How to (and How Not to) Throw a Dinner Party for Your Housemates

First things first: if your culinary skills do not allow you to produce a meal that is higher quality and lower price than that of a local restaurant, you should probably just save yourself the trouble of cooking and get take-out. A bit blunt, I know, but everyone wins here – you support local businesses and get a delicious meal. If this article now no longer applies to you, send it to your chef-y friends – you might also get a really good meal out of that.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering to do some good old ‘fanfare’ cooking, which I haven’t gotten a chance to do since the semester started. That is, cooking for a reason other than sustenance – cooking just for the sake of having a really good meal to enjoy with friends.

To be sure, it went well. The food received rave reviews and we stuffed our faces. But there were a few pitfalls that I’m here to help you avoid when you inevitably decide you’d like to flex your food forte for your housemates/friends/special someone(s?). Here are the do’s and the don’ts for hosting a dinner party…

DO cook things you’ve cooked before. It doesn’t have to be the exact same, down to the ingredients, but it should be something that you know with near certainty will be edible when you’ve completed it. A night where you’ve promised people a meal is not the time to take your first crack at a soufflé. 

DO hype it up! It’s not every day that college kids get a home-cooked meal. Canva is great for making a cool little graphic for it (and it makes the Venmo amount look prettier).

DO make as much stuff ahead of time as you can. The freezer is your friend (for some dishes—if the freezer is going to make the dish worse, don’t be a cheater). You know how this time management stuff works.

DO have fun with it! You’re not slaving away in a kitchen; you’re preparing a feast that will bring people together! If you need hospitality ~inspiration~, listen to some podcasts featuring Danny Meyer or C.K. Chin.

DO buy some herbs. They make everything look prettypurty aaaaaand taste quite good to boot (looking at you, basil and rosemary).

DON’T plan the dinner for when you really have a lot of work to do. This is harder than it sounds. You probably need to plan this at least a week out, and it can be hard to know how much work you’ll have. I planned it three weeks out and ended up screwing myself over a bit. C’est la vie…

DON’T be too proud to ask for assistance. Outsourcing simpler cooking tasks if you run into a time crunch can be a lifesaver (my favorite tasks to outsource were setting the table and cleaning some bowls).

DON’T assume you know how to whip cream for dessert. You might surprise yourself. Speaking from someone else’s experience, of course.

DON’T forget to take pictures!

Provided that you adhere to the guidelines above, I’d recommend going out of your way once a semester to treat yourself and your friends to some hearty home cooking. It will certainly take some time out of your schedule, but sacrificing a bit of your one truly non-renewable resource is a great way to take care of others and is one of the many reasons you’ll enjoy this meal.

Bon appétit!

Ricotta gnocchi dough.
Formed gnocchi logs & bubbling bolognese.
Crisp roasted brussels sprouts w/ olive oil, balsamic glaze, lemon zest, and parmesan.
Dinner rolls w/ rosemary garlic oil.
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookie dough.
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookie cake.
The Final Plate.

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