Meet The PR Pro Whose Dinner Parties Are The Hottest Ticket In Silicon Valley

susan mactavishSusan MacTavish Best

Photo: Orange Photography

Two pieces of advice if you get invited to a dinner party at Susan MacTavish Best‘s house: Come hungry, and ready to meet a diverse array of people. On a recent Thursday evening at her rental apartment in SoHo, I found myself sandwiched between a sculptor and an architecture critic, sipping wine and gorging myself on kale salad and homemade butter.MacTavish Best, an entrepreneur-turned-PR maven-turned-professional dinner party thrower, has been a fixture on the Silicon Valley tech scene since the 1990s, when she started one of the first online guides to San Francisco. She launched Best Public Relations, a PR firm specializing in startups, in 1998, and has worked with clients including Craigslist, Esurance, and Playfish (recently acquired by EA for $400 million).

But lately she’s turned her attention back to her true passion: bringing people together. MacTavish Best, who is known for her entrepreneur- and tech-filled dinner parties (Online food mag Toque recently called them the “best in Silicon Valley”), is on a year-long sabbatical from her day job to focus on entertaining and writing a cookbook based on a collection of recipes passed down from her mother.

She’s launched a website,, featuring tips for entertaining, decorating, and cooking. While some of the entries—cocktail attire, for example—are distinctly girly, she was inspired to start imparting lifestyle advice, at least in part, by the young and often socially clueless tech-world guys who passed through her home.

Eventually, she hopes to build a lifestyle brand in the style of Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson. “They’re approachable, and their cooking is about bringing people together,” she explained.

But comparisons to another famous host are unavoidable.

susan mactavishMacTavish’s rustic wooden table was transported from San Francisco

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

According to tech entrepreneur and angel investor Nova Spivack, who has known MacTavish Best for six years, “she really is the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley.”

She’s “always hosting amazing dinners, giving everyone gifts,” he wrote to us in an email. “Her homes have always been filled with fascinating art, crafts, and design.”

Unlike Stewart’s country club-chic style, MacTavish Best’s is far more eclectic, drawing on her Scottish upbringing and love of art—her mother was an art appraiser who gifted her a new piece of artwork for her birthday each year.

Bob Goodson, co-founder of Quid, first visited Susan’s former home in Mill Valley, outside of San Francisco, in 2006. “We walked in to find a log fire, animal rugs, home-cooked dinner, a piano, and stacks of books everywhere, on topics ranging from California architecture to programming with Python,” he wrote to us in an email. “It was like no place I’d ever seen.”

Her SoHo pad, which she moved into in March, is also a quirky mix of old and new. Her nightly dinner menu is scribbled on a chalk board below a bull’s skull, and the walls are filled with antique paintings, photos, and signs. She picked the loft for its high ceilings and centrally located kitchen, though the spacious, artificial grass-lined roof isn’t a bad perk either.

Right now, she’s entertaining a couple of times a week, whether it’s a full-fledged dinner party or a last-minute meal with friends in front of the TV. She’s working her way through a three-ring binder filled with recipes that her mother gave her after college, which she plans to use as the basis for her forthcoming cookbook. The recipes, much like her decor, are retro, unexpected, and cool.

susan mactavish homeThe dinner menu is written out on a chalkboard

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

At the dinner party I attended this summer, several of the dishes were straight from her mother’s repertoire. Two, Bohemian Grove Eggplant and Pacific-Union Club Tuna Tartare, were named after old San Francisco social clubs and felt like they could have been served in one of those exclusive enclaves decades ago. The hearty chicken dish was simply dubbed “Chicken Men Like,” an apt description coined by MacTavish Best’s mother.

The crowd was as diverse as the menu. There was a sculptor from Brooklyn and his freelance writer-wife, an old friend from Oxford University with whom she’d recently reconnected, and a handful of journalists who were old friends of MacTavish Best’s. Most had never met before, but between MacTavish Best’s easygoing introductions (“You’re both writers! You should meet!”) and an ample bar filled with homemade mixers (fresh blackberries and thyme, lemonade), it was only a matter of time before everyone felt like old friends.

MacTavish Best’s parties are natural networking opportunities, given her deep ties to the tech scene and seemingly endless group of friends and acquaintances. Goodson said he met his current media design partners at one of MacTavish Best’s events, and Spivack met Allan Morgan, a VC at Mayfield Fund, who later joined him as an early investor in Klout.

But networking is not the priority, said MacTavish Best, who extends invitations to friends, and friends of friends (sorry folks, you’ll have to know someone to get on the guest list). “I’d love everyone to just hang out more,” she said.

“Susan cares about bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and you never know who you’ll meet,” said Goodson. “She does it so effortlessly and selflessly. There is a genuine openness and warmth to her events.”

Some additional photos of MacTavish Best’s New York apartment, below.

susan mactavish homeCharcuterie, cheese, and homemade spreads

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

susan mactavish homeHomemade drink mixers on a makeshift bar

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

susan mactavish homeThe living room has Scottish touches

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

susan mactavish homeThe roof deck on a summer’s night

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

Now check out the cheapest Michelin-starred meals you can eat in the San Francisco Bay area >

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