How to Build a Buffet

200-buffetabsolutely! DELICIOUS | By Shane Bruns –

There are many opportunities in the coming months to put together a home buffet for Easter, Mother’s Day or for graduating seniors. If you are ambitious enough to try one at home, here are some tips on building a buffet to remember.


The seasonality of ingredients is very important, as you want to create a buffet that fits the season or holiday. For example, you would not want to serve fresh strawberries in the middle of December. Even though people are very resourceful and can fly almost anything in from around the globe, strawberries taste better when they are local and in season.


Geography plays an important role as well. When creating the menu and knowing who your guests will be, you more than likely want to keep menu items regionally inspired and use locally sourced ingredients. The complexity of the menu and the recipes must be taken into consideration. When entertaining, you would like to at least have a conversation with your guests while they are about to join you in a feast. You don’t want to be in the kitchen the entire time. Cooking simple food simply is the key. There is no need to be avant-garde or whimsical in menu approach.


Budget plays a key role in what you will have as your main entrée or protein for the buffet, ranging from a single protein to multiple or from chicken to lobster. Selections should be balanced and colorful. Ideally, you want to offer guests a variety of dishes that will represent these main categories: protein, salads, fruits, vegetables and sweets.

Themed buffets/stations can also be a fun route to take. Get creative with the presentation, especially if there are young ones in attendance, where you may have a separate buffet just for the kids with their own offerings, such as cotton candy.

Location and Flow

Placement is crucial when choosing a spot to create the buffet, as you don’t want bottlenecking to occur. Sometimes, it is better to create stations instead of a buffet so that the crowd can spread out, eliminating long waiting times in a line. That way, guests are free to visit the station they are most interested in.

Sequence of Food

When placing creations on the buffet, it is typical to start out with chilled offerings, such as composed salads and chilled soups. Then, lead into lighter fare and hot items, such as vegetables and starches. Next, place the focal point – the entrée – toward the end. Desserts should be separated from the main buffet, as most guests do not have room on their plate after going through the buffet. This allows you to become more creative in the dessert presentations. For example, fill martini glasses with chocolate mousse or display “loaded spoons” of tiramisu.

China, Glass, Silver and Linens 

Choosing the right plate for the right function is also important. If the buffet is more of a reception instead of dinner, the size of the plate should convey that to guests. Small plates at the beginning mean that the event is meant for grazing. Large plates send the message of a dinner.

Once the style of the event is determined, place plates at the beginning of the buffet or station. Cutlery can either be preset at the table settings, or silverware rolled up in napkins can be placed at the buffet. At a reception, cocktail forks and spoons are typically displayed at the buffet.

Depending on the beverages being served, glassware is key. For a reception-style approach, in most cases, glassware should be placed at the bar or wherever the beverages are located. For an elegant dinner, glassware is usually preset. Be sure to choose the right glass for the right wine.

Serving vessels on the buffet can be part of your creative approach in creating a memorable experience for guests. Instead of using chafers for hot food items, there are many ways to display offerings. Griddles, mini grill tops with le Creuset Dutch ovens or casserole dishes can make items more appealing to the eye. Remember, guests always eat with their eyes first.


Beverages should be on a separate table from the food station. If coffee and tea is served, you can add it your dessert station, depending on how big the guest list is. Beverage selection should be focused. Know your guests, and possibly create a specialty cocktail for the evening. For guests who don’t drink alcohol, create a “mocktail.”

It is important to offer a balance of wines. Weather can play a big part in this. On a hot summer day, a nice rosé may fit the bill for a light and crisp wine, followed by a medium body red like Pinot noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon for a more robust, heavier wine. Always choose the wine that you think will go best with the buffet items. Don’t forget about dessert wines, such as a nice, late harvest wine or a port to finish chocolate cake with.


Try to utilize florals, candles and accent pieces within empty spaces to create a full and decorative look. Don’t go overboard – sometimes less is more. You don’t want to lose focus of the food and beverages being offered.

Now that you have the tools to put together your own buffet, all you need to do is decide the menu. Enjoy!