Five weeks and 95,000 meals later …
Black Saturday was of the size and magnitude to test the limits of a huge range of highly trained, experienced service providers – not only the obvious emergency response crews (including firefighters, DSE crews, National Parks personnel, Defense forces, Police and others); but also other providers such as caterers.
The obvious difference between our usual catering assignments and this emergency is lack of time for planning, ordering and preparing for large volume food service – and importantly having to anticipate the volume of food service required at each sitting. An expected 200 on the first day turned into many times more very rapidly (and with little or no notice). At the height of the activity, on one day we served a ‘town’ the size of Mansfield twice over.
No-one anticipated the devastation, the enormous loss, the emotional and physical trauma that was unfolding. It didn’t take long to realize that this emergency was like no other. The call came at 9pm on Black Saturday to provide a meal service for a possible 200 people in Alexandra. By 3 am the next morning a team was assembled, the packing had begun and by mid morning a marquee was erected on the site (with the full complement of tables and chairs); a fully self-contained mobile kitchen and cool room/dry store were in place and cooking had commenced for the first lunch.
However the numbers escalated dramatically and at the height of activity a day might include 1,400 hot breakfast, 1,500 lunch packs, 1,500 hot dinners, snack packs for fire crews working through the night, continuous tea and coffee. This catering project was fast becoming a test of stamina for all involved.
Together with enormous help from members of the Mansfield and Alexandra communities we provided thousands of hot meals and lunch packs around the clock for over 5 weeks feeding –
DSE, CFA Vic & NSW, Police and Emergency Services, SES, Australian Defense Force, evacuees, Fire Services ACT, WA, NSW, SA; National Parks – Vic, NSW, Tas and last but not least - ‘the Americans.’
Some staff reflections and comments:
‘the young local high school student who turned up every afternoon to volunteer his services.’
‘being driven home after a 16 hour shift and watching trees exploding on the ridge lines’
‘my lasting impression is of the singed pets and their dazed owners’
‘tent city growing in size and knowing that the devastation was enormous’
‘the fire fighters were so grateful – they couldn’t stop thanking us’
‘it was a very humbling experience’
‘women who had lost everything offering to help cater for the fire fighters’
Crawford’s were nominated Winner of 2008 Provincial Victoria Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award – an award recognising the entrepreneurial success and real innovation of regional businesses. The award is open to businesses with less than 50 full time staff which demonstrate real innovation and entrepreneurship in a regional community.
The award nominations were judged by a panel in association with the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne. AGSE Russell Kenly said that Crawford Collective demonstrates great balance – ‘it supports the local community, has an existing innovative product used in the market place, plus has excellent potential for further innovation.’ The award was presented by Candy Broad (MLC) at Brown Bros, Milawa on 20th Nov, 2008.
January 2009 – The Crawford Catering crew were busy over the weekend at two large local events.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (All Tomorrow’s Parties) held a festival at Mt Buller for 4000 patrons and Crawford’s were kept busy serving up fabulous hot and cold meals feeding the hordes throughout the weekend.
Midnight to 2 am was a popular time for food and double shot coffees! Patrons commented on the sensational setting (with fabulous mountain views in every direction), the luxury of accommodation close by (instead of camping in a dusty paddock), the range of great bands and of course our fabulous food!
Catching a chair lift ride up ‘Bourke St’ to get to the main stage was a highlight for festival goers who couldn’t manage the hike up the hill.
The Cattlemen’s Cup at Merrijig brought together all the stars of the original Man From Snowy River including Sigrid Thornton and Tom Burlinson and the ‘cracks’ for a weekend to remember. Over 7000 patrons enjoyed the many activities – apart from the many horse riding events there were some unusual ones like ‘cow skin drag’, ‘dog high jump’ and ‘gumboot/keg throws.’
Crawford Catering had a marquee and kitchen at the Cup serving up a huge selection of hot and cold take away meals during the day. A great hit at night was our transformed marquee offered a ‘fine dining’ menu with clothed tables and plated meals. One patron was overheard saying, ‘wow, I’ve never seen anything like this in a paddock in the middle of nowhere.’
Mansfield Races - Melbourne Cup Day
A great day was had by over 3000 race-goers at the famous Mansfield Cup Day Races. Crawford Catering treated 70 guests to a magnificent meal track-side.
Mt Panorama, Bathurst – October 2008
Crawford Catering has just delivered enough meals at the recent Bathurst races to feed our town of Mansfield twice over.
With a fabulous crew, headed by our new Events & Operations manager, Kass Thomas & Dave Livingstone, our resident chef - the race teams, broadcast crews and officials were well fed.
Some stats: Among many other items just imagine over 13,000 slices of bread, 4,000 eggs, 4,720 rashers of bacon, 283 kg tomatoes, 5,000 muffins and 2.2 tonnes of meat!!
Crawford Catering undertook a big challenge in August, 08 travelling some 7500 km round trip from our base in Mansfield, Victoria to feed the participants of the Australasian Safari as they belted across the desert - from Kalgoorlie, north to Sandstone, across to Meekatharra, Mt Magnet, to Geraldton and then to Perth. Crawford Catering set up a kitchen and marquee 5 times over 7 days, preparing over 4000 meals (hot breakfast, lunch, dinner) – that is over 2000 eggs for breakfast!
Crawford’s were a bit hit – definitely back in 2009. Check out the race (to rival Paris to Dakar) on www.australasiansafari.com.au & the action on youtube.