After winning the Superstar Chef Challenge, Anthony Sedlak landed his own series on Food Network Canada. On The Main, Sedlak showcases one ingredient and creates a simple and delicious main course. With his boyish good looks, engaging TV persona and enthusiasm for food, Sedlak is destined to become our Canadian Jamie Oliver.
Sedlak took a moment from his busy schedule to share his top five party planning tips to help you throw an effortless-looking event.
Be prepared, like a girl scout
Every top chef knows that preparation and organization are fundamental. Approach your cocktail party with the same attitude. Chop, organize and store all your edibles in containers ahead of time and do the assembling at the last minute. Your items will keep their texture and won’t get soggy.
Be a guest (at your own party)
“There’s nothing worse than looking over at the host and they look completely stressed,” says Sedlak. The host sets the mood for the party, so if you’re struggling it’ll be hard for guests to relax and have a good time. Hosting a party is supposed to be fun! Yes, it does take some work and prep, but do it before your guests arrive, not when you’re in the middle of recounting your trip to Shanghai. Unless someone spills a drink or breaks a glass, take time to enjoy your party.
Whether your entertaining space is grand or mini, take advantage of all your furniture. Set up stations around your room on surfaces of varying heights and sizes to display food platters and to set up your bar. For instance, a high side table or credenza can house your mini bar and coffee tables can hold chocolates, sweets and fresh fruit. You can also rent a few tables or chairs for a minimal cost if you need additional space for displaying the food or extra seating.
Setting up stations throughout a room gives your party movement and makes it more social by creating a relaxed atmosphere. People can move through the room, stop at different stations, and have a chance to meet new people and try different dishes. That’s what a successful party is all about!
The issue of how much food to serve is always a dilemma. People generally eat less in a social setting. But if your party is replacing dinner, estimate six or seven hors d’oeuvres per person and three or four pieces if your guests have already eaten. Include a variety of nibbles: a vegetarian option, if you’re having fish or meat, something sweet and something savoury. Everything should be a bite or two – nothing that requires juggling a fork and knife. This allows guests to keep a hand free for their beverage.
Keep it simple, sweetie
Shop seasonally and locally and then feature a few of those in-season items in your dishes. Don’t over-complicate things by fixating on one hard-to-find produce item. Stay focused with one clear direction. Use a theme, if that helps, or match up foods that are complimentary (i.e. watermelon cubes sprinkled with feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) to maximize flavour.
Along with great company and yummy food, every party needs a well-stocked bar. Before heading out to the liquor store, make a list for an easy reference.
| Get into the party spirit and decorate your drinks, too. Anthony’s beverage-garnishing tips:
Chill: Keep both your mixes and liquor chilled
Instant citrus rim: For an easy garnish that can be made ahead of time, take equal parts sugar or salt and the zest from any citrus you have at home. Mix together and store in a mason jar – the citrus will infuse the salt or sugar. Or, shake the ingredients through a sieve with the zest if you just want the flavour and not the peel. Bonus: it will keep for months!
Fruit: Use fruit for simple garnishes: a twist of orange peel, a few cranberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds in the bottom of a cocktail
Other garnishes: Add a cinnamon stick or split a red chili down the middle to infuse a drink with heat.