Gastronomy’s Creative Director Miccal Cummins talks about food, happiness and how to relax at your own Christmas affair.
The best way to have a cracker Christmas party is to get someone else to do it, of course; however I always cater my own parties. With that in mind, there are several ways you can organise your party so it is stylish, enjoyable and an occasion that people remember.
The first thing to establish is the reason that you are hosting the party – is it for business or for pleasure? If it’s for business, do yourself a favour and enrol some help, get it catered, or at the very least hire some casual staff from a reputable staff agency. This will give your party or dinner the kind of professional gloss that doing business requires.
If it’s for pleasure, well that’s a lot more fun and here are some tips to hosting a memorable occasion.
I’m making the assumption that you have friends, and you want them at your house or at a venue close by, such as the beach or a park or community building, and you are providing food and drink for everybody. So tip number one is to always invite more people than your house (or venue) can hold. Yes, that’s right, not everybody will come, and even the people who said they were going to be there will not all be there at the same time. You want your party to be full of people from the get go as everybody loves a buzzy party.
Tip number two is to have a start time and an end time and put both times on the invitation. This helps your guests determine whether they will be fed or not. For example 6pm til 8pm tells them it’s drinks and canapés, whereas 12pm till 4pm indicates that it is lunch. Don’t worry too much about the end time on the day; if your party is in full swing, nobody will complain about staying on longer, least of all you. Having an end time on the invitation sends out a strong message – be there or miss out! And another tip when it comes to timing, my heart always sinks when I am invited to a Sunday afternoon party “from 1pm”. I immediately visualise the kind of laisezz-faire, disorganised and formless non-party that doesn’t really kick off until the host decides there are enough people around to start cooking. The “from” party is also a guaranteed recipe for tension – you keep your guests waiting to see when they will be fed.
The third tip is to put an RSVP date on your invite and before this date, take the time to phone those who have not replied and check they got the invite. One of my best friends missed my 40th birthday because he never received the invitation, so it’s always worth checking. This is also a good chance to catch up with those friends and acquaintances who won’t be able to make it, or hadn’t got around to reading the invitation, and helps build buzz about your party. Most importantly, keep a list of who is coming (or not). If it’s a lunch or dinner party, check for people’s dietaries; vegetarian, gluten free, other preferences or allergies. This is not such a problem if you are having buffet, BBQ or finger food, as a broad range of food means there will be something for everybody.
And now to the party! End of year parties are about happiness, laughter, good food and our glorious summer. You have already eliminated some of your pre-party stress by inviting everybody properly and you should have a good idea of who is coming. Let’s stay on this roll by ensuring guests won’t be made to work, so preparation is key.
Things to consider as part of your party prep:
- Check you have enough crockery, cutlery and glassware for all guests (as well as a few more)
- Write a list of the food you want to serve and keep it simple. Good quality food from great quality ingredients will go down better than complex dishes that will have you stuck in the kitchen away from your guests
- Do as much food prep as you can the day before and clear your kitchen of things you do not require – you will need the space
- If it is summer time – take the opportunity to serve as much cold food as possible, as this can be prepped the day before and simply assembled and served. Substantial salads are always a hit
- Organise an area for drinks to be set up and don’t forget the ice – no one likes warm drinks
- Organise the music and someone to look after it – the music can make or break the ambiance of a party
- Plan for flowers, candles and other decoration and set as much of this up the day before as you can – though be careful with flowers as they might wilt
- Book someone in advance if you need assistance serving or cleaning up
And most of all – have fun. If you are having a good time, you can bet that your guests will too. Happy party planning!