Top 5 tips for the perfect dinner party – according to cooking expert Chris Sim
“I cook community meals for more than 2,000 people every year - and these are my five top tips to put on the perfect dinner party.”
Cooking expert Chris Sim, 35, says hosts need to learn the art of delegation, not sweat the small stuff - and create a ‘timeline’ of the meal to make sure it goes to plan.
He honed his expert know-how for putting on a foodie event by volunteering with FoodCycle for the last six years, a charity which aims to reduce food poverty and social isolation with community meals.
Working with the Finsbury Park project, Chris would help transform surplus food into restaurant-standard meals, inspired by cuisines from around the world.
When Chris and his fellow volunteers turn up each Saturday, they normally have no idea what surplus ingredients they will receive until they enter their community kitchen that same day.
Furthermore, they only have three hours to create three courses for 40-50 guests - which is quite a daunting task for those who aren’t used to this sort of challenge.
But Chris said it’s about the art of collaboration combined with delegation - pooling ideas from many different people (or cookbooks), then getting people to buy into the idea, followed by delegating individual tasks, should lead to a top-notch result.
And although it is easier said than done, he recommends not fretting about the smallest details - as long as it’s done with love and care, guests will appreciate it.
Lastly, pre-planning is key when you have many mouths to feed, creating a timeline of prep can help to create a slick process to getting everything served on time.
Serving the community
Chris, from Ealing, London, said: “When you are preparing food and a lovely occasion for many people, as soon as you relinquish a little bit of control and realise you can’t do everything - things tend to run a lot smoother.
“From the outset, always pull in as many helpers as possible - and give a few tasks for others to own while you can focus on what you’re best at.
“Combining other people’s ideas, alongside your own, not only makes people more motivated to help you, it tends to deliver a tastier, more creative result.”
Chris Sim’s dinner party advice comes as a study of 2,000 adults found 72 per cent of people that have ever had people round for dinner, enjoy hosting.
And the research, via OnePoll.com, showed 23 per cent would like to extend their hosting or cooking skills by sharing them with the local community.
When asked what qualities makes a good host or hostess, being welcoming (74 per cent), relaxed (64 per cent) and attentive (53 per cent) are some of the most important elements.
And when it comes to hosting a dinner party specifically, the quality of food on offer is the most important thing (57 per cent).
The research was conducted by community dining charity, FoodCycle, which hopes to rally home chefs and dinner party hosts to help meet their 10,000-volunteer target.
CEO Mary McGrath said: ‘’Week in, week out, thousands of volunteers like Chris Sim across the country help transform surplus food into delicious vegetarian meals for anyone that needs them, no questions asked.
“As a nation of dinner party hosts and home cooks, we want to encourage more people to take that skillset from the home and extend to the wider community.
“Over the last year, we have seen a 59 per cent increase in the number of community meals being served and with cost of living and rising food prices, we anticipate this demand will continue to increase.’’
’’Volunteers Week, which starts today, presents the perfect time for people to get more involved.”
Chris’s top tips to putting on the perfect dinner party
- Collaboration enables delegation – pooling ideas from many different people, then getting people to buy into a shared vision for a meal, will make those helping you more motivated.
- Utilise ideas from your travels or family and friends from other parts of the world. Try to remember that dish, flavour combination or ingredient that made your holiday that little bit more memorable.
- Although it is easier said than done, don’t fret about the smallest details – as long as it’s done with love and care, your guests will appreciate it.
- Pre-planning is a must when you have many mouths to feed, creating a timeline of prep – which includes everything from when the food needs to go into the oven to dressing the table – can help to create a slick process to getting everything served on time.
- Try to smile, relax and even have a laugh during the process - you’re more likely to enjoy cooking, which will translate into tastier, more memorable food.