Monday, 21 October 2019
RINGO STARR was there. Henley dinner party — an informal affair. Twenty guests and a vegetarian buffet (after much research into Ringo’s dietary preferences).
The host chose not to cook, concentrating on entertaining guests rather than faffing around the kitchen. I was the hired chef.
Ringo compliments the host for including his favourite veggie super foods, then finds me in the kitchen and asks for egg and chips. True story.
I was a guest at a dinner party — the host trying to cook something for the first time in a new frock and stilettos.
Table laid with stuff normally never used — butter knives, napkin rings, hundreds of glasses and name cards in scallop shells.
The host spent most of the evening at the stove — a Michelin star supper which got our applause. Culinary one-upmanship. There’s an adage that says: “If the food is the star of your dinner party, then you’ve invited the wrong people.”
Dinner party food should be good — but your guests chatting, flirting and rubbishing the boss are priority.
You should be there, ready. Welcome your guests — anecdotes polished, shirt ironed, Twiglets and a bucket of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to hand.
Entertaining your mates, not stressing in the kitchen, that’s what it’s about. Cold starter and pud, easy main. Tasty food.
Half a dozen mates have taxied in from the far-flung corners of Oxfordshire to your dinner party. Forked out a fortune on flowers, wine, babysitters — so your grub’s got to be good.
Imagine sending food back at a dinner party, complaining, writing a bad TripAdvisor. That’s awkwardness you could spread on toast! You definitely won’t get invited back.
Ah, the dilemma. Be the perfect “mine host” or do chef karaoke in the kitchen with Heston Blumenthal’s cookbook?
Hire a chef! We’re not all sweary scaries like something from Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Here’s some fab local caterers who’ll take the pressure off any dinner party, event, wake or wedding:
Apparently, AWT isn’t averse to the occasional bit of ready, steady, cooking at private dinners.
I threw a dinner party at home recently. Got dressed up to eat in my own home, HRH Prince Charles’ old chef being one of the guests.
Crab, roast chicken. Souffléd beignets with lemon curd. Arranged the seafood starter on huge white plates before the grub arrived.
Things were starting to feel a bit righteous — too much etiquette, the dark side of an honest supper — until the oven died. No roast chicken. We all trooped to
the kitchen and cooked each other omelettes and drank. It was a huge success.
If you hire a chef to cook in your kitchen, the chef wears their heart on their sleeve.
In my restaurants, I work with a brigade of chefs. Invite me to cook at yours, I’m the naked chef — just my head on the chopping block. A home dinner party chef, home wedding or event chef gives 100 per cent. Such an intimate, honest, personal situation.
Peter Sarstedt had a worldwide hit in 1969 with Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? Further hits, worldwide fans and his own TV series followed. We became friends. Peter said performing to 40 guests at my restaurant was harder than playing the Palladium or Royal Albert Hall — the Crooked Billet performance being so intimate and personal.
They say cooks do it for love, chefs do it for money. Any decent chef couldn’t cook for your friends at home if they didn’t love what they were doing. No doubt you’ll have to pay for that love, though.
If I haven’t frightened you off, myself or the chefs from the Crooked Billet brigade would be delighted to cook at your dinner party or event. Give us a call and tell me your favourite dishes on (01491) 681048 or email paulclerehugh@
• Paul Clerehugh is chef patron of the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie in Reading. Catch his weekly Food on Friday show on BBC Radio Berkshire — 95.4FM and 104.1FM — from 2pm to 3pm for recipes, foodie affairs and light-hearted kitchen chat.
28 January 2019
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