5 Top tips for the perfect menu for Christmas (or other occasions)
Every chef has covered menu design during their training. The essence of a good menu lies in its structure and arrangement, its variety, and its balance. In this blog, we share a few tips on how to perfect your Christmas menu... or menu at any other time of year. Is your menu well balanced?
Composing a dish is an art in itself. The flavours, structures, and temperatures have to be right and ideally it should also look good too. Combining a series of dishes to create a well-balanced menu requires a good overview and a critical eye. Will your special menu go down as a memorable experience? Take a look at the tips presented below to help you make the finishing touches.
1. Repetition is boring, repetition is boring, repetition is boring.
However tasty a product, preparation, or dish may be, the novelty soon wears off. The experience and perception of the guest has a saturation point, and everything loses its shine. Repeating the same old techniques, serving too much of the same product, and using many of the same structures time and again will have your guests yawning. So...:
- Use a prominent ingredient only once. That doesn't include basic products such as onions.
- Use a particular cooking technique only once, so don't serve two grilled dishes.
- Use a particular presentation style only once, so don't use more than one mille-feuille in your menu.
- Don't turn every plate into a colour extravaganza; instead, choose a colour palette for each dish.
2. A good build-up
A good menu generally works from ‘low’ to ‘high’. For example:
- From a solid structure to a structure with a filmy mouth feel.
- From low flavour levels to intense flavour levels.
- From low complexity to high complexity.
- From fresh tones to ripe tones.
A build-up in flavours is good, but a positive ‘dip’ in intensity is also an option after a ‘high’. This creates a sense of anticipation in the meal, and you can use this to positive effect by constantly surprising your guests. At the end of a meal, it is wise to incorporate fresh flavours again and to gradually tone down the intensity again.
3. Here and now
It almost goes without saying, but limit yourself to the products that are available in the season and in your local area. Live and cook in the here and now. It may limit your product choice, but it makes your ‘story’ ten times stronger! Exceptions to the rule are preserved and fermented products such as chutneys or pickled vegetables. Do you want to know what's in season in December? Take a look at our very extensive product calendar.
4. You can have too much of a good thing
Even if you're in a generous mood, oversized portions or an excess of heavy components make for heavy dishes and will exhaust your guests. Don’t set a standard weight for meat and fish in all your dishes, as the right quantity depends very much on the number of courses and the volume of the other components on the plate. In terms of structure and build-up, you should also keep things interesting, and that is achieved by not being afraid to use tangy and acidic flavours in all dishes.
Don't try to cram all kinds of special techniques into every course, either. Of course you want to captivate the guest with exciting techniques and presentation, but try to create a moment of calm after a technically complex dish.
5. Vegetable dishes versus luxurious products
The demand for dishes and menus with less meat – or no meat at all – has increased enormously in recent years. Aside from the fact that it stimulates your creativity, this also has a number of other advantages; you can create more balance in your menu when it comes to calorific value, and you can also simply take economic advantage of this preference. Moreover, many guests have not yet seen or heard about many of the spectacular ways of preparing a wide range of common and less common vegetables, so you can really surprise them. For instance, how about roast celeriac, which could convert even the most carnivorous of guests, accompanied by a vegetable demi-glace with more depth than a classic veal gravy?!
Let's get cooking!
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