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Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World's Riskiest Business

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Matt Lee and Ted Lee take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience. Hotbox reveals the real-life drama behind cavernous event spaces and soaring white tents, where cooking conditions have more in common with a mobile army hospital than a restaurant. Known for their modern Matt Lee and Ted Lee take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience. Hotbox reveals the real-life drama behind cavernous event spaces and soaring white tents, where cooking conditions have more in common with a mobile army hospital than a restaurant. Known for their modern take on Southern cooking, the Lee brothers steeped themselves in the catering business for four years, learning the culture from the inside-out. It’s a realm where you find eccentric characters, working in extreme conditions, who must produce magical events and instantly adapt when, for instance, the host’s toast runs a half-hour too long, a hail storm erupts, or a rolling rack of hundreds of ice cream desserts goes wheels-up. Whether they’re dashing through black-tie fundraisers, celebrity-spotting at a Hamptons cookout, or following a silverware crew at 3:00 a.m. in a warehouse in New Jersey, the Lee brothers guide you on a romp from the inner circle—the elite team of chefs using little more than their wits and Sterno to turn out lamb shanks for eight hundred—to the outer reaches of the industries that facilitate the most dazzling galas. You’ll never attend a party—or entertain on your own—in the same way after reading this book.


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Matt Lee and Ted Lee take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience. Hotbox reveals the real-life drama behind cavernous event spaces and soaring white tents, where cooking conditions have more in common with a mobile army hospital than a restaurant. Known for their modern Matt Lee and Ted Lee take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience. Hotbox reveals the real-life drama behind cavernous event spaces and soaring white tents, where cooking conditions have more in common with a mobile army hospital than a restaurant. Known for their modern take on Southern cooking, the Lee brothers steeped themselves in the catering business for four years, learning the culture from the inside-out. It’s a realm where you find eccentric characters, working in extreme conditions, who must produce magical events and instantly adapt when, for instance, the host’s toast runs a half-hour too long, a hail storm erupts, or a rolling rack of hundreds of ice cream desserts goes wheels-up. Whether they’re dashing through black-tie fundraisers, celebrity-spotting at a Hamptons cookout, or following a silverware crew at 3:00 a.m. in a warehouse in New Jersey, the Lee brothers guide you on a romp from the inner circle—the elite team of chefs using little more than their wits and Sterno to turn out lamb shanks for eight hundred—to the outer reaches of the industries that facilitate the most dazzling galas. You’ll never attend a party—or entertain on your own—in the same way after reading this book.

30 review for Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World's Riskiest Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA

