Dinner Party Lessons

When you sit down to a multi-course meal, do you know which fork is for which course?  How about which bread plate or drink glass is yours?  How do you cut your food properly?  How will you indicate you are finished?  All questions many of us might have.  When it comes to eating, there are lots of little rules about how to do this or that.

As part of my job, I was recently trained how how to teach etiquette, business etiquette and manners classes (for children and teens).  Part of the training involved a fine dining tutorial.  When I told some friends about the training, they seemed eager to learn some of what I had been taught.  So when the Foodbuzz 24×24 dinners rolled around, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to host a fun, yet informative, dinner party for some friends.

The Guests: Kara, Erin and Natalie + their husbands

The Menu:

Cold Appetizer: Roasted Grape, Blue Cheese and Honey Crostini (recipe)

Hot Appetizer: Bacon Wrapped Dates (Simply stuff a pitted date with an almond, wrap with 1/2 piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.)

Soup: Roasted Corn and Poblano Pepper Chowder

Salad: Beet and Baby Kale Salad (the original recipe called for watercress instead of baby kale)

Main: Bacon and Gruyere Meatloaf (recipe), Potato Galette (recipe), and Roasted Asparagus

Dessert: Items purchased from the Food Blogger Bake Sale (Iron Stef’s balls, Cupcake Project’s high hat cupcakes, Rhubarb and Honey’s chocolate rice krispies with cranberries and someone’s (they were not labeled) chocolate chip, cranberry and almond cookies)

Lesson Learned by the Guests:

The main thing we covered was a place setting, what utensils are for what and where they go.

Here is an example of a place setting with each item labeled:

Indicating you are still eating:

Indicating you are finished:

We also discussed things like introducing people, napkin placement, being a good hostess, how to eat soup, etc.  With each course came a few little tidbits of information, questions asked, discussion and then of course, great conversation and lots of laughter.

Lessons Learned from Hosting a Multi-Course Dinner Party for Eight:

1. Prep ahead.  I waited until 3 p.m. the day of to start cooking.  This was a horrible idea, especially considering that there was a tornado warning 45 minutes before guests were to arrive, and we were in the basement in robes and wet hair waiting it out.  It all worked out in the end, but the stress-level would of been greatly reduced by better planning ahead on my part.

2. Make a loose schedule of what will need to happen when.  When will the hot appetizer need to go in the oven?  Can the potatoes and meatloaf cook at the same time and same temp?  This really helped me keep the courses coming in a timely manner.

3. Double check you have enough place settings.  Ten minutes before my guests arrived I realized that we were 2 knives, 1 salad fork, and 1 dinner fork short.  Plus, we don’t even own dessert forks.  Luckily, it just mean that my husband’s and my place settings weren’t right (and we pretended we had dessert forks).  I never would of thought that we didn’t’ have a full 8 place settings.  Double check!

4. Have a helper.  My husband achieved a new level of sainthood dealing with the stress and anxiety of cooking for and hosting eight people.  He was constantly clearing plates, filling water, and helping me not lose my mind.

5. Don’t be afraid to buy pre-prepared food.  The soup and dessert courses I bought.  The cook and food blogger in me wanted to make everything from scratch in our kitchen.  I’m so glad I decided not to do this though.  It was just one less thing I needed to worry about making.

6. Do a mirror check before guests arrive.  In the rush of everything (see #1) I forgot to put on make-up.  Opps!

7. Make a recipe that you’ve made before.  Dinner parties aren’t the time to try something new.  Trust me on this one.  I’ve learned the hard way, multiple times.  Luckily this time I remembered and made some tried and true favorites.

8. Have fun!  Don’t get so worked up about everything being perfect that you don’t get to actually enjoy the meal and the company.

Oh, and maybe hire someone to clean up when it’s all over. . . .

We used literally every single dish we own, but it was worth it!

All in all, I think we all learned quite a few lessons about etiquette and hosting a dinner party.  When it was all said and done, Kara told me she felt empowered now.  I couldn’t of been more excited to hear that.  At the end of the day, it’s not about following all the rules correctly, it’s about being confident to handle social situations with poise and grace and being able to make others feel comfortable and welcome in your presence.

A HUGE thanks to Foodbuzz for helping make this dinner possible through their 24×24 program!!

Are you interested in finding out more about etiquette lessons, training for your business or company or manners classes for children and teens?  Send me an email: laura (at) foodsnobstl (dot) com.  I’d love to chat with you more about the services I can offer.

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  1. Kara says:

    Thank you for hosting such a wonderful evening, Laura! We had such a great time. We need to hang out more often. Maybe next time I can cook and take the stress off of you :)

  2. Erin says:


    THANK YOU for hosting such a lovely dinner!

  3. Kimberly says:

    Fabulous post, Laura!

    Such great tips … I too tend to want to make everything for a dinner party from scratch … and it usually never works out! A few store-bought items can really take the stress off … good tip!

    • laurab says:

      Thanks! It’s taken me a while to learn, but it is okay to not do everything. The soup was from Whole Foods, and I was plesantly surprised by how good it was – made me feel better about buying it premade.

  4. so well written, and what a fun evening. we seriously need to do it again, except next time we won’t stick you with all of the cooking and the cleaning! thank you for your hospitality and for inviting us :)

  5. I need to follow your advice and buy 1-2 things for a big dinner. It’s so not worth the stress!

  6. [...] I hosted my dinner party the other week, there was one more trick I had that made the night go a little smoother: [...]

  7. [...] I have a really big announcement to make!!!  You might remember from a few months ago, I hosted a fine dining tutorial in my home.  I mentioned that I had recently been trained to become an etiquette instructor.  [...]

  8. [...] If you are having friends over or hosting a dinner party, I highly recommend making this for dessert.  It is quick and easy to make, you can make it ahead, and the depth of it’s chocolate flavor is stunning.  It is sure to impress your guests (plus who wouldn’t love a chocolate pie?!).  For more tips on hosting dinner parties, check out this post. [...]

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