What to Eat First at a Buffet: A Simple Guide

by Ella
What to Eat First for a Buffet

Buffets are a culinary wonderland where countless dishes await eager diners. From the array of delectable appetizers to the tempting desserts, choosing what to eat first can be an overwhelming task. To help you make the most of your buffet experience, we have compiled a comprehensive guide on what you should eat first at a buffet. By strategically planning your plate, you can ensure a satisfying and enjoyable dining experience.

1. Survey the Spread:

Upon arriving at a buffet, take a few moments to survey the offerings. Resist the urge to grab the first plate you see; instead, walk around and assess the different sections. Note the variety of dishes available, observe any live cooking stations, and identify any specialty items that catch your eye. This initial assessment will help you plan your meal effectively.


2. Start with Fresh Salads and Cold Appetizers:

To kickstart your buffet experience on a refreshing note, begin with fresh salads and cold appetizers. These dishes are light, packed with nutrients, and help stimulate your appetite without overwhelming it. Opt for crisp salads, marinated vegetables, smoked salmon, chilled seafood, or cold cuts. These options provide a balanced start to your meal while leaving room for heartier dishes to come.


3. Explore Ethnic Delicacies:

Many buffets offer a diverse range of international cuisines. Embrace the opportunity to try exotic flavors by sampling ethnic delicacies early in your meal. Indian curries, sushi rolls, Mediterranean mezze, or Thai stir-fries are just some examples of the culinary gems you might find. Exploring these flavors early allows you to savor their unique profiles before your taste buds become saturated.


4. Indulge in Signature Dishes:

Next, move on to the buffet’s signature dishes or chef’s specialties. These are often the highlight of the spread and deserve your attention. Signature dishes can include roast meats, seafood paella, prime rib, or gourmet pasta creations. By indulging in these standout offerings early on, you ensure that you don’t miss out on them if they run out later.


5. Consider the Cooking Stations:

Buffets often feature live cooking stations where chefs prepare made-to-order dishes. These stations provide an opportunity for personalized culinary experiences. Whether it’s a custom pasta dish, a stir-fry station, or a grill station, take advantage of the fresh and customized options available. Engage with the chefs, discuss your preferences, and enjoy the interactive element of having a meal tailored to your liking.

6. Save Room for Comfort Food and Carbohydrates:

As you progress through the buffet, make room for comfort food and carbohydrate-based dishes. These items are often heavier and more filling, so it’s advisable to consume them towards the middle of your meal. Creamy mashed potatoes, buttered rolls, cheesy pastas, or rich stews are comforting choices that provide sustenance and satisfaction.

7. Enjoy Seafood and Meats:

Seafood and meats are usually found in abundance at buffets, making them popular choices for many diners. Save some space in your plate for succulent crab legs, shrimp cocktail, grilled fish, or roasted lamb. As these items tend to require extra time for preparation, it’s best to include them in the latter part of your meal to avoid potential queues or delays.

8. Sample Side Dishes:

Complete your buffet experience by sampling the array of side dishes available. These often include steamed vegetables, rice, bread, or sauces that complement the main courses. Side dishes can add depth to your overall dining experience and create harmonious flavor combinations. Experiment with different pairings to enhance your enjoyment of the meal.

9. Leave Room for Desserts:

No buffet experience is complete without indulging in the tempting desserts on offer. As you approach the end of your meal, leave some space to savor sweet treats such as cakes, pastries, ice creams, or fruit platters. Alternatively, consider taking a break and returning to the dessert section separately to fully appreciate these delectable offerings.

10. Do different cultures or regions have specific customs or traditions regarding what to eat first at a buffet?

Yes, different cultures and regions may have specific customs or traditions regarding what to eat first at a buffet. While there are no universal rules, many cultures have their own preferences and etiquettes when it comes to navigating a buffet. Here are some examples of customs and traditions related to buffet dining in different regions:

Western Countries: In Western countries, it is common to start with appetizers or salads before moving on to main courses and desserts. This follows the traditional three-course meal structure, where lighter dishes are consumed first, followed by heartier options and ending with desserts.

Chinese Cuisine: In Chinese culture, there is often an emphasis on balance and variety. When dining at a buffet, it is common to start with cold dishes or appetizers, such as salads, cold meats, or seafood. Then, guests may proceed to soups, followed by a selection of main dishes, including meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetable dishes. Finally, desserts are enjoyed towards the end of the meal.

Japanese Cuisine: In Japanese cuisine, there is a concept known as “ichiju-sansai,” which means “one soup, three dishes.” It is customary to start a meal with a bowl of soup, followed by a selection of three main dishes that may include fish, meat, vegetables, or tofu. This concept can be adapted to buffet settings, where guests may start with miso soup and then move on to various dishes offered at the buffet.

Indian Cuisine: In Indian culture, the meal is typically centered around rice or bread, accompanied by a variety of dishes. At a buffet, it is common to start with appetizers or street food items, such as samosas or pakoras. Then, guests can move on to rice or bread along with a selection of curries, dals, and vegetable dishes. Desserts, such as gulab jamun or kheer, are enjoyed at the end of the meal.

Middle Eastern Cuisine: Middle Eastern cuisine often features a variety of mezze or small plates. In a buffet setting, guests may start with a selection of cold mezze, such as hummus, tabbouleh, or baba ganoush. This is followed by hot mezze like falafel, kebabs, or stuffed grape leaves. Finally, guests may enjoy main dishes, such as grilled meats or stews, and end the meal with sweet treats like baklava or kunafa.

It’s important to note that these customs and traditions can vary within each culture and may also depend on the specific occasion or event. Additionally, personal preferences and dietary restrictions may influence an individual’s choices at a buffet. Overall, buffet dining allows flexibility for guests to choose their preferred order of dishes, while cultural customs can serve as general guidelines.


Navigating a buffet can be an exciting adventure for any food enthusiast. By following these guidelines, you can create a well-rounded and satisfying dining experience. Remember to survey the spread, start with fresh salads, explore ethnic delicacies, indulge in signature dishes, enjoy live cooking stations, save room for comfort food, sample seafood and meats, savor side dishes, and finally, leave room for dessert. With this strategic approach, you can make the most of your buffet outing and relish every bite along the way. Bon appétit!



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023