    I like chef's books. I like reading about their kitchens, their dedication to food and how to make it better, more unusual and perhaps set trends. I like reading how they got to that point and how, having made it they opened restaurants and wrote cook books. These chefs are full of passion and soul. Chefs who do not not possess this fire and ambition go into catering along with all the other food workers who don't aspire to be chefs one day but just want a job in food, or perhaps just a job. It's I like chef's books. I like reading about their kitchens, their dedication to food and how to make it better, more unusual and perhaps set trends. I like reading how they got to that point and how, having made it they opened restaurants and wrote cook books. These chefs are full of passion and soul. Chefs who do not not possess this fire and ambition go into catering along with all the other food workers who don't aspire to be chefs one day but just want a job in food, or perhaps just a job. It's your indie bookshop v Amazon. No soul, just selling to the masses as expediently as they can, numbers being the name of the game. There are no sous chefs aiming high in catering, instead there are kitchen assistants who work for agencies or themselves and sign on for a shift, an event, and peel thousands of carrots or place carefully-picked tarragon leaves with tweezers on the production line of salads for a fancy dinner for 400. The hotbox itself is a big metal box on castors that takes sheet pans. Food is prepared in huge commercial kitchens, placed in the hotboxes which are chilled in walk-in fridges until shipped to the wedding, fundraiser or celebrity party (the author is a real name-dropper). There they are unloaded and food to be heated or cooked is placed in zones back in the hotbox. This is heated by non-stinky sterno, endless little tins of them. It is quite an art and skill to be able to actually have different heat zones for cooking or, even with ice at the very bottom, chilling at the same time. Setting up the banquets is quite interesting, but it's always going to be a similar description - set up tables, put plates on them, production line of food coming from the hot boxes or cold ones for that matter. Then the servers taking it all away and the hire company collecting all the furniture and everyone's gone until the next day or the next event. The only other interesting part was of the hire firms that will rent you everything from a teaspoon to a ranch table to seat 24. And have it with you next morning. It will cost though... The rest was filler. One function after another described. Names dropped here and there. Some interesting like Martha Stuart being as she was a caterer, but nothing interesting was said about her. Some were amusing like Nancy Pelosi chatting up a server thinking he was part of the very expensive catering operation from New Orleans rather than a kitchen assistant. Some were neither amusing nor interesting, like Oprah Winfrey. Who cares if she gave a party or went to one? If the book had been about a third the length that would probably have been too short to sell it but that's all the interesting material filled, the rest was repetition. One large event is much like another from a business, catering point of view. The book is quite well-written but that wasn't enough to get it more than 3 stars. Notes whilst reading the book. (view spoiler)[ There is another book, The Hot Box by the noted urban, erotic author Zane. This book is about a completely different kind of "hot box"! When an event, wedding, fundraiser anything really, takes place in a location where there is no commercial kitchen. Food is partly-precooked or prepared before being put into a large metal box on wheels which is then refrigerated until it is time for the function. The location will have a "field kitchen" set up, the hot box will be unloaded and it will be turned into an oven to cook or heat up the transported food. I never knew that, did you? (hide spoiler)]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I believe that the rarest person in the US is one that has not attended a catered event. Caterers are integral in weddings, birthdays, proms and charity events. But while we attend many catered events, it is the rare person who knows and understands what goes on behind the "rods and curtains" to bring us that meal we are enjoying. Hotbox by brothers, Matt and Ted Lee, lifts that curtain and shows the working that goes into providing the catered meal. I admit that I was surprised by their revelatio I believe that the rarest person in the US is one that has not attended a catered event. Caterers are integral in weddings, birthdays, proms and charity events. But while we attend many catered events, it is the rare person who knows and understands what goes on behind the "rods and curtains" to bring us that meal we are enjoying. Hotbox by brothers, Matt and Ted Lee, lifts that curtain and shows the working that goes into providing the catered meal. I admit that I was surprised by their revelations. My vision of the workplace for caterers was one of hectic running around, shouted orders, dropped plates and misplaced pots and ingredients. According to the Lees, catering is like a well choreographed dance. Everyone has a place to be, a job to perform and a necessary role to play. Pre-planning is the caterers mantra. The unexpected is an anathema. Caterers have this trick that they have developed over the years. I was surprised to learn that meals are seared in the caterers kitchen, packed into trays in a "hotbox", bought to the event site and finished cooking using Sterno. The Hotbox is the absolute necessity for caterers. It's uses are fundamental to successful catering. .There are other revelations in Hotbox. These revelations explain the inter-workings that make it possible for caterers to perform their magic. The creation and tricks rarely apply to the home cook who caters their family meals. The other disappointment for me was the lack of "stories." Surely soup was poured on an A lister, trucks containing fragile trays of fragile desserts were sent to incorrect addresses or something dramatic and memorable occurred at least a few times. The Lees present a story of well run, well planned catered events with almost no drama. The book is a well developed story of ingenuity and dedication that permeates the successful catering story. I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. #NetGalley #Hotbox

