From an original event involving 150 guests, the Nobel Banquet has grown into an enormous spectacle with more than 1,000 guests and the tremendous preparation such a spectacle requires.

The 2013 menu is kept secret until 1 p.m. EST on Dec. 10 (7 p.m. in Stockholm). We can share with you the menu of the Nobel banquet of 101 years ago, 1913. Start cooking and invite your friends to enjoy the 1913 Nobel banquet (Recipes and images of a menu that works as well today as it did in 1913) in your own home.


It wouldn’t be a stretch to compare the Nobel Banquet to the opening act of a famous play—one by Shakespeare, or Ibsen or Strindberg, with a plot everyone recognizes. But despite knowing how the evening will end, the audience still likes to be charmed, seduced and surprised by some new unexpected angle. (Curious about the manbehind the prize? Read Nobel by name, noble by nature

Both the banquet and the play involve working with a particular script, finding dramatic peaks, selecting performers, plus choosing the stage design, costumes, rehearsals and music for the perfect opening night.

The Nobel Banquet menu is, without exaggeration, one of the main attractions of the Nobel Prize ceremony—a dramatic peak, if you will—for both guests and chefs. Few chefs ever get the opportunity to create such an historic menu. The City Hall caterers now divide the honor among selected chefs. The guidelines are fairly simple: The meal must be varied and Scandinavian in character. And, it has to travel well: The kitchen is located four floors above the Blue Hall, so the food will have a trip to make before reaching the guests.

Each September, three suggested menus are prepared for testing and tasting. The group responsible for the menu is Föreningen Årets Kock, or the Chef of the Year Association. No later than October, an expert panel consisting of well-known restaurateurs and the Nobel Foundation’s own gourmets conduct their investigations.

The menu that this jury chooses is kept secret until 7 p.m. on December 10. Only one thing is certain: Dessert will include ice cream.

Working the actual banquet is a coveted honor as well, although it could very well be compared to a running a marathon. Many staff members return year after year, and there are waiters who have taken part more than 25 times.

Preparations begin in the kitchen three days before the big day. Everyone works according to a strict schedule. Food is diced, sliced, peeled, fried, seasoned and tasted. Each dish is prepared down to the last detail so that it can be quickly finished when the guests arrive.
The shopping list for the slightly fewer than 1,268 covers is impressive, to say the least. One year it included 2,692 pigeon breasts, 475 lobster tails, over 200 lbs. of potatoes, 20 gallons of sweet-and-sour raspberry vinegar sauce, 140 lbs. of artichokes, 120 lbs. of Philadelphia cream cheese and 95 lbs. of smoked salmon, among other items.

Meanwhile, the serving staff rehearses. Stopwatch in hand, the banquet manager oversees all the movement between tables, looking for a second to be saved here or there. The ice cream parade, one of the evening’s highlights, must be served within three minutes. The time is calculated from the moment when the first waiter appears in the doorway until the last one reaches his table. All other courses take two minutes to serve.
The day of the event, the schedule is packed with activity: Thirty people lay out 65 tables in their exact positions in the Blue Hall, and 500 yards of tablecloth are rolled out. Then comes the Nobel dinner service consisting of 6,730 pieces of porcelain, 5,384 glasses and 9,422 pieces of cutlery. The same care is taken for each place setting, be it at the table of honor or the table reserved for students from Sweden’s universities.

In today’s media-driven world, it would be easy to believe that the banquet’s split-second timing is dictated by the live television schedules and sacrosanct commercial breaks being shown around the world. But that is not the case. It is simply a question of the guests’ being served the best possible quality food at the absolutely proper time.

When the big moment finally arrives, the dress rehearsal is over and the actual performance can begin. In 2012, guests were served:
Appetizers: Marinated Arctic char with cauliflower terrine,
Kalix bleak roe and dill mayonnaise
Main course: Pheasant with chanterelle mushrooms,
poached pear, winter vegetables,
almond potato purée and red wine gravy.
Dessert: Trilogy of cherries with pistachio-covered
mascarpone cheese and black cherry sorbet.

Although this year’s recipes are not yet available, we continue our series of Nobel recipes with the original menu from one hundred years ago, 1913: 1913 Nobel banquet Start cooking and invite your friends to enjoy a genuine Nobel banquet in your own home. Bon Appetit!