Give a ShoutOut! by writing about what you loved about a work situation. (You do not have to have loved all aspects of that work). It can be a story about a leader, co-workers, the workplace environment, or the work experience itself. You define 'work' -- this can include when you were an unpaid volunteer or intern or started you own band! The sample ShoutOut! story (a.k.a. memoir) and companion essay on this page highlight working in the catering industry.
"The First Meal"
THEME: Workplaces That Set Good Examples
"It’s strange to say, but sometimes workers on a catering job will have ‘food insecurity’ (the state of being without access to a sufficient quantity food to sustain oneself). Granted I am speaking about food insecurity for just that job – but that job could be a 15 hour day out of town in an isolated location with no stores to purchase food. Being human, surrounded by the abundance* of tempting food being prepared for the guests causes your stomach to growl especially loud!
(*Abundance at the beginning doesn’t mean at the end there will be food leftover for you, or that an abundance of leftover food won’t be dumped without being offered because companies want to get their staff off the clock as fast as possible. Yes, some companies consistently do not feed their staff proper meals on long jobs, companies not to be named.) Shhhh! Don’t tell these companies, but hungry staff find lots of ways to secretively nab guest food not offered to them!
‘Best Staff Feeding Award!’
After over twenty years working in the NYC Catering Industry -- working for thirteen companies (that I remember to count) -- hands down-no-contest, my ‘Best Staff Feeding Award’ goes to Abigail Kirsch Catering! APPLAUSE!!
Always, after the pre-party setup before the party starts, the meal comes out. It’s always the same: Bread / P & J / Tuna / Yogurt / Chocolate Chip Cookies / Apples & Oranges / Gallons of Water & Sweet Tea. A new worker will look at it in dismay and ask, “Is that all they’re going to feed us!.” And I say to them, with a smugness and pride, “No, it’s the first meal!” (And if it’s a really long day, there might have been a morning meal already.)
This first meal is the Cold Meal*. Breaks for the Hot Meal comes towards the end of the party. AK always sends a staff meal that includes: Chicken / Pasta or Rice / Salad / Surprise Side. Plus all the leftover guest meal, and often we get quite a spread. (*For a small cocktail party it would be just one meal that might include hot items.)
I have worked for AK for fifteen years. (The longest I’ve ever worked for any other company is seven years.) On my desk before me now is the small 15 years plaque given out at the January 2020, annual AK holiday party, when staff in increments of five years of service are honored with a gift. I got a very nice silver and black watch for 15yrs. My tablet from 10yrs service still works. Not sure where the Tiffany pen for 5yrs went!
For all those fifteen years I have worked for AK, they have provided me with on-the-job food security! Plus every birthday there’s my card in the mail with the lotto ticket (once won $5!). There’s been a time or two where I voiced workplace concerns, and always AK managers talked with me. Even if a decision did not go my way, I was not dismissed (easily done with freelancers) and continued to be booked regularly. AK has proven beyond their loyalty to me as part of their family.
Now during these dire, unfathomable times, AK has shown its heart even more to its staff. AK created a bi-weekly pdf newsletter*, and recently did a live online company meeting with all of us, letting us how they are preparing for when catering comes back. Every fifth sentence was ‘Worker Safety’.
No man or woman (including a freelancer in the gig economy) should be an island – especially during a pandemic. So I end with another Shoutout! to Abigail Kirsch Catering for being an anchor, helping me to imagine an economic future beyond all this national chaos and fear." -- Trayce
*The bi-weekly newsletter was sent out from April - June, and understandably discontinued when it became clear there is no beginning in sight for catering. Company email updates continue.
New stories for this Story Category will be posted above the sample story.
Give a ShoutOut! to a company you love working for. As with families, there be might an area we’d liked improved upon or we disagree with, yet these companies still feel like home to us.
As freelancers surfing a ‘Gig Economy’, to feel you have a home means a-helluva-lot to us. According to a Forbes Article (2018) 36% of U.S. workforce (57 million) are now part of this Gig Economy! That often means hours aren’t guaranteed, can be seasonal or on an on-call basis, and almost no benefits. Your ability to survive (and hopefully flourish) is based upon your ability to string together jobs.
It is also true that some of the NYC Catering Companies we work with also operate under perpetual economic uncertainty -- year to year stringing together enough event bookings to survive (and hopefully flourish). Given the temporary economic collapse our country is suffering during the pandemic, it is possible some Catering Companies will be closed permanently.
Let’s honor the Catering Companies who, in big and little acts, have shown over the years that they understand we are in this together! Profit is not the top and bottom line, and good workers are not replaceable. And because they love that we are Traveling Food Showbiz (literally many workers and managers are or have been entertainers and artists) they have created caring and fun workplace environments.
SPECIAL HURRAH #1 !
To the Catering Companies not only charming to work for, but also organized and knowing in regards to: pre-party planning; rentals ordering; staffing levels; the back-of-the-house setting up of kitchen, sanit, and storage areas; directing the flow of staff traffic through the back-of-the-house; and ensuring a safe place for workers to retreat for a moment’s pause and a drink of water during long evenings.
SPECIAL HURRAH #2 !
To the Catering Companies who care about their food! And are excited about the experimentation and preparation that goes into next Season’s menu.
Working in these companies has allowed
us to flourish as human beings and
creatives, while their events have taken us
to places, situations, and people who we
would never have had contact with
otherwise. Priceless. These companies
provide model behavior for how to support
workers in the Gig Economy! Give your
ShoutOut! to a company you love !
(It can be one you worked for in the past)