Let's face it. Some jobs are more interesting than others, and when we met Alisa M. McGowan, we knew she had it figured out. A caterer to the jet set, she spends her days making sure Wyclef Jean has his soul food going on, the Victoria's Secret models' chocolate chip cookie stash is full, and there are green jalapeños available for Mana. Celebrities are known to have quirks, but McGowan tells us they are not as demanding as the media makes them out to be. Usually a good, healthful meal with some comfort food will go a long way in satisfying both crew and talent, whether at a private mansion on Star Island or on a field in Homestead. "It's never anything too fancy, except for the occasional crab cake."
The food service portion of the day is fairly tame except for the entourage and "hangers-on" who rush the table uninvited. There was the 4 a.m. rap video shoot at a strip club where the breakfast orange juice was used for spiked drinks. It seemed harmless enough, except "by lunchtime, all the girls were really drunk, hungover, and crabby." Probably not the look the director was going for.
McGowan started her business in 1995 and says the key to keeping it fresh is to "look at what market niche we can fill." This led her to expand to Private Jet Gourmet in 2005, an in-flight meal service for private travel. Servicing large corporate clients such as Amway and Hess, McGowan's proprietary vacuum-sealed freezing system ensures fine dining at 30,000 feet. It's a difficult but lucrative business with clients who have big wallets and big demands.
But when the economy took a turn, the jet business slowed, so McGowan jumped in as lead caterer for Top Chef Miami and 45 days with the most discerning clients. "Padma, Tom, and the rest of the crew were great," she says. But the cheftestants were picky and difficult. "Especially when they felt they were about to get kicked off." I think that's what we call "projecting."
What's next for McGowan? "I love what I do and am just going to keep doing it," she says. So next time you see a production shoot on South Beach with Lil Wayne, Flo Rida, or swanky models, look out for McGowan and her crew.
Here is her crab cake recipe that does just as well on the ground as in the air.
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31/8 oz olive oil
2 1/4 oz white onion, finely chopped
1 5/8 bell peppers, red and green
2 1/2 oz corn
3/4 oz garlic
1 1/4 oz creole seaoning
1 oz mustard
3 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese
3 1/4 oz panko breadcrumbs
1 lb lump crabmeat
2 1/4 oz flour
1/2 tsp hot sauce
juice from 1 lime
In a sauté pan, mix the olive oil, onions, red and green peppers, corn, salt , pepper, garlic, and creole seasoning. Sauté until crisp and tender. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, mustard, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, crabmeat, flour, hot sauce, and lime juice. Add the sautéed onions and peppers.
Heat some oil in a 12-inch skillet and add the crabcakes, working in batches. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Serve with remoulade (recipe below).
5 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp worchester sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp paprika
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let sit in fridge for an hour before serving.
Catering by Alyse