Elegant, sophisticated and creative are just a few words to describe these buffet presentations. Created to delight and inspire guests, buffets have been around since the 16th century and were developed into a more modern buffet around the beginning of the 19th century. They are a great way to combine style and ease, which can be seen in this majestic 1967 photo of the Queen Mary’s voyage to Long Beach with Captain Treasure Jones and his wife Belle, on his right. The “Mary” is pure magic and incorporating a beautiful buffet into an event is a great way to allow guests to eat and mingle at their leisure while enhancing the atmosphere of the venue or event.
Estancia’s Rustic Dutch Oven and Cast Iron presentation uses custom recycled pallet wood displaywalls as backdrops which feature garden boxes for a “living-wall style” with additional space for a bar display. Using heating elements like dutch ovens, cast iron skillets and griddles, surrounded by bricks, wrought iron decor, and lots of candle light, Chef Kim, Director of Conference & Event Services Summer, and F&B Director Danny, came up with the idea originally for Estancia’s Whiskey & Wine BBQ event. This presentation embraces all of their outdoor event space, offering rustic elegance with an outdoor dining experience. The Whiskey & Wine BBQ was comfortable, yet chic, and chefs can easily interact directly with guests and create more of a dining experience at each station. Estancia now has requests for wedding rehearsal dinners and cocktail hours with the same style, with particular interest in the pallet wall designs.
The Disco is not really ideal for buffets due to a large open pit of oil… but it’s good for how Chef Deb of SOL Cocina uses it because it allows for an interactive experience with a Chef doing some live cooking. The guest experience is enhanced because of the interactive nature and allows for conversation. It is best for a casual setting, rather than one with a lot of folks in a line (a long, slow line is not very efficient). Guests seem to like anything that is hands-on and done “fresh” and “live” in front of you.
Vegetable Garden action station served at the JW Marriott Desert Springs offers a table with mini terra cotta pots filled with goat cheese spinach dip and topped with edible “soil” crafted from crushed pumpernickel crusts with sprouting Californiamicro vegetables. Originally used as an action station in their banquet operation, the popularity of the action station has led to it being incorporated into various types of applications. The Vegetable Garden was created by Chef John Feeney who drew inspiration from his childhood, remembering the fun that accompanied a “dirt cups” dessert with chocolate pudding and gummy worms. The vegetable garden is the updated, grown-up version of the elementary school favorite, hoping to recapture some of that youthful wonder and limitless imagination that kids exhibit and transplant that into a functional setting. The edible cups always spark interest and dialogue between guests.All it takes is one person to pick one up and start digging in and the whole room reacts, at first wondering what is going on and then joining in to taste it for themselves.The innovative service offers a relaxed and unique dining experience that is meant to inspire creative thinking by presenting something as simple as a vegetable with dipping sauce in a way that many have never considered before.
Back Bay Bistro’s stations are designed to highlight a “farm to table” concept. Each station is unique and themed; such as build your own salad, omelet or the “kids corral dessert cart”. Chef Bruno Massuger developed this concept to be unique and to organically evolve depending upon seasonal influences. It keeps it fresh & seasonal, with entree offerings constantly changing while maintaining the traditional offerings. Regular clientele continue to come back week after week to see what is new and seasonally exciting. Back Bay Bistro sees a lot of social media attention by their regular guests as well as a frequent flow of bloggers praising their approach to great quality, fresh preparation, and variety.
Motif has a customizable pancake station at their weekly Sunday Brunch with 101 possible pancake combinations, a favorite for guests and locals. In addition to their brunch spread there is a cook behind the station making pancakes to order, and all the possible flavor additions and toppings are displayed for guests to make selections. Executive Chef Frederic Castancame up with the pancake station to provide a fun, interactive experience for St. Regis guests and visitors, and offer something new and exciting that people of all ages can enjoy. Guests are able to see all the available options in front of them before making their selection, and they are able to fully customize the way their pancake is made (what goes in the batter, what goes on top, etc.). They can also change their order at the last minute without any food waste, and the guest is always happy. The servers are available to assist with guests’ requests promptly, since this buffet style presentation gives them more time and energy to attend to each party on a more intimate level.
One of the most popular offerings at 24 Carrots is the Biergarten-inspired hot dog and pretzel bar that is transportable to different venues. The 24 carrots hot dog bar consists of a build your own hot dog bar that includes a variety of sausages, bratwursts, buns, and condiments in adisplay featuring mason jars, tin plates, burlap, and other rustic elements. Toppings include housemade kimchi, fresh sauerkraut, caramelized onions, and more. Executive Chef Ashley Santo Domingo says, “I created this meal experience and the inspiration was to re-create the German Biergarten experience in a fresh way that introduces a diverse audience that might not normally sample that kind of cuisine. When serving groups of any size, it is important to be able to easilyaccommodate each person’s specific dietary restrictions. This build-your-ownapproach allows everyone to tailor their ownmeal, creating a hands-on set up which encourages guests to learn more about their food, sample new tastes, and enjoy their meal in an interactive way.” The servers are available to assist with guests requests, but this buffet style presentation creates an opportunity for servers to educate guests about the ingredients, cooking methods, and even how to recreate the experience in their home.
