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Throw the perfect dinner party with tips from a professional chef


Attending a great dinner party is a real treat – the home looks fab, the food tastes fantastic, and the playlist is on point. Throwing a great dinner party is different. Suddenly all the pressure is on you. What will you cook? How will you style the table? How do I ensure my guests enjoy themselves?

It's daunting, which is why we've enlisted help. Recently, MasterChef 2017 winner and professional chef Diana Chan hosted a dinner party with a group of 10 lucky competition winners. After the event, we caught up with Diana to get her top tips for turning your next dinner party into a Good Food Guide-worthy restaurant.

The menu

To begin with, Diana thinks about who she's invited to dinner. "Understanding the guests that are coming and finding out their dietary requirements, likes, and dislikes will help to shape the menu you're preparing." Your dinner party menu should include crowd-pleasers or comfort, something that strikes a memory or something that people are familiar with where you can put a spin on it.

Then, find a series of meals that work harmoniously together. For the Chinese banquet that Diana prepared recently, she ensured that she served "a mixture of light and heavier dishes filled with fresh ingredients." There are plenty of dinner party recipes that balance lighter entrees and appetisers with heavier main courses.

If you're not the most confident chef, it might be a good idea to cook your dinner party main in the slow cooker or oven. This will take the pressure off as the food has been prepared in advance. There are plenty of slow cooker food ideas which will surely impress the guests and are perfect for the colder months.

There's an aspect of performance too. Diana advises that as you lay each course down onto the table, explain what you've prepared so that your guests know what is being served. After all, everyone loves a good story about the food or where the inspiration to prepare the meal came from. This makes for good dinner party conversation and a great ice breaker.

The mood

While the menu is essential, Diana stresses that sharing a meal is more than just food.

"I like to create an atmosphere, so I bring my best self to the table and create an environment where people feel comfortable and treat the space as if it were their own."

There are a few essentials when it comes to building a solid atmosphere. Firstly, you need to get the lighting right – find the perfect balance between too light and too dark. Diana says you should create a mood with softened hues so that guests can "see every detail on the plate without being blinded by the reflection."

Luckily, we were able to rely on our friends at Lumi Lighting, who made sure that the event's vibe was captured from the moment you arrived. Their innovative products make it easy to set the mood – whether it's warm yellows or cool blues.

Next, every dinner party must have the right music. You don't need to have themed music based on the cuisine – in fact, sometimes that can come across as tacky – but something soft and ambient is a must. There are plenty of dinner party playlists on Spotify and YouTube to choose from. Don't blast techno or dance music while you're eating – that's for later after a few red wines!

Other factors which influence the mood of your dinner party include:

  • greeting guests with a beverage
  • providing canapes before they sit
  • lighting candles
  • making the room smell pleasant
  • topping up guests’ drinks when they get low
  • making sure your home is clean
  • fill a vase with real flowers or greenery
  • spend time with each guest

"It's the attention to detail that makes the guests feel special. That's incredibly important to any successful dinner party,' Diana says.

The table

It was easy for Diana to set the perfect table when she hosted the dinner party at the Doulton show home in Burwood, Victoria. Homeware was supplied by salt&pepper, whose range of plates, cutlery, napery and more made the table the hero of the room.

"We organised tableware and napery to match the specially curated menu first," Diana says, "then, we made sure it matched the look and feel of the home."

Setting the table may feel complicated, but it should be easy: just remember to keep it consistent. You don't need to make swan figures out of napkins!

The memories

Diana likes to make sure their guests leave with something that leaves a lasting impression. "No matter what you plan, make the night come alive through every sense with the food, ambience, and smells. "Have your guests eating with their eyes from the moment they step inside your home. If you get that right, it's sure to be a night they'll always remember."

You can make a lasting impression with something physical too. Diana likes to give her guests something they can take home with them to remind them of the night.

At the recent event she hosted for Metricon customers, the guests took home a breakfast they could enjoy in bed the following day. While eating the complimentary breakfast, they were sure to be reminiscing about their experience the night before.

"Home entertaining is so much more than what we eat," Diana says, "it's the moments we share over food that creates memories that will last a lifetime. It's about making every meal a memory."

Check out some of Diana’s amazing recipes which are perfect for your next dinner party:

Spring Onion Pancake, 5-Spiced Duck Breast and Sesame Rice Balls

Crab Egg Nests, DIY Fortune Cookies, Pork and Prawn Wontons and Crispy Pork Belly Bao

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