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I've read all the foodie, chef, and food industry books. (Maybe not all, but a hefty portion.) So my three stars are in comparison to some truly greats, like Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, and Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine (which just won a James Beard Award!) The writing in structure and I've read all the foodie, chef, and food industry books. (Maybe not all, but a hefty portion.) So my three stars are in comparison to some truly greats, like Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, and Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine (which just won a James Beard Award!) The writing in structure and style just doesn't rise to that level, and the contents are a bit uneven. However there is still a lot of worthwhile content. The Lee brothers use their connections to work as KAs (kitchen assistants) for a gigantic catering company, and work several shifts that they then write about. Sometimes they are just doing prep, and sometimes they also work the event (called the fiesta shift, how cute is that?) I think the downside of speaking to catering from this perspective is that they are playing a fairly insignificant role in a well-oiled, well-respected machine. They are seeing what happens inside a successful operation, and this is probably not where the most interesting stories are. They try to supplement by giving some practical information, like tricks with a hotbox, or how to make pasta salad in a bathtub; and some historical content (although they couldn't get Martha Stewart, the original trendy caterer) to do an interview, so some of that peters out a bit. There is some discussion on some of the phases in events and weddings (and even food) and how much of an impact that has on catering; how the new "trend" of food allergies and diets has complicated service when all you really have is a "card table in an elevator," and the "Pinterest effect" on how everyone has to have their own original wedding like everyone else. If you are interested in the restaurant business and want to see a view other than the late night restaurant services, this is a good look. I received a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss; it came out April 9, 2019.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    During culinary school, I completed a stint in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant, and another working "front of house." As much as I love cooking, I knew the heat of the restaurant kitchen was too much for me - the tension and tempers, the egos and emotions were a potent recipe for high blood pressure and burnout. By contrast, some of the most rewarding shifts I've worked were as a restaurant server. I completed my culinary certificate and went on to do extensive wine/beer/spirits training, u During culinary school, I completed a stint in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant, and another working "front of house." As much as I love cooking, I knew the heat of the restaurant kitchen was too much for me - the tension and tempers, the egos and emotions were a potent recipe for high blood pressure and burnout. By contrast, some of the most rewarding shifts I've worked were as a restaurant server. I completed my culinary certificate and went on to do extensive wine/beer/spirits training, ultimately becoming a wine buyer and sommelier. The resort where I worked as a somm had both a traditional restaurant and a substantive catering/conference division, so I saw both aspects: fine dining from a seasonally-inspired menu that changed nightly, and the private, catered affairs with open bars and Sterno lamps. Catering pretty much sucks. At least that's my opinion, fortified not just by my restaurant experience, but by all those summers in college working banquets for my university's busy conference roster. The camaraderie is sweet — you're part of a fast-moving team and time flies — but there's so little satisfaction in serving food to distracted, intoxicated masses, and very little thanks. You're invisible and so often, just in the way. Matt and Ted Lee's catering exposé Hotbox confirms all this, and more. Curious about the culinary world's ugly stepchild, they each worked several seasons over the course of a few years with one of New York's top caterers, to learn the how and why of this grueling industry. The book's title refers to the ungainly but essential aluminum tower that serves as conduit of food from kitchen to event. It warms, it cools, it stores, and if not handled properly, it could the ruin of the caterer. The best bits of this book deal with the events the Lee brother chronicle with jaw-dropping anecdotes. Thousands of people served nightly in seemingly flawless fashion, while behind the scenes there is controlled chaos. But the top caterers have their methods down, treating each event like a military campaign. I loved reading how the backstage was set up for these events, in impossible spaces, like a battlefield triage station. To my personal surprise, I found myself wanting to be a part of the kitchen preparation, rather than the service team. Unlike a restaurant dining room, where you develop a relationship with your guests, however brief, at a catered event you just run to get the food out while it's hot or cool, fresh, and run back to get the next load. Because the Lee brothers didn't actually own a catering company, there wasn't much at risk for them here and the narrative is a bit bland as a result. The book was reportage as curiosity, rather than a breathless memoir of their own careers and financial stability at stake. The delving into the history of catering found me skimming through. They are most successful in their storytelling in the characters they feature- all the women and men who sweat it out day after day to prepare and serve food at a high-rate of risk, expectation, intensity and speed. Why would anyone choose to run a catering business or work for one? Hotbox pulls back the curtain to offer some reasons.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randal White

