The adventure started when one of my dearest friends, Jan Knabe, contacted me on Feb. 25 and asked if I would be interested in feeding the film crew that would be on his property for three or four days.
Lee Majors and Joan Severance would also be there, along with some other actors. He thought there would be about eight to 10 people in total. He asked me because he enjoys my cooking and he believed I could do the job. I have an A.A.S. degree from The Art Institute, which I received in 2011, but my degree is in baking and pastry. (We did have business classes there which pertained to designing menus, "costing" food, etc., but catering wasn't a part of my program). The largest meal I ever prepared was for my sister's graduation in 1996. My sister put me in charge of smoking brisket for her graduation party (about 25-30 people). I didn't have to worry about side dishes for that one though, just the brisket and her graduation cake.
I was going to say no to Jan's offer initially, because I am currently in an internship at the Austin County District Attorney’s office, and I have two other jobs (process serving and independent retail merchandising). Then I started thinking about it and I thought, "Why not? I can rearrange my schedule. How often does an opportunity like this show up on your doorstep?"
Jan gave me the contact information for the production manager, Marius Klovning. Marius said there would actually be 25 people for breakfast and lunch and about half as many for dinner. That's when I decided to find at least one assistant. I called Lisa Puente because I know she loves to cook as much as I do, and she is very dependable.
I thought Lisa might think I was crazy. I'm sure it was a little bizarre to get a call like that out of the blue. If she had any reservations, she didn't voice them to me out loud. She agreed to be my assistant. She's a real trouper! It is interesting to note that about two months ago, Lisa and I were chatting online and I mentioned to her that we should open a restaurant/bakery. She could handle the restaurant and I would handle the bakery. Just a "pipe dream." Then out of nowhere this opportunity popped up.
I got to work planning the menus and we went shopping on the weekend before the shoot. We had three guests on special diets: one vegetarian, one dairy-free and one gluten-free. I decided to make a small vegan meal for all three of them instead of separate meals for each.
It was wild from Day One, when we had to serve our breakfast in the parking lot of The Star Cafe in New Ulm, where they were shooting some scenes. That was the only meal that we had to serve offsite, thankfully. We had kitchen delays due to filming because one day they filmed in "our" kitchen (and the living room), so all of our supplies and equipment had to be moved for a few hours. Because of that move, we ended up preparing one meal at the guest house that belongs to Jan's neighbor. On other days they filmed in the apartment downstairs, (and also the workshop). We had to refrain from walking around in the kitchen during those times.
Mealtimes weren't standard either. Breakfast was actually slated for noon or 1 p.m. on a couple of days, which pushed lunch to 5 or 6 p.m. and dinner around 11 p.m.
By Day Two, the number of people we had to feed was adjusted so we had 15-20 for each meal until our duties were concluded on Thursday evening. We were never certain of the actual number, so it was an additional challenge. But we never ran out of food, everyone loved what we served and we stayed well within our food budget. Our temporary catering company was a success.
Joan Severance was our dishwasher when she wasn't busy with her acting duties and that helped us a great deal. She used to be a chef at her own restaurant so she enjoyed the kitchen camaraderie. We had some great discussions with her. She was super sweet, not a "diva" at all. She stayed on site in one of Jan and Mary Jo's guest rooms for the four-day shoot. Kylie (the protagonist in the story) stayed in the apartment downstairs. Lee stayed at a friend's home somewhere in the area.
I only know the bare bones about the shoot because I wasn't really concentrating on that, I was too busy cooking or prepping for the next meal. The film is either going to be a miniseries or a TV movie, depending on who you ask. It is about the adventures of Sophia (Kylie Pearson) and her bicycle as she takes a trip around America. She runs into Jan (Lee Majors) and Mary Jo (Joan Severance) during her travels and has a "learning experience." From what I understand, her time at Lasada (which is what Jan and Mary Jo call their homestead), will have some moments of great suspense. The title of the film is "Bicycle." This might only be the "working title."
Lisa is just over the moon about the whole experience. It was wonderful, and a lot of "magic happened in that kitchen. We were “in the zone," and things flowed smoothly for us in spite of the chaos. One of the best parts about the experience for me was that my friend Jan had complete confidence in me to make this project a success.
Plus, he loves my cooking, which is a great compliment to me because he is a world traveler with a very experienced palate. I told Jan that the whole experience was like "fire-walking" with Tony Robbins. I feel that I have a lot more confidence in myself and my abilities. When I mentioned this to Lisa, she said she felt the same way.