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Mass Production Cooking/finger food for 1000 people


I am chairperson for our church's open house from 4-7pm, but pastor wants it private from 2-4pm for out-of-town guests only. We want finger food. The tentative menu is: chicken salad croissants, deli spread sandwich quarters, hot sausage (2 slices/pick--his favorite), hot toasted ravioli w/hot marinara, veggies w/dip, fresh fruit, Italian cookies, mini cannoli and brownie bites. We have pizza, nachos and popcorn for kids. Volunteers can handle making all of the above, but do you think this menu sounds cohesive? Would shrimp cocktail be an easy add-on only for the 2-4pm guests? Do you have any advice for simple, alternate menu items? Will the food look and taste fresh for 5 hours on a buffet?

Your menu does sound cohesive.  I like it.

However, 5 hours on a buffet is too long.  You should have one buffet from 2-4, then clear it away and set up another from 4-7.  Even if it's the same food, the buffet needs to be refreshed every two hours.  Deli meats can become potentially hazardous after 2 hours at room temperature.  All cold items need to be kept at 40F during service to limit bacterial growth.  Trays of sliced meats can be displayed on a tray that is placed on top of ice.

The hot ravioli must be kept at 140F or above during service for the same reason.

I wouldn't add shrimp cocktail, it will increase your costs dramatically and the potential for foodborne illness because fish is potentially hazardous.

My suggestion would be a fruit and cheese display.  It's inexpensive, easy to display and everyone likes it.  In addition, you can make Canapes.  These are small two-bite appetizers on a toast round.  

Take a French bread loaf and cut into small slices.  Brush the slices with butter or olive oil and garlic and toast them under the broiler.  Then, you can place diced roasted vegetables, asparagus spears wrapped in ham, tuna salad, or crab dip on them.

Please be aware that you have an awesome responsibility to assure the safety of the food.  You are responsible for the personal hygiene of everyone that prepares the food, and the temperature to which it's cooked and held for service.  It would be terrible to make everyone sick.

Mass Production Cooking

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Chef Todd Mohr. CCE


I'd be glad to answer your questions about how basic cooking methods apply equally to cooking for two in your home, or 1000 for an event. Please don't ask me how much to order from the caterer or deli. That's up to them to consult you on. If you are doing the actual cooking, I can help. My expertise is in cooking for more than 100 people. Your questions concerning cooking methods, amount to purchase, portioning, strategies for food service, and food safety for large production are welcomed. There are plenty of recipe websites on the internet. Please don't ask me for recipes. I don't believe in written instructions for cooking anyway. The more information you give while asking your question, the better response I can give. "How do I feed 100 people at my daughter's wedding?" is too broad of a question. "If I plan to offer chicken and beef for 100 people, how much chicken should I purchase?" is a better question. Visit my website at LIKE ChefToddMohr on Facebook Subscribe to ChefToddMohr on YouTube


I'm certified by the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Culinary Educator. I'm currently a Chef Instructor at three different culinary schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously an Executive Chef at a large hospital, feeding 3000 people three times daily over 8 different menus. Also a Chef at The National Security Agency in Washington, DC, part of a team feeding 15,000 people twice daily. Then, General Manager/Executive Chef of various Business Dining Cafeterias, feeding thousands daily. My catering company has hosted many large events, feeding up to 1000 people.

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Bachelor of Arts, Long Island University Associate of Arts, Baltimore International Culinary College

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