Someday I will hire a personal chef to cater a party for me. Actually, someday, I absolutely will hire this personal chef team and sit back and enjoy being served throughout an entire party. That will be a treat in itself, however, I also really love to cook and serve for my parties. I enjoy the whole process of planning, executing and serving dishes to my guests. Many of my parties are fairly simple with serve yourself or buffet style dishes of foods. Occasionally, I like to serve multi-course meals (either plated or family style) and when I do, I like to use the following tips/tricks/hacks to make the dinner more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef)
I am the first person out there that will recommend hiring out (or purchasing out and bringing in) for large parties and life events. I value the talents of others and their ability to make my life easier more than I can say. These tips will work for just about any type of party, big or small, but they still require the work be put in. Hiring a chef, ordering catered items, renting dinner ware, hiring a cleaner or hiring a server are absolutely time and sanity saving options for important events. This list is for someone who really wants to do it themselves, whether because of circumstances or because they enjoy it.
These tips will also help for those trying to save money in their party budget for other area. I do stress that you know your limitations however because saving a few dollars here or there and being disappointed in the end will only make it feel like you wasted the money you did spend. I enjoy throwing parties, preparing dishes, and cooking foods. I’m pretty good about timing things out as well. I am terrible at getting the house spick and span before a party. I often hire that portion out and do the entertaining part of it all myself. Know your talents, your limitations and your resources and have a fantastic party!
1. Prep what you can before the party day.
This seems easy, right? Prep anything and everything you can for your party before the big day hits. It is trickier than it seems however because some items don’t keep as well as other items. Anything that you can prep without compromising the quality should be prepped as far in advance as possible. When creating my menu, I often try to get at least one or two items that can be prepped prior to the big day on the menu. Some menu items that can be prepped early include soups, sauces, vegetable cutting prep and many dessert and drink items. Need a simple syrup for your speciality cocktail? Whip one up nearly a week in advance and store in your fridge. Want to serve a dessert of cookies under ice cream? Prep the cookie dough up to a couple of months in advance and store in your freezer. This works great for home made crackers as well!
2. Pre-plate what you can before the party begins!
A lot of my multi-course parties combine a mix of serving dishes family style and plated. Family style is easier on the chef (and whoever does the dishes afterwards) and the plated style of serving is often easier on guests. I tend to serve the dishes that have to be made or finished during the party as family style and pre-plate (or even pre-dish for an all family style meal) what I can. Salads can often prepped an hour or so before the party, wrapped in cling wrap, and stored in the fridge. If you are serving an individual cheese course or a cheese platter you can also prep these early and put in fridge, just make sure you get it out with enough time to get it to room temperature before serving.
3. Include Entertainment at the Party
Include some form of entertainment at your party so that time between courses goes unnoticed. A little time between courses is actually great because it gives your guests time to really savor the course before it. Too much time can be a drag, but with the rest of these tips and a little entertainment no one will notice a time slag. I often do a photo booth, music, questions at the table or even drink pairings that guests can talk about in between courses.
4. Serve a menu that doesn’t all need to be served HOT.
Planning your menu carefully is very important when you are doing it all and wanting to actually sit down and enjoy your meal with your guests. I try to serve at least a couple of items that can be serve chilled or at room temperature. Salads, appetizers, cheese plates and desserts are easy places to put in items that do not have to stay hot before serving.
5. Utilize warming and cooling appliances.
Take advantage of any and all warming and cooling appliances that you have in your home. I clean out my fridge as much as possible before a coursed meal so that I can pile in pre-prepped plates of items or pre-cut elements that will come together for a portion of the meal. My oven, if not in use, is set to warm and all hot dishes are carefully stored in the warmer so that they can still be served. (Be careful to not let hot food dry out in your warmer. Cover with foil and try not to put in to stay warm for too long.) My crock pot is typically in use for sauces or soups that are prepped in advanced, but need to be served hot.