holiday menu balance

The 3 Balances of Holiday Menu Planning

The 3 B's of Balance

I have learned over the years, that when crafting a menu, there needs to be balance. A balance in flavors, nutritional values and overall ingredients. This holds true for specific dishes as well.

Take for instance one of my past Christmas buffet menus: It took me a couple of days to hone this menu to a balanced result. A challenging part of making menus like this, is making sure I can get certain ingredients at this time of the year and at a reasonable cost. I make and cost out this menu in October so we can figure out the charge to the Member as well as promote in our holiday guide.

chirstmas lights

Christmas Lights

Christmas eve menu

Seasonal Fruit Parisienne

Local Organic Greens, Persimmons, Toasted Walnuts, Brie, Raspberry Vinaigrette

Baby Spinach, Julienne Roasted Twin Beets, Cracked Pistachios, Honey Lavender Lemon Vinaigrette

Rainbow Quinoa, Sweet Corn, English Cucumber, Chopped Watercress Salad

House Rolls with Butter

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef, Horseradish Sauce, Béarnaise, Cabernet Demi-Glace

Spice-Glazed Black Oak Ham, Cherry-Pineapple Compote, Gourmet Mustards

Crab Encrusted Wild Alaskan Salmon, Butter

Pan Braised European Chicken Breast, Leek, Pancetta, Red Wine Jus

Butternut Squash Ravioli, Baby Spinach, Walnuts, Sage Beurre Noir

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Hollandaise

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Olive Oil-Roasted Root Vegetables and Steamed Haricots Verts

Roasted Acorn Squash, Maple Glaze

Wild Rice and Basmati Pilaf with Steeped Dried Cranberries, Pine Nuts, Green Onion

Grande Dessert Buffet

We also prepared an extensive Children’s buffet menu.  mac and cheese, pizza, hot dog sliders, chicken fingers, curly fries, mini crudite’s with ranch, pasta marinara……

We are excited to welcome Frank Priore SR., CEC as a contributor to thechefscookingschool.  Frank is the Executive Chef at the Prestigious Westmoreland Club in Wilkes Barre, Pa.

To learn more about Frank go to our About Page and read his full Biography.  In the meantime enjoy Franks Christmas menu Planning article



Menu Planning Ideas

Whether you are a chef looking for ideas or looking to entertain your family over the season these menu ideas give you menu planning ideas and philosophy examples.

Granted this is a very large buffet and it would be too much for the average Homemaker, but I included this menu for some ideas for you, and your menu planning.

We served over 600 patrons on this day. As well as having about 40 pantry take-out orders of all sizes. To accomplish all of these tasks, along with myself, I had one Executive Sous Chef, one Pastry Chef, her assistant and a cast of seven other Chefs and Prep Cooks.

The only reason I can make a menu this size is that there are over 600 people attending. The break-even point, before the Club would start making money, would have probably been 200 patrons. This is based on all of the overhead involved. After that mark, more money is generated and food cost becomes lower.  

Now, crafting a menu for home can be a bit daunting, trying make everyone’s favorite foods, and trying to make it balance out without going “overboard”.

We don’t provide appetizers for this holiday at the Club, that’s probably why our menu is so extensive.

But at home I know families like to have small bites leading up the big dinner. Vegetable/cheese platters, chips and dips, nuts…. This should weigh in on how much food will be served later.


Some religions and nationalities have major seafood nights on the Eve so they wouldn’t generally have seafood on the Christmas day. Those who do not maybe consider a shrimp or crab cocktail or a crab cake, butter poached or broiled lobster tails….? 

 So my suggestion when laying out your holiday menu is:

station display

station display

Six to ten menu items

one or two salads, leafy greens and vegetables and possibly a creamy compound salad

-one major protein, Prime rib roast or leg of lamb or roasted turkey….

- two popular starches, (roasting a turkey, stuffing would probably be the second or third starch) mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, au gratin potatoes, oven roasted red bliss….

-one or two vegetables, something steamed/boiled (and buttered or hollandaise) and maybe a baked vegetable casserole such as and Italian Broccoli and Cauliflower casserole or caramelized Brussels sprouts with bacon…..?

Here’s a sample menu, some taken from the menu above:

 A Seasonal garden salad with assorted dressings, one being fat free or

Baby Spinach, Beets, Cracked Pistachios, Honey Lavender Lemon Vinaigrette

Spice-Glazed Black Oak Ham, Gourmet Mustards

Roasted Turkey, Giblet Stuffing, Pan Gravy or a type of roasted whole or eight-cut seasoned chicken

Mashed potatoes

Olive oil Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Glazed Baby Carrots

Mac and Cheese

Balancing flavors along with nutrition takes some studying, planning, trial and error. The more you practice, the better you become.  

I had a member ask me for about ten complete recipes that I use at the Club and I asked her if she had help preparing the items, and she said “No, I will try my best to do it.” I was taken aback and then I truly pondered this for a moment and wondered if she was going to open her own restaurant with these recipes? =)

After all, these recipes took me years to perfect. But, I train Chef’s and Cooks and they take some of my recipes along with them in their careers and they may tweak an ingredient here or there to make it their own. As I did from the many places, Chefs and Cook’s that I have worked with over the years.

With today’s technology, holiday menus and recipes can be found on the internet. Look for the star rating try to use 4.5 and past. Find and write down the recipes that look good and that you think your family and friend would enjoy, hone down the menu then print the recipes and create a buying list. Make sure it fits your budget then, importantly, get your spouse and/or older children to do the shopping for you! =)

Michael Davis