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John Legend’s Tips for Hosting the Perfect Dinner Party

John Legend at an LG event

John Sciulli / Getty Images for LG Signature 

Throwing a dinner party doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Ahead of his partnership with LG Signature, Oscar and Grammy winning singer and songwriter John Legend spoke to MyDomaine and shared his favorite tips when he and his wife, producer and television personality Chrissy Teigen, entertain guests at their California home.  

Q: What’s your secret to throwing a great dinner party? 

A: “I like to serve a main course that’s slow cooked, so I can do most of the work ahead of time and keep my attention focused on our guests,” says John. “A braised beef short rib, where the meat falls off the bone after cooking for hours, is the perfect make-ahead meal.”

Q: An appetizer that’s always a hit? 

A: “I just love a fig wrapped in prosciutto with goat cheese,” shares John. “It’s an app that goes with pretty much every entrée.” 

Q: Go-to flowers on the table? 

A: “We don’t do a lot of flowers on the dining table simply because they get in the way of all the food!” says John. “But we do love flowers everywhere else, as they make everything more beautiful. My wife Chrissy loves rosy tones of pink, blush and cream—I describe it as perpetual baby and bridal colors. We also love artificial trees because they never drop leaves or turn brown. We have a big olive tree in our entranceway that looks and feels completely real.”

Q: A favorite signature cocktail that’s always a crowd pleaser?

A: “Anything with lemon or lime and vodka, like a Moscow Mule or something with cucumber and sake, like a Cucumber Sake-Tini,” shares John. “Or anything with lychee, a tropical fruit we discovered on our trips to Asia.” 

Q: As for the music?

A: “I make playlists for all of our dinner parties, blending vintage jazz with a little soul and hip hop,” says John. “It’s never just one artist, I mix it up with singers like Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone singing ‘I Want You’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ respectively, along with artists like Lauren Hill and Nas.”

Q: Your secret to creating the perfect guest list?

A: “Don’t be afraid to add new people,” advises John. “Doing so makes a dinner party more intriguing. Tonight, for example, we’re hosting an event for my wife’s HBO documentary, “The Way Down” and there will be people in attendance we’ve never met, which will add a fresh dynamic to the evening.” 

Q: Assigned seating or sit where you’d like? 

A: “If I’m hosting a lot of guests who don’t know each other, I prefer assigned seating so you have some control over where everyone ends up,” says John. “If everyone knows each other or it’s a small sit down, then it’s fine to have everyone sit where they’d like.”

Q: An intimate sit-down for 6 or buffet style for 16? 

A: “I prefer to go bigger with my dinner parties so there’s more energy!” John says. 

Q: Candles or string lights? 

A: “That’s easy,” says John. “Chrissy loves her string lights. It’s her jam!”

Q: Toast before eating? 

A: “I know some people offer up the same toast every time, but I prefer to be ‘subject matter relevant’ and toast who and what we’re entertaining at the time,” says John.

Q: Your favorite wine?

A: “I’m partial to a great cabernet,” says John. “A few years ago, I partnered with a vineyard in California to create my own wine label (LVE – Legend Vineyard Exclusive) and my LVE Cabernet, a mix of fruit-driven flavors such as currant, blackberry and oak, was the first bottle we introduced.”

Q: What’s the right amount of wine options to present to the table?  

A: “I like serving a sparkling wine and rose at the beginning of the evening when we’re enjoying our appetizers, then offer up at least one white and two reds during the heart of the meal,” says John. “I like a light red and one that’s a little heavier.”

Q: Do you feel obliged to open a guest’s wine

A: “Yes, although it doesn’t have to be the only wine on the menu,” says John. “It’s the polite thing to do and acknowledges your guest’s gift.”

Q: Favorite crowd-pleasing dessert? 

A: “I love cheesecake, key lime pie or a panna cotta—anything in that family works across the board unless your guests are lactose intolerant,” notes John.  

Q: Do you get creative with glassware or do you stick with traditional wine glasses?  

A: “Sometimes we’ll use conventional wine glasses but I prefer stemless, as the style goes more with the laid-back vibe of our California house,” shares John.  

Q: One thing everyone should know about when storing wine?

A: “Storing wine in the right temperature is really important,” says John. “My preferred product is LG Signature Wine Cellar, which comes with technology to minimize temperature fluctuations, exposure to light and humidity. This cellar holds 65 bottles and the cool thing about it is if you knock on the door twice, you’ll illuminate a tinted glass panel so you can see inside without opening the door, reducing cold air loss. We keep ours right in our bar area for easy access—it’s become a big part of our hosting experience.” 

Q: Fun way to end a night? 

A: “I do love a game at the end of an evening as it keeps the crowd energized,” shares John. “The last time we had a group over we played Heads Up!, a twist on charades where you have to guess what the other players are describing. While playing, I’ll serve our guests some brandy or whisky to close down the night.” 

Q: Biggest mistake people make when entertaining? 

A: “If the food isn’t good, it’s not a good party,” declares John. “Delicious food is critical to a successful gathering. Don’t serve something for the first time when you’re entertaining—practice on your family first, prior to the dinner party.”

Q: Best de-stressing advice you can give a host who feels frazzled?  

A: “Have a glass of wine!” laughs John.