It's Just a Wolf Cookie...
By: Chef Keith Lord & Valerie Bale
Comic-Con International: San Diego
Our client's vision was to serve pop-culture inspired meals at San Diego's Comic-Con in a pop-up dinner paying homage to Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black and Marvel's Luke Cage.
Comic-Con attendees would receive "TV Dinners" inspired by the shows. The meals would feature dishes like Genghis Connie's chow mein from Luke Cage, the Jolly Rancher weapon that Piper used to frame fellow inmate Stella Carlin in Orange is the New Black, and Jerky of the Beast inspired by the wild boar that ultimately killed Game of Thrones character King Robert Baratheon.
The artist's renderings of these three plates is exactly what the client expected us to duplicate...EXACTLY! TWTC's sales team was ready to go to contract, “c’mon, it’s just a wolf cookie and a candy shank”, they said. "It'll be fun", they said.
It sounded like fun, but it did have its challenges.
THE SHANK. We found a still photo from our internet search of OITNB, followed by a YouTube video of how to make one. With the average time it took to produce ten shanks (unwrap the candy, fuse three pieces together with a blow torch, form the tip, repeat) and only three sugar burns accounted for, we had calculated it would take us nine days and one tube of burn cream to complete the order. But trying to figure out the exact number of candies we needed to do it (accounting for unusable/spilled/broken product) was the real challenge. What started as basic math problem soon morphed into a complicated algebraic equation as if we were back in junior high school, encountering unrealistic word problems that "would never actually happen in real life", until it did! So, we cleaned out the county of San Diego of every last Jolly Rancher candy possible and furthermore took to Amazon for the amount remaining. Who knew a purchase for 15,500 Jolly Ranchers would actually freeze an Amex account and alert you for fraud? With an exorbitant amount of product, scheduled labor for prep, the coldest room known to man, and parkas to accommodate the arctic, we awaited a signed contract for the green flag to start the race.
THE COOKIE. We needed a cutter, a mold, something that remotely resembled a four-inch “wolf” shape. Without it we weren’t really comfortable committing and although we stumbled upon a possible source in LA, it came at a cost…and the cost was high! You see, time and money were not on our side, so we were back to square one. Alas, just as we were about to break the news to the client, they were calling to let us know they found a manufacturer! The tools were made and shipped overnight to a nearby FedEx Kinkos for us to pick-up. But the molds weren’t deep enough! It was too late though - we had no plan B and time was of the essence. So we did the only thing we could do… pry EACH and EVERY cookie from the molds by hand!!! Then clean the molds before the next use and repeat... Several. Hundred. Times. From there, we hand-painted “blood” around the edges of each cookie. Needless to say, the cookie team joined the shank team in the coldest room known to man for a production line you would have to see to believe.
Of course it was one of our busiest weeks outside of this event in particular. Not to mention another Comic-Con contract we had for the new Blade Runner movie (which among other items had almost a physical ton of dry udon noodles to cook).
For nine days our cooks wore parkas and worked in the frigid cold while Team Shank formed Jolly Rancher spears with butane torches and their bare hands and Team Cookie hand-painted "blood". These events tested us, tried our patience and completely exhausted our bodies, but they also brought our team together and that alone was worth the challenges.
Our completed plates looked exactly like the artist's renderings...EXACTLY! The food was amazing, but it was the accomplishment of reaching the goal, just as it had been dreamt up, that made it a huge success!
Orange is the New Black
Frito Fritters, fritos, peas
Rancher Candy in shape of shank
Cherry Pie, sour cherry filling, flaky crust
Game of Thrones
Vegetarian Chow Mein
Vegetable spring roll
Just for FUN Stats:
Blade Runner - no joke, we produced one ton of udon noodle salad
Orange is the New Black - 4,500 shanks = 15,500 pieces of Jolly Ranchers candy
Game of Thrones - 50 pounds of pork jerky & 500 hand-made, hand-"blood"painted wolf cookies later...