We spend a lot (read: Sometimes too much) of our time writing about and Pinning perfectly-styled tablespaces, and restaurant-worthy recipes, but still, when it comes to planning our own dinner parties, we are sent into a slight panic. The truth is, when it comes to creating a truly magical evening for your guests, it takes many moving parts (and you’ve only got two hands to make it all happen, right?). If you’ve got an intimate soirée in the near future, or have always dreamed of playing host for the event of the year, we asked the creative director of Merivale, John Wilson and head chef at Fred’s Danielle Alvarez who plan events for a living, how they create the perfect environment.
The duo is currently in the process of stitching together the MAAS Ball, which will be held in Sydney on February 1, 2018. But more than a traditional sit-down event, it will also be an interactive experience where guests can celebrate the creativity and influence of Australian fashion. With the fashion and media elite present, much planning goes into an event like this. See how they orchestrate a seamless event below.
MyDomaine: What are the different elements you consider when planning the menu for such a large event?
John Wilson: "The occasion is always the first thing to consider, then the kind of communication or connection that needs to be conveyed, then the scale. All of this happens before we’d look at the season, and the kind of menu that might work best to deliver something delicious."
MD: What do you think makes the perfect dinner party?
JW: "People, always the people. You can have the best food, beverage, and environment in the world, but if you don’t get the guest list right it can be a terrible evening."
MD: How did you approach putting together the menu for this event?
Danielle Alvarez: "We took Anna Wintour (and a bit of fictional character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada) as a bit of inspiration. The simple steak as the main course with beautiful rocket greens and Café de Paris butter. For the first course, we wanted to point back to France as one of the fashion capitals of the world and the origin of Haute Couture. We are doing a lovely Nicoise salad which is light, fresh and great for this time of year and certainly French in its origin. As for dessert, I’m sure everyone in fashion could stand behind a single shot of espresso as dessert so we’ve upped the ante a little with espresso gelato and ristretto granita. It’s fun, it’s seasonal and I think the crowd will appreciate it."
MD: What tips do you have for people planning to cook for a large group?
DA: "Make a strong plan so that you don’t have to do it all in one day. Also, cook something that allows you to spend time with your guests. Make room temperature salads that can be made before your guests arrive and sit for a while. Make a roast or something baked that you don’t have to spend too much time fussing with at the last minute. But most importantly, make something you are comfortable with so you aren’t too nervous or distracted and always have some simple nibbles and drinks nearby so people can relax and mingle while you finish putting things together."
MD: What is your go-to dish when cooking at home?
DA: "Risotto. It’s such a versatile preparation it would work in any season, and because I like people to gather in the kitchen it’s nice to do something that doesn’t require too much intense focus. Pour a little stock in, keep stirring, chat with your friends or family, add a bit more stock, and then when it’s done everyone has to sit down immediately because risotto waits for no one. For dessert, I like a bit of home-made ice cream with fresh fruit. Super simple, done ahead of time and quick to serve.