So I’m back home for the next week, recuperating from the madness that was the Rolling Stones. (My first day home I slept for 14 hours straight.) I’ve just completed my first “run” and feel like I can confidently answer some of the questions I’m frequently asked about the job. So here we go…
Question: “So what exactly do you do?”
I work for a company that is contracted by major musical acts to cater both performances as well as the pre-production activities. A.K.A., I cook food for bands that travel the country as well as the people who support those bands.
Question: “But who do you cook for?”
I cook for a lot of different kinds of people in a given day. Of course we prepare food for the artists, this often includes special requests included on the individual’s “rider”, a document that spells out the specific needs and requests of each artist. (These requests can get very specific, and it is our job to deliver exactly what they ask for.) This also includes the opening act or acts and their associated “people”. Everyone has “people” and we gotta’ feed ’em!
After the artist, we also cook for the production crew. This includes the senior production staff, an army of super busy, super serious people who are in charge of the show getting from place to place and making sure that everything that is supposed to happen, happens. The production crew also includes all of the people who make the show look great: lighting personnel, audio/visual staff, dressing room attendants, hair and make-up, personal massage staff. (Yes, a personal masseuse is on the staff. Sometimes two. Rock and roll, right?!)
Next are the drivers, specifically the long-haul truckers who transport the “steel”, a.k.a. the stage infrastructure, stage lights, and audio/visual rigging. And I’ll be damned if these ol’ boys can’t eat! I swear they intentionally don’t eat anything while they are driving just so they can eat as much as possible from the buffet.
No Fred, no truck stop hot dog for me today! I’m saving my appetite for that sweet little spread we’re gonna tuck into in Raleigh! – Every Trucker I’ve Met Thus Far
We also cook for a group know as “the steel”. These are the union scaffolding and stage riggers hired to erect the stages. These guys are professionals and some of the most badass dudes I’ve ever seen. They work their asses off for days on end to make sure that even if you’re in the cheap seats, you’re going to enjoy some fuckin’ spectacle! They look like pirates, curse like sailors, and eat with the urgency and determination of elite endurance athletes. You never run out of food when you’re feeding “the steel”; they are bigger than you and all look like they have a cousin who knows how to hide a body.
Lastly, we cook for an often maligned group known only as “the locals”. This is the horde of locusts brought in for day labor on the first and the last days of each stop. They do everything from erecting some of the stage structures, to rolling in lights and instrument cases. They do most of the work that I previously considered “roadie” work. This group spans all age ranges, racial and cultural boundaries and gender lines. The one thing they seem to have in common is the desire to strip a buffet of all food stuffs with a brand of ruthless efficiency most commonly observed in packs of sub-Saharan vultures. Much like the truckers and union guys, they don’t care what we are making, they just want a lot of it.
Question: “So what do you cook?”
This really depends on who we are cooking for. If we are in-advance of the regular production staff and just cooking for the steel workers we cook food that hungry steel workers like to eat. Mostly meat and potatoes in large quantities. When the bands and production crew arrive, we tailor the menus to the things they like to eat, meaning more vegetarian and fish entrees, though still in large quantities. Show days all bets are off. We cook all of it for everyone all at the same time. Show days are only matched in their intensity by their variety.
Question: “So where do you cook? Where do you live?”
The answer to this question is one and the same: The Pewter Shooter.This baby is living quarters, sleeping quarters, bathroom and mobile kitchen all rolled into one. We live/sleep/travel in the front section and work in the rolling kitchen that is towed behind. The kitchen has everything you need to serve great food, including prep. stations, six burner range, char broiler, two convection ovens, dry storage and reach-in coolers as well as a sub zero freezer. The living quarters host six bunks as well as a rear suite for the senior most crewman as well as a “living room” complete with banquet couches, a full sized fridge, microwave, satellite TV and Kurig machine. This thing is both pirate ship and professional catering company. So what the first rule of the road?
Rule #1: No #2 (on the bus)!
Clean up after yourself. Respect your tour mates. Keep the kitchen pristine. And above all else, no pooping on the bus! (This rule, while steadfast and seemingly the only thing sacred out on the road, does contain a certain caveat for emergencies. In the event of not being able to make it to the next venue, the offending pooper is afforded the option of a “hot bag”, which, in practice, is akin to cleaning up after your dog at a public park. Whatever comes out is quarantined in a plastic bag to be disposed of in a trash respectable at the earliest convenience of the aforementioned pooper.)
Question: “Where do you shower? How do you do laundry?”
I get this questions pretty frequently, mostly from my mom. The laundry question is easy.
We send it out.
The laundry is sent to a local laundromat in whatever city we are currently in. The laundry comes back the next day, clean and nicely folded. It’s one of the few things about living on the road that is easier than at home.
And is showering as nice as a home, you ask? Not so much. Below I will list the most common types of showers you will encounter on the road, in order of descending nice-ness.
#1- The Hotel Shower
This is as close to showering at home as your’re gonna get. The water pressure may suck, but the water is warm and the towels are ample. This is also the only type of shower that does not require shower shoes. This is also the least common.
#2 – The Portable Trailer Shower
I had never experienced the portable trailer shower before this trip, and in fact, I didn’t know it existed. This is the port-a-potty of showers, and I’ve included a picture below.The major upside here is that the water is usually hot with good pressure and the stalls are private. The downside is that the showers are usually a pretty good hike from where we are staying.
#3 – Locker Room Shower (private stall)
We work almost exclusively in stadiums and arenas, meaning that we have access to the locker rooms located therein. These showers are not preferred, but are pretty common. Hot water is not guaranteed, especially the closer you get to showtime. Something about 80,000 people using the bathroom at the same time tends to exhaust even the largest of hot water heaters. Even without warm water, the private stall locker room shower beats out the final option…
#4 – Locker Room Shower (public)
This is the locker room shower that you will remember from gym class. Its big, its tiled, and its wide fuckin’ open. Like the sight of exposed truck driver ass? Than this is the shower for you my friend!
Commonly known as a “rape shower”, this is the most frequent shower you will encounter on the road. And sure, it may be the locker room for a professional sports team, but even that wears thin pretty quickly. (I will say, after working a 16-hour day in the heat, even a public shower with several strangers feels pretty good. And this has helped me quickly overcome my discomfort with being naked in public. Thanks rape shower!!)
So there you have it, the most common questions about what really is a pretty strange job. If I didn’t answer your question, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get you an answer!