Fanciful finger food takes centre stage at “Per tutti i gusti” presents Campania

The days of formal banquets may not yet be over but the continual rise of finger food as the modern catering solution continues to inspire chefs the world over. How to re-create the beauty of a starter or main course in finger format? How to present something of culinary skill in a mouth sized bite? How to ensure that guests leave with the same satisfaction as a full dinner service? As we leave the chefs to ponder these dilemmas we, as consumers, continue to move the goal posts and demand more and more from our platters.

From wedding buffets to christenings to gallery openings to in-house party catering, finger food is omnipresent and the days of the humble vol-au-vent are over. Todays chefs are making small “big” and the more creative the better!

Last weeks “Per tutti i gusti” on the Campania region of Italy was a masterclass in mass catering with finger food. With circa. 150 guests invited to the evening’s dinner the six guest chefs were challenged to convert their individual specialities into finger fantastic portions. The day started in the kitchens of the Milan Malpensa Sheraton hotel with a show cooking class dedicated to the Campania region. Here the chefs were able to recreate their signature dishes in adult proportions to show us (a small group of bloggers and invitees) the recipes behind their masterpieces. Take this same logic, shrink and voila the evenings offerings were transformed into miniature versions of.

I tried long and hard to track the history of finger food but very little information is available as to when it first emerged as a socially acceptable food offering. In many western cultures eating with your hands as opposed to with a knife and fork was considered “dreadfully bad manners” and an indication of one’s social status, and thus heavily frowned upon. But somewhere in the last 30-40 years it became chic. Starting with street food, hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza and things that could be consumed on the go and sky rocketing to today’s more elaborate displays of appetisers and hors d’oeuvres. Even street food has got glam with many a buffet now offering miniature hamburgers and pizza!

What’s more finger food covers both hot and cold offerings and is increasingly entering into the domain of traditional cuisine and not just snacks. Where once a finger buffet was limited to a few savoury pastries and some chicken drumsticks chefs are now proposing the exact same dishes that would ordinarily be served at the table. Take a minestrone soup. It may seem a stretch to imagine this in finger format but take a standard glass, fill with your minestrone herbs and vegetables and fill with broth to order ensuring that every guest gets theirs hot. An ingenious take on a classic.

Whether or not you approve there is no doubting that finger food is here to stay. You may secretly prefer your food served at a table whilst you recline in comfort but there is no doubting that cruising the buffet for those stand out dishes that catch your attention can also be great fun. I went to “Per tutti i gusti” to discover more about the cuisine of Campania but came away inspired by the delivery of those dishes in finger format. It’s certainly hard work to reproduce so many smaller dishes but with the right mix of plates, cups, spoons and other you can really create a vision of great beauty.

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