- For the furniture of the same name, see Sideboard.
Part of a series on Meals Common meals Breakfast · Brunch · Lunch · Tea · Dinner · Supper Components & courses Amuse-bouche · Appetizer · Cheese · Cocktails · Dessert · Drink · Entrée · Entremet · Fruit · Main course · Nuts · Salad · Side dish Related concepts Banquet · Buffet · Cuisine · Eating · Etiquette · Food · Global cuisines · Outline of cuisines · Snack
A buffet (IPA: [ˈbʊfeɪ] in UK, IPA: [bəˈfeɪ] in USA) is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves. Buffets are offered at various places including hotels and many social events. Sideboards are also known as buffets as they may be used to offer the dishes of a buffet meal to guests.
One form of buffet is to have a table filled with plates containing fixed portions of food; customers select plates containing whichever food items they want as they walk along. This form is most commonly seen in cafeterias. A variation occurs in a Dim sum house, where the patrons make their selections from a wheeled trolley containing the different plates of food that circulate through the restaurant. Another derivative of this type of buffet occurs where patrons choose food from a buffet style layout and then pay based on what was chosen (sometimes based on the weight of the food).
Another form, known as the all-you-can-eat buffet, is more free-form: customers pay a fixed fee and can then help themselves to as much food as they wish to eat in a single meal. This form is found often in restaurants, especially in hotels.
A fourth type of buffet is associated with a celebration of some sort.
As a compromise between self-service and full table service, a staffed buffet may be offered: diners bring their own plate along the buffet line and are given a portion from a server at each station. This method is prevalent at catered meetings where diners are not paying specifically for their meal.
Buffets are effective for serving large numbers of people at once. For this reason, they are prevalent in institutional settings, such as business conventions or large parties. Another advantage of buffets compared to table service is that diners have a great deal of choice and the ability to closely inspect food before selecting it. Since a buffet involves diners serving themselves, it has in the past been considered an informal form of dining, less formal than table service. In recent years, however, buffet dinners are increasingly popular among hosts of home dinner parties, especially in homes where limited space complicates the serving of individual places.
The buffet table originates from the Brännvinsbord - Swedish snaps (shot of alcoholic beverage) table from the middle of 16th century, and had its prime during the early 18th century, and was developed into the buffet we more know today not until the beginning of 19th century. The Smorgasbord buffet did not increase its popularity until the expansion of the railroads throughout Europe.
The smorgasbord table was a meal where guests gathered before dinner for a pre-dinner drink, and was not part of the formal dinner to be followed. The smorgasbord buffet was often held in separate room for men and women before the dinner was served.
Smörgåsbord became internationally known as Smorgasbord at the 1939 New York World's exhibition as the Swedes had to invent a new way of showcasing the best of Swedish food.
The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard where the food was served, but eventually became applied to the form. The buffet became popular in the English-speaking world in the second half of the 19th century after the Swedes had used the smorgasbord in New York. The word is still borrowed into the English language.
When the possession of gold and silver has been a measure of solvency of a regime, the display of it, in the form of plates and vessels, is more a political act than a gesture of conspicuous consumption. The 16th-century French term buffet applied both to the display itself and to the furniture on which it was mounted, often draped with rich textiles, but more often as the century advanced an elaborately carved cupboard surmounted by tiers of shelves. In England such a buffet was called a court cupboard. Prodigal displays of plate were probably first revived at the fashionable court of Burgundy and adopted in France. The Baroque displays of silver and gold that were affected by Louis XIV of France were immortalized in paintings by Alexandre-François Desportes and others, before Louis' plate and his silver furniture had to be sent to the mint to pay for the wars at the end of his reign.
During the 18th century more subtle demonstrations of solvency were preferred. A buffet was revived in England and France at the end of the century, when new ideals of privacy made a modicum of self-service at breakfast-time appealing, even among those who could have had a footman behind each chair. In The Cabinet Dictionary of 1803 Thomas Sheraton gave a neoclassical design and observed that "a buffet may, with some propriety, be restored to modern use, and prove ornamental to a modern breakfast-room, answering as the china cabinet|repository of a tea equipage"
In a 1922 housekeeping book entitled How to Prepare and Serve a Meal, Lillian B. Lansdown wrote:
The concept of eating a buffet arose in mid 17th century France, when gentleman callers would arrive at the homes of ladies they wanted to woo unexpectedly. Their surprise arrival would throw the kitchen staff in to a panic and the only food that could be served was a selection of what was found in the cold room.
