1,000 Cheese Sandwishes
Did you have a cheese sandwich? I made all of them. Backstage with the Rebel Dining Crew where we catered the first annual Rainforest Festival in Fontainebleau, France 2016 for 5,000+ attendees over two days. Beautiful festival with great intentions, looming weather and an ass load of work. These are my sandwiches and story behind them.
Local artisanal demi-loafs stuffed with sautéed heirloom tomatoes and fennel mixed with a blend of Mozzarella di bufala, cave aged farmhouse Cheddar, Holland Delta Gouda and Roquefort de Papillon, grill pressed to crunchy, gooey perfection. This, my dear friends, is the most wonderful grilled cheese ever created. Here is the team that brought it on.
Rebel Dining Crew
Me, Nitch aka GC Queen aka Tinder me softly → I debated turning my tinder on for the event, y'know so I could get to know some of the event goers. Food is a great opening line.
"Why don't you slide over to the food tend, I'll slip you a lil Grilled Cheese on the side, if y'know what I mean."
That didn't happen at all. I'm all talk. Mostly I power house cooked, made crude jokes and tried to avoid falling asleep on my feet. Good thing there was that constant base beat drilling my left ear and techno drops in the right.
Dr. Schnitzel → Coming to us from Berlin, Germany this mix breed Nigerian man not only towered above the crew with flawless chicken schnitzel skills and tong technique to make a Bangladeshi jealous, but he fueled 100% of our prep kitchen music selection. Hardcore rap.
His jams ended when we moved from the kitchen area to the service tents as we got audio blasted from two sides. CocoBeach stage left, Rainforest stage right, repeating techno beats based and dropped for 10 hours straight but that ain't nothing for a wrapper.
Dr. Schnitzel had those chicks between the buns, covered in sauce, warm and waiting for the Chef's call. Great person to work with.
← Chef, the grand Rebel King himself! He's the one who brought us all together for the festive occasion. Extremely well connected globally, the Chef's been on Jamie Oliver's Food Channel more than a few times, he's opened some restaurants, knows all the ladies and isn't afraid to look like he's working - when cameras are around. Although normally Chef carries choice tequila with him for this event he was favoring the organic Rosé wine supplied by the Rainforest Festival. Good choice given the heat.
Menu creation was all him and he blasted through service on our first night open. Blasted it.
Beware the whistle! Chef ain't got no time for back talk. Be if from the crew, the volunteer service staff or the paying customers. When that whistle blows you better listen up. Orders up!
Mrs. Kickass ↑ without whom we would all still be in bed. She hails from the United States of America and New Zealand but lives and works currently in Berlin, Germany as a chef, consultant and all around badass. Her fingers are in a bunch of extremely interesting projects including a Soylent dinner parties. If you don't know what Soylent is then you must not live in Silicon Valley. Which is fine, because not everyone does. Nor should they.
Who else was going to translate Chef's whistles? Her customer service skills were on fire. Like, put it in the pizza oven and light that fucking sandwich on fire, FIRE! Because when a young customer comes back up to the counter four times to insist a sandwich needs to be re-heated, there is simply nothing left to do, as Mrs. Kickass always says but to, "put that bag of cheese and bread in the pizza oven until its on fire." Dr. Schnizle tongged the smoldering sandwich bag to the young customer a hile later, flames still curling the edges and there was nothing for anyone to do but shrug. Sandwich wouldn't need to be re-heated again, now will it?
Dani ↑ The women in the right of this picture is Dani. She doesn't get a cover name because she's enough of an enigma in herself. Quiet, but not unfriendly, her kitchen skills undeniable. The meatballs, the pasta (only slightly burnt), quinoa, couscous, most of the chicken and ALL of the pizzas were made by her. If I hadn't personally heard her snoring at night I would've assumed she was a robot.
Sweet though, she talked about her new puppy often. Got him from a shelter. She was excited to get back home to Berlin to take the little mix breed on walks and gear him up for the boar fest for her birthday in October. A friend is killing her a wild boar for her 30th birthday in October. I'm going, naturally Nitch wouldn't miss a boar fest, so look forward to pictures of puppies, Berlin beer and boar meat filled mouths.
Lastly we have these two striking Romanian beauties : Ann Dreamer and I Own It.
Ann ↑ on the left there has travelled the world and gives zero fucks. Given her ability to slice upwards of 50 kilos worth of veg in a matter of days, there is no doubt that she'd cut you if you got outta line. Recently having learned how to roll joints on her own, she shows no signs of stopping her learning process, and is accountable for at least half of all the rolled veggies balls. Ann and Dr. Shnitzle talked for hours about rap music politics during our cleaning courses, even at times challenging one another with obscure songs.
The far reaching abilities of Tinder crept into the crew as it was explained that Ann had met Chef through Tinder, which turned out to be how Mrs. Kickass and Chef had connected as well. Dating apps are a great way to expand your friend circles and find catering staff.
I O → on the other hand is open and closed. This Romanian gem would chose her words carefully and land on topic with the timing of a figure skater. Rebel Crew's long hours took a toll one evening as five of us sat outside the rental barn we were housed in for the weekend, waiting for Chef to return with a key a forgotten key and something set her off.
