Two’s Company, Three Hundred’s Just Another Day at the Shelter

Guest post by Scott Leysath, Host of HuntFishCook TV and Sportsman’s newest show to debut this April called Dead Meat. Scott is also Sportsman’s resident Executive Chef for all Hunt.Fish.Feed events. Below, he shares his tips for feeding a large crowd.

For home cooks who get worked up over preparing a family holiday meal, the thought of cooking a dinner for 300, 400 or even 1000 people is frightening.  What if we run out of food?  What if the turkey’s not done in time?  How do I keep Uncle Tony from passing out in the potatoes again? To the churches, shelters and other charitable organizations across the U.S. who have assumed the daunting task of feeding our nation’s homeless and hungry, it’s an everyday deal.  Each day, they provide healthy meals to seemingly endless lines of needy folks.

Seasoning close to 75 pounds of venison to make Venison Tacos

Sportsman Channel’s Hunt.Fish.Feed program encourages hunters and anglers to connect with local shelters and help stock their freezers with a valuable source of healthy, protein-rich food.  Of course, the idea is not to drop off a few pounds of freezer-burnt deer burger.  However, if you and your hunting buddies would like to donate a properly processed deer or two to your local food provider, that’s more like it. Think of how good it’ll make you feel knowing that your big buck helped feed hundreds of men, women and kids.

Scott Leysath running the kitchen at an HFF event in Chicago

I’ve spent the past few decades feeding people, including the better part of the past two years as a participant with Hunt.Fish.Feed.  As a chef, restaurateur and caterer, feeding a crowd is not much different than serving up a Thanksgiving dinner for my friends and family.  One of the biggest obstacles to feeding the masses is figuring out how much of each item is sufficient.  Seasoned caterers understand that running out of inexpensive starchy items like bread, rice and potatoes is just plain stupid.  Keep the bread baskets full and mound up the garlic mashed potatoes and nobody will go hungry.  Other dishes, like proteins, vegetables and desserts can eat up the food budget and need to be more closely monitored.

Hosts typically have a fear of running out of food.  The end result is often a large pile of leftovers that will last the rest of the week.  There are worse things than having too much food, but eventually you’ll get tired of eating last week’s tuna casserole.

The easiest way to calculate how much food to prepare for a crowd is to start with what it takes to feed 10 people and increase quantities accordingly.

  • Plan on about four pounds of meat
  • Three pounds of potatoes
  • Two pounds of salad mix
  • Three quarts of salad mix,
  • One dessert serving and a boatload of bread.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

On the serving line

There are other considerations that will make your next big game feed a walk in the woods.  It’s imperative that you get as much of the preparation work done well in advance.  I’m talking a day or two ahead.  Peel and chop onions, carrots and celery.  Make sauces and dressings.  You can even prepare casseroles like scalloped potatoes or rice dishes a day before the big event.  When the guests arrive, the work should be just about done, with most of the pots and pans cleaned and put away and the aroma of roasting meat wafting throughout the house.  Finish the mac and cheese, give the salad a toss, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the party.