Planning a party is a labour of love. Undoubtedly one of the main ways to make your night extra special – and memorable for all the right reasons – is to create a culinary experience unlike any other. There’s a lot to consider, from deciding exactly what to serve to ensuring your menu also caters to a variety of dietary preferences
Step 1: Creating a Customisable Menu
Your menu is at the heart of your celebration, but you can’t devise a menu built around your own tastes alone. You’ll also need to think about what your guests will enjoy, and this involves understanding their culinary likes and dislikes, as well as being aware of any allergies or dietary restrictions they may have.When drawing up a menu, there’s a framework for success to keep in mind. Factor in a diverse and balanced selection of appetisers, an array of main courses including a sumptuous vegetarian option, and a range of lighter and more indulgent desserts. Considering the composition of the dishes at this stage is also important, as your guest list may include a mix of very adventurous and more traditional eaters.
It also doesn’t hurt to stick with a theme to match the occasion or the season. This will help to guide your choices and give something for your guests to get involved with while preparing for the culinary adventure ahead.
Step 2: Presentation and Food Styling
Though flavour is the most important factor in any menu, visual appeal is something that can make eating even more enjoyable. The right presentation can elevate a dish from something that looks fine, to something that is a real showstopper. Try out new ways of plating, use bright colours and strong contrasts, and think through where things should go on the dish.
Adding a thematic touch to align with the occasion or season can be beneficial. This not only guides your choices but also provides an engaging element for your guests as they anticipate the culinary journey ahead. For example, an informal, outdoor summer soirée will lend itself to rustic, casual plating, whereas a more formal event could be presented in something more elegant and sophisticated.
Step 3: Sourcing Quality Ingredients
Your finished dishes will only ever be as good as the ingredients used. For restaurant style fine dining at home, you’ll need to source the freshest, best-quality ingredients available.
Familiarise yourself with the farmers’ market vendors, butchers, suppliers, and delivery services to ensure that the finest produce, meats, cheeses, and more are readily available when you require them.
Step 4: Pairing Food and Drinks
A fun way to create a memorable culinary experience is to have some thoughtful, experimental, or simply unusual food and beverage pairings. For instance, think about the flavours you’ve used in your dish and serve drinks that complement these flavours, such as wine, craft beers or specialty cocktails – don’t forget about non-alcoholic options for those who don’t drink, too.
Step 5: Catering for Dietary Restrictions
There are a growing number of dietary restrictions to consider when planning a party.
Asking your guests to notify you of any dietary restrictions when they RSVP is important as it will allow you to plan for those requirements. Then, be clear on the menu. It should list the ingredients included in each dish so all guests can make an informed choice about what they wish to eat on the day.
What is the cost associated with catering for a party?
The cost of catering for your party will depend on a few key factors:
- How many people will be attending
- How many courses you wish to serve
- If appetisers will be served when guests arrive
- The number of different meals required for those with dietary restrictions and allergies
- Whether you also need help with drink pairings
All these factors can influence the price of catering, but also mean that you have less things to worry about yourself. Typically a qualified private chef will charge anywhere upwards of £1,000 for catering a large party, but this is something you can negotiate with your chef or catering company.
How Far in Advance Should You Order Catering for A Party?
If you’re working with a catering company or a private chef, you’ll ideally want to start the planning process as early as possible.
The earlier you engage in discussions about menu ideas, sample tastings, and consider dietary requirements, the smoother the process. Avoid the last-minute rush of planning a party a week in advance.