Food&Wine’s Host of the Year 2018, Talha Pasha from Michael's of Mount Merrion, shares his top tips for being the perfect dinner party host.
Back home in Pakistan, hospitality is a serious thing and it’s in our culture as well. My family is very large and when we get together, it is always a party. I think I get my love of the service industry from watching my mum get ready to host our guests and the joy she got from a successful reception.
I find that, to this day, I still use some of the tips I learned from her over the years and I use them both in work and at home when I have guests.
Talha's top tips for a stress-free evening to remember:
Do your research
First, you need to know who is coming to your house. Are you having a dinner party and are your guests bringing plus ones? If they are, great, but make it your business to find out about them. Are they allergic to anything? Do they have any dietary requirements, do they perhaps like or dislike certain ingredients? Have they got particular interests? Are they shy or chatty? The more information you have about your guests, the nicer the evening will be.
2) Get organised early
If the host is relaxed then the guests will be too. Make sure you are fully prepared with drinks chilling or aerating as early as one hour before people are due to arrive. Avoid making food that demands a lot of last-minute work - after all, people are visiting you, not the food.
3) Time your meal
It is a good idea to time the first course for 30 minutes to an hour after your guests’ arrival time. Pour some drinks, have some nibbles and get everyone to relax together before the main event.
4) Introduce guests to each other
As the host, it is your role to ensure that everyone has been introduced. This is where gathering information on your guests comes in handy. When you are introducing people, do give an interesting fact about each person if you can. It helps break the ice and gives people something to chat about.
5) Create a seating plan
It is a good idea to have a seating plan and name cards around the table. This way you can avoid the risk of having any potentially awkward placements.
6) Keep drinking to a minimum
As you are the host, you will need to stay in relative control of the evening, which means keeping your alcohol consumption to a minimum. Keeping a clear head will allow you to see to your guests. Small attentions like topping up their glasses and chatting to each guest between courses will make them feel cared for.
7) Enjoy it!
Do the best that you can. This does not mean getting yourself in financial trouble for a dinner, simply that you should buy the best you can afford. And make sure to enjoy the evening and your guests' company. The warmth, laughter and conversations will stay with people far longer than the menu will.
Michael's, 57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin; www.michaels.ie