- The informal luncheon or lunch—originally the light meal eaten between breakfast and dinner, but now often taking the place of dinner, the fashionable hour being one (or half after if cards are to follow) —is of two kinds. The "buffet" luncheon, at which the guests eat standing; and the luncheon served at small tables, at which the guests are seated....
- The knife is tabooed at the “buffet” lunch, hence all the food must be such as can be eaten with fork or spoon. As a rule, friends of the hostess serve... The following dishes cover the essentials of a “buffet” luncheon. Beverages: punch, coffee, chocolate (poured from urn, or filled cups brought from pantry on tray); hot entrées of various sorts (served from chafing dish or platter) preceded by hot bouillon; cold entrées, salads, lobster, potatoes, chicken, shrimp, with heavy dressings; hot rolls, wafer-cut sandwiches (lettuce, tomato, deviled ham, etc.); small cakes, frozen creams and ices.
- The informal luncheon at small tables calls for service by a number of maids, hence the “buffet” plan is preferable.
The "all-you-can-eat" buffet has been ascribed to Herb Macdonald, a hotel manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota who introduced the idea in 1946. In his 1965 novel The Muses of Ruin, William Pearson wrote, of the buffet:
- At midnight every self-respecting casino premières its buffet—the eighth wonder of the world, the one true art form this androgynous harlot of cities has delivered herself of.... We marvel at the Great Pyramids, but they were built over decades; the midnight buffet is built daily. Crushed-ice castles and grottoes chill the shrimp and lobster. Sculptured aspic is scrolled with Paisley arabesques. They are, laid out with reverent artistry: hors d'oeuvres, relish, salads, and sauces; crab, herring oyster, sturgeon, octopus, and salmon; turkey, ham, roast beef, casseroles, fondues, and curries; cheeses, fruits and pastries. How many times you go through the line is a private matter between you and your capacity, and then between your capacity and the chef's evil eye.
In Australia, buffet chains such as Sizzler serve a large number of patrons with carvery, seafood, salads and desserts. Buffets are also common in Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) clubs and some motel restaurants.
In Brazil, comida a quilo or comida por quilo - literally, "food by [the] kilo" - restaurants are common. This is a cafeteria style buffet in which diners are billed by the weight of the food selected, excluding the weight of the plate. Brazilian cuisine's rodízio style is all-you-can-eat, having both non-self-service and self-service variations.
In Japan, a buffet or smorgasbord is known as a viking (バイキング - baikingu). It is said that this originated from the restaurant "Imperial Viking" in the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, which was the first restaurant in Japan to serve buffet-style meals. Dessert vikings are very popular in Japan, where one can eat from a buffet full of desserts.
In the United States, Buffets, Inc. is a large buffet chain corporation which owns Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, Fire Mountain, Ryan's Steakhouse, and HomeTown Buffet. HomeTown Buffet popularized the "scatter buffet", which refers to the layout of separate food pavilions. Other American restaurant chains well-known for their buffets include America's Incredible Pizza Company, Chuck-A-Rama, Cici's Pizza, Fresh Choice (a West Coast competitor of Sweet Tomatoes), Furr's Family Dining, Gatti's Pizza, Golden Corral (which features food products presented in pans), Pancho's Mexican Buffet, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Shakey's Pizza, Sizzler, and Sweet Tomatoes (known in particular for its soups and salads).
- ^ "Christmas Celebrations Etiquette" (Swedish). Etikett Doktorn. Accessed June 2011.
- ^ sv:Brännvinsbord "Brandy Bordet" (Swedish Wikipedia article). Accessed June 2011.
- ^ How to Prepare and Serve a Meal, Project Gutenberg etext of the 1922 book by Lillian B. Lansdown
- ^ Pearson, William (1965). The Muses of Ruin. McGraw-Hill.[page needed]
- ^ Moo-Moo chain, Moscow - Restaurants - VirtualTourist.com
- ^ Buffetmovie.com
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