OH-MY-CROCKPOT. I’m not gonna get too sappy, but Tuesday was one of the top night’s of my life. I decided to ignore my nerves and apprehension, and accept the challenge of Guest-Chef at my favorite bar downtown, Elliotborough Mini Bar. My job was to prepare all the food, the menu, provide the dishes, and take the orders, serve, clean up, and of course, mingle. AHHHHH!! Well, I don’t know what I was thinking doing all that by myself!?? My whole family ended up showing up and I’m talkin’ SHOWING UP! Y’all are the best people I know and your help was unbelievable. So, on a freezing cold evening in February, and probably the only day calling for a ‘wintery mix’ this year, all of my friends also showed up and made the inside of ElliotBorough Mini Bar steam up!!! Y’ALL ARE AWESOME! My menu included Pulled Pork Sliders with Slaw, Mexican Chicken Tacos with Guacamole, and sides of 4 Cheese Macaroni and Collard Greens….and everything obviously slow-cooked. That means I rolled into Mini Bar 6 crockpots deep!!! CROCKS BLOWING UP….ON A TUESDAY!
As my family was setting up in the kitchen, we decided we were not going to be so serious and just have fun with this whole night ahead of us. I mean who are we kidding, we are the Kassel family playing house right now. As all four of us stood in a 1ftx1ft kitchen pumping each other up and saying ‘we got this’, I quickly realized we couldn’t all fit and I needed space before we chopped each others’ heads off. In a strict voice I gave out roles: “Jake-you’ll be on the floor serving, Chacha-money controller and hostess with the mostest, Susu and Dad-chefs and plating food.” Dad and I then had a talk about not getting in the weeds and it’s okay to take our time, these are all my peeps anyways. Deep breath. Crockpots on three! Then first order up, a Piggy Plate and a Mix and Match both with Carolina Mustard sauce. After careful consideration with the plating, Dad and I were so proud with our first order going out successfully and cheers-in’ in the kitchen when Jake comes back with another order. He has given us now a ‘ticket’ reading “3 (1) MM (EC) and (1) PP (MB).” What!??? “Jake back in the kitchen! What does this mean!??” Jake in a cut-to-the-point tone replies, “Table 3, 1 Mix and Match with Eastern Carolina sauce and 1 Piggy Plate with Mustard base sauce,” and then promptly exits. Okay..This.Just.Got.Real. and the tables are numbered. Dad and I set up a system in the kitchen, he does the tacos, I do the sliders and the sides, and he tops everything off with the garnishes. We were reaching around each other and throwing terms out like, “Hit me with the collards!” “You got sauce on that?” “I need a taco!” “Is this a mix and match!?” “Wait for the gauc!” (AND keep in mind also making way for people to walk through to clean wine glasses and get to the bathroom in very close quarters.) Then we had a big order, “Jake order up!” Jake comes back and we have multiple baskets to go out at the same time. All of sudden he loads baskets all the way up his forearms, looks at Mom and says, “Can I get a follow?” Chacha goes to grab the last basket before it’s been sprinkled with garnish and I accidentally do an impulsive snap at her and Jake says, “Yea..never take a plate from expo Mom until it’s ready.” At this point my cheeks are quivering to hold back laughter because I don’t have time to break and we are all being so serious and in the moment concentrating. We were so into it and everything we talked about earlier flew out the window. We came here to work!
One of the best parts of the night was I could see everyone coming into the bar. The kitchen is in the back, but open so you can see straight to the front door. Every single one of you that walked through made my heart beat even faster and my tail was wagging a thousand times a minute. Throughout the crowded bar I could hear from the back, “Crockpottuesday” and it was such a powerful moment. I stepped out from the kitchen and saw my Mom passing out cookies for dessert, running around with my computer case as her money bag, and working a crowd so in her element. She then took a seat between two of my favorite co-workers, across from my oldest friends from childhood, and my ‘newer’ friends on either side. I then turned and saw my brother walking around taking and serving orders like a pro and jamming to the awesome live music he arranged by his friend Cal Fahey. And then my Dad, after working hard in the kitchen, was shaking hands, talking with his friends that showed up, and making connections with my hotel friends at the bar. Tuesday night was the definition of Crockpottuesday and it’s pinnacle. It also just so happens that this post marks the 100TH POST ANNIVERSARY!! I couldn’t have imagined anything better and am in shock that this all began in a small NYC apartment on a Tuesday, my day off from work each week. All of you are what make up this crazy term and y’all’s support and coming out to this event will be one of my favorite memories of all time. Anna, thanks so much for the encouragement and opening up your doors! And a special thanks to this girl for helping me day of in the kitchen!!!!!After the event Jake and I were in my car headed home to drop off all the crockpots and he looks at me and says, “I think that’s the coolest thing we’ve ever done as a family.” Jake I think you nailed it, Kassel Family Restaurant coming to you soon….