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How to Plan a Multi-Course Meal

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You’ve just enjoyed a multi-course meal at your favorite restaurant and now you want to prepare one at home. I’m not surprised; everyone loves a coursed meal. Thomas Keller, famed restaurateur and owner of The French Laundry, explains that flavors are heightened during the first few bites of a dish. Eventually “flavor saturation and palate fatigue set in,” which is known as “the law of diminishing returns.” Because of this, he feels that the concept of coursing is to leave your diners wanting one more bite—in other words, stopping before their taste buds get bored.

Coursed meals also enable your guests to enjoy a variety of smaller plates. The menus are diverse and the dishes build upon each other. The chef is given the time and freedom to create a story through food.

But don’t let all of this intimidate you. I’ve been catering for several years so I’ve developed a step-by-step process that helps me create from a place of peace—not panic. With the right guidance (ahem!), I’m confident that you can showcase your cooking skills and curate a coursed meal that will earn you some serious bragging rights.

 How to Plan a Multi-Course Meal

 1. Decide on the number of courses

The number of courses you wish to serve is completely up to you. But note that the courses will not only dictate the number of entrees but also the total time spent enjoying the meal. For example, a 3-course meal can take an hour to serve and eat, while a 5-course meal can take 2 or more hours. If you don’t want to be serving all night, then perhaps you should start with a more modest number, like 3.

2. Select a format

If you serve a 3-course menu, a typical format includes a
Salad
Entrée
Dessert

If you opt for a 5-course menu, the format might include a
Soup
Salad
Fish or Poultry Course
Beef, Lamb, or Pork Course
Dessert

This is your dinner party so you select any cadence that feels most appetizing to you.

3. Choose a theme

You don’t have to go with a theme, but it’s suggested. A theme can help you keep the menu focused and it adds an element of fun. The theme can be centered on a vibrant color, cooking method, culture or country, or single ingredient.

4. Curate the menu

Once you’ve decided on the number of courses, the format, and the theme, you’re ready to plan the menu. First, list out all of the courses you want to serve. Next to each, jot down some ideas. It’s helpful to consider what’s in season, what you can source locally, and what you feel comfortable preparing. While my supper club has ended, you can check out this blog post to see my menu.

5. Have fun

I know it’s cliché, but think about the reason you’re throwing a party or planning a meal. It’s enjoyable and a great way to share your culinary skills with friends and family. So have fun and remember, it’s just food. Cook (and serve) as you wish!