August 30, 2017

The only thing better than enjoying a beautifully prepared dish is digging into several in a row that perfectly complement one another. As Austin culinary arts students master an array of fantastic recipes, they’ll also learn how to assemble a meal with multiple courses. Building out a menu with the right balance of tastes is an art, and understanding how to create one is a major step forward for any chef.

When you plan a dinner to showcase your cooking abilities, keep these tips in mind:

Determine the right number of courses

“Meals can range from three carefully chosen items to 14-part tasting menus.”

Multi-course meals can range from three carefully chosen items to 14-part tasting menus. Start by figuring out how many dishes you have the time and resources to prepare. If you have minimal help, it’s best to keep things simple. You don’t want the food to suffer because you became overwhelmed by preparing too many courses at one time.

Double-check your ingredients and tools

Any time you cook, ensuring you have all the necessary materials on-hand is a vital step. However, stocking up is doubly important when you’re preparing several items. Careful planning makes all the difference in achieving exceptional results.

Multiple timers are among the most important of your tools. As The Kitchn pointed out, it’s wise to start the clock ticking for every individual task so nothing slips your mind. That way, you’ll avoid a pot boiling over or an entree burning while you’re distracted with readying the next course.

Find the right balance and order

A great multi-course dinner is all about the interplay between the various flavors and textures. When you’re planning your dishes, think carefully about how they will come together for a cohesive, remarkable culinary experience that shares a theme, such as a repeated ingredient. Plenty of variation in the complexity and style of foods will keep diners intrigued while also allowing you to keep your workload under control.

Follow items that are heavy and rich with light, palate-cleansing ones. Think about how you can work your way up from simpler foods to your most impressive creations. What’s Cooking America provided several examples of multi-course menus that might offer inspiration, such as a six-course dinner featuring:

  • An appetizer of artichoke and goat cheese bruschetta or crostini with white truffle oil.
  • A simple seafood course of shrimp cocktail
  • A Caesar or Caprese salad.
  • A refreshing palate-cleanser of pink grapefruit granita.
  • As the entree, a Cabernet filet mignon with sides of baked potato and asparagus.
  • And finally, a rich dessert of molten chocolate cake.

Prepare ahead of time

The secret to completing all the labor involved in cooking numerous courses is that you don’t do it all at once. Plan ahead and complete as much prep work as possible well before it’s time to serve dinner. You may be able to finish off some dishes the day before and keep them in the refrigerator or throw certain ingredients in a slow cooker for hours at a time.

Set the pace

As you serve up dishes, it’s important to allow guests plenty of time to enjoy them. On the other hand, you don’t want to keep them waiting too long. Exercise control over the portions and plan carefully so each item comes out at a steady rate. By finding the right speed, you keep diners deeply engaged in the meal and always ready to try the next dish.

Crafting an amazing multi-course meal is a complicated task even for an experienced chef. With culinary academy training and the right strategy, the results can be as satisfying for the person making the food as the ones devouring it.