Chef Curtis Stone's make-ahead party plan guarantees that your meal will be marvelous and that when your guests arrive, you'll be happy, relaxed and nowhere near the kitchen.


Grill & Chill

"The most important thing hosts should remember is to enjoy themselves," Chef Curtis Stone, host of Top Chef Masters and author of What's for Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life says. "Don't overcomplicate things by going too over the top or fancy. Just prepare ahead of time, then relax. The more fun you have, the more fun your guests will have."

So-Easy Set Up

"This menu is simple and fresh, and my party setup tips don't require a lot of fuss," Curtis says. "But when it all comes together, it's a real knockout." Running a few minutes late? Don't worry! A party doesn't start until most of the guests have arrived, so ask the first few friends to help with the prep!

Number One Rule

Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Salad

"The tomato and burrata salad is one of the simplest dishes in the world. Sometimes people tell me they can't cook or don't have time; well, you don't have to heat anything in this dish. There are literally two steps and then you eat it," Curtis says.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad

Watermelon & Mint Cooler

Make-ahead tip: Blend the watermelon mixture in the morning and stick it in the fridge till it's time to serve.

Grilled Shrimp

"You know I had to sneak some shrimp on the barbie in here somewhere!" Curtis jokes. But all jokes aside, this seafood supper is so simple. Just mix the vinaigrette the night before and keep it refrigerated. All you need to do later is whisk in the grapeseed oil and add the shrimp before grilling.

No Pressure

"Family style is my favorite way to serve. You can eat at your leisure and guests don't feel like they have to finish everything on their plate," Curtis says.

Don’t Forget!

Grilled Curry Zucchini

Make and chill the dressing the night before; shake before using. As the party starts, grill the veggies -- they'll be cool by the time you're ready to toss the salad.

New York Steaks

It's all about the Chipotle-Cilantro Butter with this dish. Make and chill the butter up to 2 days ahead -- or, to really get ahead of the game, make and freeze it 1 month in advance. Thaw before using.

Double Batch

"The chipotle-cilantro butter is so delicious, you should mix a double batch and freeze half," Curtis says. "It's fantastic with steak, chicken, even bread."

Make More

Pineapple Skewers

For a sweet start on dessert, toast the coconut and make the caramel sauce up to 2 days ahead. Store the coconut in an airtight container; refrigerate the sauce, then warm it over medium-low heat before using.

Plan It Out

"When I first started entertaining, I felt like I was doing a catering job. I'd run around like a crazy man," Curtis says. "I've learned over the years to finish the preparations early so I can spend the day surfing or with my friends and family, and still come home to a fantastic meal." Learn more of Curtis' best plan-ahead tips.  

The Pleasure of Planning

Set the Table

"Put out your linens and flatware early so you're not rushing around later," Curtis says. "My only decorating rule is to keep it simple: Go to the farmers' market for flowers or snip whatever's growing in your garden. I put one stem in a water bottle or a few in jam jars. Less is more."

Chill the Drinks

Save yourself time and space in the kitchen: It takes about three hours to chill bottles in the fridge, but only 30 minutes in a bucket filled with ice and water.

Light the Candles

"Do it before guests arrive, even if it's not dark yet," Curtis says. "That way, you won't be fumbling to find matches later on."

Party Time!

"When I was growing up, meals were always an important event for my family," Curtis says. "I didn't realize until I got older just how special they are -- the conversations you have around the table and the connections you make with people who mean the most to you."

Let the Party Begin!

Fast for Summer

Feeling inspired? Get more of our quick cookin' recipes to make this summer.

Summer Corn and Tomato Pasta