The Executive dining room at the World Bank

The room mixes many different cuisines in the form of a buffet, so you can test directly a theory of buffets, while holding quality of the kitchen constant.  The cold part of the buffet is excellent, especially the smoked salmon and the prosciutto with melon, both well above typical U.S. standards.  Lamb tends to hold up relatively well in the buffet format.  Avoid anything cooked rapidly at high heat, with sealed-in juices.  Never take most forms of Chinese food from a buffet.  The chicken vindaloo was soggy, though Indian generally does well in the buffet format.  I looked for fermented Korean snacks but in vain.  The shrimp with cilantro was better than expected, vaguely Peruvian.  At no point were they trying to trick me with "filler."  Overall you could do worse than to eat here, which implies donor opinion is a constraint on raising WB salaries explicitly.

What are the other principles for eating properly at buffets?


Overall you could do worse than to eat here, which implies donor opinion is a constraint on raising WB salaries explicitly.

I have to disagree with you. Many organizations are cognisant of the fact that you can better attract and keep employees by spending money on benefits that could be otherwise used for salaries, even if there are no over-all cost savings.

The employee might not feel he has the right to spend the money on "frivolous" expenditures such as a nice lunch when there are more important things like mortgage, education, home improvements, etc. Having the company 'force' him to have a nice lunch is a small guilt-free luxury. One that many employees will return with greater loyalty.

In my many years of reading MR, I think this is perhaps the archetypal example of a Tyler post. If the blgo was burning and you only had time to save one post that summed it up, it would have to be this one.

"What are the other principles for eating properly at buffets?"

Stick to things are normally eaten cold. Cold cuts, Italian spinach pies and Italian bakery pizza come to mind. Soups and stews are good also as long as they have not been on the buffet for too long. Things that we like to eat cold at home.

I am a stranger to the Executive dining room but have eaten in
the "general" cafeteria, which provides a wide variety of buffet foods
at unexorbitant prices, such a variety in fact that choice is far
from easy. The people who, among other things, look after the world's
poor don't fare badly. The poor, however, could
not afford to eat here.

Tom: Tyler was eating in the 'Executive' lunch room, so I would guess that the employees benefiting from the spread can afford a good lunch. Time is likely the main constraint they face, rather than money for lunch. Note that Candadai Tirumalai implies that the general cafeteria is not free, which appears to contradict your theory.

Even though the quality of the kitchen is constant, the quality of the food served depends much more on the type of food that the kitchen is good at preparing. This matters, in my view, far more than whether the food holds up well in a buffer setting (especially if you are dining during lunch, when food turns over quickly because the window for the meal---between 12 and 2---is much more compressed than is the case for dinner). I do think taking food from a Chinese/Indian buffet is okay as long as it is sauce-based and the meat was not previously breaded/battered and fried. One other broad principle I like (other than the key one of not eating fillers): scan the entire buffet before selection. Mixing from starters and mains is fine if the food genre is compatible, but otherwise stick to one style before moving on (Japanese, for example, goes terribly paired with Indian or French, but many Chinese items are fine paired with French or Italian, especially when they are sauce-based; the flavors of course will be distinct).

On a tangential note: In my 3 years at the Bank, I have dined in the Executive dining room a grand total of 3 times, and always on occasion of either a manager-organized lunch or a visiting guest (such as yourself). The regular cafeteria, which fed me all the other times when I didn't bring in leftovers, sells food at a price and quality comparable to area lunch places. It is also just as common to grab food to go and eat at our desks. For my (Singaporean) tastes, the Bank cafeteria does not do Indian or South Asian food well, East Asian food is occasionally good, and the noodle bar is probably the best.

As an aside, for us non-pork eaters could the pork eaters make an effort to ensure that the pork-touched utensils don't touch the non-pork food or worse yet mix the utensils. I am convinced that if restaurants make an effort arrange the bar so as to separate the pork dishes more carefully from the non-pork dishes, business will increase. Similarly, more careful separation between vegetarian and meat offerings will entice vegetarian customers. And, no this does not extend to every possible kind of separation.

If you go to buffets where the food sits out for a long time, you're going to the wrong buffets. Fried food tends to be the best in my opinion, because they're hard to screw up. Have you been to Golden Corral on a Friday night?

Have you been to Golden Corral on a Friday night?

While I'm sure Tyler is not a violent man, I wouldn't be surprised if he would punch someone in the face for asking him that question

Fried chicken does ok in buffet format.
Most deserts do great in buffet format.

rcriii, what I got from the sentence I quoted was that the World Bank would pay their executives more instead of putting the money into food except they are constrained by their donors.

I was claiming that trade-off might well take place even in the absence of external constraints and implying that the general assumption of "give the employees a great wad of cash and let them decide what to spend it on" doesn't always maximize their welfare. We're homo sapiens, not homo economus.

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