25 Secrets from a Celebrity Caterer
If you're lucky enough to attend a Mary Giuliani party, you won't soon forget it. From over-the-top soirees, to down-to-earth events (which she likes most!) it all comes down to the details. Get 25 insider secrets from the pro for your next big bash.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
Avoid Pinterest pressure and be realistic about your event. Consider time, budget and space constraints. "Don't try to throw a party for 10 people if you only have eight plates," Giuliani says. "And there's no need to spend $500 when much less will do." (That's Giuliana on the right!)
2. Stick to What You Know
Unless you're a daredevil, don't test-drive a new recipe during your party. "You'll worry right up until guests take the first bite," Giuliani says.
3. Prep Before
Hot food can chain a host to the kitchen. Plan a few cold and room-temp dishes you can prep and set out ahead of time.
4. Size Matters
Shrink a beloved food, like grilled cheese, into a mini version that doesn't require cutlery. "Dress it up with a drizzle of honey or truffle oil," Giuliani says.
5. Reinvent the Classics
"Instead of a typical cheese board, I like to give guests an entire table set up with various cheeses, toppings and more," Giuliani says. "It's easy to put together, but it's something most guests haven't seen before."
6. Take Your Table to New Heights
Create a visually appealing table by lifting some dishes up higher than others. A cake stand or an inverted bowl is all you need.
7. Easy Access
Slice cheeses like fresh mozzarella and burrata so guests can easily add them to their plates. With softer cheeses like ricotta, don't forget a spoon or knife for spreading.
8. Contrast is Key
Set out zesty accompaniments like eggplant caponata and marinated olives for a mix of flavors and textures.
9. Fake It 'Til You Make it
It doesn't all have to be homemade! Purchase good-quality spreads like roasted pepper romesco or olive tapenade from a specialty store. And don't hesitate to pass them off as your own!
10. No-Spill Zone
Transfer oil and vinegar to no-drip bottles so guests can drizzle without making a mess.
11. Mix & Match
Let guests choose from a variety of flavored artisan breads. Put out a few loaves and keep the extras in the kitchen. Replenish the supply as the night goes on.
12. Add a Rustic Touch
Instead of slicing bread, which dries it out, encourage guests to tear off pieces by placing loaves upright in canisters. Go ahead and dig into a loaf to get them started.
13. S&P Upgrade
Make seasonings special by upgrading to flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
14. Charcuterie is a Must
Don't forget the cured meats! Their slightly salty flavor will balance all that creamy cheese. Look for affordable picks from the deli counter, like sliced salami, capicola or domestic prosciutto.
15. No More Traffic Jams
Pull the buffet table away from the wall so guests can approach it from either side.
16. Keep Guests on Their Toes
"Everyone loves a little something unexpected," Giuliani says. At a recent party, she moved the dining room table and chairs to a wooded area behind her house and sent her guests outside (with cocktails in hand) to hunt it down. Another trick: Tape something silly, like a kazoo, toy monkey or piece of costume jewelry, to the bottom of each chair. If there's a lull in the conversation, have guests reach down and grab their unexpected gift. "It's a trick I learned from my grandma, and it always gets a good laugh," she says.
17. Keep Spirits Up
Simplify your bar. "This is not the time to dust off bottles you never use," Giuliani says. Offer two wines and a signature cocktail.
18. Know Your Crowd
A good rule of thumb for quantity is one drink per guest per hour, but if you've got an extra-festive group, be prepared!
19. Be Your Own Bartender
Make the cocktails self-serve, like the Bellini bar below. This will free you up to mingle -- and your guests can mix their drinks to their own tastes.
20. Keep it Cute
Pour mixers like fruit juice and purees into pretty glass bottles, pitchers and carafes.
21. The More, the Merrier
Don't get stuck washing glasses mid-party. Keep a few extras close to the action.
22. Back Away from the Kitchen
Keep the bar away from the kitchen so guests don't crowd around while you're busy prepping food.
23. Manage the Mood
Music can be a host's best friend! Start with soft, inviting tunes, transition to something upbeat to keep your party energetic, then bring it back down to wrap things up.
24. Wrap it Up
As the party winds down, set out coffee or tea. "The smell alone signals the end of an evening," Giuliani says. "You want to leave people wanting more, not falling asleep."
25. Nobody's Perfect
Above all else, remember: "There's no such thing as a perfect party," admits Giuliani. "Something will always go wrong, and that's OK because so many things will have gone right."