There's plenty of food choices available for diners today, and we all love to eat them. So, how do we get the best out of what we’re eating and create truly great food experiences for healthy happy guests?
Michael Pollan has been wiring on the subject of what we humans should be eating for over 30 years. The places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment. His advice is easy. Keeping it simple is best.
Caterers have traditionally based their banquet menus on the average enquiry – it was what the majority of attendees wanted. Right? Meat and two veg, large opulent dishes piled high in celebration. Serving great big portions communicated to guests great value. But indulgent, doesn’t mean best. Now delegates and event planners are far more conscious of the benefits of eating well, on both health and budget.
The increase in people’s varying dietary requirements means that people are expecting more options - a personalised approach. A large joint of meat with roast potatoes just won’t cut it anymore. Consumer awareness and the healthy food trend is growing bigger year on year. Seasonal and nutritious meals are key to what events professionals and venues should be offering. High-quality locally sourced produce and seasonal ingredients should be the main focus of any menu and create a sense of occasion.
“Health” is, among other things, the byproduct of being involved in more positive relationships with food. And why shouldn’t healthy experiences, splendour and celebration go hand in hand?
Food cultures are embedded in societies and the serious pleasure taken in eating. Let culture be your guide. Better food relationships don’t have to be restricted to the home. A banquet is a perfect place for culture and tradition to evolve.
Pollan is the advocate of some simple food rules to subscribe to that can help us develop a more positive relationship with food.
1. “Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored”
Banquet food shouldn’t just be about stuffing guests to bursting point. There should be a build up to service and anticipation. Think about the timing of when dishes are served.
Timings and entertainment are key factors in the ritual of dining. Food should be accompanied by entertaining experiences so guests aren’t eating because there’s nothing better to do. So, plan the food service as part of the entertainment, not a break from it.
2. “Do all your eating at a table and Try not to eat alone’’
This is perfect for banquets, as the majority of these events will be traditional seated affairs.
The meal should be the main event. Distractions like eating on the move can cause a disconnect with our food, which often results in overeating.
Mr Pollan writes. “Special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored.”
Banquets bring people together to create dishes that people can talk about and share memorable experiences ‘together’. Everyone loves to discuss food and share positive experiences.
3. “Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.”
'Where does our food come from?' is an important question. As consumers become more aware of the impact their eating habits on food production and in turn the environment. The diets of the animals we get food from strongly influence the healthfulness or harmfulness of our food. Mass food production has changed the diets of the animals we eat. Animals are much healthier when they have access to green plants and their meat will contain healthier types of fats and vitamins.
4. “Buy smaller glasses and plates”
A mountain of food is often overwhelming and can be off-putting. Filling every space available on the plate doesn’t lend itself well to great presentation.
If you put a small piece of food on a large plate, your mind will tell you that you are eating a small portion and you will automatically put or want more food on your plate.
The small plate trend is super hot right now as small plates don't mean small taste. Small bowls bursting with colour and flavour combinations make for happy guests and great conversation starters.
5. ‘’Place a bouquet of flowers on the table and everything will taste twice as good’’
We love this rule. Who doesn’t smile when they see a beautiful arrangement of seasonal flowers?
Smell and appearance is an important part of your guest's dining experience. Senses come to recognise foods as suitable by taste and smell and colour, and our bodies learn what to do with these foods after they pass the test of the senses. The banquet experience should awaken all the senses and be a full and complex experience.
6. ‘’Give Some Thought to Where Your Food Comes From’’
Think about your food when you’re eating it. Enjoy the texture, the aroma the combination of flavours. Take a moment before a meal to reflect on the work involved in the process that brings food from the soil to your table. Let guests know the journey of the ingredients took to their plates.
7. ‘’Avoid food products that an 8-year-old can’t pronounce’’
Don't buy products with more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can't easily pronounce,” said Michael Pollan in a 2008 interview. This may seem like a bit of a silly one. There are tons of gorgeous nutritional fruits and vegetables that have tricky monikers. Pollan again is prompting the question ‘do you know what you’re eating’. If it’s complex man-made additives and flavourings then it’s probably not the healthiest of options.
Locally sourced seasonal foods are the best option and you can even shake the hand of the person who actually produced it. Local food restaurants are taking the idea of buying nearby, sustainably-sourced foods to the next level by growing produce right in their own backyards or restaurant gardens.
8. ‘’Enjoy Drinks That Have Been Caffeinated by Nature, Not Food Science’’
And this goes the same for food sweetened, salted and flavoured by nature.
Try to add new ingredients, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of ingredients you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases and be introduced to new exotic flavours and food sensations.
9. ‘’Eat mostly plants, especially leaves’’
Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fibre? Omega-3s? but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you.
10. And, lastly “Break the rules once in a while”
Organising a banquet or gala dinner? Find a unique venue to host it in. Take a look at our banquet venues here.
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