How to Cook for Large Groups

how to cook for large groups

In college I was an RA for three years.  While I learned a lot of things about people’s personalities, how to talk to people, how to get around red tape and exactly just how much trouble people can get into, I also learned a lot about event planning.  We had to plan one event every week.  So with 10 week terms, RA-ing for 9 terms, that’s 90 events.  Wow.

Some of the most successful events were Mario Kart tournaments, getting the Philly Taco, making gingerbread houses, limbo night, potluck dinners, pancake nights, pasta dinners, taco nights and games of Never Have I Ever.  If you haven’t noticed, most of these ideas revolve around one thing… food.

I was talking to my friend Steve the other day.  It was right after I threw my wine and cheese party and I told him that I was going to be throwing the zucchini party the following weekend.  He asked me if I ever plan a party that didn’t revolve around food.  My first thought?  Why would I do that?

One of the hardest things to do is figure out exactly how much food you need at an event.  Unfortuantely, when you’re an RA of a large floor and you have a floor event anywhere between 0 and 50 people, or in some cases between 0 and 100 people could show up – so finally by the third year of being an RA, I started writing down exactly what we needed – at least for the taco night and the pasta dinner anyway…

Taco Night, 35 college students eating 1-3 tacos each

  • 1 bag of romaine lettuce chopped up
  • 4 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 9.75 pounds of beef
  • 1 extra large can of beans (for vegetarians)
  • 10 seasoning packets
  • 3 18-count hard shell taco boxes
  • 5 12-count soft shell taco packs
  • 7 bottles of soda (rootbeer went first, then pepsi, then lemonade, then sierra mist, then the diet soda)
  • 1.5 pounds of shredded cheese
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 48 oz. of salsa (a balance between mild, medium and hot)
  • 32 oz. of sour cream
  • Chips so that people can scoop up what falls out of the tacos and onto their plates

Pasta Dinner, 60 college students

  • Salad: 1 head of lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 1 bag of carrots, 1 red pepper, 1 bag of cheese, 1 box of croutons
  • 9 pounds of pasta (cook right before and keep warm in a sterno)
  • 3 jars of meat sauce
  • 3 jars of marinara sauce
  • 3 loaves of italian bread for garlic bread (easy spread margarine and garlic powder)
  • 5 bottles of soda
  • 3 packs of oreos (if you saw our budget, you would understand)

So clearly there are some discrepancies here because it seems silly that 5 bottles of soda was enough for 60 people for a pasta dinner and we needed 7 bottles for 35 people for taco night, but maybe it has something to do with the spicy salsa?  Either way, this is a good start – because who wants to buy 2 too few bottles of soda or 3 extra boxes of hard taco shells or 1 too few loaves of bread or 3 extra packets of seasoning or 1 pound too little of pasta…. like we did.  (The above numbers are the numbers that I would use for next time so they take all of that into consideration already.)

Hopefully this helps 🙂
Especially if you’re going to be a college RA…

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