You arrive at the venue, 650 VIP guests are due in a matter of hours, and your team starts setting up for the event - only to find you're 20 linen tablecloths short. Thankfully, this is a situation 24-year-old Warren Roodt has not faced at event caterer Red Snapper Events, but it is definitely something he'd have to deal with, and quickly.
When it comes to event catering, improvisation is key, as cooking at someone else's premises tends to throw up all sorts of problems, from physical layout restrictions to industrial kitchen appliances overloading the location's power supply.
Invariably, things don't always go to plan, so Roodt recommends keeping a clear head. "We did once forget to bring along a microwave we needed for an event and had to hijack one from the staff canteen," he says.
Red Snapper Events, formed by Damian Clarkson a few months before Roodt's recruitment in May 2003, has grown steadily over the past few years, thanks to word of mouth. Nowadays, Roodt looks after the complete customer package, from fielding initial enquiries and responding with a quote, to booking temporary staff and equipment for the event, before travelling to the venue to oversee the event itself.
"It's important to know exactly what you want and to communicate that clearly to your staff," says Roodt. "Being ready to muck in - and being seen to do so by your staff - is very important."
Events can range from grand balls for 650 guests to private meals for Baroness Thatcher and her friends. Occasionally, this means Roodt puts in a 20-hour day, but the compliments he receives on the night from customers, and the next day from clients, are immensely satisfying and the only pick-me-up he needs.
South African-born Roodt originally worked at private caterer Lumsden Twins in London after signing up for an AFS youth development scheme in his last year of school in Auckland, New Zealand. Early assignments as a waiter, and later assistant manager, serving the likes of Prime Minster Tony Blair and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at such venues as horse-racing meetings and in the Formula 1 Grand Prix paddock convinced him it was a career to follow.
Roodt returned to New Zealand, his home since he was six years of age, in February 1999 to work for the country's largest events caterer, Austins, but the lure of London was too much and he returned to win his job at Red Snapper Events four years later.
June 1998 Joins Lumsden Twins
April 2000 Takes on role at Austin's Catering
May 2003 Becomes part of the team at Red Snapper Events