Crabby caterers make one super supper

Published 10:35 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

Staff Writer

How much food did each person consume at Saturday’s all-you-can-eat Pickin’ on the Pamlico? According to caterer Mark Keyzer, about two pounds, and that does not include beverages.
“This group drinks a lot of beer,” Keyzer said. “This crowd wants lots of shrimp. That’s the main thing– lots of shrimp and lots of beer. This group is fast and furious. They will consume this in an hour and 15 minutes.”
Keyzer, who has catered the Washington Harbor District Alliance fundraiser for all five years, detailed his grocery list for 2010 and it was fit to feed a small army: 400 pounds of chicken, 400 pounds of fresh shrimp, countless jumbo crabs, 350 pounds of baked potatoes and 150 pounds of ear corn. His 14-person team cooked most of the food on-site. Using mobile kitchens and grilling trailers, they served an estimated 500 guests in Festival Park.
“The shrimp are nice this year,” Keyzer said. “The Pamlico is full of shrimp and it’s been a bountiful year as far as the crab and shrimp. We’ve been doing this for four years and we have a track record of what it takes. Everything is clean and fresh, the cooks we have are competent, and we’re used to large numbers.”
Keyzer has been running his family catering business full-time for nearly seven years. It’s a job that has him running from event to event around the state, something you don’t get to do with a restaurant.
“That’s the difference with a restaurant,” Keyzer said while tending chicken legs on the grill Saturday afternoon. “They cook food the way they like it. As a caterer, we have to cook food the way our customers like it. We will change our recipes a smidgen’ depending on the client.”
With an all-you-can-eat buffet, there are bound to be leftovers.
“We always have plenty of potatoes and shrimp that we haven’t cooked,” Keyzer said.
As for turnout, Beth Byrd, director of the WHDA, was hopeful for a sellout following a push for more statewide exposure.
“This year we’ve done more advertising than ever and it seems to be about the same ticket sales,” Byrd said. “Who knows what we’ll do next year but what was really great was we ran an ad in Our State magazine. Actually Lynn Lewis helped us with that at the visitor’s center.”
“The main purpose of us putting this on is it’s one of our annual fundraisers,” Byrd added. “We get sponsors (for our other events). That sponsorship money goes right into a pool just for that event. This event is to raise money to run the office here and to keep the whole office going. So that’s the difference with this. So we do it to raise money for the organization but we’re still doing it to try to spur people coming to town.”