May 20, 2011
By Amy Powell
1300 on Fillmore – Restaurant 5, Catering 2
Struggling to keep two VIP hors d’oeuvres stations stocked, a food-runner bobs and weaves feverishly through a crowd of high brow Blue Bear Music School supporters at the sixth annual Blue Bear Music School (BBMS) Benefit at Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco on May 20, 2011. This is not the first private event Southern style restaurant, 1300 on Fillmore, has catered but as the hired staff fought naïvely against logistical miscalculations the entire evening I became quickly weary of their ability and performance as a professional caterer.
At six-fifty-five, Bimbo’s 365 security and BBMS staff are coordinated and ready to greet guests. At six-fifty-five, Monetta White, 1300 on Fillmore owner and cater manager, is closely overseeing her five kitchen staff as they hurriedly transfer prepared appetizers onto (ridiculously) small serving platters. At seven o’clock, house doors open to paying benefit guests as scheduled. At seven-twenty, the two VIP food stations are ready (25 minutes late) with a smattering of over cooked and inadequately prepared classic Soul food fare.
The menu: pimento cheese toast, ham and cheese biscuits, Caesar salad with croutons and pecans, sausage and okra jambalaya, fried catfish and pulled pork sliders, fried chicken on a skewer stick, and shrimp grits and blue cheese grits served in bite size plastic containers with a plastic spoon. All dishes were prepared and cooked at 1300 on Fillmore, then re-heated and plated at Bimbo’s 365 for “quick and easy” serving in mind. Good concept, bad execution.
Over the next hour, VIP guests stream into Bimbo’s VIP section, packing the area by eight-twenty. It was obvious VIP guests had arrived hungry (most likely relying on the advertised “complimentary Southern inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres” for dinner) because there was a constant demand for food. But with only one food-runner, poor access to hors d’oeuvres tables, and tiny platters (filled with 10-15 items per plate) leaving the kitchen, 1300 on Fillmore was set for failure. It was evident, with the elements at hand, the frazzled caterer (and really any caterer) could not keep up their game.
On top of service and timeliness, the “Southern inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres” were not worth the extensive wait. The fried chicken breast was good in size, but dry in quality – I needed water/wine-backs to choke down my first (and only) bites. The salad’s romaine leaves were soggy with dressing and caked with parmesan cheese – I’m guessing that the salad had been dressed hours before it was served (in the industry, this is not common/good practice). The pulled pork filling was yum – the meat was moist with tangy spice and topped with two thin cucumber slices – but the bun was cold and much larger than the portion of meat. The shrimp and blue cheese grits were probably the best taste on the menu but they were served in such small samplers, no one could get the ample portion they desired. Good concepts, but again, bad execution.
If I were paying $150 for one VIP ticket, I would expect catering to be exceptional in quality, and plentiful in quantity. For such a pricey ticket, guests should not have to wait for mediocre hors d’oeuvres, and I know it was not BBMS’s intent to hire a caterer who did not provide “the best.” In San Francisco, we have multiple five star restaurants and catering businesses at our fingertips – 1300 on Fillmore caterer is not five stars, and it most certainly is not “the best.” My advice to Blue Bear Music School is: if you want your VIP guests to be impressed and feel as if they got their monies worth, do not feature catering from 1300 on Fillmore (2 star AP Review rating) at your exclusive event again.
1300 on Fillmore
1300 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
Open Daily 5:00 pm – 1:00 am