booked a room with two double beds in, weeks in advance, we often share rooms together when going on our travels, and it’s no big deal to us… Well, unknown to me, when Joanne arrived the day before, she had changed our room so she could be next to Ken Barrett, her partner in crime. Well this room had one bed… and there were no others left in the hotel. You can imagine my delight.

Anyhow, the next day CaterArts got underway, and I have to say, I have never met such a random bunch of people in all my life. Different backgrounds, accents, stories, ages… but that’s what makes CaterArts so amazing, everyone has something unique to bring to the table.

The opening night party was great! the food was so good, and of course the company was excellent...

I got to meet some great characters, such as Ron Rando from New York. He and I had good banter on the trip, he couldn’t stand my accent, and I couldn’t stop imitating his, it was a match made in heaven. Also he was the mastermind of the amazing pasta class…. It was a shame that everyone already knew how to make pasta.

Other Characters include Ken Barrett, the ever organized in control and composed individual. Andrew Spurgin, a man who loves fish, so much so he gave a full presentation on it. Not only that, he is the only American I have had the privilege of meeting who says “tom-at-o” and not “tom-ate-o” but a thoroughly entertaining man, full of knowledge and a statistical genius.

Joanne Purnell, the delegating, partying, never sleeping, ever organized individual who wants nothing but to succeed and party… both of which she is doing very well!

Janet Woodson…. The crazy, out spoken tiny fire cracker, who knows nothing but have an amazing time and to include those around her.

There were all sorts of other people of whom I had the fortune of meeting, like Andrew Bonner (if I knew that was his second name while I was in KY, he would have had a lot more abuse) and our 5am trip to IHOP. Elgin Woodman, she also tagged along to our IHOP adventure… there is another story there, but I think that is best kept quiet… poor waitress..

And of course Richard Chenoweth, which I dubbed “Sean Connery” because in my English opinion he is a ringer for the bloke (that means a look alike) and the jokes never stopped. We thought with my voice and his looks, we could re-create Sean Connery’s most famous Bond line… “Shaken, Not Stirred!” So one wine fueled evening, Richard sat on my lap, like a dummy, and as he mimed the words, I would hide behind him and actually say them… well I have never seen tears from everyone at once. Richard and I are going to Vegas with our act and hoping to reach heights of which are unknown to any celebrity superstar. We are going to take on the universe.

Back to the reason we are there, CaterArts’ educational seminars were great. They help out chefs with current affairs, new innovative ideas, and inspiration. Jason Capps did a seminar on going green, and proved how it can work and propel you to the top. Dan Smith and Mark Baldwin did a great seminar on mixology, this shows another dynamic, that it is not just all about food, but how drinks can bring an event or a meal to life.

One thing I will take away from this whole experience, is even though technically everyone at that conference is a competitor, no one held back with sharing knowledge which would help over come certain situations. These people may only see each other once, maybe twice a year, but they are such a loyal and tight knit group. This was evident after earlier this year they lost one of their companions. Chef David Keener tragically lost his battle to cancer, which shook the CaterArts conference. He was a professional, a chef, a friend to everyone, and to hear the kind words from Kimberly Jones and other speakers really bought this home. But nothing showed more, peoples care, kindness and generosity than this next story.

Every year at CaterArts, there is a trip organized in the aid of education. So this year, they took us to a farm to learn about composting, followed by a winery to… of course try wine. Now after several mistakes by the driver we arrived at the farm, to see a middle aged woman stand on a big pile of poo and get her hands all in it. I have to say the whether that day was nothing I have ever experienced before… it was so hot… I had to stuff paper towels under my arm pits!! Sorry if that was too much information.

We then went to the Winery, had a great meal in the baking hot sun, followed by the bus journey back. What was to come was the best part of the trip…

We sat on the coach, with a chest of ice cold beers, wine, and Janet Woodson’s two buck chuck. At the front of the bus, above the driver (who actually looked like Ringo Star) was a red digital clock.

Joanne and I sat next to each other, while Elgin and Andrew sat in front…. Then I couldn’t help but over hear their conversation. Elgin looked to Andrew and asked how long he thought it would take to get home, he replied, an hour. Elgin disagreed with him and said it would be longer. Andrew then said that he bet Elgin $1.00 that the coach would arrive at a specific time. Elgin matched the bet.

Being the competitive person I am I of course had to get involved, so I matched their $1.00 bet and created my own time. Joanne then wanted in on it, she created her own time… well talk about the snow ball affect, Elgin and Andrew looked like no strangers when it came to taking bets and peoples money, they got a pen and paper out, started writing everyone’s time down, and taking $1.00 bets. The idea was, the closest person to the time once the bus came to a complete stop outside the hotel would be the winner and take home the pool.

Well this thing got out of control, from somewhere came a $20.00 bet, and then another, and another! Elgin looked around at me and said how much money they had! The whole coach was buzzing at this point, wanting to get involved. Elgin then came up with the idea that the winner would take home $20.00 and then the rest would go to the David Keener fund, which a scholarship was made in his name.

Once that was announced, the whole bus had a different mentality, Janet Woodson got out of her seat, with a hat in her hand, and started walking up and down the bus collecting, she came back with three hats full!

This was then followed by one of the owners saying he would put in $250.00 if all the other owners would follow him. Of course they all agreed.

On a short bus journey, the generous people of CaterArts raised $5000.00 for the David Keener fund. The eventual winner didn’t take any money, he had bragging rights. The full amount went to the fund. Now that’s special.

To round of an amazing week, GG! designed the closing party, the themes was Red Decadence, and Dan Smith did a fantastic job at turning the room we were in all week for classes, into a room with sophistication and style.

This whole experience left a big impression with me. Remember, I am a newcomer to this, and I felt like such a big part of the family… AND IM NOT EVEN A CHEF! I can only imagine what chef's would get out of this experience.

Very educational and inspiring. See you same time next year!


• I thought Vegas was hot… KENTUCKY IS WORSE!
• You can learn a lot from a middle aged woman standing in poo
• There aren’t that many fish in the sea (thank you Andrew Spurgin)
• Everyone already knows how to make pasta
• Everyone wants to learn, and everyone is individual, contribute wherever you can
• Comradery is needed in order to help each other through these economical times
• CaterArts is a family.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Aaron,

    Eloquently and amusingly written, certainly you captured the true essence of those few happy days. I could break into Henry the V's Band of Brothers speech now, but won't, even though it somehow seem appropriate, we happy few.

    I too had an amazing time, met some amazing passionate and driven people with a great fondness for alcohol and for each other!

    Hope to cross paths again soon!


    Andrew Spurgin