Blessed are the bean counters, sayeth this savvy guide to the commercial food biz.
Dombeck, a professional caterer, offers something less than a soup-to-nuts encyclopedic treatise on many aspects of catering. Vital topics like sanitary regulations aren’t covered here, and he tells readers who don’t know how to cook to go learn and then come back. But what he does focus on, in straightforward, digestible prose, is the art of wringing a healthy profit out of prepping and presenting good food through a sharp-eyed focus on the bottom line. He starts with the basics of crafting a concept that will appeal to customers—market research can be as simple as asking people what they like to eat and finding out what other local caterers are doing—and hammering out a menu segmented into cheaper and fancier dishes. The bulk of the book takes up money matters: Readers learn how to calculate the cost of ingredients, with allowances for food lost to trimming and shrinkage in cooking; how to price dishes (four times the price of the ingredients is a rule of thumb—unless you can get away with more!); and how to comparison shop between wholesale food vendors and exploit bargains that crop up. Also important, Dombeck continues, is estimating how much food guests will eat so that you neither run out nor throw out. The subtle psychology of portion control is covered in intriguing depth—smaller plates and food pieces yield bigger profits by preventing guests from overloading at the buffet. “Catering is not rocket science,” Dombeck allows, but it does require some math; fortunately, he and co-author Bast present it in clear, easy-to-follow lessons with plenty of examples and sample spreadsheets that make analyzing financial data simple. Their combination of common-sense principles and insider tips—if you give your business a hard-to-pronounce name, he says, potential customers will go elsewhere to avoid pronouncing it—will point neophytes in the right direction.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)