The way in which food is served to restaurant diners has gone through many changes. Here are just some of the styles I’ve experienced or indeed applied during my hotel and restaurant training!
Silver Service – for anyone who’s tried this, it is a very tricky style of serving food in which the waiter uses a silver spoon and fork in one hand to serve the food item by item on to the diner’s plate. In France, this kind of service is known as service à l’anglaise (“English service”). Very easy for the food to land in someone’s lap if you’re not concentrating! This style of service was popular in the 70’s and 80’s in the fine dining restaurants of the time, just before nouvelle cuisine took a hold and changed service style forever.
English – A style of service usually at private parties, where the host apportions food onto plates, which are then distributed by a waiter. I’ve never seen this done and don’t imagine you see this style much today.
Plated – This is mainly what you see in restaurants these days – the whole of the course is pre plated in the kitchen and put in front of the guest.
Family – the main part of the main course i.e. meat or fish is plated or silver served and then the vegetables are placed in the centre of the table for guests to help themselves. For those like myself who worked as a waitress in their 20’s, this style of service came as a blessed relief, as it meant that the guests got their food hot – the silver service of both meat and vegetables too so long!
Butler – In butler service the diner helps him or herself from a serving plate held by the waiter (butler). Traditionally, this type of service was used on Sunday evenings when the waiting staff had the evening off and the butler helped out at dinner. Downton Abbey fans will recognise this one! To complicate matters, in France, this kind of service is known as service à la francaise “French service”
Russian – an elaborate silver service Service à la russe (“service in the Russian style”) where courses are brought to the table sequentially. Apparently, the Russian Ambassador Alexander Kurakin is credited with bringing service à la russe to France in the early 19th century, and it later caught on in England.
Gueridon – a waiter chance to show off!! The dish comes partly prepared from the kitchen and is then finished off in front of the guest on a gueridon trolley. This could be filleting a whole fish, carving a chateaubriand or flambéing dessert. This can be quite theatrical and in the eighties was the only way to serve the then trendy crepe suzette – fire extinguisher at the ready!!