Labor of Love: FIG Catering, Kitchen + Office

FIG Catering in Pilsen is run by a great couple, Molly Schemper and Justin Hall, and a large crew that works in the office and kitchen and delivers and staffs events. I spent a morning and early afternoon with them watching the work of the office and kitchen.

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There is a steady rhythm to the work in the kitchen. Everyone was following a plan; each person checking the clipboard and getting the ingredients and tools they needed; everyone navigating around the shelves and cooler and work table at an even clip. A consistent buzz of things being taken out and put away.

Beth

Beth

The kitchen work filled the whole place with smells: light smells like thyme leaves being separated from stems and bagels baking, pungent smells like onions chopped and mustard and honey mixed for dressing. Then the bacon covered all the others.

Jesus

Jesus

much-loved cookbooks

much-loved cookbooks

In the morning, Molly, Justin, Dana, Stephanie, and Michelle were in the office at their computers responding to clients, making menus and schedules, and ordering.

I know Molly, Justin, and Michelle from the Green Wedding Alliance. FIG is a founding member, and it was clear to me on first meeting Molly that if she's awake she is working. She is the kind of person who looks forward to a day off, so she can just work on her laptop.

One thing that defines FIG is the way that they source their ingredients. FIG doesn't get a big Sysco delivery. They get small deliveries of produce, cheese, milk, and meat throughout the week from local farms and they make many things, like condiments, in-house. The morning I was there a big box of good-looking cheese arrived.

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One thing that FIG makes in-house is their bread. I've told anyone that will listen, "They even make their own crackers. THEY MAKE THEIR OWN CRACKERS!" Which means getting out all of the ingredients, weighing the butter, mixing it in the food processor, making the dough flat by running in through the sheeter several times until it's very thin, then, using a cookie cutter, cutting each circle out, placing them on baking sheets, salting and baking. And they do this will all their baguettes and whole wheat bread, and bagels…

Taylor

Taylor

Fig Catering Nimble Well37.jpg

Around noon, everyone comes out from their stations, and they sit down for Family Meal at their big wood table.

Mid-afternoon, with the clipboard sheets getting checked off, the tight focus loosens a little and people look up from their work more, talk as they chop and mix and shape dough. The evening orders were mostly packed up, and the last things to be cooked were in-line.

Taylor

Taylor

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I would follow someone making dough for a while, from the work table to the oven and when I would check back in the kitchen someone else and had just boiled and shelled three dozen eggs. It was like that all day. Ingredients pulled out of the cooler and shelves, mixed and chopped and patted and spiced and baked--and then onto the next task on the list.

Demetri and Juan kept up with the dishes as they were used so everything stayed neat. Something that at my house feels like two opposite states, dirty vs. clean, was just a part of the cycle of the day. Mixing, washing, back on the shelf, chopping, washing, back on the shelf, baking, washing, back on the shelf.

Juan

Juan