Amazing week

Thursday, April 01 2004, 00:00:00

There's nothing like the eagerness and "can do" attitude if one has just opened a business...shortly after we opened a young Englishman walked into Rick's. "Eccentric parents" was his explanation for his first name - Maximillion. He was in the business of recreating each year an international car rally along the lines of the film "Cannonball Run". He calls it "Gumball 3000." This year's rally was passing through Morocco and the logical checkpoint in Casablanca was Rick's Cafe. His advance visit had been delayed a month and he was surprised to hear that Rick's had just opened - I explained that I too had been occupied with making a myth into reality. Well Maximillion had a proposal for me - as the Casablanca checkpoint would Rick's be prepared to serve 300 people and park 150 cars in a 4 hour time span on May 7. It seemed so far in the future on that March day...Our chef, Abdellah, responded positively and I said I could work with the local authorities to arrange the parking. Reality hit home as I found myself Wednesday at the local Metro shopping in quantity - 5 kilo bags of fusili really took my breath away and I had to get 7 of them! Three hundred chicken breasts were ordered through our poultry supplier. The normal order for dinner rolls - 40 each of three kinds - became 150 each of the three varieties, and we finally found out the quantity we needed to reach to get the bakery to deliver. The back door dead-end was curtained off and became "kitchen B" for 24 hours. Preparations for Friday's event were interrupted on Thursday when the CNN piece was featured on and off during the day on CNN International and on Headline News in the US.
Very exciting, but back to the Gumball preparations with the arrival of an advance team and final ok from the authorities for parking and crowd control. It was seeming all too real and I thought...how was it going to work? What about the food I asked myself as I saw huge basins to hold the pasta and heard the night guardian was going to start squeezing orange juice at 6am Friday. Fortunately these days with closing at 1:30am and rising at 7 to call in the market orders I have no trouble sleeping and no time for bad dreams! Friday came and the first glitch - the ferry from Spain to Tangier was late...no doubt because of the Gumballers. Instead of arriving at 12:30 the first car roared up at 3:15. What followed was a bizarre and zany 4 hours of wild cars, crazy costumes and what must have been 50 calls on my mobile phone from drivers who were lost. But it worked...people received their food and drink promptly, enjoyed the ambience of Rick's and roared off again to Marrakech. The only hitch was that their departure shortly preceded our dinner service - the staff miraculously restored order and after 300 lunches we welcomed guests for the evening. Following the CNN story, and one posted on the CNN website, I had back to back interviews Friday night with the Daily Telegraph and Associated Press, followed by an 11:30 radio interview with BBC. The story went out on the AP wire Saturday, with an additional AP radio interview that evening. By Sunday morning I was getting e-mails from all over the world. It was a wild and crazy week - with Rick's Cafe, who needs reality TV?????