Inspired Idea: Artistic Desserts Put the Chef on Show

Reimagine one of your courses as culinary performance art

Dessert tends to occupy a very unique place in our minds, just as it does for special events. In fact, Julia Child once remarked that “a party without a cake is just a meeting”—an observation we in the meetings industry don’t take personally in the least, given that “just a meeting” is hardly the type of gathering we specialize in.

But something even more interesting happens to chefs when they turn their culinary prowess to the realm of dessert. Renowned for their technical innovation and meticulous attention to detail, pastry chefs are especially noted for their exceptional creativity—so much so that their process and product truly fall within the realm of the arts.

Now imagine your guests, eager for a delectable treat, escorted into a communal dining environment where pastry chefs stand poised at large tables, sauces and garnishes at the ready, spoons in hand. As the group begins to smile and whisper, the chefs—brandishing cutlery in lieu of paintbrushes—set to work drawing fanciful swoops, swirls and flourishes worthy of Jackson Pollack, were he to trade his paints for chocolate ganache, cocoa powder, fruit coulis and fresh whole berries.

Whether executed by a single chef before an intimate group or in waves for larger events, this artistic approach transforms the dessert course from a static buffet into an immersive live experience that will get guests talking, snapping pics and sharing. 

“This is truly part of the theater of food,” says Brad Nelson, VP of Culinary and Global Corporate Chef for Marriott International. “The performance is a surprise for guests, and the effect looks like modern art. It’s a form of controlled chaos that allows for the ultimate expression of creativity by the chef.”

The format works especially well for a celebratory afterglow or post-reception dessert course, notes Nelson, though it’s not limited to flavors on the sweet end of the spectrum. After all, give your chef a little artistic license, and he or she just may surprise you! Using the table as canvas and ingredients as medium, Executive Chef Luca Nania, created stellar savory presentations of thinly sliced meats, cheeses, veggies and sauce for Casalingo at the JW Marriott Beijing Central—his artful twists on the standard charcuterie board would make a perfect midmorning break or appetizer.

What really gives this trend staying power is how neatly it plays to multiple passions: that of the chef for creativity, of the attendee for entertainment and excitement, and of the planner for a truly novel and immersive experience. It’s an artful expression that anyone can savor.