I had the awesome opportunity to host a luncheon at my place during what the girls and I called “Trade Day.” When my husband and I moved into our new area, I was immediately surrounded by young mom’s, like myself, and wanted to be my friend (which was great, for an introvert like me!). After some of these mom’s and I got talking, we discovered that we each possessed talents and abilities that all of us could benefit from. One was a massage therapist, HELLO! Another was a hair stylist, this mama was in a huge need of a fresh hair cut! Another was a fantastic violin player and a wonderful caregiver. As for me… well, I just make sandwiches, right??? Interest was immediately provoked when they learned what I do!
We decided to have our Trade Day and I offered to host the gathering at my place and of course feed everyone. Here is where I’m going to let you all in on my secret to success of how to perfectly execute a luncheon, brunch, or even a dinner! Want to know how a Professional Kitchen Ninja does this??? Keep on reading!
In my years of experience in the food industry, I had many opportunities to be a part of catering events or even just to be the help at a conference center prepping food for a 500-person dinner. Everything has to be precise, perfectly timed and every detail examined. In these huge dinners or catered events, there was usually a form filled out called a BEO, or banquet event order. This form had all of the information needed for Front of the House staff to know about (types of linen to use, how the tables needed to set up in a room, etc), as well as Back of the House (how many people, food allergies, and the menu). The chefs would then create their own lists they needed to help ensure everything was correctly executed and that the food went out on time. Approaching your luncheon or dinner with as much organization will help ensure success.
Here are my steps!
Ask about food preferences and allergies.
This is honestly the first question I ask EVERY time I make someone dinner, a treat, or put on a food a gathering. Please don’t overlook the importance of this step! When planning out the luncheon menu, I asked this question and found out that two girls didn’t like pickles and one didn’t like fish…. So if I decided to make a fancy Tuna Salad, one wouldn’t have been able to enjoy herself as much as the others. This also helps you avoid cross-contamination IF there is a food allergy!
Since I do have a little one at home that needs a lot of my attention, I couldn’t make EVERYTHING from scratch and I had to choose simple items to make that could be done quickly. I used half of a rotisserie chicken for the chicken salad because 1) chicken was already cooked. 2) the chicken already had great flavor from the roasting so I didn’t have to buy too many more ingredients to enhance the flavor. I used canned crescent rolls for my peach cobblers because I didn’t have the time to make my own dough. It’s alright if you take some help from premade items as long as you use them to only enhance your food and not detract from the food.
This is a suuped-up grocery list essentially! By making a detailed list of the menu items, you can then take inventory of what you have on hand vs. what you need to buy to make the luncheon a success. We do this all the time in restaurants. We have produce lists, meat/seafood lists, dry-good lists, etc. These lists are filled out every day so that chefs know what they need to order for the next day in order to not run out of anything. Making a detailed list will make sure you don’t have to make a last minute run to the store!
Now I don’t mean that you need to time everything in how long each item ought to take to complete but rather plan out what needs to be done when. Before baby, I could have easily done all of my prep work the night before and it would have gone on just fine. Seeing as though I have an adorable baby, who wants mom’s attention quite often, I need to give myself a grace period. I started to prep for this about 3-4 days before. My mom’s reading this, be conservative with your time! If the kiddos end up giving you the time you need to be able to finish a task, awesome; flavors can marry for a bit longer which is great! If your time gets eaten up (no pun intended), at least you have planned accordingly and can still get this all done!
Take inventory of current plate ware and serving utensils.
When doing a buffet-style luncheon or dinner, it is imperative that you make sure you have appropriate plates/platters to serve your food on AND that you have appropriate utensils to serve the food with. Foraging your local thrift store can turn up some hidden gems to round out your shindig if you are on a tight budget. However, if you want to invest in some special pieces, I would definitely look at some specialty shops that carry unique items that can help showcase the beauty of the food you are serving! Remember, your plate ware not only should highlight the food but it should be functional as well! Serving salads in bowls, meats on platters etc.
Alrighty, yopu made your lists and you know when you need to make certain items. All that is left now, execute your plan! Because I had planned ahead properly, and with the help of a dear friend who offered to watch the baby an hour before the other girls showed up, I was able to not only finish last minute items, but I was able to set the table, play around with the setting of the food, polish silverware and glasses and straighten up my home just a bit to accommodate my guests.
Throwing a luncheon was a nice way for me to relive my passion; on a much smaller scale of course. I was able to come up with a menu that I knew was going to be a hit!
- The chicken salad was, more or less, the same chicken salad that received accolades at a restaurant I worked (I honestly was told by the owner that out of all of his restaurants, the way I made the chicken salad was the best!); you need this recipe!
- The bean salad I thought would be a nice alternative to a green salad because those can be so passé sometimes. The beans also provide protein which would help hold our appetites over since I knew this “Trade Day” would be some hours!
- The stuffed peppers were a nice snacking addition that would allow the girls to eat without having to commit to a plate until they were ready for a full meal.
- The peach cobbler, I wanted a nice summer type dessert to round off the meal. These mini ones were convenient for everyone to have their own and it meant me not having to clean more dishes than I needed to (check this recipe out for the streusel recipe!).
I hope with these steps; you take on more opportunities to host a gathering at your place! It really is rewarding when you get to feed those you care about and hear their enjoyment over your food. If you would like to make the food that I made at my luncheon, print out the recipes below and make sure to download this printable that can help you plan out the menu, time your prep work and shop for the correct ingredients.
Happy eating everyone and let me know how these steps helped you at your next food gathering!
- 3 each peaches
- 16 ounces raspberries
- ½ gallon White Peach Grape juice
- 12 ounces coconut water
- 34 ounces peach nectar
- 750 ml Sparkling white grape juice
- Slice peaches and clean raspberries. Place in the bottom of a pitcher.
- Add white peach grape juice, coconut water, and peach nectar. Stir together and let sit overnight.
- When ready to serve, ladle some of the “sangria” mix into a glass, topping off with sparkling grape juice.