When it comes to cooking and catering, things seldom go to plan. And after running 112 food events in the last three years, I feel like I’ve just about seen it all!
There was the one time that my guest Chef arrived at the same time as our workshop was due to begin…(Cooking was their strong point, punctuality apparently wasn’t! 🤣). Or the other workshop when my collaborator kept leaving cans of coconut on a live stovetop.
I’ve had ovens blow out, knife wounds – even an electric shock – yet even when the worst happens, here’s the thing…
You’ll always figure it out 🙂
Whether you’re cooking for a private gathering of 4 or a crowd of 150, I believe that everything with food is figureoutable.
So when my beautiful Mum wanted to provide a fully catered High Tea for my sister’s Baby Shower recently, I thought,
Whilst there was some stressful points in pulling it all together, the day was a hit! The food was delicious and my sister was so happy.
So if you are paralysed by the prospect of entertaining, here are the top tips I’ve learned to reduce stress, make things run smoothly and ensure that YOU have fun as well:
1) State is more important than script. This is one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard about presenting and it came from one of Australia’s top speakers, Matt Church. However, these sage words apply to hospitality too! If you are highly strung about getting your food ‘right’, your guests will pick up on this, which dampens their experience as well as yours. Remember: Guests won’t remember if you burnt the cake or the napkins didn’t match but they WILL remember how you made them feel.
2) Stick to ‘safe’ dishes. If you’re cooking dinner for 20 people, it may not be the best night to experiment with souffle for the first time 😉 Stick to tried and true recipes to reduce stress and increase your confidence.
3) Minimise ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ sensitive dishes. Have you noticed that I’ll rarely serve anything deep fried or super meltable at my cooking workshops? This isn’t a coincidence. Trying to cook, plate and distribute piping hot or freezing cold food to mass people is a logistical nightmare, unless you have a full team of chefs, waiters and professional kitchen set up. Instead, try sticking to slow cooked warm dishes or cold desserts that can be garnished with things like fruit, edible flowers or spun sugar to hide the early signs of melting.
4) Have a meet & greeter. Trying to host AND cook food is a recipe for feeling torn and stressed. If you know that you’ll need time to assemble certain dishes, have a plan to keep guests entertained whilst you go about that. For example, you could have a family member serving alcohol or beverages upon arrival whilst you’re putting the finishing touches on food.
5) Prep like a MFCr. Most garnishes can be prepared the night before and stored in airtight containers in the fridge within layers of wet paper towel. Measure and pour out any other ingredients so that they’re ready to throw together. They idea is to eliminate any step you possibly can by completing it before your event.
6) Have a contingency plan. If you think about it, most worst case scenarios involve the food not working out and goodness knows that’s happened to me! Recently, I’d put a gorgeous curry into the slow cooker but used the wrong settings. Come 6pm (and half a bottle of wine later), the lentils were rock solid. I ended up simply ordering take out instead and we had a good chuckle about it all. A good friend will laugh with you, even if you’re serving them baked beans on toast or defrosted dishes from the freezer!
WHAT’S YOUR HACK TO MAKE CATERING EASIER? I’d love to hear your comments.