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Host Like A French

Channel your inner Gatsby and get the champagne ready. BWB shows you how to play hostess the French way.

As a child, I would often fall asleep to the sound of my parents having a party. French people do not need any special occasion to gather friends and host a nice, simple dinner. It’s incredible how much more you enjoy the warm company of your friends when you are not in a loud and packed restaurant. Hosting is much easier than you’d think, and the more you do it, the easier it gets, as you gradually gain a better grasp on things. Soon, you will have all the tools you need to host a pleasant, elegant gathering right at your fingertips.”

1. What Should Be Prepared in Advance

Opt for dishes that are easy to prep, as you don’t want to fuss too much with preparing or presenting the meal once your guests arrive. In French culture, we always try to prepare ahead of time, so that when guests arrive, we can really just enjoy the meal and spend meaningful time with them in the present.

Prepare your menu.

For the main course, try something that is as simple as it is impressive. I like to make velouté for starters as they are easily prepped in advance. I follow up with a main course that cooks easily in the oven, so it does not smell as much in my apartment. Anything pan-fried is to be avoided! Roasted chicken, beef, fish or gratins are ideal candidates for a hearty main dish that will fill up your guests without filling up all your time.

For dessert, you can cut up fruit into small pieces for an elegant homemade fruit salad. You can also serve this with a tart or cake from the bakery of your choice. You don’t need to make everything from scratch—you’re only human after all!

Another useful tip: Shop the day before to avoid the last-minute rush. Let the day of your event be as calm and low-stress as possible.

2. The Day of the Event
Time to cook!

Make a recipe you’re comfortable with! A friend gave me the book: Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World. I just love it. No recipe has more than 4 steps or 6 ingredients, but each delicious dish will still impress your guests–trust me!

The goal is to avoid pretentious and complicated cookbooks, or you may end up like Bridget Jones with vegetables in a blue sauce! Don’t be too hard on yourself with unrealistically high expectations; a simple dish is still a great one.

Set the table and create that certain, “je ne sais quoi.”

Enjoying a nice dinner is also about the ambience of the space and the presentation of the table, but you don’t need a full set of China to create a pleasant environment. Mixing and matching works just as well! Vintage or antique pieces, like silverware and plates, add a sense of chic nostalgia to any table setting. It should look elegant, yet approachable. Open the wine in advance, and pour the water in a carafe (no plastic bottles on the table!).

Flowers are always delightful, especially ones you’ve arranged yourself. Be sure to light scented candles at least 30 minutes in advance so that the aroma has time to meander around the event space and greet your guests as they arrive. Do not forget some music, but make sure you play it at a subtle volume. Your guests will want to speak to one another—not shout!

3. Enjoy!

Take time to pause between courses. French people love to sit with friends around a table to discuss love, life, and everything else.

Remember, it does not have to be perfect. Friends are always grateful to come to your home for a dinner, so relax, and make sure you enjoy yourself just as much as your guests do!

Alicia Zhang

Originally from Los Angeles, Alicia lived in Shanghai for 11 years before moving back to the states to attend the University of Miami, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and minors in art and philosophy. Currently residing in New York City, Alicia applies her knowledge of strategic communication and design in her career. She enjoys painting, rugby, exploring, and more often than not, you’ll find her petting someone’s dog.

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