Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Electric Factory. A versatile, exciting event venue.

The Electric Factory is the very first special event venue I ever experienced and also worked in. When I was ten years old my father, Joseph “Jerry” Spivak hired me to alphabetize the mailing list of the Factory. The pay was $1 per hour, they had about 40,000 names on small metallic plates, and I got half way through the letter “B” before I retired to focus on my 5th grade studies. 

A packed house at the Electric Factory

Larry Magid's New Book
The original Electric Factory was a converted tire warehouse at 22nd and Arch Streets in Philadelphia, it opened in 1968 and closed in 1971. The original opening group was my father, his two brothers Herb and Allen, Shelly Kaplan and Larry Magid. When the Factory closed they began using the name Electric Factory Concerts and took most of the business to bigger venues such as The Spectrum. Larry went on to become the face of the business and with Allen running the business side they made EFC one of the most successful music promoters in the country. My father and uncle Herb went on to focus on their growing restaurant chain, HA Winston & Company. There have been some great articles about the history of the Electric Factory and EFC written recently by most of the major publications in Philadelphia. These articles were prompted by the release of Larry Magid’s excellent coffee table book “My Soul’s Been Psychedelicized”. Here are a few links to some of the articles as well as one written in the Philadelphia Weekly a few years back that focuses more on the Spivak's history of the business.

Kashmir Event for PCMA Convention, January 2006

There was no concert venue called the Electric Factory from 1971 to 1995 when Larry, Allen and Adam Spivak (Allen's son) opened a new space at 7th & Willow in Philly and recreated the Electric Factory. A converted industrial space it instantly became a major concert venue.

Max & Me Catering started doing backstage concert catering for EFC in 1997 and when I joined the team in 2000 we were doing most of this unique form of catering for them in shows that took place in the Philadelphia area. When the venue was booked for two shows during the Republican National Convention in Summer 2000 featuring Lynyrd Skynrd and Blues Traveler, the event planner was referred to us for catering. This began my history with doing special events at The Factory. We did many events between 2000 and 2006 when Max & Me Catering morphed into it's current ownership situation.
Another groovy event at The Factory
Blues Traveler

Here are some of my favorite events that we did at the Electric Factory, and a few other caterers did.
Blues Traveler and Lynyrd Skynrd 1500 guests each night, RNC 2000
ISES Showcase, 400 guests, 2001
Pharma Event, American Psychiatric Convention, 2500 guests, 2002
Larry Magid's Rock & Roll Charity Auction, 500 guests, multiple years
Starwood Hotels Kashmir Event, PCMA Convention, 700 guests, 2006
Alexandra Spivak's Bat Mitzvah, 150 guests, 2007
EFC's 40th Anniversary Party, 1000 guests, 2008
Jen & Chase Utley's All-Star Animals, 600 guests, 2010, 2011
Jen & Chase Utley's All Star Animals Event at the Factory
As you see, the Factory has hosted a wide range of corporate, social and charitable events and there are many different ways to utilize the spaces that comprise the venue. Total capacity for a cocktail style party is 2500 and by tenting the large parking lot you could do an event for up to 5000. An obvious advantage of using the Factory for your event would be the great set up of staging, lights and sound that are already in the venue and are packaged into facility rental pricing at a cost far below what it would be to rent anything close to the quality and capabilities that you get here. They also have some of the best production staff in the business to help with your event. Another great feature is their bar service, large well stocked bars and fast professional bartenders make for ease in service for your guests.

Belly up, if you book an event with us, next round is on me!
We will be scheduling a promotional party at the Factory in early October to introduce/reintroduce event planners and others in the industry to the venue. Featured at this event will be the preferred catering companies that will be serving some of their best offerings. If you would like to attend you can email me, harryspivak@gmail.com, and if you are a qualified event planner I will make sure you are invited. Also if you are interested in seeing the venue or inquiring about booking the Factory for an event please email or call me on my cell: 610.955.8001.

This is my first site inspection for my blog and the first time I have had writer's block in posting. That's one of the reasons it took so long to get this done. Look for many more of these site reviews in the future, let me know if this is useful for you, I hope so.

Let's close with a quiz. First one to answer all three questions correct, in the comment section below, will win a copy of Larry Magid's book "My Soul's Been Psychedelicized, Electric Factory" a $40 value!

