Cooking

Holiday Entertaining Tips from a 'Chopped' Champion

Adriana Urbina is a dinner party expert, and she's spilling her secrets
Holiday Entertaining Tips from Adriana Urbina
Photo: Kassie Borreson

Chef Adriana Urbina knows a thing or two about feeding a crowd. The Chopped champion is the founder of the pop-up dinner series, Tepuy. Originally from Venezuela, Urbina studied culinary arts in Caracas before working at an impressive array of Michelin-starred establishments. When the political situation in Venezuela took a dangerous turn, Urbina left for New York and founded Tepuy in 2014. Since then, she's thrown more than 700 multicourse dinner parties for thousands of guests. Here are her favorite tips for throwing a stress-free (and budget-friendly) holiday dinner party.

 

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 Cut costs with grains and vegetables. 

"I like to have a variety of options on my holiday menus, so you can buy fewer expensive proteins and more inexpensive veggies and starch, which fill people up fast. Repeat the same ingredients across different dishes to cut costs."

② Keep portion sizes in mind. 

"The more choices you offer, the smaller each individual portion should be. Also, longer parties and larger guest lists need more variety.

③ Focus on contrast. 

"Offer both hot and cold food on a buffet. Combine textures, like a crisp potato galette served with a creamy vegetable purée. Consider the colors of foods that will be served together and make sure there's a variety."

④ Work with allergies and restrictions, but don't bend over backward. 

"If you're unsure about guests' food restrictions, send an email with all the ingredients. Ask weeks ahead and reconfirm when the date is near. Don't [make] your brain explode by trying out new recipes with substitutions! Make an easy recipe with just a few ingredients that you know are safe. If you realize too late that you used butter and your guest is allergic to dairy, don't stress. Even if there is one dish they can enjoy, they will be grateful."

⑤ Use food to break the ice.

"Family style food creates fast friends, because people find it easiest to talk about what's right in front of them. Passing dishes around the table is the simplest way to get guests interacting."

 

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Brooke Siem is a writer and professional chef currently meandering around the world. Follow her on Instagram at @brookesiem.

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