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At home as well as for catering and cooking demonstration events, I find it essential to fill out a spread sheet planner as a means to itemize the menu, itemize the buying list, identify what can be prepared ahead, cross off what's done and carry forward what needs to the done a la minute

I got this idea from Chef Bonnie Moore, a gifted instructor chef at L’Academie and my boss at  Moore used a similar planner at school for big events and at FoodFit for promotional dinners.  I was impressed by its utility, designed my own and have been using it ever since. 

After the event, I save each sheet in a 3-ring folder as a record of what I've cooked and for whom.  The folder of past events is, in itself, a menu planner and means to preclude repeating a dish to a returning guest. 

I recommend giving this idea a try.  I think that you will find it very useful.  The planner promotes thinking the event through ahead of time and getting it all done in an orderly manner.  Everything should come together more easily—one trip for groceries not two, every item planned, plates ready, garnishes ready and food served on time and hot.  (The French have a culinary term for this, namely mise en place.)  You will spend less time in the kitchen more with your guests.

It looks something like this and can be created easily on your word processor:
The page setup is legal size 8.5 X 14, landscape. 

1. - - - -
2. - - - -
3. - - - -
4. - - - -
5. - - - -
6. - - - -
7. - - - -

Make each cell as large as possible to allow sufficient room to write what's needed.
I use the EVENT PREP cell to write in actions and times, keyed to the desired time to plate each item.  For example:
  · Time to start the ovens for service
  · Time to remove prepared items (cheese and dips, for ex.) from the fridge
  · Time to finish the sauce and other last minute tasks
  · Time to warm the food and plates, etc.

Not least of all, this planner is a formidable “senior moments” deterrent! 

Try it, you'll like it.


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