Create Food: The Modern Day Buffet

With the Christmas entertaining season in full swing we spoke to Lulu Jones-Fenleigh from award-winning caterer Create Food about the modern buffet revival. Take a look below for ideas on how to create a show-stopping spread.

What exactly is a modern buffet?

When most people think of buffets they have visions of 80’s limp prawn cocktails, pineapple cheese hedgehogs, pinwheel sandwiches and everything covered in aspic jelly! The 21st century modern day buffets are food stations and street food; highly themed stalls serving one style of food, whether it be fish and chips, moules marinières, posh kebabs or jelly and ice cream - you name it Create Food can put it on a station.

How can chefs introduce a touch of theatre into their modern day buffet? 

Why not try incorporating the cooking method into your buffet, it will get you out of the kitchen so you can talk to your guests and also adds some food theatre. Himalayan Salt Plates can be heated in the oven and you can then amaze your guests by cooking scallops or sizzling thin strips of beef or lamb in front of their eyes.

How do you compose a food station that will entice guests?

People think with their eyes as well as their stomachs. It is important to make sure you have lots of points of interest - food served from varying heights, using up-cycled crates, wine boxes, wicker-ware or garden plant pots and vases. We often use olive wood boards on our alpine après ski station which has been very popular this season.

What are the most popular and impressive themed buffets you've worked on?

Here at Create Food we love a theme. Themes tend to run seasonally, like Alice In Wonderland in the Spring, Festival in the Summer, Harvest in the Autumn and obviously Après Ski for the Winter. We are currently preparing for a Narnia, Harry Potter, Willy Wonka and Shrek extravaganza, that’s four themes in one venue! Some of our most memorable and celebrated themed stations were for the Les Mis film première After Party at The Roundhouse. We created a Parisian frost fair market that included 12 decoratively themed stations.

Buffets can often look a mess once they've been attacked by ravenous guests -how do you keep a buffet looking good throughout the party?

Guests don’t want to have to work for their food, and although a large cake or joint of meat  may look beautiful before guests have arrived, after a few people have attacked it, it will look very messy. Try making individual cakes using individual silicone cake moulds and tower them up on cake stands, or pre-slice your meat and lay it on large slates. Any rare roasted red meat will look great on grey slate, especially with some fresh rocket or micro herbs. Mini fry baskets or wooden chip cones add an authentic and novelty feel to a food station and are a great serving option for home-made chips.

What are your top tips for creating a beautiful spread?

Firstly, don’t be afraid to use disposables for your guests to eat from. There are great palm wood, bamboo and recycled ranges which are eco-friendly as well as easy on the washing up. They can add a bit of humour to your buffet too, imagine piles of pre made burgers in branded burger boxes and bamboo cones of fish and chips!
Secondly, it’s better for the food stalls to look full rather than a little sparse; garden pots of fresh herbs, or glass domes filled with cakes or truckles of cheese all make good space fillers and add some height and interest to your buffet.

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