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What I Have Learned in Two Weeks: Palmabella's Cucina

So I thought I'd report in on what I've learned after 2 weeks of cooking/baking for people.

1. There are start-up costs. I must SPEND money to MAKE money.
If I am going to be cranking out dozens of cookies a day, I needed a couple more
good cookie sheets, so I can have 6 pans going at a time. I also needed a couple
more large cooling racks, and a few other small items.

I ordered "disposable" catering trays and lids for my Holiday Cookie platters.
Ditto for aluminum foil baking sheets with lids to deliver appetizers. Ditto for
disposable baking pans. No "business discount" if they deliver to a residential
address.

Mini%20Tart%20Shell%20Appetizers.jpg

I made 8 dozen mini appetizer tart shells one day. Ok, I only have ONE of these pans. That meant for every 12, I had to roll out dough, cut it into squares, press dough into pan, and then CHILL pan for 30 minutes before baking for 10 minutes. Then let them cool for 5 minutes before making the next pan full. Yes, that took about 7 hours. Of course I did other things during those chilling times, but the oven went on at 6 a.m. that day, and off at 9 p.m.! I am ordering two more of those pans.

2. Time Management: I am pretty good at this, but I am experimenting. Slow Travel friends have been talking about their lists. I have "Stickies" (like a sticky note) on my laptop in the kitchen, a legal pad on my patio table where I take my coffee breaks (LOTS of them!), shopping lists for Costco, Trader Joe's, and my regular grocery store on the desk to add to, and a daily "to do list", and a weekly list for all my cooking orders.

I have tried two different ways of organizing my time. For example: one day last week, I JUST baked cookies with two ovens going. I get two pans in, and while they baked, get the next two pans ready. I REALLY had to pay close attention to the oven timers.

World%27s%20Best%20Cookies%202010.jpg

The next day, I used one oven. While the cookies were in (and the next three pans were ready, I could really multi task. I baked 10 dozen cookies, a pan at a time, but also grated cheese for appetizers, iced and decorated cookies from the day before, chopped onions, washed dishes, unloaded the dishwasher, blogged, and did a couple loads of laundry, getting another task done during each pan of cookies. I think I like this better! I'm not sure which is more energy efficient: one oven on for longer, or two ovens on for a shorter time.

3. Storage: My guest room bed is a disaster! There are supplies, containers, trays, cookie tins, lids, decorating stuff, and a dozen new pasta/soup bowls!

Where does one store 60 dozen cookies? My freezer is full, and the garage fridge is almost there. I'm thinking another freezer is on my list for 2011!

Cookie%20Containers.jpg

4. I FUSS: for example, Someone ordered a gingerbread cheesecake. It just looked like a cheesecake, so since I was making cookies anyway, I decided to make some mini cookies to decorate the top. This is the creative part that makes it fun for me.

Fuss%20cookies.jpg

Fuss.jpg

5. Clean up:I ALWAYS clean as I go, even if I am making dinner for the two of us. However, I have been washing my mixer bowl and Cuisinart 4-5 times a day!

6. Thank Goodness for:
DOUBLE OVENS!
My Cuisinart, and my Kitchenaid
Cookie scoops (in all sizes), and sheets of parchment paper already cut to fit a
1/2 sheet pan!

7. Brad: He IS a saint. He is "Brad'll Do It":

"Could you please stop at Costco on your way home and get 8 more pounds of
unsalted butter, 2 cases of chicken stock, and a large pork loin that you can
butterfly tonight after dinner?"

Two hours later: "Dinner??? You want dinner?"

8. I still must have a life.I will be out of town one weekend in December, a wedding in January, and Slow Bowl in February. If I can't take on a job or a party, I will say NO, or "I am already booked up for that weekend."

9. Responsibility: I want the customers to like their food, and have their guests like the food. The first meal I prepared, I had a dream that her oven went on and off all during the cooking time, and the whole meal was ruined. In my dream, I said, "What about dessert?" She just said, "The whole THING was a disaster!". My real friend enjoyed her dinner party, as did her guests!

10. Is it worth it? So far it looks like this:

Expenses: Catering Supplies: $317.83
Food Costs: $354.77

Income: $389

Net: -283.60

BUT: I think I have EVERYTHING I need for the 60 dozen more cookies that have been ordered SO FAR for December. I have already baked 73 DOZEN! I have another friend who is having surgery, and wants several nights of dinners when she comes home.
I should be close to breaking even next month. LOL

All in a day: Today I delivered Thanksgiving cookie trays, made a HUGE pot of Italian Wedding Soup, did supervision with my intern, and baked three kinds of cookies (21 dozen). It is 7:40 p.m. Now to fix dinner... leftovers! Tomorrow night is SOUP!.

Thanksgiving%20Cookie%20Trays.jpg

HUGE%20pot%20of%20soup.jpg

One%20Day%27s%20Cookies.jpg

Comments (11)

Ida:

OMG I couldn't do it !! The cookies look great and that has to be the biggest soup pot I've ever seen. Rest Palma rest before the next onslaught of orders!

Palma!!!! This is so YOU!! Just enjoy....you know it will all pay off.
Now. How can I order some of those cookies?? Like, seriously??!!! They are gorgeous!

Marcia:

Palma, I really enjoyed this honest look at the "how" of doing this new venture. I know that even if I had half of your creative energy, I simply don't have the physical energy for that kind of cooking any more - we have had company for oh, about 3 meals this week so far, and right now all I want to make this evening is soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Kudos to you (and your kitchen sherpa).

connie:

OMG, I am exhausted for you! Never again will I complain that I have to make 7 dozen Cookies for our "Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange" each year. You are amazing & it all looks fabulous!!!!

It sounds like a lot of work, but I know you love doing it. I hope it turns out to be worth it.

I just got a fairly large cooling rack at Kohl's - it's a Food Network brand item. Kohl's is always having sales and discounts, so that's a good thing for the bottom line.

Chachalaca:

Oh, Wow. I need to get on the "PalmaWagon" and get to work! I feel lazy!

Doug:

Hi Palma,

Thanks for your candour. I liked all aspects of your report - always interested in learning the economics behind a project.

Eden:

OMG! Your creative energies have always impressed me. I know all too well what it is like to start a business... :)

It does look like fun and as Nancy said up there you must also be having fun doing it! I wish I lived close enough to order some of those great culinary creations!

I had to rest after I read this! OMG!!!

You are amazing and so is Brad. I love your honesty about the ROI, but I am sure it will be shortly in the positive and not in the negative.

The cheesecake looks gorgeous and how lucky are your clients?

All the best to you, you deserve it!

chiaro di luna:

Palma, that looks amazing. You are lucky to be able to do this in your home. My DIL is a trained chef and had a catering business here for a while. She was required to rent a licensed place to do the cooking/baking and could not do it in her home because of Health Dept. requirements.
Let us know when you expand your business to the North.

Barb Cabot:

I know that even in the midst of this whirling mad dash to cook and bake and do it all that there is a certain wonderful sense of being able to do all of this. You are such a giving soul and it gives you great joy to do for others. The cookie platter looks amazing. I know that all your customers will be completely satisfied. It takes a really special talent and you've got it. I admire all that you do and the joy that you receive from doing it. Love your organizational skills, your enthusiasm and the love you put into everything you make. Cheers!

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