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Service à la française

November 16, 2011
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Service à la française is the practice of serving all the dishes of a meal at the same moment.

This style prevailed in the courts of French royalty, as it made the greatest impression for all the delicacies of the kitchen to emerge simultaneously. Royal meals were a public spectacle in Ancien Regime France: members of the royal family usually had their midday meal in full view of strolling sightseers who watched in awe from a gallery, with each course loudly announced by the chamberlains. This was meant as an ideologically-minded display of the wealth and power of the King. However, unless the kitchen and staff are enormous in relation to the number of persons being served, it is impossible for all dishes to be perfectly hot and ready to consume. Furthermore, it is impossible for the diners to consume each dish when it is at its peak. Thus, modern fine-dining restaurants provide dishes sequentially, so that they may be enjoyed individually: a style called service à la russe.

A modified form of service à la française in which several large dishes are brought out for each diner to help themselves from is known as “family-style” in less formal restaurants.

The buffet style is essentially a variation of the French service in which all of the food is available, at the correct temperature, in a serving space other than the dining table, and guests commute there to be served or sometimes to serve themselves, and then carry their plate back to the table. Buffets vary from the very informal (a gathering of friends in a home, or the serving of brunch at a hotel) to the rather formal setting of a wedding reception, for example. The buffet format is preferred in occasions where a very large number of guests are to be accommodated efficiently by a reasonably sized number of service personnel.

Around the Mediterranean, it is common to eat tapas or meze-style, where several small dishes or large variety platters are presented for the diners to share at their pleasure.

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