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How to Keep Cool When Cooking for a Crowd

HG Entertains

How to Keep Cool When Cooking for a Crowd

Stress Less

There’s nothing like a full house of happy, well-fed people, but cooking for a crowd can be daunting, even for the most experienced host. So we asked chef and food journalist Mike Ward for some words of wisdom as we approach Thanksgiving. Having cooked for celebrities and Presidents, Mike knows a thing or two about pressure, and his stints in top restaurants in Sydney and Toronto means he's more than mastered the art of cooking for a crowd. But when he's at home, his philosophy on feeding a crowd takes a somewhat relaxed approach, preferring to keep things easy and uncomplicated. We asked Mike to share his strategies on how to manage your next family feast with a little aplomb, a touch of sass and lots of grace. 

5 Secrets to Stress-Free Entertaining

by Mike Ward

Thanksgiving -  hopefully for most of us - means reconnecting with family and friends around an exquisitely decorated table sharing both stories and tasty seasonal fare. But what we often fail to acknowledge is the drudgery of cleaning, shopping and cooking that can make you feel anything but grateful.  Despair not my lovelies.  Let me share with you a few tips that will have you feeling more like a pampered guest than a professional concierge.



I'm not suggesting you turn your magical Thanksgiving feast into a nasty potato salad ladened potluck. But people love to help out, so feel free to suggest that your guests each bring a specific dish. You still handle the main stage dishes, but your sides can be easily palmed off to others: mashed sweet potato, green beans, or a simple blue cheese and watercress salad. It will take a massive load off of you and instill your guests with a feeling of involvement. I like to give my guests a heads up that I'll be re-plating their creations when they arrive to ensure consistency in the appearance of their table. Hey, nobody wants her table to be a mishmash of Tupperware.

Serve Family Style


Large platters make for light work both in the kitchen and in cleanup. I also love how they allow people to devour more of the foods they like and politely steer clear of what they're not a fan of.

Everyone is a Bartender 


Open 80% of the wine you think your guests will consume at the beginning of the night. And keep them within arms reach of the table. Encourage your guests to serve Japanese style, meaning if they see an empty glass next to them, pick up a bottle and serve their neighbour. You'll be surprised how people embrace this custom very quickly. Nobody should have an empty glass at anytime around the table. 

Make New Traditions


Always remember your guests are there for you - not your food or your wine. As much as possible, be a guest at your own dinner party. Apply this philosophy to every aspect of your gathering - ie. pick dishes that are easy on labour. I personally prefer chicken over turkey so I see nothing wrong with buying two or three delicious roasted chickens from the supermarket, cutting them up on a gorgeous serving platter with fresh lemon wedges and I've just saved myself two hours. Hey, I may be a chef but I'll take sitting down at my own dinner table over slaving in the kitchen any day.

The Two Cardinal Sins


I don't care if you're serving the best food and wine on earth, if your lighting is too bright and you don't have soft music playing, your dinner is an immediate fail. Atmosphere is the most important, but sadly overlooked, aspect of entertaining. Deconstruct why you feel so comfortable in your favourite restaurant and duplicate that feeling at home. 


Most of all, don't sweat the small stuff. Long after the food has been devoured, the memories surrounding your Thanksgiving feast will be associated with the people around your table. That's what matters, so put your attention on them. And have a happy Thanksgiving. 

HG Entertaining Essentials