Cold Food for Buffets
Cold food for buffets presents a special food handling problem. This is because the food spends a great deal of time out of refrigeration while it is being assembled and decorated and again while it sits on the buffet. For this reason, it is particularly important to follow all the rules of safe food handling. Keep foods refrigerated whenever they are not being worked on. Also keep them chilled until the last minute before they are brought out for service.
For a buffet service that lasts a long time, it is a good idea to present each course or item on a number of small platters rather than on one big one. The replacements can then be kept refrigerated until needed.
Hot Food for Buffets
Everything we have learned about the preparation and holding of hot foods in quantity applies to hot foods for buffets. Hot items are nearly always served from chafing dishes, which may be ornate silver affairs or simple steam table pans kept warm over hot water. These foods cannot be elaborately decorated and garnished the way cold foods can. On the other hand, the bright, fresh, juicy appearance and good aroma of properly cooked hot food is generally sufficient to arouse appetites.
Hot foods for chafing dishes should be easily portioned (such as vegetables served with kitchen spoon) or already portioned in the pan. For example, braised pork chops, sliced baked ham, and poached fish fillets. Items less suitable for buffets are those that must be cooked to order and served immediately, such as most grilled and deep-fried foods.
Whole roasts are popular items for buffets, carved to order by a member of the kitchen staff. Especially attractive are large roasts such as ham, turkey, and large cuts of beef.
As we have said, hot foods are best placed at the end of the main course section on the buffet so that they do not cool on the guests’ plates before they are seated and so that the decorated cold foods can steal the show.
How to Setup a Profitable Buffet
Buffet service requires the least amount of labor, both kitchen and service. A busy catering operation can increase its flexibility by applying this style of service to one large function while simultaneously serving another party.
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Labour and food costs are lower = more profit.