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The task of coordinating the service of meals to hundreds of people at the same moment, in a cramped, gala setting, is a complex, high-stakes endeavor.
One woman who performed this task with honor was Bettina Felder, who passed away in May after a brave battle with cancer.
Felder ensured the perfect serving of thousands of baked Alaskas, pats of butter, and potatoes au gratin, not to mention the wine and water glasses she kept filled. Working for the catering company Glorious Food for more than 25 years, she started as a receptionist and rose the ranks to supervise some of the city’s most illustrious fund-raising events, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala and the Robin Hood Foundation’s annual gala at the Javits Center.
A native New Yorker via East Hampton, Felder was familiar with the glamorous world she plunged herself into. “That helped tremendously,” her employer, the co-founder of Glorious Food, Sean Driscoll, said. “She was fun. People felt comfortable with her.”
She was a steady presence at the Met, coordinating the catering for the Costume Institute ball, Chairman’s Council dinners, and numerous other events. “She was extremely professional, competent, communicative, calm,” the director of development for the Met, Nina Diefenbach, said.
Inevitably, waiters carrying heavy trays sometimes ran into trouble. Felder would be on the scene in an instant to smooth things over, before anyone even noticed. Her wry sense of humor often came in handy.
“In a complex, harried situation, her humor was a critical component of a job well done — and it also endeared her to all of us,” Ms. Diefenbach said.
Food was just one of the details Felder looked after in the course of an event. “She was a general,” Mr. Driscoll said. “She became a part of the whole rhythm of an evening.”
Felder enjoyed the process of listening to the client and helping them figure out the best food experience for the occasion. “She was like a psychiatrist, and whatever she promised, she delivered,” Mr. Driscoll said.
As the gala season enters into high gear, she will be missed.