Cooking at the Emmy Awards

 Champagne cocktail

Having several friends or relatives over for a holiday meal or dinner party can be extremely stressful. The menu needs to be planned, dietary restrictions or preferences taken into account, shopping, cooking, and finally, serving the meal. If it is that stressful for a small group, try to imagine it on a scale thousands of times greater. That's what happens each year at the Emmy Awards (held tonight in Los Angeles), where top chefs prepare a gourmet meal for almost 9,000 people

Food & Wine gives us a backstage glimpse into the massive amounts of food and manpower it takes to serve a high-end meal to thousands of people. Three ceremonies make up the Emmys, so the work is split into thirds, but that is still 3,000 people to serve in about an hour. The Michelin theater in Los Angeles is temporarily transformed into a kitchen, where chefs frantically finalize appetizers, entrees, and desserts, which are served on the other side of heavy curtains that divide the space. The prep kitchen is located a mile away, further complicating the situation.

Of course, the work begins much earlier than the day of the ceremony. Five months before the event, a list of potential beef, vegan, and fish entrees; appetizers; and desserts is drawn up and presented to the Television Academy. They send back a list of finalists and a team of twenty people narrow it down to the winners. This year that included filet mignon, served with purple potatoes, figs and a red wine reduction. 

James Beard-winning chef Joachim Splichal has been at the helm of the Emmy meal for over twenty years. "The first five years were pretty crazy until we got all the problems worked out," he says. There have been some close calls over the years, including once when just before service the chef discovered that the mashed potatoes were sour. A frantic rush to supermarkets to purchase instant potatoes and cream saved the day. After reading about all of the work that goes into this meal, perhaps your next gathering will seem a bit less stressful.

Photo of Champagne cocktail from Food Network Magazine

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