Take Five with ... Corbin Tomaszeski: My holiday entertaining tips

With the holidays quickly approaching, culinary wizard Corbin Tomaszeski is here to help with chef-approved tips for hosting a holiday gathering. “Every December, my wife and I bring in our closest friends and neighbours and we host an elaborate dinner party,” the Food Network Canada personality tells Hello! “It’s a full-tasting dinner at our house where we sit and enjoy fantastic food and wine. It’s [about] spending time with the people you care most about.”

Photo: © Shaw Media

When he’s not in his home kitchen, Corbin is coaching families to serve up their best with host Rick Campanelli on The Incredible Food Race (Wednesdays, Food Network Canada and Saturdays, Global). “It’s in good fun,” he says of the competition series. “It’s a good way of rallying families together to get back in the kitchen and have fun around food again.” Has he ever wondered how his family would do in the race? “I’m super-competitive but my wife is ultra-competitive,” says Corbin. “We would knock the competition out of the park!”

Here, he shares his top tips for hosting a dinner party that both you and your guests will enjoy.

I think the most common detriment for people entertaining is that they always leave it to the last minute. They have great intentions to get ahead of the game but due to unforeseen circumstances, they are always people scrambling. The most important thing is to pre-plan. Get as much stuff done ahead of time. If you’re hosting a dinner in your dining room, set the table two days before. Do whatever you can ahead of time to make yourself ready the day of or the night of. On the day of your party, treat your kitchen at home like a professional kitchen by having all of the prep work done. Your sauce is ready to go, your greens are washed and your vinaigrette is in a jar, ready to be shaken. That way, all you’re really doing is dressing plates.

Start with the hero of the menu, which is the main course. It is usually the most expensive, the one you spend the most amount of time on and the one people will remember. When planning a menu, I start with the main course and branch out from there. Like anything new that you try, keep it simple and as you become more experienced in the kitchen you can become a little bit more elaborate and adventurous with your dishes.

Chef Corbin coaches families in the kitchen on The Incredible Food Race. Photo: © Shaw Media

I like the idea of taking [a dish that’s] nostalgic and making it new again. That could be done by swapping out certain ingredients or presenting it in a fashion that makes people say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Last year, I made a rack of lamb, but I put a Moroccan spin on the sauce. Try making something that’s familiar to people, but then incorporate a spice, fresh herb or sauce that makes people think about that dish differently.

Start by coming up with a theme. Last year, I wanted our party to have an outdoorsy feel, so there was a lot of wood and other natural elements. I’m still deciding on this year’s theme but I was thinking about having everything be black and white, which is non-traditional because at the holidays we often think of red, gold and green.

It’s not just about the look of your room and the food, it’s about the entire feel of the dinner party, including what guests smell when they walk in the front door. I’m not a big fan of scented candles around food. It’s the number-one mistake people make. You don't want people smelling pine or cinnamon at the table, you want them to smell your food! Try simple tapered candles. Less is more.

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