It was late last year that Jonah Reider descended on our shores to host a pop-up in the form of ‘Auckland’s smallest restaurant‘. Schooling us on the art of entertaining guests when faced with the most confined of spaces — his Columbia University dormitory for example — we figured we’d gladly channel his integral tips for our next intimate dinner party.
1. Part of being a good cook is being a good curator
You don’t have to create everything from scratch. There is nothing wrong with bringing in an awesome dish or ingredient. For instance, why would I make salami if I can buy an incredible one from my favourite deli?
2. Have ice on hand
Drinking goes hand in hand with food and uses ice faster than you think. Ice also helps people drink more slowly because it takes up space in a glass. Have a bunch of ice trays or a bag of ice on hand and you’ll be able to entertain for longer than you thought.
3. Don’t worry about recipes and buying really specific ingredients
Pick up quality, seasonal produce that’s available locally, don’t spend more money than you want, and figure out a way to whip it into something amazing once you’re home!
4. Stock your pantry well with good quality basics
Such as spices and olive oil. Then if you pick up a few things last minute, whatever you feel like or whatever your guests bring over, you’ll be ready to go.
5. Use a versatile kitchen appliance
Which will quickly become your best friend in the kitchen. KitchenAid’s Artisan Mini is perfect as it opens up endless possibilities – from burgers and sausages to bread, spiralised vegetables and dessert. Plus you can finish off some dishes right in front of the guests, which will create theatre, conversation and a sense of inclusivity.
6. Pick awesome music
It sets the tone and helps guests relax. (Download Jonah’s cooking playlist here.)
7. Take a bit of pressure off
Snacks served at room temperature are awesome as you can prep them beforehand and your guests can nibble away as you ready the first course. Nuts, dips and artisan meats will do the trick.
8. Don’t get hung up on one course, especially if it’s super complicated
It’s better to serve a handful of small plates than slave away on one. Plus if it goes wrong, you have other awesome dishes to fall back on.
9. Guests are there for a good time as well as good food
Don’t sweat the details. Set the mood with music and simple, small décor touches such as candles. Conversation is key. Your guests don’t all need to know each other. It’s about a good mix of personalities, interests and outlooks that will create awesome conversations and memories.
10. Don’t get stressed in the kitchen
It makes guests stressed. Have fun when you screw up!