Inviting guests into your home is definitely a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be stressful! Every hostess (beginner or pro) has the task of ensuring your guests feel welcomed and leave your home satisfied from the lovely conversation and, of course, delicious food. At House Beautiful, we love learning more practical hosting tips and tricks—and there’s no greater expert in the art of being a gracious host than award-winning Top Chef host and author Padma Lakshmi. And her most important advice? It’s not worth getting stressed. “If the host is relaxed, then your guests are guaranteed to have a great time,” says Lakshmi.
As Maison Boursin’s Host in Residence, Lakshmi invited us into her space to learn how to create a memorable dinner at your home, no matter the occasion. She also taught us the magic to cooking elevated Maison Boursin-inspired dishes (Boursin e Pepe coming right up!). Read on below for tips you’ll be sure to use for your next dinner party!
1. Cook Smarter, Not Harder
“Whether it’s brunch or dinner, pick a menu where 70% of your meal can be prepared the day before,” Lakshmi advises. If you usually find yourself jumping from your seat at the table into the kitchen, this will save you from the stress of feeling like you’re on a cooking competition. Enjoy the night with the guests you invited to experience the evening with you!
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Plan your menu around cooking a tasty meal that shows you put in effort without breaking a major sweat in front of your guests. Make the sauce for a pasta the day before and have the pasta ready to go once your guests arrive! It’s also great to have a charcuterie board ready with a blend of savory and sweet, spicy and briny with lots of texture. Lakshmi suggests including nuts, preserves, and chutneys on hand to dress things up.
2. Get Your Guests Involved
Help your guests feel a part of the meal by having tasks that aren’t a major lift, but important enough that their contribution makes an impact. “I don’t like stiff parties that are so perfect. It makes your guests feel like they have to be stiff and proper. No one wants to be at that party,” Lakshmi expresses.
If someone asks, “What should I bring?” take them up on it, Lakshmi urges. Allow your guests to fill in the gaps on the meals or courses you’re not interested in. You can ask your friends when they come over to help you make a salad, guacamole, or even drinks. For the friends who don’t know each other, assign them a task that allows conversation. They’ll find something in common!
Love tips from tastemakers? Us, too. Let’s obsess over them together.
3. Cut Down Your Flowers
Everyone loves a centerpiece, especially when it’s a stunning array of flowers. But you should totally be able to see your guests’ faces across the table! Decorating the table should be conducive to conversation, not make it harder. If your arrangement is too high or gets in the way of connecting, cut down the stems. Spread the flowers that got away on the table for added drama. You can also add flair and depth by arranging different heights of candles.
“Sometimes a more organic, simple floral arrangement is the most beautiful,” Lakshmi argues. “You don’t have to break your bank with flowers.” Bonus tip? If you have kids at home, asking them to tear the petals from roses or daisies will help them feel a part of the process. When guests come and praise your tablescape, you can point to your hostess in the making for their attention-grabbing work.
4. Put Your Guests First
Whether it’s through their favorite dish, furniture that caters to their comfort, or awareness of allergies to flowers, thinking of your guests as you plan will make for a smooth-sailing party. “Let your guest list dictate your movements in your home,” Lakshmi states.
This tip even goes for expecting when your guests will arrive! If you know your siblings are always late, wait a little longer before boiling the pasta. “Have snacks for the guests who are punctual so there is enough for them to munch on,” she continues. Keep your dimmer lights low enough for intrigue and intimate conversations and no one will notice the wait.
5. Always Have a Party Trick
For Lakshmi, keeping her guests on their toes is one of the highlights of the meal. The most clever way to do it is through scents! Lakshmi relies on this $12 kitchen essential from Amazon to keep her family and friends guessing. “I am obsessed with using a microplane. It creates such fine strains of either lemon zest or parmesan or nutmeg–it has changed my life.”
The zest of a lime will freshen up a salad and add a citrus aroma into your home. You can also layer scents by choosing fragrant flowers. Next, burn incense an hour before guests arrive and you’ll have a customized smell without lighting a candle.
Your guests will take notes the next time they come over thanks to these helpful tips. Finally, you can enjoy your well-thought-out dinner plans in style and with ease.
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