Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Caterer Spotlight Series: Meet Chef Michael Napolitano

We hope you enjoy this next entry in our "Caterer Spotlight Series" featuring our very own 2008 "Las Vegas NACE Caterer of the Year", Chef Michael Napolitano of Renaissance Catering.

Your Title: Chef/Owner (and Director of Food and Beverage Symmetry, I like that title)

Your Company: Renaissance Catering, World Market Cafe, The Keg and Cork and Vintage Catering

Your Website: (a new site is under construction!)

How did you get started in your career as a Caterer?

When I was 14 I got as job as dishwasher in a Mafia owned Banquet hall in Rhode Island and fell in love with watching the cooks on the line sauteing and null and decided that is what I wanted to do. I had quit school but decided to go back to get into the Vocational Cooking Program. Once in the program I threw myself into it, placing in the top ten student chefs in the nation my senior year with null and winning a scholarship to Johnson & Whales. I turned it down, much to my parents dismay and went on to The Culinary Institute of America. Working part-time in New Jersey and New York City catering companies and taking extra classes at the International Pastry Arts School in null, NY and apprenticing in the Master Chef program. I graduated after an extended externship in Berkeley, CA at null, French pastry and truffle company.

What is the most interesting or exciting event you catered this year?

A few probably have heard me babble on about the Hover Dam event in the Summer of 2002 for US Bureau of Reclamations null anniversary. It was one of the hardest events, logistically, to date. We did a 300 person VIP hors D'oeuvre reception on the observation deck for all the governors and congressmen attending. Following that we brought them to a sit-down for the 300 VIPs set up on the balcony's overlooking the Arizona side and the Nevada side of generators. At the same time we were serving 2100 people around all the generators on the main floor from 6 buffets, 3 in each state. ( we decorated the buffets with native cactus and the same aggregate rocks used in the concrete of the dam!)

Here is what made it so difficult- Since this was right after 9/11 Security was way over the top! We had to send in over 400 employees names and null # to the Secret Service for approval of the eventual 280 that passed their screening process. They had over 500 plus security personnel onsite, including Navy Seals in the water and Ranger Snipers in the towers and rocks around the Hoover Dam. (And we had to feed them and the doctors and nurses in the
triage area as well.) We set up a 'kitchen area' that was 110 feet long by 8 feet wide, the straddled the Colorado River, to service both the Arizona and Nevada side of the party. (I don't know to many people that have catered in two states at the same party!) The area we used was the machine shop for the dam and all we had was one mop sink in the engineers closet for water and had to bring in a generator for the refrigeration. I always joked that I found it odd that we were in a structure that provided power and controlled water for the Southwestern Unites States and we had to bring it all in! And during the whole event we literally battled against the retiring director of the dam and his special event coordinator, because they wanted their friend who ran null at null to do the party, but since they were NOT paying for the party, they had no say, so they made it very difficult for us. We never got radios for communications, never got the ONLY two elevators dedicated to us for running food for the sit down dinner taking place one floor above our kitchen, never got the swipe card to pass through doors. Every door was secured and could only be opened with a security card. They actually received some backlash for their hindrances, after the event, and we went on to several other private events and historical document signings at the Hoover Dam. Making us the 'Un-official' caterer to the Hoover Dam

The easiest part was to get the Federal government to give us a liquor permit to serve on their property and in Arizona and Nevada!

I know the question read 'this year' but this event was more interesting, at least in the off-premise world.

This year was the free 12,000 person Rod Stewart concert in July with hosted bar and food. (and we didn't run out of food or drink)

If you could cater a private dinner, wedding or special event for someone famous, who would it be and why?

Leonardo de Vinci- Why, simply because I could be as creative as I wanted and I'm sure the conversation would be more than memorable. He was THE original 'Renaissance Man'

What is a new catering or food and beverage product, service or trend your venue is specializing in and marketing this year?

$10 dollar a head wine tasting's with Free Food once a month. New menus and more exotic cooking techniques.

Any words of advice for your fellow Caterers?

Times are tough for everyone, but to me its a good thing and will bring everyone back to the basics and the details of events. Making people feel good thru tough times is a good way to make a living.

Your 3 Favorite Blogs (besides The Las Vegas NACE Blog)

Sorry I don't know any. I'm old school, I still read books- Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford, My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes, by Melanie Dunea , The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman. All great books.

1 comment:

Marissa Cronister said...

Thank You Chef Michael for sharing this with us! Also Thank you for all you do! :)