Chris McNally,Food & Beverage Outlets Manager at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa designed the Twenty/20 to reflect Spanish influences, specifically Northern Spain from the Basque region. He uses a gas burning stand-alone stove, custom made for a large flat pan, 4 feet in diameter, which they prepare the paella in. Paella was a natural fit with its variety of ingredients and the seafood components that are readily available here by the coast. For special events and custom action stations, guests can see the entire dish being built from start to finish. It is a versatile dish which can be utilized as both a main course or featured dish and is substantial without being overly heavy. It creates a great “wow” factor when guests see the final product.Many of their custom menus, private corporate and other parties are requesting it.
Bazaar Interactive Marketplace in Sydney, Australia, is the signature restaurant and heart of each of the QT resorts. Creating a growing buzz since opening, the traditional marketplace offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and enjoys a twenty-first century twist while the produce and flavors are the clear heroes. Bazaar reinterprets the traditional hotel dining concept by marrying the infectious energy of the inspired international street stall, souks and bodegas, with QT sophistication. Showcasing a mosaic of foods, guests are spoilt for choice with seafood, crustacean and charcuterie bars, Asian and grill stations, a wood fired pizza oven and rotisserie. Cured meats hang from high ceilings adjacent to strings of garlic and chilli, while fresh king prawns and sand crabs sit chilled, alongside classic pot roasts and refreshing organic salads, with refrigerators bursting with fresh and colourful produce. Each station is accompanied by a passionate chef, eager to explain the intricacies of their creations, while providing a theatrical and deeply interactive dining experience. Guests are treated to both a visual and gastronomic delight, with many dishes made to order including QT’s own ice-cream chef. Each Bazaar is home to an Executive Chef who oversees the culinary operations of the restaurant; Trent Barrett at QT Port Douglas, Luke Stepsys at QT Gold Coast and Nic Wood as Executive Chef at QT Falls Creek.
Michael Johnson at the Peppermill Resort Spa in Reno has gone more in the direction of taking traditional comfort foods that are normally associated withbuffets, and turning them into individual presentations throughout the various stations on the buffet line. At different times and days, they make Sheppard’s pie, Tamale pie, Lasagna, and Country fried Pies in individual Muffin cups. They also offer Cevice, Bruchetta, Oyster shooters, Crab cocktails, and in-fused fruit bites inshot glasses, and have Huevos Rancheros in small Sope cups. The ideas come from presentations seen in Las Vegas buffets, Food magazines, and the Peppermill’s Chefs bouncing ideas of each other, to make the food more fun. Johnson’s goal is to change the guests’ perception of a Buffet being boring leftover food. It is a more fun, fresh and clean looking individual presentation for them that also keeps the flavors unique to each specific item verses just scooping food out of a pan from the buffet line onto the customer’s plate.
Pelican Hill’sDinner Show Kitchenconcept entertains guests while they dine in a banquet setting. As guests enter to be seated at long communal tables, lights are dark over the stainless steel show kitchen at one end of the elegant ballroom. The spotlight turns to a chef, who welcomes the group and begins narrating as the show kitchen is illuminated to reveal an ensemble of chefs masterfully preparing the first course. Classical music dramatically punctuates the performance, which dazzles as many as 180 guests as each course is served with synchronized service. Along the Resort’s olive tree-lined bungalow lanes, an outdoorItalian Street Festabrings the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy to Southern California’s own “Tuscan Seaside Village.” Reception-style gatherings of 100 guests or more feature olive oil and wine tasting, strolling musicians, stilt-walkers, Venetian-masked entertainers and other traditional festivities to celebratela dolce vita! TheVillas Progressive Dinner Partyis a newly introduced group entertainment and dining experience featuring adine-aroundof world regions, anchored by the theme of Mediterranean cuisine. Ranging from Italian, Greek and Spanish to Northern African, Middle Eastern and French fare, guests can savor traditional dishes and beverages of each country within a Villa decked out with customary decor, art, music, and mini flags of the nation. This progressive dining experience concludes adjacent to the Villas, with an array of desserts from all regions served in a vibrant outdoor street festival atmosphere, and charming strings of lights and music floating into the warm coastal California night.