Wedding Buffets are ready for pick up

May 22, 2023
New Age’s Wedding Buffet on the Ground
Wedding buffets are now more than just food counters, they are snippets of story knitted on a table.

Let’s be honest, weddings are memorable because of the food. That lavish buffet spread which makes your palate go on a world tour. From the Indian chaat stall, the Italian pasta and pizza live stations, Asian wok counter to hot pita and creamy hummus at the Lebanese counter and paella at the Spain stop, wedding buffets are now increasingly getting tailor made. Gone are the days when we had typical dishes for a set cuisine.  Now, the efforts of pampering 5000-6000 guests has transformed into making it a tailor-made memorable time for intimate gatherings of 500-600 or even as compact as 50 or 60.

Taking this buffet craze further we got chef Vineet Bhatia, who is seen as the face of progressive modern Indian cuisine having published successful cookery books, recorded multiple TV series, opened several restaurants across the globe and is the first Indian chef-patron to be have been awarded a Michelin star to share his wisdom on current wedding buffet trends.  “Today, we see families taking ethical measures and requesting biodegradable cutlery. We use disposable yet fancy serving bowls for pass-arounds in different shapes and material from bamboo, to sugarcane and patta (leaves)” says chef Bhatia.

Crowded stalls at a wedding Buffet! - A common site for Indians

To avoid people gathering in clusters around a counter, mini setups where food that can be picked up within seconds works the best. Individual portions are popular where chats like moong dal chaat topped with peanuts are served in vatis (small bowls), dahi bhalla is finished with khatti-meethi chutney and sev and ready to eat. “If the guest cannot go to the buffet, the buffet will come on the plate in the form of miniature servings. Fret not, guests will relish their tricolour dhokla, khandvi as well as samosa tikki. Your gol gappas will come to you in shot glasses!” says chef Bhatia, who works on a menu backwards, starting from understanding the client and their likes and dislikes. “We consult the couple for their tastes, what the family prefers and what they want to offer their guests. With individual pick-up portions, this food will be perfect in taste and great for social media posts too,” quips chef Bhatia, who was recently seen as the judge in Master chef India and Netflix series– The Final Table, laughs into the phone. 

Giving an example of a big fat Arab wedding Bhatia catered, he said that buffet counters dropped from the air and theatrics were at its best. “The Arabs have one women-only function for which they don’t prefer any outsiders. For this, we had created a ready-to-eat buffet, and had only two women staff waiting inside for assistance. Chefs will have to be creative with the items which are hassle free to be self-served,” says chef Bhatia.

Adding to this Mr. Saji Joseph, General Manager at the restaurant in Alila Fort, Bishangarh shared his take on the wedding buffet industry and how it is brought to life at Alila Fort- “Culinary is very much part of our sustainable story that we live with over here. We work with a village and what is grown in our locality so right from incorporating all the grains that are grown here to including the village lady to help make rotis everything here is very authentic”. He further shared that buffets at Alila are more of experiential based live cooking which gives the guests a chance to come and interact with the chefs and know the story behind every dish that is served.  More than a buffet, it's an experience. 

“Culinary is a part of our story. It is also very much part of our sustainable story that we live with over here. It is part of our DNA. We are working with a village and what is grown in our locality so right from incorporating all the grains that our grown here to including the village lady to help make rotis for tawa preparations” Apart from that he shared how weddings at Alila fort bishangarh have  less of buffet and more of experiential based live cooking which gives the guests a chance to  interact with the chefs and know the story behind the dish. “ More than buffet, it’s a story that is intimate and experiential” says Mr. Joseph.

Intimately interesting

While the attention for the past few years has been on clean eating, the trend will remain on nutritious yet delicious food. From focussing on specific diets like vegan, gluten-free and Keto, now immunity is the new word. “But all this with our usual chataka to suit the Indian palate.”

All-natural, vegan/vegetarian, and eco-friendly weddings are increasingly becoming popular and are likely to emerge as one of the trends in the coming year, points out Prem K Pogakula, Executive Chef,  The Imperial, New Delhi. “Sustainable sourcing from local and native vendors is also becoming prevalent,” he says. “Another trend that I see picking up is a green supper station,” he adds. “Instead of big meals, the guests are offered sumptuous small bites of all green which harmonize according to the wedding format.”- chef Pogakula. In attention to detail, biodegradable cutlery and crockery is sourced to convey an eco-dining effect. Gluten free /sugar free /lactose intolerant – of course health is a big trend and the customers always ensure that gluten free /sugar free and lactose free dishes are there to fill in. The demand is to create taste in them and not just choice.

Vegetarianism is a preferred choice for a lot of Indian communities. With more people turning vegetarian and vegan, the spread being offered to the guests is only getting more elaborate. “In fact, at one of the functions where chefs were invited to showcase emerging trends, I put out ‘Gourmet Satvik dining’ under ‘seasons’ banner and it was fun. From Asthamrit to edible balloons to somras, the menu had it all. Needless to say, it was a hit,” shares Nishant Choubey, Corporate Chef, Seinan group and consulting chef, Indus Bangkok (Michelin plated)

Having said that, big fat weddings are still a multi-cuisine affair. “It’s a mix of Asian and regional Indian food for weddings these days,” says Ritesh Negi, Executive Chef, Radisson Blu MBD Hotel, Noida. “Food items like dimsums, sushi, regional kebabs are relished more than the main course as the guests want to sample more from the spread. Middle Eastern is the next favorite and you will find more options than the usual pita-hummus-shawarma combination that was once very popular,” he adds. 

In contrast to this, at Alila Fort where weddings are usually a two night thing, three square meals is made to be more of an experience, with a pinch of regional stories. Mr. Joseph, “We have traditional rajasthani thali which includes everything authentic to the rajasthani culture and everyone including the youngsters are very fond of it”. Experiential wedding buffet at Alila Fort is not just about lunch and dinner but has extended to gatherings like after-party.

Chef  Choubey advised to include interactive sections for a personalised experience where buffet colours are not monotonous. He said, “Butter chicken, which is red, should be kept apart from paneer makhani or tomato risotto.”

All being said, personalised multi cuisine wedding buffets, an idea bestowed by Covid is here to stay!

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