A buffet-style dinner requires chafing dish racks to suspend the chafing dishes over a fuel can to keep food hot. Wire chafing dish racks are the least expensive option, perfect for a budget event, but their simple design makes the buffet table look plain. You can't wrap the chafing dish racks in decorative paper or fabric because of the fuel can beneath the dish, but there are other options for making chafing dishes look good.
Create a Distraction
Wire chafing dish racks don't look particularly impressive, but their streamlined design also makes it easy for them to blend in on a buffet table. Decorate the buffet table around the racks so their lack of design goes unnoticed. A sleek and easy option is to use wrinkle-free white linens to cover the buffet table. Accent the white with silver votive candleholders, silver confetti sprinkled on the tablecloth and elegant silver serving utensils. The silver accents tie in to the silver wire color, making the use of wire seem intentional rather than a budget move. Any number of tablecloth colors and other decorations can draw focus from the wire dishes, but navy blue is another color that pairs particularly well with silver.
Clever Metal Cover-Up
While you should avoid flammable materials as covers for the wire chafing racks, there are numerous metal options, most of which can be found at a hardware store. Look for punched tin with playful quatrefoil or similar cutouts that can be bent around the racks as a screen. Bend over the edges of the tin to avoid dangerous sharp edges. Chicken wire is usually reserved for the barnyard, but if you purchase chicken wire with a fine mesh, it can give the chafing dishes a look similar to a honeycomb pattern.
Exercise Your Trigger Finger
No, not a gun trigger, a spray paint trigger. Cover up the plain metal tones with spray paint in any color of your choice. If the buffet is for a wedding, paint them with the main wedding color, or simply paint them to match the color of your table linens. The wire gets quite hot, especially around the edges that touch the pan, so use a heatproof spray paint that can hold up to hot temperatures without cracking or peeling. Paint is only safe on the wire racks, not in the serving dishes themselves.
Work With What You've Got
Chafing dishes fall a bit short in the design department, with only a series of vertical and metal wires to make up the structure, but you can build on this design by adding wire embellishments between the wires of the frame. Purchase sturdy wire from your local hardware store or a craft store, matching the color of the wire with the wire in the chafing dish rack. Bend the wire into curved designs, such as S-shapes with extra curls at each end. The designs should be large enough to fit between the wires at the top and bottom of the rack. Wrap short lengths of wire to secure the designs to the rack. You can also attach wire in a grid pattern, zigzags or circles.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.