Six Etiquette Rules To Elevate Your Home Entertaining Game
Everyone loves a summer dinner party. The long days and steamy nights offer a perfect opportunity to host a glamourous outdoor soirée. Good food, great conversation and plenty of refreshments are essential, but there’s more to it if you really want to impress.
Australian chef Andy Allen, one of the co-owners of restaurant group Three Blue Ducks and recently announced judge of Masterchef Australia, has plenty of experience catering for large crowds. And, despite not having a backyard at his Bondi apartment, he loves any excuse to escape the kitchen to cook and dine outdoors too.
Whatever the occasion, whatever the budget, he says these tips can help you elevate your next dinner party or summer soirée and become the new king or queen of entertaining.
Treat it like a restaurant
We’ve all been there. The guests have arrived, champagne and conversation are flowing freely, and you’re squirreled away in a kitchen surrounded by pots and pans just waiting for the party to be over. But there is a way to have your cake (or steak) and eat it too.
The secret is to treat the experience like your own restaurant, doing as much preparation as you can in the lead up before guests arrive. That way, all you have left to do is assemble.
“Prep is crucial,” Allen says. “If you think you’re going to wait until the morning of your event to bust out your prep out and it’s all going to run smooth, you’ve probably got rocks in your head. Do as much as you can in advance, so on the day you can enjoy yourself like everyone else does.”
Design a flexible menu
In Allen’s catering experience at Three Blue Ducks, around 25 per cent people have dietary requirements, whether it might be vegetarian or intolerances such as dairy. With this in mind, he suggests creating a menu flexible enough you can easily adapt or modify it.
“Having different items on the menu is important – a mix of hot and cold dishes always goes down well in summer,” he says. “I always try to include a meat, a fish, and a vegetarian dish, or have something where you can easily take out one element without sacrificing taste.
“Just be mindful who’s coming over too, that way you’re not thrown any curve balls.”
Use indigenous ingredients for added flair
Want to dazzle your friends and family with something they’ve probably haven’t seen or tasted before? It’s as easy as incorporating some native ingredients into your menu.
“Indigenous ingredients are a lot more accessible. They’re native to our country, so there’s no reason we should shy away from them. It can be as simple as freshly shucking oysters and sprinkling over finger lime. 90 per cent of your guests won’t have ever tried it.”
Music can make or break a party
Music is an essential ingredient to any event, but even more so when entertaining outdoors. It can have a huge impact on the mood of you and your guests too. If you misread the crowd and put on the wrong tunes, it can quickly bring the mood south.
Allen recommends always having a backup with a lot of different genres ready to go, just in case. That way if something’s not working, you can easily boost the vibe if needed.
Rather than drag your expensive speakers outside, it’s a good idea to have a quality portable option, such as the Wonderboom2, which has a long battery life and is tuned for outside listing.
An open flame is all the styling you need
“If you’re cooking over an open flame, then that’s your styling covered. It can make a huge difference to the theatre and atmosphere. And it makes the food taste better too.”
Allen recommends starting with a small Japanese-style hibachi charcoal grill, then moving to larger options. If you’re new to using an open flame, he says test it out on a small group of people first and then dazzle your friends when you’re more confident.
The Everdure Cube by Heston Blumenthal is a great option for beginners, and its portable enough to take just about anywhere. When you’re ready for the next level, you could move up to an Argentinian style asado like the one used at Three Blue Ducks in Rosebery.
Socialise while you cook
Being able to socialise while you cook is vital, says Allen. Both for you and your guests.
“People haven’t come to just spend five minutes with you. They want to spend a whole afternoon or evening enjoying your company. You want to feel like you are part of the day too, not just a caterer or personal chef. Again, prep will help with that.”
“You may not nail it at your first dinner party, but over time you’ll get a feel for what you can do before so you can just relax and have a good time.”
Beyond these tips, it’s about balance. In the menu, in the ratio of food to drinks, and being a great host to all your guests while still enjoying yourself. Oh, and don’t forget the ice.
Published 12 December, 2019