How to Entertain Like a Chef, by a Chef

Ashton Keefe  is a classically trained chef with a passion for all things food.  She has worked with acclaimed chefs such as Marc Forgione and Marcus Samuelsson, as well  TV personalities and chefs Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri and Curtis Stone. She’s been featured many times on the Food Network and  writes for O Magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Shape, Food52, Whole Foods Market and many others. Be sure to keep an eye out for Ashton’s new cookbook-  “Lemon & Salt: A Modern Girls’ Guide to Culinary Revelry.” It will be available Spring 2015! – –


A chef is the quarterback of a restaurant. His or her mood directly and indirectly “sets the scene” with how the room vibes and the people in it feel. The stakes are even higher during the holidays, when every candle, drink and appetizer feels like the most important thing on the planet. Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. You are the star of your parties and setting the scene is key, here’s how you can entertain like a chef.

Having a party is all about organization. The same is true for restaurants, family or friends. Organizing your pantry, fridge and coming up with a game plan in the days leading up to an event is more than half the battle. Here are a few tricks of the trade:


Organizing Your (Party) Pantry

1) Stock up on entertaining essentials. This means items like olives, cheese, crackers, dried fruits, nuts or anything that can be thrown on a plate in a moments notice, or careful arranged with ample time.

2) Pick a number one. No one likes to pick favorites, but you have to when it comes to entertaining. You can Pinterest 10 appetizers to make (and food style, obviously) and expect to maintain sanity. Choose one start item to plate and serve. Having one great item is better than multiple sloppy items.

3) Keep it simple, stupid. Not that you’re stupid, but when entertaining and serving a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) think easier methods such as a buffet or family style. People gravitate towards conviviality.


Organizing Your Wine Selection

Being the host is all about delegating tasks and pleasing your guests. It also means you need to have variety … but, not too much. When hosting a party I like to offer two options: a red and a white. If the occasion feels festive I usually start with a sparkling wine or Champagne.

If choosing only  one white and one red, the trick is to make sure those wines are easy to drink, work across multiple culinary courses and appeal to all palates.

To recap …

1) Don’t go crazy, pick one type of each varietal.

2) Pick a price point and buy by the case.

3) Choose wines for your crowd. Wine/foodies? Go with something outside-of-the-box. Simple friends and family gathering or a wide spectrum? Go with faithful standbys.


Organize Your Night (aka Enjoy Yourself at the Party)

In a restaurant little to no prep is done during service, everything is “mise en place” before service, which means, “getting everything ready.” The same thing can be done for a home cook a day, an hour or even a week before the dinner you’re preparing.  A little chopping, shopping or prepping the night before the event can make a party run like clockwork.

1) Grocery shop once. It’s hard to avoid I know, but think about it, who wants to shop the day away? Or run around from store to store? Line up everything you’d like to eat, stick to it and purchase once. You’ll save time, money and stress.

2) Do what you can and don’t feel guilty. Entertaining is not about being ambitious. Entertaining is about being honest and realistic about your expectations. Use premade items as a helper not a guilt-inducer.

3) Understand the importance of entertaining. It isn’t about what you make, it’s about who you break bread with. Spreading time with your family and teaching is the most important thing about holiday entertaining. Believe me, they don’t care what you’re eating.




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