Photography by Maya Visnyei
For hosts, Thanksgiving can easily be more daunting than it is enjoyable — but not this year! We reached out to an expert for his tips on hosting a stress-free feast.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to start planning: The guest list, the menu, the tabletop. That turkey isn’t going to cook itself!
But if year after year you find yourself spending more time in the kitchen than with your guests, this is the year to change that. We checked in with Sebastien Centner, director of Eatertainment Events & Catering, to get his advice on Thanksgiving entertaining so that you can be a carefree hostess (and actually enjoy!) this holiday.
1. Spend the day before getting the little things done.
Leaving too many tasks until the day of the celebration can make any host feel overwhelmed. “Think of things you can do the day before,” says Sebastien. “Clear out the front closet so you have coat hangers and space available for coats as people arrive, set the table the night before, set up the bar with glassware, red wines, and other items that can sit out overnight.” The same goes for food prep, he says. “See what you can do in advance so your prep is done and you can focus on finishing each course instead of making it from scratch.”
Here's what you should get done the night before:
- Clear out the front closet
- Set the table
- Build your centrepieces
- Add place cards to table settings
- Set up the bar with anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated
- Do food prep
- Put out the dishes you’ll use for each course
- Empty the dishwasher so it’s ready to go
2. Why stress? Make it a potluck.
Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies and a slew of sides (not to mention appetizers and a pumpkin treat!) — if the thought of cooking all this food has you breaking out in a cold sweat, relax. Throw a Thanksgiving potluck! “Entertaining, especially around the holidays, is about getting together with friends and family,” says Sebastien. “If everyone pitching in makes it easier and you can enjoy yourself more, then go for it!”
3. The size of your gathering should determine the style of the celebration.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Consider the size of the crowd and the style of evening (cocktail party V. plated dinner) and make sure you aren't setting yourself up for failure. The larger the group the more challenging it gets, so don't over-complicate things. “If you are having 12 people for dinner, instead of plating individual plates (which takes time, sometimes results in cold food or guests waiting for the hosts to be seated to eat), do sharing platters of large servings. This allows people to help themselves while the conversation continues, people can start eating at a more leisurely pace, and everyone can take the portion that suits their appetite.”
4. There's no shame in buying what you can’t make—but put thought into the presentation.
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make everything from scratch. “The idea is to put effort into your entertaining though, not just move the food from containers to your dishes, so find that perfect balance,” says Sebastien. “Sauces and more complex items like great marinated meats can be bought, but then finish them yourself with touches that make it more personal.”
5. Don't overthink your table.
Stressed about decorating your Thanksgiving table? It’s easier than you think. Sebastien suggests using branches, twigs, pussy willows, and other outdoor elements that are dried out so you can set the table the night before. Place them in vases in the middle of the table, or use a sprig at each table setting to add a festive touch.