The Psychology Behind Hosting a Dinner Party… And How to Overcome it!

Are you keen to host a dinner party but feel unsure where to start, need some inspiration, or even find just the thought of it overwhelming? Don’t panic – I sat down with Chef Ebbers to get his top tips on hosting a dinner party. In true Ebbers fashion, there is mention of wine… And in true Ishy fashion, I’ve completely gone off topic in my mind and suddenly imagined the Food Team hosting a ‘Come Dine With Me’ series (comment and let me know if you’d be a fan). Anyway, I’m going to dive into the mind of a chef and find the easiest ways possible to turn stress into success.

  1. Make The Kitchen Your Hub

My Mum is known in my family for being the most incredible cook, but with great skills comes a great burden (there’s probably an existing quote for what I’m trying to say, but I decided to make up my own instead). My mum’s always been the head chef of the family – but I’d hate to see her whipping up her magic in the kitchen, knowing that she was missing out on the fun and exhausting herself as a result. Sometimes she wouldn’t even be able to fully enjoy her meal because she was so busy hosting. Over the years, we’ve moved to different-sized kitchens, BUT, she loves her own space – which, as Ebbers is about to explain, can sometimes make all the difference.

EBBERS’ TOP TIP

“If you feel comfortable with what you’re preparing, are organised, and have space to do so in the kitchen… make that the hub of the house. When doing this, you don’t feel bad about disappearing off to the kitchen to get stuff ready. And ultimately, you don’t miss out on the event you’re hosting! Do this simply by placing the nibbles and snacks in the kitchen… People will congregate around them. But, if you don’t have the space or don’t feel comfortable with people being around you when cooking, then make sure everything is in the other room and people will stay away from the kitchen so it can remain your place of calmness.”

  1. Nibbles Are A Necessity!

Personally speaking, I LOVE shop-bought nibbles before having the main stars of the foodie show. I’m talking roasted peanuts, spicy crisps, and soft, herby cheese… Drools!

EBBERS’ TOP TIP

“Mentioned already… But nibbles… Always! It takes the pressure off the timings for the main affair because people are already snacking. Keep them simple. By all means make some stuff yourself, like a few dips or some cheese straws or pizza swirls. Or, I often opt for a well-arranged charcuterie board, some olives, and some nuts (DIY flavoured.)”

Again, off-topic editor note, I asked Ebbers exactly what he meant by “DIY flavoured”… And he’s given us a true gem for some inspo. Watch it here!

  1. Ditch Drink Duties

Ahh, we’ve all been there! When someone is super attentive (which can be so lovely and comforting at the time), it can suddenly become nerve-racking or weird to top up your drink when they’re not around. Why is this so problematic for both parties? Not only does it mean that the host is constantly stressing about the state of everyone’s glasses… But it might make you feel ashamed when reaching for the bottle of wine or soft drink that’s clearly calling your name (been there, done that)! If we’re waiting for someone else to do it… They’re most likely waiting for you to do it first.

EBBERS’ TOP TIP

“Release all pressure from drinks. If you’re trying to juggle drinks and food it runs the risk of being either a bit overwhelming for them… or a bit overwhelming for you. Make people feel welcome from the off! Why not try: “You’re in our home now… make yourself comfortable, help yourself… and don’t let your glass get too empty”. We do the same when we host events at the studio in London… Bottles of wine, soft drinks, cans of craft beer, and perhaps a cocktail/punch that you’ve already mixed always does the trick! People are very happy to help themselves, and it makes the whole thing way more casual.”

  1. Don’t Be Too Precious About Timings

Whether you’re the early friend, on-time friend, or always late friend… There’s one thing that can trigger you when YOU’RE the dinner party host – and it’s always the latter! 

EBBERS’ TOP TIP

“Even the best-made plans will change. People will be running late for 100 reasons, or perhaps, the conversation is all just too good and nobody is ready to eat yet. It’s why I aim to design the menu around something that doesn’t need any careful timing. Long slow cooks that can keep warm for an extra hour if required. Super tasty salads that can be taken out of the fridge and actually taste better at room temperature. So, again, no rush!”

  1. Dessert… Duh!

Again… Personally speaking, I’m either a dessert girl or an I-Will-Have-Another-Glass-Of-Wine-Because-It’s-Sweet-Enough girl. But honestly, when I host or attend a dinner party, the dessert is always the best bit! It’s the sweetest way to wrap up the evening and leave the best taste in your mouth.

EBBERS’ TOP TIP

“To dessert or not? I always do… But rarely announce. Something that’s pre-made (usually the day before), can be served if the mood and timings are right. After savoury (and after the initial nibbles), you can then always offer something sweet! Your guests don’t need to feel obliged if they’re already full, don’t have such a sweet tooth, or it’s getting late and they need to head off. Opt for pre-portioned desserts in the fridge… A chocolate pot, fruit mousse, rice pudding, crème brûlée, coffee creme caramel, or tiramisu. Alternatively, the perfect carrot or lemon drizzle cake, chocolate torte, or brownie could be served with creme fraiche and berries.”     

And that’s it from me and Chef Ebbers. We want to know… What are your main go-to tips for a dinner party? What do you usually like to cook? Comment and let us know on IG and Twitter!

Love,

Ishy @ Sorted Food