The Art Of Entertaining

Aug 1, 2018 | Food and Culture

I am a personal chef. What that means is that people hire me to come to their house and cook for dinner parties, get-togethers, or to teach them how to cook. Every client is different, and their needs are different. Because of this, I create custom menus for all of my clients. I ask them what they like and what they don’t like. I ask them if there is a theme to the party, what the party is for, and what style of food they are looking for. With all this information I create something special just for them. This is the art of entertaining.

Create the party for your guests.

When planning a dinner party or a get together of any kind you have to first think about your guests. Who are you going to invite? Are there any allergies you need to worry about? What kind of foods do your guests like or dislike? All of these things come into play. You don’t want to throw a party serving chicken parmesan only to realize that half your guests can’t eat gluten and half are vegetarian. This is a painfully obvious example but it works in broader terms. You want your guests to enjoy themselves. Make sure you know what they enjoy.

How many people are you going to invite?

This is a very important question, especially if you are doing all the cooking. Obviously, you want all of your guests to be able to sit, so really you are limited by the number of people you can fit around your table. But beyond that, how many can you comfortably cook for? Also, the number of people you invite will dictate a large part of the menu. You want to be able to enjoy your guests. You don’t want to be cooking the entire time. So you have to balance the food around the number of guests and their likes and dislikes.

No matter how many people you are entertaining, any food item that can be prepared ahead of time is a good idea. This becomes exponentially truer for larger groups. This is why things like casseroles, braises, or roasts are great options for dinner parties. These things can all be prepared ahead of time and then just popped in the oven to finish or reheat. You want to avoid dishes that are labour intensive a la minute. Plan dishes that allow you to do all the heavy labour before your guests arrive.

Family-Style vs. Plated

A family-style meal is when all of the food is put out on the table and the guests serve themselves. This is by far the easier of the two dining styles. A plated dinner is one where each course is plated individually. Generally, avoid plated meals for dinner parties, or any kind of gathering unless you have someone else doing the cooking.

What is the party about?

This another important question. Having a definitive idea about what the party is celebrating is a key to success. For example, if your party is celebrating something simple like summer, you probably don’t want dishes that are more associated with winter. Stew would be a good example of this. You want the food to reflect the feel and the mood of the party. If you are throwing a Japanese themed party, you probably don’t want to serve hamburgers.

The theme or the reason for having a party, doesn’t have to be complicated. It could simply be that you wanted to throw a party to get your friends together. In that case, just make the food match the season as best you can. Just remember that if you are throwing a party focusing on food, like celebrating the bounty of fall or whatever, the food better be on point.

What to cook? 

Let’s look at what you shouldn’t cook first. Avoid dishes that you have never made before. I know that it seems like a good idea to make something new to wow and impress your guests. I have personally fallen into this trap a few times and been burnt. There are just too many variables. Also, avoid anything too complicated. Yes, making a perfect souffle is badass, and I’m sure your guests would appreciate it. But do you really want to be thinking about whether or not your souffle is going to fall for the whole party? No. You don’t want that.

Like I said earlier, when entertaining, choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Make dishes that you have made at least once before. And make dishes that are not overly complicated. Honestly, when it comes to entertaining, keep it simple. This is often the most difficult thing to do but your guests want to spend time with you. Don’t let yourself get trapped in the kitchen all night.


Entertaining is a great way to spend time with friends and enjoy each others company. When done well, a dinner party is relaxed, calm, and joyful. It should be the highlight of the week, not something people are dreading. Keeping things light, and simple is generally the best option. Just remember the night is about your guests, spend time with them.



*As a side note, I am taking the rest of the week off as a bit of a vacation so I won’t be writing a post for Friday. I will be back on Monday, so I will see you then. Enjoy your weekend!


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