Buffet parties have become a common social activity, especially if you’re having a lot of people over.
It may seem like a daunting task, but hosting your own buffet party can be an easy affair.
Preparing the buffet
When preparing a buffet, you’ll want to move up as much ahead of time what you can do before the big day. Use your freezer as the ultimate tool to store your food. Prepare puff appetizers, sweet and savory pies, and even fruit/vegetable plates that you can peel and freeze. You can prep components of salads several hours ahead, before assembling everything at the last minute. Rice salads are also best made ahead.
Don’t hesitate to make recipes that will require little to no preparation. You can use half a cabbage or empty out round foods (grapefruits, watermelons, breads, etc.). Dice the contents and use toothpicks.
You can associate the foods with classic appetizers such as cherry tomatoes, diced ham or cheese slices. Your guests will enjoy these tidbits that will only take you minutes to prep.
You can also ask your guests to bring something they’ve prepared themselves beforehand. The easiest way for it to make sense (without seeming lazy) is to create a themed buffet, so everyone can have fun finding relevant items. You can even decorate your interior for the occasion.
It can also be a way to discover each other’s specialties by asking your guests to bring something they know how to do best or are most proud of. It’s also a way to discover various cultures, regions or countries, if everyone brings something from their past.
Quantities and proportions
What is often complicated when prepping a buffet is knowing how much food you’ll need.
The common rule of thumb is to do one dish for six people, and multiply that by the number of guests.
Here are some examples:
- 12-15 people buffet: 3 entrees, 2 main dishes, 3 desserts, 1 15-piece appetizer, 2 salads, and side dishes.
- 25-30 people buffet: 4 entrees, 4 main dishes, 4 desserts, 3 30-piece appetizers, 5 salads, and side dishes.
This may seem like a lot of food, but it is estimated that the amount of food consumed with a buffet is at least 20% higher than that consumed during traditional meals.
Presenting and serving the buffet
If your buffet is rectangular, use a large table to showcase the food. If you do not have a table big enough, you can unhinge a door that you install on trestles, or use a large cardboard under a tablecloth.
You can match the colors of your tablecloths to the theme or style of your buffet party. You can even use sheets if you don’t have cloths large enough. Alternatively, use three layers: two at each end, and one that overlaps for a colorful effect (e.g. two white and one pink).
Have several areas ready. One for the main dishes, another for the desserts, a smaller one for children (assuming there are more than a couple), and a service table for general items like cutlery, plates, glasses, etc. Remember also to have a corner dedicated to drinks.
People also have a tendency to lose their glasses, so remember to use plastic plates and glasses of different colors, or have a sharpie present on the table so guests can put their names (or a mark).
When dressing up the table, make sure to prominently display whatever beautiful/large piece of food you may have to attract the eye. You can place your bites and appetizers on smaller plates that you can fill back up every once in a while. If your table is round, place the offered items around its entire circumference in a logical pattern (appetizers to entrees to desserts, for example), and have a nice centerpiece.
Finally, try to spend as much time as possible with your guests by having everything ready to go before anyone arrives. A buffet is supposed to be a social activity, and you should enjoy the evening.