I have a million questions that run through my head every day that mostly pertain to my career. Why am I doing this? Is this the best job for me? Is this it? What’s next? Did they like it? Do they like me? At what age does one start Botox? Was the chicken cooked properly?
And one random ongoing dilemma that I’ve pondered for years, “Do you think Mrs. Garret from The Facts of Life really loved those girls or was it just a job?”
This is my head and the dizziness of questions that plague it.
However, I realized that there have been moments in my career where I have allowed myself to stop, not question what’s next, be in the moment, and take it in. To be “in “my zone” as I learned on a trip to Kripalu Yoga Center (my twice a year “rehab”), means to be doing what you love.
Lucky for me, a very handsome gentleman from South Africa showed me the way to my zone back in the 90s, here’s my story.
Food is like theater, Darling
While working at DM Cuisine, I received a call from Colin Cowie’s office that he wanted us to cater an event for Elizabeth Taylor with InStyle at Christie’s. Those are three very fancy names in one sentence and I was READY.
However, if Liz’s signature color was violet, mine was GREEN, because that is exactly what I was. Novice doesn’t even come close.
It was only two months since I started my job as Catering Sales Representative at DM Cuisine, I barely knew what the difference between a salad and an entrée fork, but, a moment revealed itself to me in this opportunity; it was up to me and me alone to figure out what to do with it. Armed with a notepad and my Joan Rivers earrings (my mom has a horrible QVC problem-I’m certain my inheritance is located in a storage container in Paramus filled to the brim with key pieces from the Joan Rivers, Susan Lucci and Tova Borgnine collections.) I was off to Christie’s for the big planning meeting.
When I opened the boardroom doors at Christie’s, I could not believe what I was seeing. The room was filled with top-level Christie’s executives, the whole executive team from InStyle Magazine, and a team of Elizabeth Taylor’s most trusted handlers.
We were all awaiting the arrival of Colin Cowie. And then, as if a Hollywood Director yelled out “ACTION”, the boardroom doors flew open.
Colin did not walk, he sauntered. He entered the room with his team, dressed perfectly and lint-lessly in black. When he spoke, his accent was foreign but sounded like the most beautiful music I had ever heard. He made words like “over budget” and ‘over time” sound like sexual positions you were dying to try. This man was the closest thing to James Bond I’d ever seen. To this day, I’m convinced that he could fix you a martini dusted with gold in one hand while disarming a bomb with the other, but, of course, as he would tell you, “only if the lighting plan was perfect.”
I looked around and just observed this room filled with accomplished high level executives, my heart racing with that, “please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me” feeling.
When lavender carpets, crystals, elephants (yes elephants), Nehru jackets for the men responsible for picking up the elephant poop, lighting, sound, press, and VIP guests were checked off the TO DO lists Colin looked at me and introduced himself.
“Colin Cowie.” he said as he shook my trembling hand. “And you are?” “Mary Giuliani. I’m the caterer.”
“Mary Giuliani” he repeated. My name never sounded more beautiful.
He then began with what I call…My Education With Colin
“Food is like theater, Darling, we must make our best impression in the first act, if we don’t, we lose our audience! We dine with our eyes, Darling!”
With a small wink he began, “The trays are to be covered with moss, the pea soup must be topped with chervil, the caviar must be from Petrossian.” I made a mental note to look up where or what Petrossian was.
When someone in the room suggested we serve pigs in a blanket (Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite…and mine), he quickly retorted, “I’m only serving pigs in a blanket, Darlings, if they are presented in mounds of caviar.”
WHAT!? I loved this man. If the Beatles had the Maharishi, I had Colin Cowie.
I think he could sense/ see the fear in my eyes or smell the green in my feet, because he paused, walked over to me and said, “I have total confidence in you Darling, that you and your team can pull this off.”
What!? The man who threw Oprah’s 5-day 50th birthday bash, the man that could transform a tennis court to look like the inside of a royal palace with a snap of his finger…he had confidence in ME? A girl who faked a learning disability to get out of taking high school Spanish!!?
A sprinkle of confidence
That vote of confidence was all I needed. I worked extra hard to make sure everything was perfect for that event. I spent late hours with Daniel(the owner and Chef of DM Cuisine) learning all the proper names and pronunciations for everything on the menu (and then some), and I even tried caviar for the first time (still don’t really love it, to tell you the truth).
When the event day arrived, I was determined to make sure that we did the best job we could and even when Elizabeth Taylor arrived two hours late because she had inadvertently locked herself inside her hotel bathroom, I made sure we had enough food and drinks to keep the guests happy until she appeared.
I observed Colin throughout the entire project, how he presented himself, the pride he took in what he did. He was an artist, and each event space was his canvas. It was less about serving others and more about making others transform, experience something magical and travel to a faraway land.
Colin opened up a door to a new career possibility and took me deep into what became “my zone.” And when that party was done and my lint-less Maharishi sauntered off into the night, I knew exactly what I was going to do….start my own business. Two years later, Mary Giuliani Catering & Events was born.
We never did serve pigs in a blanket in mounds of caviar for Elizabeth Taylor as Colin suggested, but here’s an idea that may have worked.
Pigs in Caviar a.k.a. Fancy Pigs
Yield: 24 mini cups
For the bacon cups:
- Nonstick pan spray
- 2 pounds thin-cut bacon for serving
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper (or a combination of the two)
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
- 1 Small Tin Petrossian Caviar
- ½ cup Crème Fraiche
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Turn a mini muffin pan upside-down and lightly coat the bottom with nonstick pan spray.
- Crisscross 3 slices of bacon over each upturned cup, and then place another mini muffin pan on top so that the bacon slices are compressed between the two pans.
- Place the pans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the bacon cups are crisp and browned, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
- Lift off the top pan.
- Carefully remove the bacon cups from the bottom pan and place them on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain, wrong side up.
- Fill will dollop of crème fraiche and top with Petrossian Caviar