1. What famous Philadelphian was with me when I met Janis Joplin and got her autograph in 1969?
2. What band opened the original Electric Factory in February 1968?
3. What concert promoter teamed with Larry Magid and Allen Spivak to produce Live Aid in Philly 1985?

Thanks for reading,
Harry 7/26/12

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interesting info from others...

While you all wait patiently for my Electric Factory post, here is some valuable information to read today. The following article from the New York Times shows very clearly why you need real catering professionals to execute off premise events. Restaurants are usually very good at making food in their home arenas, but put them in an unfamiliar venue and watch out. It's not that they can't learn, but often their egos get in the way. Anyone ever had this happen to them? http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/sixty-chefs-in-the-palace-and-still-just-average/?ref=dining

How do you avoid having problems like they did in Versailles in the above linked article? One way is by doing a thorough site evaluation. Mike Roman, the founder and head honcho at Catersource, (the most important catering industry magazine and trade show) has a blog, and he did a post back in May that is the best outline for a site evaluation I have ever seen. Here it is:

Every major event a caterer bids for needs to have pricing based on the actual event site’s features. An event site is either user-friendly or a nightmare for a caterer. To set a price and book a major event without first touring and inspecting the event location is both unprofessional and foolhardy. To determine the good and not-so-good of an event site, use this checklist:

a) Measure all rooms or areas to determine space and flow for:
1) Buffets.
2) Bars.
Mike Roman at Catersource Conference & Tradeshow
3) Band, DJ & dancing.
4) Field kitchens.
5) Cooking or reheating.
6) Trash storage.
7) Preparation and plating.
8) Storage of your boxes.
9) Seating.
10) Etc.
b) Determine how much distance there will be between the prep and plating area and the guests.
c) Check for equipment that is already at the location that can be used, i.e. chairs, dishes.
d) Check for stairs or multiple floors.
e) Check the kitchen (if available):
1) For cleanliness.
2) Try all stove burners and ovens to make sure they work.
3) Verify temperature correctness with an oven thermometer.
4) Make sure hoods and exhaust systems work.
5) Check refrigeration and freezers.
6) Count number of trash containers.
7) Count and locate fire extinguishers. Insure that they are have not expired.
8) Insure that drains work.
9) See if your pans fit into the ovens.
10) Verify the quality of both hot and cold water.
11) Verify that the size of doorways will permit free movement.
12) Etc.
f) Check electrical outlets to see how many exist and how they are connected to each breaker. Learn where the electrical panels are located.
Hey Mike, How about a free subscription?
g) Determine how the delivery will be made. Through which doors will it come and where it will be placed?
h) Inquire about for parking for your staff and your truck.
i) Determine who is in charge of maintenance at the location.
j) Determine if there is going to be any security staff
k) Determine how poor weather will affect your performance, especially if using an outside location.
l) Determine where you will place garbage and who is responsible for removing it.
m) Obtain the phone number of the location. Check to see if your cellular phones receive a signal.
n) If elevators are needed, check to determine the hours that they will be available.
o) Determine which bathrooms, if any, your staff may use.
p) Interview the custodian or maintenance people to see what problems they have had with other caterers.
q) Take video or photos to share with other team members during planning meetings.

Here is a link to Mike Roman's blog, good stuff: http://romansopinion.blogspot.com/

That's all for now, Bob Trimble, you won the produce, but only because I don't feel like tracking Lisa Tieger down, wherever she may be this week, to get her the veggies. 

Harry 7/20/11 

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Cool Blog Post from SoCal

Pauline Parry and her company Good Gracious Events do great work. They produce some of the most innovative food station design work I have seen.   

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A fun week, great parties...

My favorite chef, Jenn Carroll, and her 10 Arts crew at Best of Style Party.
Back to the blogosphere. I have been working on my first Site Inspection story on the Electric Factory, it's not quite ready yet, but I wanted to relay some of the fun happenings I took  part in this past week.

Tuesday was the Ultimate Networking Party at Chenango, the new restaurant inside the Arrow Swim Club, next to the Piazza in NoLibs. Fun time, decent food, and the highlight for me was that Uncle Bart was going to lend me some swim trunks so I could take a dip. I did not take him up on it though, fear of not fitting and/or ripping them.

