Bobby Flay's Top Tip For Building A Perfect Dinner Party Menu

Hosting friends for a dinner party is rewarding and a great way to connect with your guests, but it can get overwhelming fast. From creating the invite list to choosing recipes, grocery shopping, and preparing the food, it takes quite a bit of work to pull it all off. But, little tips and tricks throughout can help smooth the process along, and celebrity chef Bobby Flay is happy to share what he knows to make the whole thing a little easier.

Flay has built a restaurant empire and written over a dozen cookbooks. The culinary arts are such a crucial part of his life that Flay says he wakes up thinking about food. Even in his free time, Flay enjoys throwing parties, but instead of hosting a formal bash, he told Good Housekeeping that he prefers a more casual affair with him cooking food on the grill. With all this experience making sure guests are comfortable, whether at one of his highly regarded restaurants or in his backyard, Flay must know a thing or two about throwing a party. So, while he is known for his cooking advice, Flay is also well-equipped to share party-planning tips that can help to create a successful gathering.

A theme will help guide your menu and your plan

Before creating a party to-do list, Flay says a great place to start is picking a party theme. Flay tells Good Housekeeping a theme can help with planning all aspects of the meal from the appetizers and the main dish to sides and beverages. If there are any doubts about what dishes to make, the theme gives the host a reference point they can use to research recipes that work well together. 

Flay says, "I don't just think, 'I'm going to do a chicken dish.' I think, 'I want to make an Argentinean meal.' With all of our great information access, I can research it."

Flay explains that he begins by thinking of a foundational dish within the theme or cuisine and then builds his menu around that. He researches the theme to help him choose complementary sides and drinks. 

"All of a sudden you start seeing the menu come together," says Flay.

Martha Stewart echoes the importance of building a cohesive and balanced menu with dishes and drinks that complement rather than compete with one another. Instead of choosing appetizers and sides that mimic the flavors of the main dish, the site recommends focusing on flavors and textures that balance one another. 

Beyond the menu, a theme can also make a party more memorable for guests and help keep the entire event cohesive as it can also guide decisions around all elements of the party, including games and music, according to Intentional Hospitality. So next time you host a dinner party, start with a theme, whether that is the all-American backyard barbecue or exploring a new international cuisine, and relax knowing you have a tasty and cohesive menu as well as a complementary atmosphere that your guests can get excited about.