On Monday, June 16, we held a very different type of fundraising event than we have ever done before. We served Nepali food at a local Pittsburgh restaurant called Bar Marco. The event was known as No Menu Monday, which is a great concept of Bobby Fry the owner of the restaurant Bar Marco. The idea is that for a day, a guest chef can prepare a menu of their choosing and the proceeds from food sales will go to a particular organization or individual. This has allowed many different organizations to raise money by promoting many different types of food.
I attended a No Menu Monday event with my son where a local organization was raising funds for a business trip to DC for their young leaders. They had some local high school children helping to prepare the food along with the chef. It seemed like such a good way to work to raise funds, but also to highlight the growing diversity in Pittsburgh through food. After this event, we discussed the idea of Rukmini Foundation hosting a No Menu Monday as well, and Bobby liked the idea and really supported it.
June 16 was going to be a Nepali themed No Menu Monday. We saw many potential benefits from this event:
- We could raise some money to help the girls in Nepal;
- We could introduce Nepali food to new people in Pittsburgh who may not have known of Nepali food;
- We could show the girls in Nepal how hard our foundation and supporters in the US are working for their education;
- Also, it felt like it was much more rewarding to serve the customers and raise money that way than simply asking for a donation. Although we greatly appreciate donations.
Our excitement turned into nervousness because neither I nor my husband (who was going to be the main chef) had ever cooked in a restaurant before. We had prepared big meals before, but this was something much bigger. We didn’t want to disappoint the people who would attend the event.
As the event started to get publicized through emails, our website, and through Social Media we had no escape but to face it head on. Planning a dinner for an unknown number of people in an environment we were not familiar with was a bit scary. Despite being a little scared, we started planning. Our plan was to first finalize the menu, write down all of the ingredients, estimate how much of each item we might need, and then come up with a price that will cover the costs, but also make it appealing for the attendees. Once we had the menu down, we had a test dinner to see what the food would look and taste like. The testers approved of the menu.
Steamed Nepali Dumplings: Mo Mos … everybody’s favorite Nepali food.
Sauce for Mo Mos: Mo Mo Achaar
Lentils and Rice in a bowl: Daal Bhaat – very traditional Nepali meal
Practice Cauliflower and Potatoes (Cauli Tarkari – meaning cauliflower vegetable in Nepali)
After that was done, our next step was to take the shopping list go grocery shopping. We spent most of the weekend before the event buying all of the necessary ingredients. We were still nervous about whether the food would turn out good or not, but we hoped that the people would enjoy the food since they were eating for a good cause.
On Monday morning, we gathered all of the ingredients, took our rice cooker, pressure cooker and a steamer for the Mo Mos (Nepali dumplings) and set out for the adventure. At 11.30, we got into the kitchen and started setting up. I started by looking for the appropriate pots and pans to cook in. My husband and my son were finishing up some last minute shopping. Finally around 12:30, we started to prepare the food from scratch. The staff at Bar Marco provided us with everything and let us get to work.
Getting ready to cook
It took us longer than expected to prepare everything, and since we were not sure how many people would attend it made it that much more difficult. One thing we were confident about was that the Mo Mos would be popular item. However, those are very time consuming to prepare since we need to prepare the filling and then individually wrap all of them prior to steaming. Luckily for us, two young Bhutanese friends Diwas Timsina and Priyanka Neupane came to our rescue. They had practice in making lots of Mo Mos and they did a marvelous job in wrapping hundreds and hundreds of them.
We are so thankful to our friends Diwas and Priyanka because they were pros at making momos and they helped a lot.
We were barely finished cooking by the time we saw our first order for six people. The nervous from before came back again as we worried about how we would fill the orders. The staff at Bar Marco seemed very relaxed and told us to just do what we had been doing. This gave us confidence. Also, one of my sons, Anup, had experience in working in food service, which came handy as the orders started to pile up. He filled the orders very efficiently and kept us on task.
Anup managed the evening very well and we took orders as best as we could.
Guests started coming in constantly. My sons were busy filling the orders and also greeting the guests. My husband and I had to make sure we had enough food for the guest, but also wanted to make sure we were providing fresh food, especially the steamed Mo Mos. This busy-ness lasted for over two hours, after which we got a break to breathe again. It felt like we were busy in the kitchen all the way to the end.
The place started to get very busy between 6 and 7 pm
When things started to slow down a little, I took a plate of food and went outside to the restaurant to greet some of our friends and foundation volunteers. It was a very lively atmosphere. People seemed to be enjoying the food. Some of the guests even came to the kitchen to tell us how much they enjoyed the food. That was such a rewarding feeling for us.
Guests seemed to be enjoying the food
My poor husband was so busy in the kitchen that at the end of the evening he remarked that he didn’t even get a chance to take a restroom break for 12 hours. Since he entered the restaurant at noon through the back entrance and exited at 11 PM through the same door he did not even see what the restaurant looked like. When we showed him some of the pictures, he said the restaurant looked nice and wished he had seen it. He has no complain about it though, and he was just very happy to be able to help and happy to see the smiling faces of the guests … in pictures.
The food turned out to be pretty good. We were all happy with the way things went.
At around 11 PM, we began cleaning up and collected our things and headed home. We were physically exhausted but very satisfied and happy with the event, the food, the turnout, and what it means for the foundation. We had so much help and support from the staff at the restaurant that we felt like we were cooking in our own kitchen. We would like to express again our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their support. We also realized how much hard work is required to run a restaurant so we have new appreciation for what they do daily. Thank you Bar Marco for giving us this unforgettable experience. We look forward to cooking with you again.
Thank you also to the many supporters who came to dine with us and for the volunteers who helped us to make the event possible. As we promised, I think the guests left the evening with their stomachs and their hearts filled.