Before launching Tasting Table, a foodie site with an audience of 8 million readers, CEO
Geoff Bartakovics worked in the world of finance as a business manager in fixed income trading at UBS.
But even though he spent seven years in banking, his true passion has always been food. Author of the upcoming book “Tasting Table: Cooking with Friends” and a cook since he was just nine, Bartakovics knows a thing or two about how to please a hungry group of guests.
We recently visited Bartakovics’ New York City home, a delightful two-story, one-bedroom apartment that’s situated in an old carriage house in Soho. We learned a lot about one of his favourite hobbies: hosting dinner and cocktail parties.
Here are his best hosting tips.
Bartakovics said that guests can sometimes feel uneasy when they first arrive if they weren't given the important details of the evening.
'Err on the side of oversharing with an invitation that clarifies who's invited -- your friend and a guest, or just your friend? The dress code -- come as you are, or dress for success? And, a signal that this is a dinner party, not a casual stop-by,' Bartakovics said.
While people generally don't like being told what to do, there is an exception for when they have first arrived at a dinner event that has unfamiliar faces.
'Put everyone at ease when they arrive by taking their coats and sending them straight to the bar you laid out for easy self-service. Let them know that they should help themselves to the cheese and salumi platter while you wait for the rest of the guests and that you'll sit for dinner around 9,' Bartakovics said.
He also suggests seating placement cards so guests don't hover around the table uncomfortably while they're trying to find a seat.
When it comes to serving the food, even the simplest preparation can help encourage guests to dive into a dish.
For the appetizers, such as a meat and cheese platter be sure they're already cut. 'I always cut into most of the cheese and meats on a platter to encourage folks to get going and demonstrate how to keep helping themselves,' Bartakovics said.
If you're serving dinner family-style, be sure that dishes aren't too heavy so that they can be easily passed around the table. 'Divide large dishes into two bowls if necessary,' he said.
As host, it's your job to help create connections between guests who don't know each other. 'Be sure to introduce each guest who arrives to a couple other folks to ensure that everyone has enough context to settle into small talk until larger topics arrive,' Bartakovics said.
And when conversation lags, pass around the wine. 'Suggest that everyone do a 'speed round of toasts' to anything that's important to them these days. This gets a good amount of booze into everyone's blood stream and puts a fresh round of content into the ether to encourage new lines of thought,' he said.
'Most importantly, be relaxed and have fun. Your good mood and engaging conversation will rub off on your guests no matter how well, or poorly, the rest of your planning pans out.'
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