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The Epicurean World Master Chefs Society has organized the World Banqueting Championships annually since 1992.

Chef John McSweeney displays World Banqueting Championship medals.
Chef John McSweeney displays World Banqueting Championship medals.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"It's a grueling competition," says John McSweeney, founder and president of the Canadian chapter. "Two weeks in advance, teams receive an ingredient list from which they compile a six-course menu for 110 people and order the exact amount of ingredients. They start preparing the banquet at 8 am and finish at 10 pm."

Eric Bruce, captain of the winning UK team, and executive head chef at The Belfry in Wishaw, England, says it's "the WOW factor" that characterizes a prize-winning banquet.

He suggests the following ways to wow banquet guests with world-class meals.

Chef flambees meat on stove.
Chef flambées meat on stove.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
  • Plan the banquet menu with the head chef, not just the food and beverage and sales managers.
  • Serve small portions and several courses so people don't get filled up or bored. Both pheasant and bubble and squeak (fried potato and cabbage) are popular English dishes. (Team UK served tiny pheasant sausages on small bubble and squeak cakes and surrounded them with honey sauce, pecans and sour cherries.)
  • Create an ice sculpture with the company logo or banquet theme.
  • Use themed sugar sculptures rather than flowers for centerpieces.
  • Serve a variety of breads. (Team UK's dinner featured Armenian flatbread, grain rolls and buckwheat buns.)
  • If you're catering a banquet on a tight budget, go for seasonal fish, fruits and vegetables. They're cheaper and taste better.
  • Be original. (Rather than serve sorbet in traditional glasses, Team UK piped Spy apple sorbet into individually blown sugar apples, decorated with pale green sugar leaves. To eat it, guests tapped the sugar and broke it open.)
  • Don't clutter plates. Arrange food like a picture in a frame.
  • Add a surprise to each course. (Team UK served wild mushroom consommé from demitasse cups.)
  • End the banquet on a high note. (Team UK made a pulled sugar bonsai tree, complete with little fruits and a tiny dove, as a centerpiece for the petits fours instead of serving them on a plate.)

Follow these tips for your next banquet menu to create a meal worthy of an award.

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