    Peels back the curtain on what happens in the world of catering. Not the average Joe's catered party, but really high-end, expensive extravaganzas. Told through the eyes of brothers who worked together in the business, from starting out at the bottom to what happens at the top. Should appeal to any "foodie" type. Peels back the curtain on what happens in the world of catering. Not the average Joe's catered party, but really high-end, expensive extravaganzas. Told through the eyes of brothers who worked together in the business, from starting out at the bottom to what happens at the top. Should appeal to any "foodie" type.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    Catering to Excess The world of catering has evolved from basically nothing to over 15 billion dollars in just my lifetime. And that’s just in the northeast. It has become a fiercely regimented profession, demanding timing, skill and perseverance worthy of a space launch. Failure is around every corner, and failure is fatal, as the hosts and guests will never forget who screwed up and how much it cost them to be humiliated among their peers. This is the world that Matt and Ted Lee immersed themse Catering to Excess The world of catering has evolved from basically nothing to over 15 billion dollars in just my lifetime. And that’s just in the northeast. It has become a fiercely regimented profession, demanding timing, skill and perseverance worthy of a space launch. Failure is around every corner, and failure is fatal, as the hosts and guests will never forget who screwed up and how much it cost them to be humiliated among their peers. This is the world that Matt and Ted Lee immersed themselves in for four years. They tell the remarkable story in the fast paced and excellent Hotbox. Catering used to be delivering boring finished plates to an event in a reception hall. Today, caterers daily set up their own temporary kitchens in entryways, closets and behind black curtains in warehouses, museums, farms and estates as needed. The new objective is to make catering food at least as fine as restaurant food. Because it is always only about the food. That requires platoons of specialized workers, from Kitchen Associates (prep) to sanits to servers, drivers and managers. They promise the world and deliver, every night, all year long. They adapt to absurd conditions, insane schedules and fearsome pressure. It’s a brutal living of fast-paced hard work without breaks, without a guaranteed schedule, but with low pay. And camaraderie. Team members advise each other, help each, and cover for each other. They share techniques to speed up difficult tasks, and devise workarounds out of trays, foil and plastic wrap. Failure would reflect on all of them. No one can be allowed to slow down the delivery of the event. Events are no longer a tray of sandwiches and some juice bottles. These events tend to cost more than $500 per person. The event planner at the Metropolitan Museum says she spends more on an event than the cost of her house, and tears it down in 12 hours. Time after time, all year long, year after year. Along with the caterers, there is an industry in equipment rentals. A $150 million dollar business for one company alone, serving Washington to Boston. The scale of their operation is breathtaking. The two industries are symbiotic and couldn’t exist without each other. My favorite character in the book is not one of the legendary caterers like Martha Stewart or Danny Meyer, but a totally unknown heroine by the name of Pamela Naraine. She was running a food truck when a young caterer hired her to manage prep at his new venture. She knows every recipe, the amount of every ingredient necessary for it, and how to prepare every part of it for shipment to the venue. She has the patience of a saint, helping the constant flow of new hires to acclimate and grow. She knows how to recover from their mistakes, get the best deals on ingredients, and save the company a fortune every year. And all with a warm smile, an encouraging laugh, and a guiding hand. If there is one person in this star-studded book I would like to meet, it would be Pam. The Lee brothers, Matt and Ted, are best known for their cookbooks. Here they have written a fast-paced, excruciatingly detailed narrative through every part of the catering process, from the tasting session for the client, through prep, delivery, setup, production, service and teardown. Followed by exhaustion, a meal, a drink, some sleep and the same again the next day. Oddly perhaps, the Lees only regret is not knowing the customer. The entire crew goes through this daily grind without any appreciation of who is paying or why. What reward they get is when servers come back to the kitchen with an empty tray and a spring in their step because the guests love the food. It’s a brutal living, and many of the people they worked side by side with have already left the industry. They open restaurants, with fixed menus, set hours, and careful attention to each meal. The source of this entire industry is of course overflowing budgets and piles of festering money. From ridiculous weddings to extravagant board meetings to no-reason parties, clients think nothing of ordering the best, the most expensive, the most difficult and the most involved. All they demand in return for their dropping a million is perfection. Under difficult, if not impossible circumstances. No pressure. The economics of at least some it makes sense. Dropping a thousand dollars per guest on a three thousand dollar per person event could work. So does dropping a thousand dollars on a rich patron who will later be convinced to donate a million. The same dynamics work for the caterers. Dropping a thousand dollar gift on an event planner or other potential client pays off in a million dollar contract. Quite possibly annually. Bottles of red wine to doormen get access and favors under difficult conditions. It’s all just business. At the center of the caterers’ success is the hotbox, a tall aluminum closet on wheels, into which trays slide. They can be used to cool or keep things cool, or to cook or keep things warm. Even at the same time. They use sterno cans by the dozen, to cook that salmon to perfection after it has been seared that morning back at the prep kitchen. Knowing how to regulate a hotbox is the most precious of skills, as the Lees found out the hard way when they rented one to see if they could master it. They couldn’t. Hotbox is very much a first person (plural) real-life experience of the industry, with interviews of the pioneers, and stories so ridiculous they could only be true. On top of which it is breezily well written. David Wineberg

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Had seen quite a bit of hype for this book, looking at the high-stakes business of catering. A 'Kitchen Confidential' for the catering world, was one way I saw this book being promoted. I didn't care for 'Kitchen Confidential' but thought I had been perhaps misguided and thought a look specifically for caterers would be an interesting read. I can't say this was. There was no intensity and quite frankly, the writing wasn't even interesting. It read like a mish mash of experiences, history, the typ Had seen quite a bit of hype for this book, looking at the high-stakes business of catering. A 'Kitchen Confidential' for the catering world, was one way I saw this book being promoted. I didn't care for 'Kitchen Confidential' but thought I had been perhaps misguided and thought a look specifically for caterers would be an interesting read. I can't say this was. There was no intensity and quite frankly, the writing wasn't even interesting. It read like a mish mash of experiences, history, the type of people who work in catering, the challenges, the highs and lows, etc. But I didn't find it very compelling. While I mentioned I didn't care for 'Kitchen' there are still some parts of the book that I can remember, even years and years after having only read it once. There is absolutely not the same "voice" Anthony Bourdain has, in the sense that Bourdain was a storyteller or at least worked with a much better editor/team to convey this. That really wasn't here at all. I'm sure there will be people who would love this type of read, but it wasn't for me. Borrowed from the library and that's how I recommend it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Two cookbook authors with no catering experience embed in the industry for four years in order to understand what's going on and to write a book. I really enjoyed this peek behind the pipe and drape into the fiesta kitchen. Ever wonder why the contestants on "Top Chef" tend to flounder when they get to the catering challenge, even though it's usually only 200 portions or less they have to prepare? It's hard work, y'all! The book ended kind of abruptly after a week final anecdote, but that's a sm Two cookbook authors with no catering experience embed in the industry for four years in order to understand what's going on and to write a book. I really enjoyed this peek behind the pipe and drape into the fiesta kitchen. Ever wonder why the contestants on "Top Chef" tend to flounder when they get to the catering challenge, even though it's usually only 200 portions or less they have to prepare? It's hard work, y'all! The book ended kind of abruptly after a week final anecdote, but that's a small quibble. Would recommend to fill your time while you're waiting for the next season of "Top Chef" to start.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    I am a huge fan of culinary memoirs and nonfiction and this is a great one to add to the list. It's a great blend of fast-paced kitchen action and history of the catering world. It definitely gives the reader a behind the scenes peek at the world of catering, something you may never have thought about before, even though you likely have eaten many catered meals. The audiobook is read by the authors and I found it really enjoyable. They relate their experience working as kitchen assistants in foo I am a huge fan of culinary memoirs and nonfiction and this is a great one to add to the list. It's a great blend of fast-paced kitchen action and history of the catering world. It definitely gives the reader a behind the scenes peek at the world of catering, something you may never have thought about before, even though you likely have eaten many catered meals. The audiobook is read by the authors and I found it really enjoyable. They relate their experience working as kitchen assistants in food prep and working events with a popular catering company, learning the business from the inside as they worked alongside chefs and salespeople. I'd hand this to fans of culinary memoirs like YES, CHEF by Marcus Samuelsson and SOUS CHEF by Michael Gibney (both of which are also good on audio).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abby Jean