Moshulu at Night, nice.
Wednesday I spent the whole day in a seminar on blogging. Very informative if a bit tiring, look for some of my new techniques in future posts and marketing efforts. Wednesday evening was perhaps the premier event industry networking event of the summer, HSMAI's Bash on the Moshulu. The Philly area event industry's most important person, Jim Cohn, is the force behind this party and it gets better every year. It sold out again this time and the collection of industry professionals, both planners and suppliers, is as good as it gets for this type of event. Great weather, excellent passed hors d'ouevres, refreshing specialty drinks and Jim Pfizzenmayer. What more does one need? Special thanks to Jim and his staff for the great hospitality and also accommodating my last minute guest that actually was not able to make it, but Danielle and gang made it easy to relax and enjoy the evening. 

Hard to top a Philly Style party. Publisher John Colabelli is a master at all elements of a successful shindig. Thursday night at The Crystal Tea Room featured enough different food, booze, environments, activities and beautiful people to make the most jaded Hollywood or Manhattan professional party goer impressed. It was very well done from a special event/catering ops viewpoint too. My favorite foods? Jenn Carroll's Tuna Tartar, Snockey's Littleneck Clams and Zavino's Tomato Mozz Salad (Nice job Brent & Jason!). Helping maestro Peter Breslow wrangle interviewees as he filmed the event for Philly Style was really fun. It allowed me to introduce myself to some folks I had never met before like Vince Papale, Stu Bykofsky and Dan Gross.

Introducing a new feature on Catering & Me: The Comment Contest.

Freddy the Carrot, catching rays, LBI
I really would love to get more comments so, the best comment on this post will receive a hand delivered selection of produce from my garden to include: Heirloom Tomatoes, English Cukes, Baby Zucchini, Basil, Italian Parsley and Habanero Peppers. Unfortunately I won't be able to include my favorite vegetable from the summer so far, Freddy the Carrot. I do believe he is an heirloom variety, and his brothers and sisters were quite delicious when brother Josh grilled them last Saturday. He just could not bear to grill Freddy though.

TTFN, enjoy the weekend and look for my Site Inspection of the Electric Factory, posting some time on Monday.

Harry 7/16/11
Happy Birthday to my sister Jenny owner, designer and head server at Cafe Rae, San Clemente, CA

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fourth of July Grubbin'

A cool Fourth of July Food Station, Max & Me, 2003
As promised, here is my long holiday weekend of meeting and eating. I was pretty good in my never ending battle of the bulge by not over eating, staying away from starches for the most part, and even a bit of excercising.

Thursday, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Advanced Staging, West Chester PA
Excellent Burgers, Dogs, Potato Salad, Slaw, Caesar Salad and a nice selection of Desserts. A great kick-off to the holiday weekend, feel good fundraiser and great hosts in Steve and Donna.

Friday, Poolside Libation’s with Peter & Joanne Breslow, North Wales PA
Sparkling Wine, Coppola Chardonnay, Peaches and Plums.
Relaxing afternoon by their beautiful pool, nice brainstorming and hanging with the Breslow's.

Friday Evening, Opening of Rosey’s BBQ, Ambler PA
BBQ Chicken, Smoked Turkey Breast (incredibly juicy, maybe best turkey ever), BBQ Beans and Mac’n Cheese. Delicious, authentic food. Go here, or original location in Jenkintown.

Saturday Afternoon, Pool Party with Maureen Moroney & Family, Blue Bell PA
Burgers , Dogs, Chicken, Baked Beans, Two Yummy Pastas, Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese (deelish),
Beet Salad with Beet Greens, Tomato Tapenade on Croutons

Saturday Evening, Dinner at Josh & Lara’s House, Peahala Park, LBI NJ
Leftovers for me, Sautéed Flounder and Scallops over Jersey Corn Salad, Sliced Tomatoes and Basil.

Sunday Afternoon, ATT Golf,  Aronimink Golf Club, Newtown Square, PA
I didn’t eat here, but we did attend the event, following is a review by my first guest blogger, golf lifestyle correspondent, Olivia Peiffer.

"I was in a private suite sponsored by U.S. Liabilities Insurance.  I was on the 16th green with full views of the 16th, 17th, & 18th holes.  It was literally the best tent on the course.  Most others had views of one hole. I really lucked out. The USLI tent was relatively large, air-conditioned, and set beautifully.  There was a balcony on three sides of the suite with high tops and bar stools so we could watch play on all three holes. The inside was set with bengaline underlays and a beautiful plaid overlay."

