Chef Ned Bell advises that hosts will get the most out of their holiday meal if they “think like a chef.”
“My advice for cooking for large groups and parties is to be very, very prepared. Great cooks think ahead, are organized and do as little as possible last minute. We also know that asking for help makes the experience fun and interactive helping to create meaningful family memories which, at the end of the day, are all that matters.”
1. Have fun with your family and friends – Being prepared is the best way to be over organized allowing the host to enjoy their own party.
2. Shop local – Farmers markets, local artisan bakeries, butcher and cheese shops are the best places to pick up fresh, flavourful ingredients.
3. Eat seasonally – cook from what is local and in season. This guides my personal food philosophy of “globally inspired, locally created.”
4. Make a gift – a homemade jar of apple butter, quince preserve or cranberry sauce goes a long way. Not only will you have a parting gift for visiting family and friends that will touch their families at a later event but you will also have something to enjoy the night of your gathering.
5. Bake something – bread, cookies, pie – nothing makes home more welcoming and delicious than the smell of fresh baking.
6. Make soup – do this ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it the day of the party. Make extra a freeze a batch for busy evenings.
7. Make potatoes and other vegetables ahead of time – we call this ‘mise en place’ in the culinary world. Basically have everything prepped and ready well ahead.
8. Try something new – a vegan or vegetarian dish can inspire and intrigue you and your guests. Unusual or unexpected ingredients can spark an appetite and the conversation.
9. Brine the turkey and cook the breast and legs separately – this will ensure a perfectly cooked bird that takes half the time!
10. Ask for help - delegate tasks to guests when they arrive. Almost everyone wants to help but hosts are usually never prepared enough to actually give them something to do.
And last but not least:
11. Spend time with family - eating, talking, laughing, enjoying – the dirty dishes can wait. Your family will remember the food but what they will take away most is the memory you gave them.
About Executive Chef Ned Bell - A good portion of Bell’s life was spent growing up in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, which has instilled a lifelong passion for fresh and locally sourced cuisine. Now, serving as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, including YEW restaurant + bar, Bell begins with premium ingredients, sourcing the best of what is available locally and seasonally, and then focusing on flavour.