An Immersion in the preparation of a professional banquet

EHL Students - EMBA | 13 Nov, 2015

When we arrived at École Hôtelière de Lausanne we received our timetable, which we immediately noticed included one week of food and beverage preparation and service. A mixture of excitement & trepidation grew amongst us. Excitement at the fact we would be given the opportunity to work alongside two fantastic chefs, Mr Kevin Gibbins & Mr Fabien Foare, and apprehension at hearing we would be preparing and serving lunch for 50 paying guests at the end of the week. As soon as we came to terms with this challenge our confidence returned; until yet again it took a hit when we received the menu we would be cooking:

Cappuccino des sous bois with a hazelnut gremolata
Finger of Lobster with butternut and ginger pickles
Venison noisette in grué Viennoise, botzi pear poached in Syrah and vanilla celery puree
Mont Blanc

Out of our group of 16, only a handful had worked in a professional kitchen before so the week was definitely going to be a challenge. Our saving grace was having the eternally patient Chef Foare & Chef Gibbins by our side and the fact that our team had grown in the first 4 weeks of the program. As a result of our previous experiences together, we were aware of each other’s respective strengths & weakness.

Monday and Tuesday were spent arranging trays of all the correct ingredients for each dish (the ingredients list was 5 pages long!) and beginning to prepare the dishes. From creating the various stocks, to chopping every single piece of food, no element of the preparation was left overlooked. It was incredible to witness first-hand the amount of detail, preparation and work that goes into a 50 person banquet of this caliber, with each dish having countless steps to follow to ensure its perfection. We know that we will all appreciate and respect fine dining that little bit more after these few days in the kitchen.

Number of pears cored: 310
Number of cutlery used: 400
Total hours of man power: 448 hours

On Wednesday, both groups learned key aspects of banqueting from serving techniques to the various roles in the “Front of House”. In class, we also developed an understanding of the banquet team and the expectations of each banqueting position.

The following morning, the Front of House team set up the room for lunch by polishing silverware and glasses and laying the tables for service. The tedious activity taught us the importance of attention to detail when serving a formal meal. Meanwhile the Kitchen team added finishing touches to the food, and set up a temporary “banquet kitchen” for smooth food delivery to the Front of House team.

Bring two liters of milk to a boil with a piece of vanilla, add 3kg of celery, and cook.
Strain celery (keeping the milk) and pit celery into a blender. 
Blend celery and add the milk to blender. 
Once smooth, pass through a sieve and serve.

Finally, the pears were stuffed with sautéed onions, the lobster terrines were glazed, the wines were opened; and the EMBA class was ready to serve 50 guests. During each service, the groups experienced challenges caused by guest requests, time restraints, and other unexpected twists; but overall, the lunch guests reported a tasty and successful lunch.

Our experience offered our team three major managerial take-aways:

 A huge thank you to Mr Boucourt, Mr Durand, Chef Foare and Chef Gibbins for making it such a memorable experience!

Authors: Lily Haydock and Mark Wright

Executive MBA in Hospitality Administration
Executive MBA in Hospitality Administration
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