How to: Host a Holiday Dinner (Stress-Free!)

by | Nov 20, 2018 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

So you’re the host, chef, or master of ceremonies at this year’s holiday dinner. Maybe this is a role that you’ve had years to learn, or perhaps you’re new to the game. Either way, this can be — and more often than not is — a daunting task.

As Noom’s Head Chef, I serve large groups of (hungry!) Noomers every day. I’ve put together the top 4 tricks that I use to reduce the stress and workload involved with hosting a large dinner party with family and friends.

1. Throw a potluck

Potluck? Pot lucky! If you’re coming to dine at my table and show up empty handed, you better be ready for some good-natured ribbing and conscription into dish duty. Everyone’s gotta contribute something

Just because you’re hosting, it doesn’t mean that you have to cook every dish.

Start with a headcount. By having at least a rough idea of how many friends and family members are coming, you can be ready to encourage attendees to bring a side, dessert, or beverage for X number of guests.

“Can I bring something?” is a question most people ask when they’re invited to dinner.  A little direction goes a long way to alleviate the burden of hosting, and you won’t end up with multiple dishes of marshmallow covered candied yams (win-win!).

Be prepared to delegate some side dishes and desserts for guests who have offered to bring something, but also allow your guests to prepare food that they enjoy and are good at making.

Shared meals are better when they are truly an output of everyone’s labor and love.

2. Create a menu

Well before crunch time, spend some time writing out a menu. This simple step goes a long way and allows you to identify which dishes you need to prepare, and from this, create a shopping list.  

3. Shop smart

When writing your grocery list, envision the layout of your favorite supermarket. Produce usually comes first, followed by meat and dairy, which usually surround aisles of dry goods. Separate your list into these three categories.  

As run through your menu, write down each ingredient and account for any overlap by adjusting the initial amount you listed. For instance, if you need onions for stuffing, gravy, and a green bean casserole, write onions x3 and know that you’ll know to buy a big bag of onions at the store.

Once your list is complete, rewrite it with the exact amounts you need and in the order that you’ll be seeing your items as you shop. This will help you get in and out of the crowded store like a holiday ninja!

4. Set it up

The french term “mise en place” is a credo that every chef and cook lives by. Having everything in place ensures that when an ingredient or utensil is needed, it’s readily available for a smooth work flow. If you’re hosting a holiday meal at home, this concept can be adapted to your kitchen. Days before the big event, vegetables can be chopped, pie crusts can be made, and stocks and soups can be prepped as well. When the big day arrives, having chopped your mirepoix beforehand means one less step to execute and clean up! Some things are fine to prepare ahead of time and others are not. Go through your menu and decide which dishes are best left to preparing the day of. 

Now tell me: What’s your go-to dinner party prep tip?!