    rating is more for the content than the writing. fascinating look at catering kitchens and businesses and how they work - both similar and very different from professional restaurant kitchens. very interesting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    This book is a serious look at the high end catering business, from the people who manage to cook the enormous quantity of high end food, to the businesses that Warehouse all the special gear needed to cook the meals on site and the props needed for the situation, to the upper-class individuals and socialites who demand their services. One can EASILY look at this book and read in-between the lines to see a criticism of a society that puts such a huge premium on having their event "unique" and "ma This book is a serious look at the high end catering business, from the people who manage to cook the enormous quantity of high end food, to the businesses that Warehouse all the special gear needed to cook the meals on site and the props needed for the situation, to the upper-class individuals and socialites who demand their services. One can EASILY look at this book and read in-between the lines to see a criticism of a society that puts such a huge premium on having their event "unique" and "magical", and the extent of which they will pay to get it (as well as the lives of the people making their dream a reality). This is a solid book for anyone who has worked in the food/service industry and/or is a consumer of political/Economic/Business literature (I fit both of those qualifications). 4/5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Hotbox by the Lee Brothers is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early April. When I had first heard of this title, my background in large-scale campfire cooking came to mind and I had thought, “Oh, they’re talking about a Cambro” before realizing that their style of catering might be a little more refined than that. True to form, this is a story of the Lee brothers climbing their way to the upper tier of the New York catering business. It's also about not judging a catering cook (or catering Hotbox by the Lee Brothers is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early April. When I had first heard of this title, my background in large-scale campfire cooking came to mind and I had thought, “Oh, they’re talking about a Cambro” before realizing that their style of catering might be a little more refined than that. True to form, this is a story of the Lee brothers climbing their way to the upper tier of the New York catering business. It's also about not judging a catering cook (or catering in general, really) at first blush, and working within the strict guidelines of food safety and preparing dishes of a high caliber in a rapid amount of time. Their writing quality is the kind that builds hype, promises much, claims to have seen some things, like a gritty rock tour promoter or safari guide, yet has many annotated words and terms defined for a rube reader. Oi, Bourdain, they ain’t.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is like Kitchen Confidential, but it's about the catering world. The Lee brothers spent a number of years learning what it's like to work behind the curtain and got to know why it is some folks choose that route, rather than life on the line in a kitchen. It also traces the history of how catering began and how it turned into the business that it is today. It's a reminder, too, how rich people live Very Different Lives than the rest of us. This is like Kitchen Confidential, but it's about the catering world. The Lee brothers spent a number of years learning what it's like to work behind the curtain and got to know why it is some folks choose that route, rather than life on the line in a kitchen. It also traces the history of how catering began and how it turned into the business that it is today. It's a reminder, too, how rich people live Very Different Lives than the rest of us.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Saw the Lee bros at the LAT Festival of Books last month and eagerly joined the LAPL waitlist for their book. Found this to be a pretty enjoyable light read, and a fascinating glimpse into the world of catering. Most enjoyed the Lees' first hand experiences on the jobs and the stories of the people immediately around them, occasionally lost interest in some of the higher level threads of big fish in the catering industry or the industry as a whole. Saw the Lee bros at the LAT Festival of Books last month and eagerly joined the LAPL waitlist for their book. Found this to be a pretty enjoyable light read, and a fascinating glimpse into the world of catering. Most enjoyed the Lees' first hand experiences on the jobs and the stories of the people immediately around them, occasionally lost interest in some of the higher level threads of big fish in the catering industry or the industry as a whole.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alane

