cover image Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business

Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business

Matt and Ted Lee. Holt, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62779-261-5

The Lee brothers (The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) pull back the curtain on the catering world, an often-dismissed arm of the culinary industry denounced for its “rubber chicken and dry salmon,” in this captivating tell-all. Caterers are unlikely to find stardom, the authors write, though their food is “often as succulent... as what’s served at the gastronomic temples of the nation.” To learn what fuels the stressful, no-glory business, the Lee brothers don aprons for a New York City catering giant, working their way from the prep kitchen to the “fiestas,” or live events—including intimate donor dinners at art galleries and extravagant upstate weddings. They uncover a scrappy, innovative ecosystem, best demonstrated by caterers’ near-universal reliance on the “hotbox,” an “upright aluminum cabinet on wheels” used to transport food and powered by Sterno lamps. The authors track how meal delivery services of the 1960s escalated into today’s parties for the über-rich, replete with gimmicks like “meringues floating through the room suspended by white balloons.” The Lee brothers’ evocative behind-the-scenes look showcases the workforce of innovators (many of them immigrants) thriving on “culinary triage.” This is an intriguing look at an industry often hidden from the thousands of guests it serves nightly. (Apr.)