She's feeding the music
West Town caterer has filled bellies at Pitchfork, concerts around town for years
07/11/2012 10:00 PM
This weekend, hordes of people will come from around the Chicago area and the country to descend upon Union Park for Pitchfork Music Festival.
Since 2005, the festival and its forerunner, Intonation, have brought crowds to the West Loop park at Ashland and Randolph to see the latest and hippest bands.
For nearly the festival’s entire run, one very local catering company has fed whatever talent has rolled into town: Big Delicious Planet, based only a few blocks away in West Town.
Founded in 1994, the caterer is run by Heidi Moorman Coudal, who’s made her living feeding rock stars. She started the company on a whim, when she quit her job at another caterer.
Her friends told her she could probably do it herself, so she launched Big Delicious Planet with her sister for an Aerosmith concert at the United Center in December of 1994, and they never looked back.
That Aerosmith show was put on by Jam Productions, a Chicago-based promoter that also books the Riviera, the Vic and the Aragon Ballroom, among other venues. It quickly launched their career, and now they’re Jam’s exclusive caterer.
Just this week in the run-up to Pitchfork this weekend, they’ve catered for acts ranging from Tenacious D to Barry Manilow, from Nikki Minaj to Fiona Apple.
As to what they’re cooking, that varies from show to show.
“Every show is a little bit different,” she said. “As far as what we’re usually dealing with, most of the bands we’re dealing with, they all travel a lot because of touring. Most of them have pretty good taste in food, and they want to try something a little bit different because they’re in a larger city.”
They’re pretty well-equipped to provide that. Their name, Big Delicious Planet, comes from the variety of different foods they make. They pride themselves on being able to make cuisine from around the world, from Japanese food to Southern food.
“They might want Thai food, they might want Indian food — and we can pretty much do anything,” she said.
For regular bands who roll through town, they might make breakfast, lunch and dinner. But Pitchfork’s a bit different. With the number of bands playing and moving around the Union Park field house, people eat in two shifts, and snack throughout the day.
But in terms of the work on Big Delicious Planet’s end, there’s not much difference, she said.
“It’s a long day, and it’s hot — that’s the only difference.” Coudal said. “We’re in a field house and it’s 200 degrees, not that it’s any cooler in the basement of the Riv.”
Today, they’re in a much better situation than they were in 1994, when Coudal did all the cooking in her apartment. They work out of a huge rehabbed building at 412 N. Wolcott in West Town, just north of the freight tracks, and they have a walk-up counter where people can grab breakfast or lunch.
Coudal said she couldn’t remember too many crazy stories about the bands she’s served over the years. One band asked for pot on their rider, and another asked for condoms, she said. In the ’90s, she said, some bands used to ask for 20 cases of beer “and they’d probably drink it all,” she said — but that doesn’t happen too much any more.
She tries to stay out of their way as much as possible, she said, but it’s still fun to meet all the famous folks.
“Bob Dylan shocked me,” she said. “I was setting up a buffet years ago, and I turned around and he was right behind me. He was somebody I just wasn’t expecting to be as small as he is, and was like, ‘What’s for dinner?’”