A good dinner party is unforgettable; a really bad dinner party even more so, but for rather different reasons. We spoke to caterer George Rouse to get his top tips to guide you through the minefield of food, etiquette and atmosphere.
Organising and executing the perfect dinner party can be extremely stressful and hosts often feel under pressure to impress. George Rouse, owner of George’s Kitchen, has been catering dinner parties for many of London’s elite for the past 12 years – here’s his guide on how to get it right.
Keep the menu simple
Aside from the great company, the most important element of the evening is the food. This is your chance to be creative and show off your culinary skills – but don’t show off too many of them at once. The key is finding the balance between an impressive menu and not being too ambitious – it’ll only increase stress on the day.
When creating bespoke menus, I usually try and keep it simple with only three or four items on a plate so as to not over complicate. Trust me: focusing on serving three perfect items will only help enhance the up-scale home-cooked feel you’re after.
Get yourself the right equipment
Gadgets aren’t always gimmicks when it comes to food – they can be indispensable tools to help you execute your dishes as well as you possibly can, and a I have three I couldn’t do without. A good blender will help you make silky-smooth purées; a Japanese mandolin will take seconds to make wafer-thin slices that would take an age – and probably look terrible – if you tried to do them with a knife; and a digital temperature probe takes the guesswork out of meat, letting you achieve that medium-rare finish you’re after.
Prepare as much as you can as early as you can
There is nothing worse than a guest arriving and you still have 100 things left to do in the kitchen. Preparing things the day before is always a good way to avoid stress, whether it is a dauphinoise potato gratin that needs to be set and pressed to achieve neat perfect squares or even par-boiling and fluffing your potatoes for a crisp roast potato. Even the smallest jobs will save you time on the day.
Engineer the atmosphere by baking
Good ambience is something else which will help lower the stress levels and keep things going smoothly. I always play with different senses to create ambience: music is always great and can fill any breaks in conversation, but one of the most powerful tricks is with scent.
I aways bake some fresh bread before guests arrive. Something like focaccia or soda bread will only take 20 minutes to make but will fill the house with such homely senses, which really relaxes guests.
Don’t forget to join in the fun yourself
Many people who throw dinner parties get overly fixated on the cooking, so much so that they end up in the evening most of the night rather than spending time with their guests. The best way to get around this is to hire a caterer to take care of things for you, but if you feel the need to cook yourself then always be conscious of how much time you’re spending away from the table.
For more information on George’s Kitchen, please visit www.georgeskitchen.co.uk.
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