Bountiful buffet ideas for your Christmas menu with our Food Development Chef Damon Corey
When designing your Christmas buffet menu it’s very easy to settle for the “go to” standard fare items due to time pressures. It’s also very easy to fall into the trap of your buffet menu being the after-thought of menu design as all your time and energy has been spent thinking about starters, main courses and desserts.
Yet, get your buffet design right and it could be the show stopper for you as the buffet is potentially one of the biggest talking points of any food offering. Get it right and it could be the dining offer where people get out their phones and Instagram your buffet or go home and tell their friends that they were blown away by your food!
You see making a plate of food look nice is great; you’ll present it beautifully and put in front of the customer whereupon it’ll be admired, discussed for a few seconds and devoured.
A buffet on the other hand is on show, it’s a centre piece and it’ll be there for a longer period of time than a single plate of food so everyone will be looking at it and talking about it.
The customers will generally be lining up one by one and walking along the food with time to inspect what’s on offer. It’s up to the customer to choose what they want to eat out of a large selection of options and I think there is no better success than to hear a customer say “this all looks beautiful, I don’t know what to have first”. Generally, expectations of a buffet are not always that high so with a few simple twists it’s really easy to impress your guests.
I will make an assumption that all or at least a proportion of your buffet options are bought-in products and I find one of the largest pitfalls is that most finished buffet products on offer are of the same colour – beige. However the flavour is not necessarily as uninspiring as the colour so presenting carefully for maximum impact is of high importance.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Dare to be different, be punchy from the beginning. This could be a board with festive baked Camemberts surrounded by a wreath of freshly baked dough-balls brushed heavily with top heavy parsley and garlic butter (you could try our new tear & share cranberry bread ring with Camembert), then decorated with sprigs of thyme and rosemary, branches of redcurrants and roasted garlic bulbs/cloves.
Or you could make up a festive board with turkey brioche slider burgers, piles of Premium Selection goose fat roast potatoes stacked in tin pails, our new Farmstead fat pigs in blankets and sausage meat stuffing balls presented with a colourful chutney.
If sandwiches are a part of your buffet, consider breaking up the linear visuals of white or brown triangle cut sandwiches. Add texture, shape and colour with these ideas:
- Create a splash of colour and spice with a selection of different coloured wraps for example Mission Foods Indian tortilla wraps for yellow or Mission Foods harissa tortilla wraps for red
- Use some lovely shiny brioche slider buns
- Try the Delifrance trio of mini savoury stuffed croissants: tomato & mozzarella cheese topped with a mix of seeds; spinach & ricotta cheese topped with pumpkin seeds; and cheese & cereals topped with poppy seeds
- For something different to a sandwich you could steam some Central Foods hirata buns and add fillings such as fried chicken, Kimchi mayo, slices of radish or festive cranberry with Lion Korean BBQ sauce
- Instead of using handfuls of salad leaves for garnish you could try cut flowers and micro herbs
- Add interest by using raisers to display the dishes at varying physical heights
For the desserts, once again think of mixing up colours, shapes and textures when choosing what you are going to include:
- You’ll have your free standing desserts, but think of some unique ways to display it all
- Pipe a festive style mousse or cheesecake mix into little terracotta flower pots and top with crushed Oreo cookies and an edible flower
- Surround the plated food with props such as lights, pine cones, little Santa Clauses and reindeers!
Always remember that depending on your establishment there’ll be an expectation from your customer about your brand/style. After all that is why they’ve come to you, so your job is to exceed that expectation by daring to be different, taking your style and accelerating the finishing touches.
For even more inspiration why not take a look at our Christmas canapés and buffet page