Chefs are tapping into their culinary ingenuity to serve up globally inspired fare with innovative presentations.
As “foodie” culture trends mainstream, members and guests will continue to expect more from buffets. In response, club chefs are creating more modern presentations featuring innovative, atypical “buffet” fare, to relay the fact that these are not the tired old “food assembly lines” of days gone by.
“Our buffets are more streamlined and crisper,” says Charles Kehrli, Executive Chef at The Yale Club of New York City. “They’re more exciting. We’re using smaller, lighter units with risers. We’re introducing new action stations, using induction units, coming up with clever service pieces and featuring dishes that are more modern and more global, too.”
Inspired by the “food hall” culture, The Yale Club’s buffets now feature dishes that are served directly from action stations, either by a chef or in a clever vessel that allows the preparation and presentation to truly shine. “Instead of spooning a pre-prepared dish out of a roll-top chafing dish, we are more likely to present two or four action stations where we will be making, for instance, cheddar grits that we top with freshly cooked short rib,” says Kehrli.
Instead of a traditional raw bar, The Yale Club offers individual mini-plates of seafood. “We’ll do rows of seafood tacos, ceviche shooters garnished with lime and served in single glasses, crab shooters served in single glasses garnished with celery stalks, and tuna tartar served on spoons,” Kehrli says. “We’ll carve intricate ice sculptures and surround them with freshly made sushi.”
All of these dishes and presentations invite members into the display, to explore and experiment with new flavors they might not otherwise try.
Other manned action stations at The Yale Club offer Bao Bun, lettuce wraps, lobster rolls, and burrata. And as a true sign that its buffets are a departure from those of the past, the club has even presented a vegetable carving station instead of meat, featuring a selection of squashes, slaws, and whole roasted vegetables.
Looks As Good As It Tastes
At Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., when Executive Chef Ed Stone serves something like paella on a buffet, a fuel can is used, but it’s hidden behind bricks clustered around the base of the pan.
“We also use a heat lamp above [the food] to maintain the temperature,” Stone adds. “But the bricks give the whole presentation a more rustic and modern look.”
When the occasional chafing dish is used on Baltusrol’s buffets, the club tries to add more of an a la carte presentation to what’s inside. “For example, if we’re serving swordfish, we’ll top it with a mango relish or for beef, a red onion marmalade,” Stone says. “The garnish adds color and a punch of flavor to proteins.”
Where the Action Is
“As club chefs, we’re constantly trying to educate and create new experiences for our members and their guests,” says Luke Livingston, Executive Chef of Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach, Fla. “Action stations are a great way to get to know our members, to bring our cooks out of the kitchen and to have fun with food.”
For action stations at the Park City Club in Dallas, Texas, Executive Chef Michael Kearney likes to set up two electric griddles side-by-side, to cook sliders and street tacos to order.
“The concept of ‘fresh’ and ‘made to order’ resonates with members,” says Kearney. “Being able to serve shrimp skewers or crab cakes off the grill as we talk to members about where we sourced ingredients, how we prepared them, and why we think they’ll enjoy the flavors takes the experience to a whole new level of authenticity.” C+RC