Andrea Correale was used to organizing events and preparing hors d'oeuvres for the likes of Mariah Carey and P. Diddy. Now, she's adjusting to working 18-hour days to feed over 2,000 people in a tent city in New Jersey.
"I went from celebrity caterer to G.I. Jane overnight," she said of her new, temporary gig.
Correale, the owner of Elegant Affairs Caterers in Glen Cove, was contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week to be in charge of food preparation in a temporary housing complex set up after superstorm Sandy in Oceanport, N.J.
The "micro-city" -- which can hold up to 4,000 individuals -- was opened to house utility workers and law enforcement officers that came from out of state to help with the recovery effort.
"We got the call Friday morning at 10 a.m. to deploy all of our [equipment]," Correale recalled. "We didn't know what we were going to walk into, we jumped into our cars and waited in line for two hours to get gas . . . We set up shop the next day."
Correale took 100 of her own employees with her and was joined by another 100 volunteers at the micro-city. Enough staff remained at Elegant Caterers -- which is known for planning celebrity events in the Hamptons and Manhattan -- to honor the business' prior obligations, she said.
In the micro-city, Correale and the other food service workers wake up everyday at 4 a.m. to prep for breakfast, and finish with dinner at 11 p.m. The menu always varies -- there was Italian food one night, and Mexican food the day after.
Wednesday night, as the nor'easter rolled through, the kitchen tent was flooded but the workers and volunteers continued cooking with their feet steeping in the water, Correale said.
Earlier that day, about 200 evacuees were moved into the micro-city because of the snowstorm, in addition to the 2,000 workers, said Nicole Brossoie, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Human Services. It is likely that the micro-city will be in operation for another three weeks, Brossoie added.
Correale said she would like to prepare food for Long Islanders locally if FEMA offered her another contract. When she sees the evacuees, she said, "you want to be able to work hard for them and give them comfort."