    The Lee brothers are the perfect writers for this look behind the pipe and drape to catering practices. I've lived some of what they describe so this book felt like sitting down with colleague's and sharing war stories. A delight to read. The Lee brothers are the perfect writers for this look behind the pipe and drape to catering practices. I've lived some of what they describe so this book felt like sitting down with colleague's and sharing war stories. A delight to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bach

    Interesting look at a few years in the catering industry with the Lee Brothers, who retell their experiences taking on catering gigs while doing research. Definitely newfound respect for caterers. At some point it felt like it could have been a bit more brief - each later experience didn’t feel particular different than the last besides minor complexities - but otherwise a fun, breezy read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kayo

    Interesting, behind the scenes look at catering. If you are a foodie, this book is for you. Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rogue Reader

    Exceptional insight into a business I knew existed but really took for granted. So many techniques, processes and practices to even approach success; so many logistics and planning. Interesting but distasteful were the high end, custom extravaganzas, vanity and ego driven by both client and caterer. I will never, ever take a banquet for granted and promise always to look more closely at the mechanics.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Super fun look at how it all comes together. There's not really a coherent theme or message, though. Quite a few times they ask "what kind of a chef would want to do this crazy thing??", without providing a very satisfying answer. (Chefs who thrive on stress, basically.) The best thing this book has to offer is also what it offers in the greatest abundance: stories about the wacky shit that happens behind the scenes. But towards the end when they talk about the excesses of the ultra-wealthy, eve Super fun look at how it all comes together. There's not really a coherent theme or message, though. Quite a few times they ask "what kind of a chef would want to do this crazy thing??", without providing a very satisfying answer. (Chefs who thrive on stress, basically.) The best thing this book has to offer is also what it offers in the greatest abundance: stories about the wacky shit that happens behind the scenes. But towards the end when they talk about the excesses of the ultra-wealthy, even that starts to feel a little sour.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Into the world of high-end catering, those $2,000-a-plate dinners for the movers and shakers to be wined and dined for charity or a new IPO. Written by Todd and Matt Lee, two food journalists and cookbook authors, "Hotbox" brings you on-scene where the pricey and creative food is prepared on loading docks or in hallways. It has to creative, delicious, properly hot or cold despite the daunting locations. One big surprise: Sterno is the secret method for a winning catered mega-event. Enjoyable read Into the world of high-end catering, those $2,000-a-plate dinners for the movers and shakers to be wined and dined for charity or a new IPO. Written by Todd and Matt Lee, two food journalists and cookbook authors, "Hotbox" brings you on-scene where the pricey and creative food is prepared on loading docks or in hallways. It has to creative, delicious, properly hot or cold despite the daunting locations. One big surprise: Sterno is the secret method for a winning catered mega-event. Enjoyable reading - you'll never experience a catered wedding dinner or party the same way again. I saw the Lee brothers in a presentation at the LA Festival of Books where they whetted my appetite to learn more about the inside world of catering.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin Charpentier

    2.5. Parts of this was interesting in terms of describing what it's like to get ready for a huge event or how food allergies have now shifted catering, but other parts were pretty boring unless you're a part of the industry, I suppose. I also found the writing style disjointed. The chapters didn't really mesh together all that well. 2.5. Parts of this was interesting in terms of describing what it's like to get ready for a huge event or how food allergies have now shifted catering, but other parts were pretty boring unless you're a part of the industry, I suppose. I also found the writing style disjointed. The chapters didn't really mesh together all that well.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    super fun read about the back stage preperation of caterers, alot of personal history, and interaction( or the lack thereof) with the super wealthy. alot of hard work, hard choices, and the midset of those who make choices in the industry. but the book seems abit too polite, and lacks abit of the more devious aspects of the life that I expect with a anthony Bourbin book. but fun to think about events int eh Frick.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Mensing

    The world of catering that is explored in this book is not your run-of-the-mill catering, unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire. This book shows what it is like to produce $2,000 or $3,000 a plate meals in makeshift kitchens, night after night. Or even some $10,000 a plate dinners, and sometimes for thousands of guests. This stratospheric level of catering requires chefs and staffs with every bit of the skill required for top restaurants, but it requires a very different personality type. The world of catering that is explored in this book is not your run-of-the-mill catering, unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire. This book shows what it is like to produce $2,000 or $3,000 a plate meals in makeshift kitchens, night after night. Or even some $10,000 a plate dinners, and sometimes for thousands of guests. This stratospheric level of catering requires chefs and staffs with every bit of the skill required for top restaurants, but it requires a very different personality type. The Lee's book alternates between chapters based on interviews and chapters based on their own experiences as they take on the lowest level responsibilities in the catering kitchens. They set the scenes well, making me feel as though I were in, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art to cook for a fundraising event or at the estate of an uber-wealthy client serving up a highly individualized wedding feast. The customers, whether they are event planners or pampered brides, are more than just caricatures. Full characterization, however, is reserved for some of the top players in the catering world. The Lees provide a historical perspective on the development of personalized catering as they wonder just how far this trend can go. Some really fantastic food is described, but the only recipe in the book is for pasta salad for 600 created in a bathtub, which still has me somewhat squeamish about catering food. Overall, this is a fascinating read. Thank you to netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joe Davoust

