Buffet, anyone? 


Jullie Y. Daza

In the season of pandemic, food is a shining star, whether as alimentary consumption or an elemental business. Amateur cooks and start-up chefs found their true second nature as restaurateurs, caterers, and overnight, Richard Gomez is on YouTube cooking, At Home with Goma.

For those of us who cannot (or will not) cook but are experts in the art of appreciating the culinary talents of others, buffets are as popular as ever, mask-hugas-iwas notwithstanding.  When the concept first hit Manila in the last century, the franchise was appetizingly labeled “smorgasbord,” a Swedish word meaning buffet. In turn, buffet is of French origin.

Today’s buffet, aka “eat all you can,” caters to every class of food lover, classy or picky, gourmand or gourmet, waist-watcher or glad-to-be-a-glutton. At a Korean grille where guests pay P500 for the privilege of cooking their own meat and eating as much as their metabolism can take, one man will be forever remembered as the one who wiped out ten trays of finely sliced pork and beef, with rice, soup, beancurd, lettuce leaves, sausage, and kimchi to boot, in one sitting.

I’ve had my own memorable one-time experience in a restaurant in BGC. If I had had a bigger waistline, who knows if I might have been able to make 10 trips to the counter to dip a silver ladle into a glass bowl containing a gleaming heap of caviar. Caviar at a buffet? Unbelievable! Only in the Philippines! (But that was then.)

In GCQ’ed Manila, food for thought doing the rounds is that The Manila Hotel’s Café Ilang-Ilang buffets are the best and safest. Health protocols are followed to a T: temperature check, contact tracing information, face mask and face shield on at all times except when eating. Chefs and servers wear gloves. The diner points to the food he wants, the chef hands it over on a plate or in a cup. Plastic sheets separate the pointers from the dishes on display. In most stations, the food is cooked while-you-wait not only for hygienic but also for aesthetic and flavor reasons. As any half-baked cook will tell you, a mere drop in temperature is enough to alter the look and taste of a dish.

Bon appetit!