Matt Lee and Ted Lee take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience.
Hotbox reveals the real-life drama behind cavernous event spaces and soaring white tents, where cooking conditions have more in common with a mobile army hospital than a restaurant. Known for their modern take on Southern cooking, the Lee brothers steeped themselves in the catering business for four years, learning the culture from the inside-out. It’s a realm where you find eccentric characters, working in extreme conditions, who must produce magical events and instantly adapt when, for instance, the host’s toast runs a half-hour too long, a hail storm erupts, or a rolling rack of hundreds of ice cream desserts goes wheels-up.
Whether they’re dashing through black-tie fundraisers, celebrity-spotting at a Hamptons cookout, or following a silverware crew at 3:00 a.m. in a warehouse in New Jersey, the Lee brothers guide you on a romp from the inner circle—the elite team of chefs using little more than their wits and Sterno to turn out lamb shanks for eight hundred—to the outer reaches of the industries that facilitate the most dazzling galas. You’ll never attend a party—or entertain on your own—in the same way after reading this book.
The Lee brothers (The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) pull back the curtain on the catering world, an often-dismissed arm of the culinary industry denounced for its "rubber chicken and dry salmon," in this captivating tell-all. Caterers are unlikely to find stardom, the authors write, though their food is "often as succulent... as what's served at the gastronomic temples of the nation." To learn what fuels the stressful, no-glory business, the Lee brothers don aprons for a New York City catering giant, working their way from the prep kitchen to the "fiestas," or live events including intimate donor dinners at art galleries and extravagant upstate weddings. They uncover a scrappy, innovative ecosystem, best demonstrated by caterers' near-universal reliance on the "hotbox," an "upright aluminum cabinet on wheels" used to transport food and powered by Sterno lamps. The authors track how meal delivery services of the 1960s escalated into today's parties for the ber-rich, replete with gimmicks like "meringues floating through the room suspended by white balloons." The Lee brothers' evocative behind-the-scenes look showcases the workforce of innovators (many of them immigrants) thriving on "culinary triage." This is an intriguing look at an industry often hidden from the thousands of guests it serves nightly.