With the Christmas party season fast approaching and events booming after the pandemic, we are back to the very tough job of planning food for our client’s events. Whether it is a one-day event, an evening function or a series of days, the choices of food, regularity and timing is an important part of any event.
So, I thought it would be helpful to pop a few key things that we always consider.
Firstly, I want to ask you when you go to a restaurant how do you select the food that you order. I’ll be honest and say sometimes I look at the pudding options first and then work out whether I will have a starter and main or main and dessert – all well and good until the restaurant keeps their dessert menu secret until you have finished main course. However, after a short (and unofficial poll) of my family, friends, and clients it seems most people will glance over all the options, choose their main course and then go back and order a starter that will complement.
This makes perfect sense; the main course is the one that you will eat the most of and sits at the centre of the meal. On that basis I have started doing tastings in that order as well. My request often gets a raised eyebrow but when I explain the rationale, our request is accommodated. So, make sure you taste the main options, then the starter and then the dessert. To be clear this is for the tasting only not for the service at the event!
Another good tip for an evening dinner (or any sit-down meal) is to serve a pre-plated starter. Essentially it means that the starter will be already on the table when guests enter the room and so you save the service time. The only thing to watch for is that you choose a cold starter because chefs do not like doing that with hot food for obvious reasons; and let’s face it you don’t want to annoy the chef!
If you are not having a formal seating plan it is still useful for the waiting staff to be able to identify dietary requirements. For some clients we suggest that place cards are done for those with dietary needs to that they are identifiable, and service is not slowed. Just be aware that some people are not keen on having their requirements out for all to view so be sensitive to that and check that culturally it fits with your team.
And finally the wine … it is super tempting to choose wines that you like. Initially, I would always seek the recommendation of the sommelier or chef for the wines to pair with the menu (or we are lucky as we have a wine expert as part of the team that we can call on for her advice). However, particularly for larger groups, it is wise to err towards wines that will suit the majority of palates – typically this will mean that you steer clear of any white wine that is super oaky or red wine that is very heavy. And be bold, if your guests are beer drinkers, offer them that as a replacement to wine.