23 Dinner Party Tips For Hosting with the Most

September 16, 2015

We’ve partnered with Stella Artois to host Genius Recipes dinners in some of our favorite cities across the country. 

Today: Tips and tricks for hosting like you do it every weekend (you do, right?).

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When we're in a hosting pickle, or looking for inspiration for our next dinner party, we've found it's always best to look inward—that is, to our community. The best tips are buried, to be found like truffles or morels (i.e. after a good, long search), hidden in the middle of a comment chain, or as a response to a question on Twitter. But since it's easy to become impatient with the search, and we're always psyched to uncover a new trick, we like to ask people, straight up, when they step into our kitchen, er, site. 

This time, we did the work for you so you don't have to root around. We asked the guests (some of them, anonymously) at our San Francisco and New York City Genius Recipes dinners for their best hosting tips, from the decor to the food, and put them all in once place.

The decor:

The food:

  • Do all the grocery shopping the day before, then use the day of the party to cook.
  • Offer snacks and wine for guests to have while you finish cooking.
  • Keep food colorful.
  • Taylor Abrams loves a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.
  • Anjelika Temple says to "never underestimate the power of a wooden cheese board."
  • Cut into said cheese plate before guests arrive—if it looks too perfect, guests will be more apprehensive about eating it.
  • Everyone loves homemade ice cream.
  • Family-style dishes are best for large gatherings.
  • Drink champagne, says Jen Pelka.
  • Themed cocktails (or, you know, any cocktails) are great, too.
  • Patrick Wong opts for sous vide so he can mingle with guests while the cooking takes care of itself.
  • Not ready to try sous vide? The above statement also applies to braises.

The environment:

  • Take 30 minutes before guests arrive to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
  • Don't feel bad about keeping it to a small number of people—invite however many people you feel you can manage.
  • Don't spend the whole time in the kitchen. It's your party, after all!
  • Ask for help. You don't have to do it all alone. 
  • Plan ahead and try not to stress—this will only stress your guests out. A happy you is a happy dinner party.

Tell us your hosting hacks and tips in the comments below!

Photos by James Ransom, Nanette Wong, Harry Kong, and Bobbi Lin 

To learn more about hosting beautifully with Stella Artois, head here, and use the hashtag #hostbeautifully to share photos and tips from your own dinner parties.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ChowMom
  • Jackie De Sordi
    Jackie De Sordi
  • AntoniaJames
  • Tereza
  • Elizabeth Gunsher
    Elizabeth Gunsher
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


ChowMom September 17, 2015
This list contradicts itself:
"Do all the grocery shopping the day before, then use the day of the party to cook." and then "Don't spend the whole time in the kitchen. It's your party, after all!"

I do my grocery shopping 2-3 days before - some foods can be prepared a day or 2 ahead or they need to marinate. Cook & prep the day before. The day of is finishing off so I CAN spent the party with my guests.
Elizabeth G. September 17, 2015
I think she means that if you are hosting a dinner party, do the prep during the day, well before your guests arrive in the evening.
Jackie D. September 17, 2015

When I have people over for lunch or dinner, I always prepare seating arrangements, this way there's no fussing or embarrassment on where one wants or has to sit. I decide accordingly and no one complains.

ChowMom September 17, 2015
I just stared doing this and it's made a huge difference. I thought it would seem pretentious, but it really wasn't. I think it made the dinner more relaxed for everyone.
AntoniaJames September 16, 2015
If braising, make one or two days ahead. The dish will taste better, and that's one less thing to do the day-of.

I always make several lists on index cards of things that my early-arriver and other guests who want to help can do. Though I'm a "no clutter on my fridge door" purist, I do make an exception for this. I provide a pen so people can check off what they've done. (My guests LOVE this; many are now doing it themselves.)

I also color code the cards when I have a party to which children are invited, to make a list for the kids! Many children love more than anything else helping to host parties (I know - I was one of them). Whenever the opportunity arises, I encourage the older kids to start training the younger kids in being helpful, as well. Everyone is happy! (Especially the helping children. Seriously.) ;o)
Tereza September 16, 2015
Don't forget the music and creating a welcoming ambience for your guests