...and the Best Home Cooks of Chicago are Marc and Ryan Sievers!
First, let me start by trying to express just how excited Ryan and I are to have competed on Food Network's Bobby's Dinner Battle and been chosen as the Best Home Cooks of Chicago by Bobby Flay! It was a fantastically fun and enlightening adventure for us and the reward for our teamwork and dedication was spectacular!
As Ryan and I were reminiscing about the challenges and different stresses in the heat of the kitchen for Bobby's Dinner Battle I realized that, though there was a lot of action and drama, we have actually be through similar experiences when there weren't any cameras rolling (so far minus a celebrity chef and competitors!).
For Bobby's Dinner Battle we had to conceptualize a dinner party based on a theme, with a time constraint for shopping (with a budget), and get our food ready for the table, before our doorbell rang. We had to impress. This was no small feat to do with TV cameras chasing us around, but equally is no small feat in everyday life. Just because most kitchen's don't have a red blinking clock counting down doesn't mean it doesn't sometimes feel like it's there, stressing you out before your dinner party guests arrive.
I host dinner parties and cocktail parties, both personal and for clients, on a weekly basis and I am constantly looking for ways to save time and reduce stress while keeping the experience elevated and a cut above the rest. As a result I have definitely discovered some useful tips, tricks, and no-nonsense rules of entertaining that I live by! Here are just a few of my "words of entertaining wisdom" I have up my sleeve (or in my apron pocket) to get your prepared for your next gathering!
Choose a theme! Having a theme for your party, and the food you serve, is essential. But, don’t go overboard! Try not to be too literal with your tablescapes. Add smaller details that will evoke your theme's sentiment. By keeping it simple (which is not the same thing as barren), it will always be chic and stylish!
Plan a fabulous menu! Choose your dishes to compliment the occasion or theme of your event and balance between starters, side dishes, and the main course. Serving a filling main course? Then prepare fewer and lighter complimentary side dishes. Planning a decedent dessert? Then less is more when it comes to extras like hearty breads or heavy starters.
Set your table the night before. One of the easiest tricks to save yourself stress on the day of your party is to have set your table the night before. You can take your time to make sure all of your details are in place, and you will have time to fix or work around any problems you might discover (like a torn tablecloth or wax-encrusted candle stick). This trick will leave you more time on the day of the party for other details, or to just relax.
Plan your serving dishes. Decide what serving dishes you are going to use before you even begin cooking. Use sticky notes to organize and help you remember which menu items are going to be placed in which serving dish. This is especially helpful for buffet-style food tables.
Bottoms up! My number one secret is to have a glass of champagne or white wine (red will stain your lips) before the start of the party as a toast to a job well-done and to relax a bit! Also, for the first hour or so I will be greeting and catching up with guests as they arrive and it's hard to hug and shake hands with a glass in my hand!
These simple words of entertaining wisdom just skim the surface of what I have included in my cookbook Entertaining with Love! I promise by following these, and the other rules outlined in my book, you will be sure to have a well-organized and successful party that is fun and you actually enjoy!