"When I first walked in, there was a very nice lunch spread consisting of: Greek Salad; Caprese Salad: Pasta Salad with Summer Vegetables & Diced Grilled Chicken: Mango Glazed Salmon with Basmati Rice and Pineapple-Cilanto Salsa, Hamburgers: Braised Beef Brisket with multiple sauces (I opted for traditional BBQ, it was phenomenal, probably the best thing I had all day): Cookies & Brownies and Mixed Berry Cobbler. I enjoyed lunch with a Grey Goose Bloody Mary before I ventured out to walk the course."

"By the time I made it back to the tent, the lunch spread had been replaced by some bar snacks: Peanuts, Chips, Cookies, Crudite, etc. I was very impressed that the catering was not only replenished, but the menu had completely changed. About an hour after the bar snacks went out, another round of food came out: Shrimp Cocktail with Orange Horseradish Sauce; Bagels & Lox with all of the traditional accompaniments; Pinwheel Sandwich Wraps. I was told that this was the fourth round of food that circulated through.  I must have been on the grounds when the other round came through."
"Overall, everything from decor, service, and food were so well done. It was a really incredible experience from beginning to end. The PGA went above and beyond to coordinate a flawless experience. 
Thanks Olivia, I will be visiting Olivia soon at The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company, a great bar and event space near Rittenhouse Square that is known for crafting amazing classic and updated cocktails. 

Sunday Evening, after golf dinner, at home in Ambler
Memphis Style Brisket (from Rosey’s), Red Beans and Rice, Tomatoes, Basil and Cucumbers (from my garden)

Monday Evening at Donna & Charlie’s Picnic before the Fireworks, Philly
Shrimp & Veggie Skewers, Burgers with Lipton Onion Soup Mix, Brisket (from Rosey’s), Asian Noodle Salad, Sandy’s “Regular Housewife Pasta Salad” and her Pink Lemonade Pie. My most up close and personal experience with a major fireworks display ever. Thrilling.

Tuesday Breakfast at LBI, before heading back home.
Josh: "No habla ingles"
Josh’s Baby Back Ribs, Lara’s Yummy Savoy Cabbage Slaw, Potato Salad, Watermelon and Cantaloupe. A fitting end to the holiday, I love leftovers for breakfast!

This was my first all-out immersion as a participant in the Fourth of July Holiday ever. I am usually working or else avoiding crowds at all costs. I really enjoyed it, but I think going to the beach three separate times, even though the drive was long, helped keep me sane. It really is a great holiday, the complete celebration of America and it's favorite summer foods.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

From The Max & Me Catering Archives, Volume 2

An Event at the NCC
The Fourth of July holiday brings back Max & Me Catering memories. Eight years ago we opened the National Constitution Center, and as the exclusive food service operator we were under tremendous pressure to perform at an extremely high level from day one. The building was to open to the public on the Fourth, but our biggest project was the Gala opening dinner followed by the "Red, White and Blue To Do" on the evening before.

Catersource, the premier national catering magazine, wrote a cover story on the opening of the NCC from the caterers perspective. Here is a link to the summary of the original article, I can't seem to find the complete article in my files or on line. It's a good story though and I have lots more to write about the NCC at a later date including how we were able to win the contract bidding against all the biggest food service contractors in the world. I may even discuss why I left Max & Me Catering and the NCC. Catersource link: http://www.catersource.com/resources/library/event-planning/tight-construction-schedules-and-murphys-law

We always had many other major events going on for Fourth of July, in 2004 we catered the Liberty Medal luncheon for Afghanistan President Hamad Karzai at the Federal Reserve Building across 6th street from the NCC. You can imagine the security level for that event, and the main reason it was held at the Federal Reserve Building was because of its existing fortifications; security procedures and ingress/egress protection. What made it so challenging for us was we had concurrent events at the NCC, as well as a picnic for over 1000 guests at The Andalusia Estate for Southwest Airlines. It was Southwest's introduction into Philadelphia and the picnic was for employees, supporters and their VIPs. The best thing about this event was that we were partially paid in Southwest's "green" tickets. These are the ultimate airline ticket, short of first class, as they are completely changeable at any time, and you can book as many stops as you want with layovers on the same ticket. I have been trying to get more business from Southwest ever since!