    I can see this being a great read for some people but not for me. The book is well written. The authors were diligent and passionate about their research. They really have written the perfect book on the given subject matter. But they didn't do anything to make me care about what they were writing. Given that I am not a foodie, I've never worked in the food business, I've never wondered what it takes to bring a catered event together, and I am not a person who appreciates food presentation over I can see this being a great read for some people but not for me. The book is well written. The authors were diligent and passionate about their research. They really have written the perfect book on the given subject matter. But they didn't do anything to make me care about what they were writing. Given that I am not a foodie, I've never worked in the food business, I've never wondered what it takes to bring a catered event together, and I am not a person who appreciates food presentation over flavor or satisfaction, there was nothing in the book to change any of that. I like yummy food, but I don't like to cook. I have been to and enjoyed catered events, but I never cared and still don't care how those events come together. This was like asking someone what they do for a living and them answering with way too much info, to the extant that you were sorry you asked.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    While reading this novel, I have developed respect for not only the chefs and restaurant owners but caterers as well. The industry can be so hard and stressful and things go beyond food on your plate. I loved the stories the Lee Brothers shared in this novel and it made me feel like I was one of their employees trying to help them put on a event for 300 people and they only have less than a day to do it. Foodies, librarians and avid readers will appreciate books like these and want to come along While reading this novel, I have developed respect for not only the chefs and restaurant owners but caterers as well. The industry can be so hard and stressful and things go beyond food on your plate. I loved the stories the Lee Brothers shared in this novel and it made me feel like I was one of their employees trying to help them put on a event for 300 people and they only have less than a day to do it. Foodies, librarians and avid readers will appreciate books like these and want to come along on the journey with them. Thank you Netgalley and the Henry Holt Company for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. We will definitely consider this title for our TX Non-Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lissa00

    Matt Lee and Ted Lee are brothers who operate within the Culinary world. Their interest in the behind-the-scenes work of offsite catering led them to work for a couple of years for one of New York's most successful catering companies. Through interviews and personal experience, the discuss the intricacies of the catering world. This was definitely an interesting book and the stressful, fast-paced environment surrounding catered events provides definite drama. I can't say that I am really all tha Matt Lee and Ted Lee are brothers who operate within the Culinary world. Their interest in the behind-the-scenes work of offsite catering led them to work for a couple of years for one of New York's most successful catering companies. Through interviews and personal experience, the discuss the intricacies of the catering world. This was definitely an interesting book and the stressful, fast-paced environment surrounding catered events provides definite drama. I can't say that I am really all that interested in catering, and I can't say that I didn't roll my eyes many times about the ridiculousness and waste of some these events, but I did appreciate the details and hard work behind them. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    I enjoyed reading about the busy world of catering. Having a son-in-law who works in the field (in Switzerland) it was interesting to see how much work goes into each event. The only "boring" parts for me were the extended biographies of all the "famous" caterers and how they got their start. I enjoyed reading about the busy world of catering. Having a son-in-law who works in the field (in Switzerland) it was interesting to see how much work goes into each event. The only "boring" parts for me were the extended biographies of all the "famous" caterers and how they got their start.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt Chisling (MattyandtheBooks)

