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Everything You Need to Know about Grazing Tables

Grazing Tables

Have you heard the buzz about grazing tables? Pinterest predicts that this interactive, eye-catching food station will be everywhere in 2019. Instead of a traditional buffet, consider adding a grazing table to your next corporate event, private party, or wedding reception!

Ally Schmaling Photography

These abundant displays are instant crowd-pleasers because they offer a little something for everyone and encourage a vibrant, social ambiance. Guests can simultaneously mingle and munch their way through an event when delectable fare is presented along a bountiful tablescape!

grazing table
A grazing table served at the Wang Theatre in 2017.

Although grazing tables are on Pinterest’s list of trends for 2019, they have been around for quite some time. Think back to medieval times when lords and ladies feasted for days upon tables laden with fresh breads, roasted birds, and pies! These sumptuous spreads are fit for a Lannister, offering an artful presentation of options for guests to pick and choose while chatting and celebrating.

Game of Thrones feast
Grazing tables evoke visions of medieval feasts with assorted foods spread along a table, which is highlighted in the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones.

I interviewed our resident grazing table expert, Chuck Ray, about his experience and advice for anyone looking to learn more about this fun trend that we have been embracing at Capers for years.

Grazing Table Q&A with Chuck Ray

Q: Why do you think grazing tables are so popular today?

Chuck: Gone are the days of overabundance from the 80’s and 90’s. With all the access to food shows, blogs, and Pinterest, people’s tastes have evolved to a more sophisticated look and palette. I think the word “grazing” is popular because it falls into stride with the “farm-to-table” catchphrase a lot of clients are looking for these days. Grazing invokes the images of farm animals slowly working their way through the grassy fields of the farms where we procure our food.

Q: Do you find that grazing tables work best at certain types of events?

Chuck: Yes—cocktail receptions where the food is meant to be a bit more substantial than light fare, but not quite dinner. The food can maintain an ethnic theme or you could have a variety of items on the station. Either way, it is meant to be more than just cheese and crackers or crudités.

 Q: What kind of food do you think works well on grazing tables?

Chuck: There is no limit; you can be as creative as you like! We have done grazing tables that had an Italian theme (antipasto, bread sticks, salads – caprese, wild mushroom, and fennel) to a complete mix of items (poke bowls, naan flatbreads, caprese skewers, Asian noodle boxes).

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite grazing tables you’ve designed.

Chuck: We did one event at Montserrat College of Art with a “Deconstructed Antipasti Station.” We used four round tables with each one containing only one item: Meats, Cheeses, Breads, Condiments (mustards, oils, vinegars, olives, fruit spreads). Another was for an MIT Parent Reception – we had Demi Popovers filled with Shredded Beef Short Ribs, Buttermilk Fried Chicken on House-made Biscuits with Tarragon Aioli, Asian To-Go Containers with Stir-Fried Noodle Salad and Malaysian Chicken Skewers, Spinach & Artichoke Naan Pizza, Yellow Fin Tuna Poke Bowls, and Edamame Hummus with Crispy Wontons.

Q: How do you decide where to place different items on a grazing table? What are your tips for décor and presentation?

Chuck: Placement and décor really depend on the size and shape of the table, as well as the placement in the room. If using a round table in the middle of the room, I try to have at least 2 access points for guests to be able to access the plates and napkins (generally on opposite sides of the table). The whole point of a grazing table is to be able to graze. If utilizing a rectangular table against a wall, we put plates on one end of the table and napkins and forks (if needed) on the other end of the table with the food in the middle.

As far as placement, it just depends on what you have and how many items there are. One thing I do like to create when setting up any kind of food table (grazing, buffet, dessert station, etc.) is a way to make the food interesting to look at that flows nicely. I like to do this by creating 3 levels to display the food (table level, middle level, and highest level). To do this, try to use boards and risers. I also like to add texture and color by bringing in décor, like fake plants from Ikea.

More about Chuck Ray

Chuck Ray

This is Chuck’s 21st year at Capers! Chuck began working with us as a bartender and knew from his first event with Capers that he wanted to become an event planner. In 2003, he became a full-time office employee at Capers and was promoted to General Manager in 2006. This year, Chuck has taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer.

Here’s a fun fact about Chuck: his first car was a 1977 Ford Pinto Wagon with a red interior AND exterior!

Image result for 1977 ford pinto wagon red
Chuck’s first car was a red 1977 Ford Pinto Wagon!