Want to entertain flawlessly? So do we, so we enlisted recipe developer, food stylist, and author Susan Spungen to share five tips from her new book, What’s a Hostess to Do?, an invaluable resource chock-full of guidance, recipes, and helpful illustrations to help you become a party-throwing pro.—JBF Editors
Make It Ahead
Unless you’re a very confident cook, avoid last-minute cooking at all costs. A frantic or absent chef does not put guests at ease. For many of us, salads and stews are saviors.
Cook What You Know
The day of your party is not the time to practice something fancy that you’ve never even tasted, let alone cooked. Your tried-and-true pot roast may not seem exciting to you, but a solid dish done well is always better than a flashy one gone awry.
Think Like a Chef
Putting all of your ingredients in place before you start to cook (that’s what mise-en-place means in French: “put in place”) will keep your kitchen surfaces clean, neat, and free for the next job and will reduce your chances of making a mistake if you are following a recipe. Keep little bowls of everything you’ll need, already chopped and measured, together on a plate or tray, and all you have to do is add them in succession, not stop to read and measure—or worse, run to the store.
Let Them Bring Wine
When your friends ask if they can bring anything to your dinner party, say yes. Unless it’s a formal dinner to impress your boss or celebrate your grandmother’s birthday, let your guests contribute in small ways. If you can serve the wine they bring you, you will save a lot of money. People like to contribute, and if you give them a little direction, everyone will be happy.
Make a Seating Arrangement
Unless the dining table is very small, people will most likely chat with those seated beside them. If it’s left up to us, we usually take a seat next to a friend or significant other, but it can be a wonderful thing to be gracefully nudged into getting acquainted with someone new. After all, countless romances and friendships date back to some distant
Excerpted from What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen (Artisan Books, 2013).