An action station is any meal station that requires some sort of action from either the chef or the member including cooking, mixing, adding toppings, or plating.
When a club is hosting a BBQ, and the Executive Chef or one of the Cooks is grilling in front of the members and guests, serving right off the grill, it’s an action station (whether you call it that or not).
Action stations, primarily used for banquets and member events, are interactive food stations, where members and guests get to interact directly with a chef or cook in a more personalized way. Members might watch the chef “in action” as he or she physically cooks, grills, assembles and serves. Members might also be “in-charge” choosing the ingredients for their dish.
The classic chef-centered carving station is perhaps the most traditional form of an action station. Here, the chef is not only carving and serving a cut like prime rib, beef tenderloin or honey ham, but he or she is also interacting with members and guests while serving as the face of the culinary department.
The latest trend in chef-centered action stations is more action-oriented where chefs and cooks create an entire entree or small plate, a la minute. Consider an item like stir-fried pan noodles with shrimp and Thai curry sauce. In this case, pre-prepped ingredients are set out in an enticing melange of bowls and platters. Members are encouraged to customize their noodles by requesting the chef stir-fry additional elements into the base recipe such as edamame, pickled onions, Thai bird chiles, julienne red peppers, or cilantro, for example.
Another type of action station is member-centered, where the member or gues does the “action” by choosing which ingredients they want from a buffet of pre-prepared elements, both hot and cold, to create their personalized dish. Think of an upscale taco bar with flour and corn tortillas, three proteins, two kinds of beans, four types of salsa, a beautiful array of grilled vegetables, and myriad hot sauces. Each member can assemble his or her taco as her or she would like.
This type of station may or may not be supervised by a sous chef or line cook, but it is always monitored closely by the kitchen for replenishing or refreshing ingredients.