How to Put on a (Culinary) Show

Looking for a way to feature an great chef or a delicious dish while engaging attendees? Consider a live chef presentation.

It’s no secret that food is a central part of any gathering, celebration or event, no matter how formal or informal the setting.

James Beard, an American cookbook author and chef mentor, once said: “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” As planners, you can use food to create a true experience, in the form of a chef demonstration.

There are two primary reasons to feature a chef demonstration at a Celebrate, Network or Ideate meeting break.

First, a cooking demonstration is educational and will give attendees an insider’s look at a professional kitchen in action. The demonstration can teach attendees about different culinary techniques and ingredients, which can be especially interesting if the products come from a local farmer or producer. When planning a chef demo, remember there should always be a lesson or takeaway for attendees.

The second reason to feature a cooking presentation is for the simple entertainment value. For most attendees, watching a professional chef in his or her element can be mesmerizing and amusing, or at the very least interesting.

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

Once you’ve decided to feature a chef presentation at your event, you’ll need to choose the format: full or short demonstration?

Full demonstration: A full chef demonstration takes about 30 minutes and should show what making an entire dish entails, from start to finish. This format works best for intimate groups that are able to interact with the chef and each other throughout the process.


Short demonstration: Short chef demonstrations work best as part of a full reception, though they should be treated differently than an ordinary food station. These demonstrations should not monopolize attendees’ time at the event, so highlighting a single technique is a good idea. For example, the chef could prepare sashimi (slicing and dressing the fish and introducing some accompanying sauces), shuck oysters or roll summer rolls in rice paper.