Food for Thought: Conference Dining, Funchal Madeira

Back in June of 2007 I attended the ICEIS Conference held in Funchal, Madeira. It’s a small island that is part of Portugal, situated just off the coast of Morocco and about 550km north of the Canary Islands. Roughly 60km to the north of Madeira is the island of Porto Santo, where Christopher Columbus lived for a number of years. As with any academic conference one can expect a formal dinner held one evening during the event. Before the actual dinner we were taken on a short guided tour of the city, before arriving the venue for the conference dinner, which happened to be held at Mayor’s/Governor’s Residence. We were present for just a short while admiring the architecture of the building before the doors to where the buffet was located were opened. We all gathered round the main table where the buffet was on display and spent what seemed like ten minutes just looking at the wonderous arrangement. The question on many people’s minds was should we eat it, just stand back and admire it, or take out all those digital cameras and photograph it. After some time it was decided the only option was to sample the huge variety that was spread out before us. Chatting with the chef’s we learned that it took a small team of them an entire day to prepare the arrangement. It was clear that a huge amount of time and effort went into carving all the intricate details from the various mellons to the mass of mice created for one display. In the central region of the table can be see quite a nice ice sculpture of a horses head. I have been to quite a number of conferences and workshop’s before this event as well as after, and haven’t seen any other that comes close to this standard of presentation. This was certainly the most exciting conference dinner from a food perspective that I have attended to-date. I now use use this as the bar to judge all other conference dinners by. The following are a few photographs of the display that in no real shape or form does proper justice to seeing the presentation of this buffet in real life. It should at least give you some small impression of what a great evening it was.

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