Crusted cod from
Picture this: You’re
thrilled about the menu you’ve chosen for the closing-night
banquet. Then, when it comes time for all 500 people to eat their
sole, the fish is rubbery, the beurre blanc has separated and the
broccoli is mush. Sound familiar?
“There is a huge difference between a
tasting and an event for 2,000,” says Bennett Fass, director of
culinary standards for Philadelphia-based Aramark Convention
Centers & Cultural Attractions. Herein, Fass serves up some
ways to improve the odds that the meal will measure up.
* Ask the chef to attend the tasting.
If the chef looks doubtful about a menu request, don’t push it.
* Ask how far the food has to travel
from kitchen to ballroom, and how long it will sit in the banquet
cart. If the food will be sitting for 45 minutes before being
served, let it sit that long before tasting it.
* The thicker the cut, the longer it
can sit and retain its consistency. Good choices are filet mignon
and veal chop, as well as firm white fishes, such as sea bass,
halibut and grouper.
* Avoid duos (i.e., beef and fish), as
smaller cuts are easy to overcook. Or pick a dish that tastes
better the more it’s cooked, such as braised chicken thighs,
brisket, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, short ribs or veal
* Use a sturdy sauce, like demi-glace,
a cream sauce or a red sauce. Avoid hoity-toity French sauces like
beurre blanc and egg-based hollandaise. “You’ll end up with
scrambled eggs,” warns Fass.
* Serve a cold entree for lunch. A
composed salad with cold chicken or salmon usually works well.