An Abu Dhabi businesswoman discusses the fine art of running a catering company for clients ranging from kids to corporate employees.
Never too many cooks in this kitchen
Lana Nasser, the general manager of partiperfect catering & more, reveals why clients cook up a storm in her professional kitchen instead of their own.
I'm usually on a straight shift until I pick up my son from school at 1. The main part of the business is catering. I do a lot of the menu planning. Sometimes I'm thinking about somebody's menu while picking up or dropping off my kids. Everything has gone up: I priced salmon, for example, and it was going for about Dh60 (US$16.33) a kilo and I gave the client the price. Then literally a week later, when purchased, it's like Dh80 a kilo. We just have to give clients the heads up that the price of food has gone up.
We have cooking classes: Middle Eastern, Turkish, Moroccan, Thai, even Filipino cuisine. Most students are women, expats. It's social. There's an appetiser, main course and a dessert; sometimes two appetisers, two mains and a dessert. Lunch is served after they cook.
Sometimes I come back here to work and stay until 3, until I pick up my other son, or I don't come in at all because I have to drive the kids to their activities. But I have my BlackBerry on me all the time, so I'm answering e-mails. Clients call me, sometimes with random cooking questions.
Cooking classes for kids. Mostly either Fridays or Saturdays, they'd be making chicken nuggets, burgers, pizzas. For the nuggets, they season the chicken and I have different kids add ingredients - either milk, or if they're old enough, they get to crack an egg. They actually get time on the stove, where they fry and look for signs of the chicken getting cooked. We discuss safety, food hygiene and how they're not supposed to put their hands in their mouth if they touch raw food.
I've had a few corporate classes. A lot of businesses are interested in bringing their employees because it's a team-building activity. Some like to break into groups, and whoever finishes theirs first wins, but it's more of a relaxed atmosphere where they cook, listen to music, have their dinner and leave. I've also done a couple's night where a husband and wife cook instead of going out. A client of mine who was pregnant wanted to go to Cuba, but the couple couldn't, so they decided to bring Cuba to Abu Dhabi. We worked on the menu together.
If I have a corporate class, 9 or 9.30. Usually, it's at a decent hour. But sometimes I have to work weekends for birthday cooking classes. Get up, leave my kids at home and go handle other peoples' kids. At least now, with the pastry chef I hired who can do some of my Friday classes, I can pick and choose the parties I want to give.