Whenever possible, I love to have family or friends over for a meal at my place especially heading into the festive season. Going through my fair share of hosting, I have learnt a few things that should be done and much more on what should not be done! Here are a few tips to take the stress and uncertainty out of hosting.
Venue – An assessment of your venue is critical. You need an inventory check to figure out how many guests you can accommodate. If you wish to host more folks, temporary fixtures such as foldable tables and chairs, borrowed of course, works a charm.
Format– What type of meal do you have in mind? Do you want a proper sit down dinner? Do you want a ‘standing room only’ finger foods cum cocktails? How about a ‘meet and greet’ style where people can choose to lounge throughout your house? This will also let you decide how many guest to have over.
Decorations – Do you want to bring out the various home wares you have been purchasing but have no excuse to use? Do you want to ‘pimp it up’ by having table settings with personalized touches? My personal preference? Keep it simple and informal.
Invitations – If you want your guests to bring drinks along do make sure that you tell them as part of the invitations. This will help you to manage the types of beverages brought over. Or if you don’t want them to bring anything, let them know as well.
Hosting– Will you be hosting and dining with the guests? Or do you want to be in the kitchen preparing the dishes while your guests eat?
Costs – This is an important consideration when planning your menu. While we all would love to splash out on our family and friends, we will need to decide on a budget and stick to it. If this is a special occasion, or if you are thanking someone, you will probably want to budget more, but make sure you have a budget
Menu – The menu should be matched to your experience and ambition. While tempting to try and pull off an ‘IRON CHEF!’ episode in your home, this adds significantly to your stress level. (I speak from experience!) You will need to decide if you want finger foods / tapas, a 3 course meal, a 5 course feast or a multiple course degustation menu.
Preparation – The more ambitious you are, the more preparation you will need:
- Shopping lists – After you decided on the menu, jot down the specific ingredients that you will need to purchase after checking what you have in your pantry. The temptation to just shop without a list is there but unless you have photographic memory, chances are you will miss something out. I have made my fair share of last minute runs to the grocers and its not fun!
- Cooking instructions – Whether you are following a recipe or something you created. Its good to break down the cooking into clear specific steps on a separate piece of paper which you can place near the stove. A cook book is too cumbersome and takes up too much space. (not to mention that a book on fire is harder and more expensive to put out!) And recalling from scratch means that something may not get added. There were a few times where I opened up my fridge after the dinner and a few ingredients were sitting there!
- Plating and presentation – Especially if you are attempting anything more than 3 courses, its good if you already know which plates or bowls the items are going to be served on. Make sure the plates and bowls are washed, dried and kept aside in an accessible place. Also, if you have in mind garnishes, do make sure these are written down on your cooking instructions. If you can, try to draw out how you think the dishes will be presented.
Photography – If you intend to have photographs of your dishes, make sure that you have someone to help you with that. Set up a small table or surface for photography, which has sufficient light. Otherwise, place a reading lamp near or on the surface. Be prepared for delays when photographs are involved.
Cleaning up – After a long hard day of cooking, see if you can get some help with the washing. Especially if its an informal meal with family or friends. Hey, don’t feel bad! You deserve it!