How to Chef for The Blind Cafe
The Blind Cafe is a unique opportunity to connect people through a community dining experience in the dark. Our goal is to create positive social change, literally create a sense of meaning and connection in the lives of everyone involved from the volunteers to the paid guests to the venue owners.
Serving Plating System
- We usually serve 100 - 130 people per night, this including volunteers. So we want to make sure there is enough for the volunteers when we are plating.
- We serve the food family-style ( like thanks-giving ) ahead of time on the table.
Menu Design & Serving Plan
- Vegetarian Style: We serve vegetarian food because it's most inclusive the majority of people since we are serving the same meal to a 100 people. We ask that you try to make the meals gluten-free and vegan as much as possible to make it even more inclusive.
- Dietary Requests: We ask guests to request / let us know know about any specialty dietary needs when they buy there tickets. never the less, we always have a few dietary needs and do our best to accommodate them. How we serve special diet plates is we ask you prepare it in the kitchen and set it aside separately with tin foil over it and label it. We will physically give it to the guest to carry in with them their plate and ignore the food already set on the table.
- Extra Food Available: Inevitably someone knocks their food over and a blind waiter will come out and request food to bring to them. Please set a side some extra food or dishes for this situation. Also, we sometimes have guests who cannot handle the darkness and come out to wait in the lobby for their friends and we need to be able to offer them food.
- Family Style: The food is served family-style where the food is served ahead of time on the tables. The guests are lead into the dark in groups of 6 - 8 ppl and sat at their table where they just go at and work together to find out what's on their plates.
- Individual Plating: Each seat gets a single placing of taster items, usually of 4 - 6 different items served on small 5' plates aligned up next to one another. We are working on getting those individual trays like in Asian restaurants. This allows for separating the food items so they are experienced individually each item, instead of it all being mixed up on one plate turning into a mush.
- Shared Foods Items: At times we have shared bowls of food for people to pass around which creates a community experience where people have to rely on each other to get their food. But we've had troubles of people not finding the dishes and walking out hungry so we switched to individual plating. We are open to exploring this again as people miss having to pass around a shared food item.
- Dessert Served Separately: Dessert is served just after the Question and Answer session. It should be made of dark chocolate ( pudding, truffles or something incredible and decedent ) and is served in individual containers for each one which are then placed in a cardboard box or tray and dropped off at each table by the wait staff for the guests to 'take one and pass the box around'. There should always be more than enough desserts available in case a box gets lost in the dark or someone steals extra ( it happens, no one can see you in the dark so people get mischief )
- Room Temperature Friendly Food: It's important that the Chef designs a menu that is room temperature friendly. Sushi for an example works really well, soup doesn't ( unless a cold soup ) because it will be cold by the time everyone sits at their table. It takes about 20 - 45 minutes to get everyone seated at their tables.
- Lobby Food: We provide bread and olive oil along with dark chocolate and other donated treats the lobby for guests to enjoy and get a head start on when they are waiting to be lead into the dark.
- Preparation Before The Days of The Event: Some Chef's design the menu to have a work party with volunteers to prep as much food as possible to be plated and NOT prepped at the venue space.
Kitchen Volunteer Team
- You will be provided with a team of volunteers, usually 4 - 5 helpers in two shifts per day, a afternoon shift and an evening shift. Usually a 12noon - 4PM shift and a 4PM / 5PM to close shift.
- We also just want to make ALL our volunteers feel welcomed and connected. Please make sure to treat them with enthusiasm and love. Check in on them throughout the day to see if they need breaks or even if they want to stay on longer than they signed up for if we need extra help.
Word from The Chef
- As soon all the guests are sat down at their tables. We will bring you out into the dark to say a little something ( just a minute or two ) about the food, thank the volunteers and describe the food a bit if you like.
- We want to make sure in the head count we include volunteers and wait staff who will eat in the dark at the volunteers table. The event manager will provide the count.
Kitchen / Equipment
- The Chef should provide a list of needed equipment for the Event Manager and the Chef to work on acquiring either from the venue, the Chef's person connections with local restaurants or for the volunteer roster.
- Volunteer Gear?
- Clean Up / Setup 80 / 20? How do we minimize out impact, set up and break down time?
Kitchen Clean Up
- The Chef and Sous Chef are in charge of directing the kitchen helper volunteers to assist in cleaning the kitchen as you cook and also at the end of the evening to restore it to look better than it did when we arrived. The Chef works with the event manager to work out specific needs for each venue.
Shopping + Food Budget ( Who, What, Where, Budget, 80/20? )
- Sourcing Food: Since we are a grassroots effort the majority of the food we serve is donated either straight from local Farms or local Grocery outlets, produce dealers or shopped from Costco and restaurant depot. We ask you reach out to any connections you have with local business's, farms or corporate connections to help source donated food for the event.
- Shopping Food: The event manager and the Chef are in charge of specifying the best places to purchase the food that's not donated and shop together the week of the show together and / or with a volunteer.
- Our usual budget: Get Ready....yes...$300 - $500 a day at most for 130 + people with donations. Sometimes much cheaper. Most Chef's cringe at this at first but we make it work with donations and creativity.
- Google Shopping / Amazon Fresh - can we have delivery of our foods?
- Volunteer Shopping Helper
Music / Great Kitchen Vibe
- Play Good Music!: We want to create a cool and connected experience for our volunteers so it's important that we have good music in the kitchen and / or prep room. The Blind Cafe will provide a set of speakers that folks can plug in there iPhones.
Past Menu's Examples
From The SF Blind Café - March 21 – 23, 2014 | Chef Kaz Matsune / Asian Theme
KYOTO NASU DENGAKU
Portobello Mushroom with Tofu, Spiced Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds, Onion,
Grilled Eggplant with Sweet Miso Glaze
BANGKOK STUFFED MUSHROOM CURRY
Garlic with Coconut Curry Sauce
TOKYO MAKI SUSHI ROLLS
Dashi Marinated Spinach with Sweet Tahini Sauce
Avocado Cucumber Soy Cheese with Cashew Wasabi Cream
BEIJING SWEET & SOUR MEATBALLS
Vegan Meatballs with Classic Chinese Sauce
HA NOI FRESH SPRING ROLLS
Stir Fried Shitake Mushroom, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, Corn, Red Onion
MACHA TEA TRUFFLE
From The SF Blind Cafe - Chef Jamie Harrington | Fall 2013 / Around the Globe Theme
Cucumber gazpacho shot
Pesto cherry tomatoes in romaine cup
Scotch oranchini with yellow coconut curry
Sweet n spicy pumpkin tofu
Mushroom bundle in spicy ragout sauce
Cheesecake stuffed strawberries
Dark chocolate pumpkin cup
Other Past Items that have done well serving in the dark.
Poached Pear in Pomegranate Juice w/ Dark Choc & Italian Cheese
Coconut Chocolate Pudding / Mousse