By Michael Harris-Arzon, The Simplistic Professional
As busy as our lives are, there are times when we need to pull out all of the stops and go that extra mile to make a great impression. Whether it is to impress the, soon to be, in-laws or maybe, its a room full of potential clients, food is a great way to create a memorable first impression.
People go to fine dining establishments for the experience they have while enjoying a good meal. It’s not always about the taste of the meal. Granted, the chances are, that the food is spectacular or they would not be winning awards or be able to charge the prices that they do.
The experience starts when you enter the restaurant. That initial onslaught of sights and sounds. That, you can easily replicate at your own home or choice of venue. Take the time to rearrange things to make the space inviting and play music softly through out the space. This is where your smart phone and blue tooth speakers come into play. They can be hidden almost anywhere.
The next piece that comes into creating this memorable experience, is the service. You want to be entertaining and welcoming at all times. Don’t spend all of your time with one guest. Be sure to mingle and that you are making introductions of people to other people. That way everyone has another to talk to.
When it comes to the food, you can either create an amazing buffet style setting, which gives people even more time to interact. Or you can do a traditional sit down dinner. This is my favorite, as it really gives you an opportunity to make that wow factor impression. And while they may be a bit intimidating at first glance, they really aren’t as bad as you think when it comes to plating. The key is being organized from the beginning.
When plating a meal for a large group of people. It helps to line your plates up on the counter all at one time. That way, each plate will look the same. Start with your first layer of the dish and carefully arrange around the plate. Do this to every plate before moving on to the next component. Remember, you are creating art on a plate, using sauce as your paint and food as your sculpture.
Think about what you can do to create height and interest to your plate. Maybe it is how you cut the meat and place it on its end. Or the way you strategically lean your vegetables to create a pyramid shape. You are creating a sculpture to please the eye. But you are doing so much more than that.
By elevating certain aspects of your meal, you allow different aromas to be released and mingle together, giving your guests that umami feeling, before they even take a single bite. Making their mouth water, after they have seen how gorgeous the food is, is the same as getting a potential client to say the word yes for the second time. Anyone familiar with sales and making a deal knows, that you need to get the potential client to say the word yes… as many times as you can, prior to you asking for their business. It sets a certain frame of mind that helps close the deal.
When planning the actual food for the event. Think about foods that are nostalgic. Something that evokes memories in your guests. If your guest is Anglo American and grew up in the midwest, consider something like an upscale version of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and roasted red peppers with a pesto sauce. By bringing it forward to the 21st Century and incorporating today’s, trendy flavors or techniques into the preparation, you not only remind them of being a kid at Grandma’s, but show them how gourmet it can be.
Be careful, that you don’t get so carried aways with your creative juices and ideas, that the meal becomes inedible. Every single component should play a role. They need to contribute to the overall experience of the meal and compliment each other flavor and texture wise.
Having long strands of herbs that need to be cut and mixed in, take aways from the simple pleasure of the meal. Most will simply push that component aside and it may be crucial to the taste profile of the dish. Things should each be balanced so that accidents are not likely to happen. A giant piece of meat, atop a small diameter of vegetables is asking for food to go flying across the table.
With any food experience, it should be seamless from beginning to end. It takes planning, preparation, attention to detail and passion. But in the end, you have the opportunity to create a memorable experience that will have people talking for weeks about it. And as a professional, that is a good thing. Every time your name is mentioned, it is a potential referral down the line. You also don’t have to spend a great deal of money in order to impress. Your time is valuable and being smart about your planning makes a world of difference.