"I hate you." She seethed at Dr. Schnitzel. Her delicate eastern European accent on the harsh words a perfectly balanced dish. We ate it up. She repeated it a few times so we could laugh with delight and awe at the simple yet complex two toned remark.
Later we were to found out the I O has not only a nack for well timed statements and rolling meatballs, by the end of the weekend she would use the word meatballs as a response to nearly everything, but surprisingly lost items would stick to her. I'm still not sure how she came to own those markers. No one is. They are hers now though that's for sure.
In a van 6 bodies deep we rolled through dense traffic from Paris to Fontainebleau until our driver, Romain The Intern, rear ended another car so we could stretch our legs. That's how the four day weekend started, with a courteous crash. And that's how it was destined to end.
In the kitchen
Before cheese sandwiches there much be : Shopping. Two days before the festival's start, we were in Fontainebleau gathering ingredients and setting up our service tent in the drizzling rain.
Day two was filled with planning, slicing, dicing, grating and schnitzel'ing from 5am to midnight. We mostly worked in pairs, speaking over the rap music to learn more about each other's history, interests and current relationship statuses. The Romanian women sipped on coffee from champagne glasses and covered lost skin with latex gloves.
Gloves were an issue for the entire event. Not all of us can fit Chef's size latex gloves. Preparation for the Rainforest Festival would not be hindered by droopy mickey mouse hands though as mountains of food piled up.
"Did you get a massage?" - Kloé The Association Manager
"THERE ARE MASSAGES?!?"
Believe that we all took a trip to the Association area between services. There were people teaching positive, respectful physical contact without sexual intention and although Ann enjoyed herself to the extent that she couldn't help explaining how sexually arousing the head massage was, we tried to act like our hands didn't smell of onions.
Remember friends, we've been on five hours of sleep for three days and our only outside human contact has been the occasional festival volunteer entering the kitchen screaming for plastic bags.
Lombard effect : the involuntary tendency of speakers to increase their vocal effort when speaking in loud noise to enhance the audibility of their voice.
CocoBeach stage to the left of our food tent drew in people like moths to a glow light. They hoovered close but kept a distance for fear of crowding. Each person moving like a SIM character to their own style of dance.
You would think it was a playlist set up. Guys in sunglasses are allowed to come on stage and pick out a track to bob his head to and occasionally drop the bass. Goes to show how little Rebel Crew knows about whatever genre of music was being played because it was a series of DJs featured every hour throughout the weekend.
The Rainforest stage featured some good artists. I passed some guy name Jay Prince changing his own name a dozen or so times. He must be cool.
Only one person got injured more than us with our burnt arms and swollen feet. Not on this ominous faux rock wall but the giant inflated landing pad that lived to the right of it. A broken arm from jumping from a stand onto a big bag of air seemed unlikely otherwise I would've taken more time to photograph it. For all the flames, questionable electrical arrangements and sharp items the most deadly thing at the festival turned out to be giant bag of hair bigger than our restaurant tent.
Put a beer in your pocket
It's time to feed the people.
You can watch my video where I discuss our beer choices for the event. It's nice to have a chemical substance to rely on when you're slicing 20 liters worth of radishes.
Want to know many of those radishes we used? One hand full. One Romanian woman's size hand full of beautiful, bright perfectly sliced radishes to top off our Rainforest salades; the rest went to charity.
Right there. Nitch lived in that little box for four days with occasional trips to a barn converted into a Pinterester's dream French cabin for a few hours of closed eye time. Otherwise it was me and the crew, thousands of festival goers and a wonderful coffee kart. God Bless that fucking coffee kart!
Emmaunual served me one of the best espressos I've had in France in months. Cinnamen and caramel, lightly toasted and a dry finish the stuff was heaven juice. Donuts came later.
"Please stop bringing over the donuts. I keep eating them." Y'know what I mean friends right? If there are donuts, they will be eaten. Except for proven psychopath like Ann who declined donut, both confirming her inhuman status and disproving her stoner statues. What stoner could refuse a donut?
Far more important than the Rebel Crew's super human status was the quality of the food and dedication we had to it. From start to finish we rocked the Rainforest Festival restaurant to produce the most visually appealing and mouth satisfying dishes possible. Never a moment of rest when you've got buckets of cheese to melt. Who needs rest!
Apparently we did. Last service was at midnight, we cleaned our tent until blood shot eyes rested on our beloved van after which we begged for a place to crash. No amount of rose from plastic festival cups or shared cigarettes could keep Dani and Mrs. Kickass from our van! Ann and I O were delirious and carried on conversation part Romanian, part English, part kitchen short hand.
"Order, Chef - taci! - pārāsi"
Dr. Schnitzel and Chef stayed after to manage left overs and me, well you know me friends, I talked all the way home with the camera man who shared our van with us, and asked if he used Tinder. It's how connections are made.
As of right now I haven't been paid for this weekend of furious cheese sandwich making so until then I'm going to say it was a unique experience. I'm exhausted at this very moment, the courteous crash continues even as I write and drool over my own photos. My dear readers who've made it this far if you see a grammatical error, a typography mistake or perhaps have some general feedback other than,
"Nitch! These photos are great and you're story telling is sick." Anything other than those kinds of comments posted in that box below and you can expect one of my Romanian friends here to come pay you a visit.
Knife skillz aren't limited to the kitchen, ya dig.