    The Lee Brothers are thrown out of the frying pan and into the Sterno flame in this tasty survey of catering culture. How many weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate luncheons, and parties have you been to? At how many of those events can you remember what you ate? The catering industry is a 12 billion dollar-a-year industry, and few have taken the time to really think about what it takes to make a catered meal happen. Cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee decided to invest three years of their lives in t The Lee Brothers are thrown out of the frying pan and into the Sterno flame in this tasty survey of catering culture. How many weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate luncheons, and parties have you been to? At how many of those events can you remember what you ate? The catering industry is a 12 billion dollar-a-year industry, and few have taken the time to really think about what it takes to make a catered meal happen. Cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee decided to invest three years of their lives in the catering world - both as historians and as chefs - to give the public an inside look at just how catering differs from other food preparation techniques. In a world where humans, more than ever, desire to have a relationship and understanding with what they eat, you can turn to Hotbox, the final output of the Lee Brothers' catering tenure, to find out more about the people who make millions of pigs-in-blankets happen. Hotbox is ultimately a topic-to-topic survey of the business, with a focus on the time the brothers spent under the apprenticeship of Patrick Phelan and his popular New York catering company, Sonnier & Castle. Part historical, part autobiographical, part editorial, Hotbox is an enjoyable but uneven read. In 2008, journalist Rebecca Mead released One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, an insightful expose behind the curtain of the multi-billion dollar wedding industry. The Lee Brothers were clearly inspired by Mead's work, as it is referenced multiple times in the book. However, unlike Mead's book that has both an overarching argument and angle, Hotbox feels more like a descriptive survey - a cursory peek without any of the drama. Readers are introduced to a mix of picky hosts, complicated meals, and questionable cheffing moments; but I was left wanting to get under the surface just a bit more. The Lee Brothers only ever worked at Sonnier & Castle, performing tasks in what felt like artifical/preferential conditions (how many times did we see them being offered opportunities that far more senior staff members were excluded from?) The book could've been better served interviewing other prep chefs, servers, and delivery men who actually spend their entire lives in the trenches of catering cuisine. The book, like a plated slice of salmon with winter vegetables at a gala, is ultimately just a bit too sterilized. It goes down nicely, and it's more than enjoyable for an evening, but I'm not sure how memorable it is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carin

    At first, when this book was compared to Kitchen Confidential, I was wary. I mean, I loved Kitchen, but it also made me feel rather icky about restaurant food, and I was about to go to two trade shows and eat a lot of catered food, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But boy, am I glad I did! This isn't a hit job on catering--it's a love letter. The Lee Brothers are a writing and cooking duo from Charleston (I've made their bourbon balls which were delicious and I don't like bourbon, nor am At first, when this book was compared to Kitchen Confidential, I was wary. I mean, I loved Kitchen, but it also made me feel rather icky about restaurant food, and I was about to go to two trade shows and eat a lot of catered food, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But boy, am I glad I did! This isn't a hit job on catering--it's a love letter. The Lee Brothers are a writing and cooking duo from Charleston (I've made their bourbon balls which were delicious and I don't like bourbon, nor am I much of a cook.) But they also partly live in New York, and over the course of writing this book they each get jobs as kitchen assistants (KAs) at a couple of different caterers. And these aren't caterers in the vein of a hotel or conference center--these are offsite caterers who bring in EVERYTHING and often are cooking on folding tables in a back hallway. Or really, they're cooking in hotboxes. Those are these large rolling cases in which you can keep food warm (or cold) and if you put in sternos and use the large baking sheets in a smart way, you can even cook in them. These chefs work amazingly hard jobs--think celebrity weddings at the beach and charity fundraisers in museums. They're expected to put out 5-star meals under incredibly imperfect conditions, and they never get any praise and no one even knows who they are. They will never win a Michelin star. They will not get cookbook deals or be judges on Food Network TV shows. In the history of catering, there has been exactly one caterer who has become famous, and no one else: Martha Stewart. It is a seriously difficult, seriously unsung job done by consummate professionals at the height of their skills. This book left me impressed. And I was angry every time I had to put the book down. A great read. It will leave you hungry.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Marsh

    So much for four books on vacation... 1.5 was all I could manage b/c we were busy (story soon). So, Hotbox by the brothers Lee (Matt and Ted)... This one was recommended by a potential client and then seconded by Kathleen Schaffer, the 2019 caterer of the year. They know their stuff. I love food, food books, making food and even serving food, so this one spoke to my heart. These guys did a deep-dive into New York's catering scene, focusing on the way most food is prepared on site, in the hotbox. A h So much for four books on vacation... 1.5 was all I could manage b/c we were busy (story soon). So, Hotbox by the brothers Lee (Matt and Ted)... This one was recommended by a potential client and then seconded by Kathleen Schaffer, the 2019 caterer of the year. They know their stuff. I love food, food books, making food and even serving food, so this one spoke to my heart. These guys did a deep-dive into New York's catering scene, focusing on the way most food is prepared on site, in the hotbox. A hotbox is like a closet on wheels with tracks inside for layers of sheet pans. It is magical because depending on how you layer sternos, hot trays, dry ice and cold trays, you can cook foods, keep them warm or even chill them. I would love to get my hands on one for experiments, but I digress. This is super interesting content gathered in the field -- by working in prep kitchens and as kitchen assistants at events. The brothers conducted interviews when warranted and uncovered many interesting tidbits and stats. There is a good deal of minutiae in this telling and for me, I loved it. For other less food-obsessed readers, it could be a bit much. At the same time, I feel like there could be so much more they could delve into in the realm of catering and mobile food service. In food terms, this is lovely meat, with a couple of potatoes, but the sauce, gloss and garnish is missing, which leaves me hungering for more.

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