I'm doing lots of Philly stuff for the weekend including the PGA Golf event tomorrow and Welcome America on the Parkway Monday. I may even review some of the picnics, barbecues and parties from the weekend. I did eat at Rosey's Barbecue in Ambler last night and they were packed most of the day. I went in just before closing and the only item they were out of was Collard Greens, a reason to go back today. The staff was still happy and helpful, and I had a great meal. I texted Chad after I left, a very simple: "A+". It was great to meet Chad's wife Jessica, my second cousin. I'll let you all know about Rosey's grand opening event coming soon. Rumor has it that Jessica's sister Toby Lightman, will be performing. If you have not heard Toby before, check her out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1-ReS47Nyw&feature=related

Have a fantastic Holiday, remember and celebrate the incredible work of the founding fathers to create the great country we live in.

Party On!

Harry 7/2/11

RIP Jack Herman, you will be missed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The week so far, and missing pieces from last...

Battleship New Jersey
The Forecastle Area
I can't do it. I can't post every day. Oh well, many of my trusted advisers think that posting less often will heighten interest. I hope so. I have been kind of waiting to do certain types of posts until I taught myself how to insert pictures. I gave up and asked for help today, thanks Jules for teaching me. Now I need to round up a larger inventory of pictures. Last Wednesday one of my clients, Feast Your Eyes Gourmet Catering held a promotional party to introduce their clients and prospective clients to the Battleship New Jersey, a new venue for them that they share exclusive catering status with one other company. The event went really well, the turnout was slightly more than expected, the weather was perfect and Chef Lynn Buono's food was spectacular. Some of the menu highlights for me were the paella, short ribs, fried cauliflower and mini cheesesteak springrolls. The Battleship is a phenomenal place to do a special event with about a dozen different areas to utilize. It can easily hold 1500 for a cocktail style event and I think it has the best views of the Philadelphia skyline that I have seen. The front section of the boat known as the forecastle (pronounced folksull) is my favorite spot along with the Captain's and Admiral's Quarters. Another great feature of the USS NJ is that when it is hot and humid during the summer it always feels at least 10 degrees cooler with a nice breeze. Here is their website: http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/event_rentals/. I will be starting a series of venue reviews in the next week or so, my full site inspection of this great treasure will come at a later date.

A very busy week for me, lots of action and opportunity in the catering and special event world. I'm working with a couple new clients and continuing my never ending quest to find great new venues to hold events. I do like to think of myself as an expert on area venues and it's really challenging to try to match a client's vision for an event with the right venue. If you are an event planner and need help with venue selection, feel free to contact me and I can usually find a solution in my extensive database of  museums, warehouses, lofts, mansions and other unique places to hold your gathering.

Last night I attended two events in Northern Liberties. The introduction of Tower Premier Concierge as the in house Concierge for tenants of the Piazza and other Tower Development tenants in Northern Liberties was held in their new storefront space on Liberties Walk. The owner Derek Bailey seems very knowledgeable and the breadth of services are extensive including catering and staffing. Across Second Street in the Piazza, the new restaurant King's Oak held a promotional event produced by Jessica Scott. Very well done party, food was yummy, nice live music,  it is a great addition to the Piazza. This adds to the desirability of the Piazza as an event venue.

Today I was invited by Steve Wildemann and Donna Coghlan to attend their Alex's Lemonade Stand picnic and fundraiser at the headquarters of Steve's company, Advanced Staging. Very nice event for a great cause, this was a nice kick-off to the Fourth of July weekend and the numerous barbecues I will be attending. Steve and Donna are two of the best, most professional people in the business, if they weren't there is no way I would have drove to West Chester when I could have been golfing or writing this blog. Steve actually gave me a fun idea for the blog, a post rating the different barbecues from the weekend. I think I will do it.

I started writing this blog post in June and as I look down at the computer clock I see it's now July. Happy July to all. One of today's highlights will be the opening of Rosey's Barbecue in Ambler. A two minute walk from my front door. Welcome to Ambler Chad & Jessica, great to have you here, click for the website: http://www.roseysbbq.com/. Would it be fair to have my barbecue review for tomorrow on a restaurant's first day of business?

Missing you Katie,
Love Dad