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L.A. Times Test Kitchen tips: Buffet psychology 101

June 21, 2011 | 11:13 am

Summerplacesetting With the official start of summer here, many of us weekend entertaining warriors are planning our seasonal festivities and backyard barbecues, if we haven't hosted any already.

And as pleasant as these gatherings may be, it seems like the moment someone rings the dinner bell an otherwise civil gathering can turn into a stampede as guests mob the food table.

Much as I like to keep my gatherings casual and freeform, there are a few rules I always follow to keep the meal organized. Call it a little "buffet psychology." Here are a few tips:

1. Organize the food layout, with a definite "beginning" and "ending." Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. This will keep the guests from rushing the food like an NFL defensive line.

2. Consider plate size. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches) so guests don't overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.

3. Organize all of the less-expensive/greater-quantity foods at the "beginning" of the buffet, like salads and starches (rolls, rice, potatoes, etc). Save the big ticket and expensive items for the very end of the buffet (tri-tips, ribs, chicken and fish) so guests have less room on their plates and are less likely to overfill.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.


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Photo: Los Angeles Times