Make preparing dinner the party in itself. Invite your friends to chop, slice, and sauté―then feast

“To the sous-chefs!” says Joanna Dawson, raising her glass to a group of five friends. Glasses clink, and coach 
and friend Dan Petrie gets dinner rolling. 
A chef and owner of Mise en Place SF, 
a San Francisco–based cooking-party 
business, Petrie is teaching them how to create restaurant-worthy food together. As they bond over its preparation, dinner becomes entertainment and the meal rolled into one.

It’s an idea that’s easy to pull off in your own kitchen. So forget that expensive night out on the town. Using Petrie’s tips, here’s how to make a party out of cooking.


Pick a menu that broadens guests’ culinary horizons For the party shown here, Mise en Place SF’s Dan Petrie chose modern Moroccan, starting with traditional spice blends such as ras el hanout and harissa and adding seasonal, accessible ingredients.

Think “interactive” For themes beyond Moroccan, Petrie suggests menus like Spanish tapas (lots of little dishes to make and try) or grill-your-own Korean barbecue.

Tell guests in advance what the menu is, and that they’ll be cooking it.

Keep the recipes easy Everyone should be able to participate and learn something new, no matter what their skill level.

Keep the size manageable Six to eight guests is ideal ― enough to share the work but not overtake the space.

Divvy up duties by interests or skills.

Be prepared Before guests arrive, assemble unprepped ingredients by recipe, along with all the equipment you’ll need.

Pace the party Plan on no more than three hours for visiting and cooking―much longer and attention wanes. Start with a recipe that can be made ahead (such as cookies for this party), then move on to an appetizer so guests have something to nibble. Work on dishes like meatballs that can be partially completed, then finish up with last-minute cooking and plating of the meal.

Have fun with wine pairings For this menu, Petrie’s suggestions are noted with recipes. For other menus, Sunset wine editor Sara Schneider recommends Perfect Pairings (University of California Press, 2006; $30) by Evan Goldstein. Once you’ve zeroed in on a flavor profile, you can ask guests to bring bottles that fit.

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