Service à la française

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Service à la française (French: "service in the French style") is the practice of serving various dishes of a meal at the same time, in contrast to service à la russe (in French, "service in the Russian style"), where the dishes are brought sequentially and served individually.[1] Formal dinners were served à la française from the Middle Ages until the 19th century.

The meal is divided into three services: soup and fish; roasts; and desserts. Each service includes a variety of dishes, all served at the same time at the table with desserts and appetizers. Guests gather around the table and serve themselves standing by choosing foods that suit them. The table is set and served before the arrival of guests, with the waiters progressively bringing in new serving dishes to replace those emptied, so that the table is always filled with food.

However, unless the kitchen and staff are large in relation to the number of persons being served, it is not possible for all dishes to be served at their optimum temperature. Modern fine-dining restaurants provide dishes sequentially, so that they may be enjoyed individually, a style called service à la russe.

A modified form of service à la française in which several large dishes are brought out for each diner to help themselves from is known as "family-style" in less formal restaurants, as they replicate the typical way in which small family meals are served.

The buffet style is essentially a variation of the French service in which all of the food is available, at the correct temperature, in a serving space other than the dining table, and guests commute there to be served or sometimes to serve themselves, and then carry their plate back to the table. Buffets vary from the very informal (a gathering of friends in a home, or the serving of brunch at a hotel) to the rather formal setting of a wedding reception, for example. The buffet format is preferred in occasions where a very large number of guests are to be accommodated efficiently by a small number of service personnel.

Around the Mediterranean, it is common to eat tapas- or meze-style, where several small dishes or large variety platters are presented for the diners to share at their pleasure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Service à la Russe CuisineNet. Retrieved: 2012-12-01.

Further reading[edit]

  • All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present by Stephen Mennell. University of Illinois, 1995.
  • The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners by Margaret Visser. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
  • Food in History by Reay Tannahill. New York: Crown, 1995.
  • Patrick Rambourg, Histoire de la cuisine et de la gastronomie françaises, Paris, Ed. Perrin (coll. tempus n° 359), 2010, 381 pages. ISBN 978-2-262-03318-7