Businesses keep fingers-crossed with scaled-back convention

While all the politicians are taking great pains to express their thoughts and prayers for the victims of Hurricane Gustav, a few businesspeople in the Twin Cities are praying they won’t be victims of the scaled-back Republican National Convention. The five-day soiree is shaping up as the biggest bust in Minnesota since Dimitrius Underwood.

One hotel in Minneapolis was told by a media organization to hold 120 seats in a restaurant for the whole week. Today, 23 people showed up.

So far…so good, however for Amy Brown…

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and Heidi Andermack.

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They own the catering business, Chow Girls, and have scored two media-related gigs and one A-list party during the convention.

Heidi is handling the St. Paul side of things, which means providing meals to the staff of The Daily Show and PBS’ NewsHour. Amy is working in a kitchen in Northeast Minneapolis that easily reached 100 degrees this afternoon, preparing a meal for one of the hotter tickets in town — the Political Chicks A Go Go fundraiser, which — with the newfound sensitivity for the Gulf Coast — has been renamed the “RightNOW!, Lifetime Networks and Rock the Vote Relief for the Gulf Coast.”

“We have people working around the clock in our kitchen,” according to Heidi. A van driver is working 12-hour days, delivering the food and navigating security.

Jim Lehrer’s show wants healthy food, and Daily Show wants “hearty, easy-to-understand food. It has to be ‘very hearty’; no mistake about it. NewsHour today gets salads and rotisserie chicken. And fruit. Lots of fruit.”

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Heidi hasn’t met Jon Stewart… yet. But she knows a few things about his dietary habits. “He doesn’t like melon or kiwi in his fruit salad.” Lehrer, on the other hand, “needs a turkey meal every day because of a health condition.”

The Daily Show’s executives made it clear after the first day that Andermack needed to dial back the quality. It was too good. She suspects it was the honey butter that pushed the execs over the edge, to the point that they worried the worker-bees would be expecting too much this week.

Meanwhile on the Minneapolis side, Amy Brown says “people are starting to get a little crabby. The kitchen’s hot, people are crabby. Nobody’s broken down yet, though” she says.

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Brown says she thought she’d be cooking for a star tonight. Sarah Palin was supposed to be in the party’s VIP room, “but I don’t think she’ll be there now,” she says.

Is there much concern about the great disappearing convention? “Yes,” Andermack says. “I woke up from a call from one of my staff telling her that someone from Lehrer called at 2 this morning and didn’t leave a message. I do have concern, I don’t know how it’s going to affect us.” Her biggest concern is the convention will be delayed. The firm has two weddings this weekend. Lehrer has already skipped town, but his healthy-eating colleagues are still around.

Brown figures there’s a built-in safety net to their operation. “We’re catering the fake news. We’ve got the Daily Show, so most of those clients have stayed on site. As opposed to doing CBS or the major media, we’ve got most of our eaters still in the Twin Cities.”

The catering firm isn’t entirely on the hook if the media leaves town. “We’ve gotten deposits for half the amount, we have another payment coming in, and then the rest of it 15 days after the convention is over,” according to Andermack.

The firm got the party gig because the Right Now group, which is all women, looked for an all-women catering firm. But a News Cut investigation on Monday revealed men working in the kitchen… on Labor Day.

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