Even as artisanal plated dishes that are served over five or six courses become a thing among sophisticated diners, most Kenyans have stuck to all-you-can-eat buffets.
In most hotels or family dinners, there will always be a long table with meat, starches, vegetarian options, salads, soups, fruit salad to bite-size dessert cakes.
To many, buffet may look like a glamorous idea that provides the joy of eating many small servings of many different foods, all at the same time and cost.
And hotels are responding to Kenyans’ growing appetite for buffets by adding more foods.
“We like offering a buffet set up mostly for our conferencing guests. This is what brings the most revenue to Crowne Plaza and it is cheaper,” says Cosmus Kituku, the Executive Chef of Crowne Plaza Hotel, one of the restaurants that has revamped its menu.
“Conferencing is where most hotels are concentrating on as that is where the money is. And again, today’s customer is not the same. Back then, you would find hotels having regulars coming in for the a la carte menus, for instance, over lunch hour.
“However, today this has reduced especially for hotels because of the stand-alone restaurants that have opened up in residential areas,” Mr Kituku adds.
To make their buffet interesting, they offer themed dishes every day.
“We serve Mexican, Continental, Swahili, among other cuisines to give guests a different experience every day,” Chef Cosmus says.
Emmanuel Aluda, the InterContinental Executive Chef says he is in the process of reviewing the hotel’s menus.
“Live grilling of food items including seafood such as prawns, lobster, quails are some of the activities we incorporate in our buffets to make them more interesting,” he says.
So when should you serve buffet and when should you not?
Chef Wu, of Eighty Eight Chinese restaurant at Villa Rosa Kempinski says buffet works with some cuisines but not Chinese food.
“This is because we incorporate a lot of stir-fried and steamed dishes and these cannot be prepared in bulk. We prepare the dishes in small batches. Chinese dishes cannot retain the freshness, crunchiness and bold flavours if kept for such long periods of time,” he explains.
Chef Wu is a native Chinese from Sichuan province in China and has been a Chinese cuisine chef for 22 years.
“Chinese cuisine is versatile such that different regions in China have their own special cuisine. We take advantage of this and provide a cuisine from a different part of China every week to give our guests a culinary journey around China. Each region’s cooking style is different and uses different flavours,” he adds.