So, another Derby has come and gone. To the world outside Derby City, the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is, at most, a couple hours of viewing enjoyment on a spring Saturday afternoon. To Louisvillians, of course, it’s much more: a two-week extravaganza with a celebratory feel; a chance to glimpse celebrities from around the globe; short, lazy days at the office and lots of early business closings; an excuse to acquire an elaborate hat; and a reason to buy up half the supply of fresh mint in the northern quadrant of the country.
To those of us in the restaurant and food services industries, however, Derby is the Battle of Thermopylae, and we’re the 300 Spartans defending the pass against Xerxes’ Persians. It’s the giant Earth-destroying asteroid from “Armageddon,” and we are Bruce Willis in an apron and side-towels instead of a space suit. It’s Carnival, the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras all rolled into one — not just one or two busy days, but a whole two weeks of bourbon ball-making, special menu-writing, reservation book-juggling madness filled with 12-, 17- or even 20-hour work days.
Giant catering gigs commence with swanky Thunder parties in mid-April and don’t stop until well into the wee hours of the Sunday after the first Saturday in May. While you were sleeping off your extra ration of mint juleps Saturday at midnight, many of us were dragging heavy rented portable cooking equipment up the corrugated ramps of rented refrigerated trucks; sweeping up confetti and half-deflated balloons; and yes — washing hundreds and hundreds of dishes.
So, be gentle with us in the food service industry this week. We’re still quite tender from the invasive surgery that is Derby; and of course, we had a few juleps, too. It’s just that we had to start our partying much, much later than you, and we still got up far, far earlier than you the following morning. And if, on some night this week, you hear a raucous gathering in your neighborhood, or behind the shuttered windows of a restaurant that’s not open, and think, “Geez, Derby was last week, people!” well, you’re both right and wrong. Our after-it’s-all-over celebrations are the stuff of legends, so wrangle an invite to one if you possibly can — because those are some parties you really do not want to miss. Just don’t forget your apron and side-towels.
Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Café Lou Lou. She is currently a chef instructor at Sullivan University, her alma mater.