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Secrets of the House

Essential entertaining tips from some of our favourite chefs.

Moira Murray



I am a big fan of having a beautiful spread of fresh market veggies, cheese, meats and dips. I usually get one of my friends to choose the music so my Spotify doesn’t end up selecting an endless loop of Taylor Swift. Dessert-wise, there is a shop in my parents’ hometown of Antigonish that makes the best cookies I’ve ever had. I love grabbing some of those to keep the prep load down.

Mandel Hitzer

Deer + Almond


I like a theme! I love hosting and taking care of guests, but I will never say no to someone bringing anything. Mise en place is everything. I never insist on strict wine pairings with dinner, although I always have a stash of non-alcoholic beverages on hand, Leitz alcohol-free wines being a favourite.

Gus Stieffenhoffer-Brandson

Published on Main


I like to have most everything set up. Treat it like restaurant service, with everything more or less portioned out, so it’s just a matter of making things hot, dressing things, minimal prep, minimal knife cuts, etc.

I like a theme! I love hosting and taking care of guests, but I will never say no to someone bringing anything.

Mandel Hitzer

David Schwartz

Mimi Chinese


Choose a couple of dishes that you can pre-plate and put in the fridge, or something like a stew or roast that you can cook in advance. When it comes to dessert, I usually lean towards simple and decadent — a perfectly cooked cake, crumble or pie with a scoop of great ice cream, or some lovely cheese and fruit.

Tim Moroney


Quebec City

The most pleasant choice is spending time with your guests and having the food aspect be the supporting star. I go for a bare-bones cocktail setup, with three minimalist cocktail creations to please different palates — perhaps a gin highball with house-made kombucha from Alentours, a negroni and a daiquiri. My golden rule for entertaining at home? No more than one drink for me before the main course hits the table.

Celeste Mah


St. John’s

We usually put cheese out before people arrive. We’ll downsize it and put it aside during dinner and then bring it back out when everyone is just hanging out after. Have at least three — one hard, one soft and one funky, whether it’s blue or something super-stinky. Some honey and neutral flavoured crackers, with grapes or pears. Don’t have every light on in the house, and ensure the music is loud enough so you can hear it, but not so loud you can’t have a conversation.

Kristian Eligh

Marilena Cafe and Raw Bar


I cook what I want to cook — guests are along for the ride! Getting as much done before the party pops off keeps you on the social side of the gathering and not toiling away on the stoves solo. I hate baking and making dessert, so that is usually my “farm-out” item — that and wine. As for essential condiments, I firmly advocate for the holy trinity of good olive oil, finishing salt and fresh lemons.

My golden rule for entertaining at home? No more than one drink for me before the main course hits the table.

Tim Moroney

Tomohiro Mitsuno

Lonely Mouth Bar


I like to do a fair amount of prep in advance, so I can spend as much time as possible with my guests. I’ll also continue cooking once the guests arrive to ensure everything is as fresh as possible. When it comes to allowing guests to contribute to the meal, that’s a strict no-no at my home. I like to handle everything myself, so guests can kick back and relax.

Ariel Schor



I assume that when someone brings wine to a party, they want to drink it together. If it’s a dinner we’re planning in advance, my guests will often ask what we’re eating, generally to discuss a pairing. If I’m taking care of the food and alcohol, I pair things loosely based on the tastes of my guests. The right music is paramount. If it’s a tricky group, I just put on one of the playlists my brother, Pablo, makes for the restaurant. I’m always grateful when someone offers to take the load off my shoulders by bringing dessert.

Hoon Ji



The most important thing to consider is who is coming over for dinner. The menu will depend on what they like or dislike. Then comes what’s in season and what’s available. I loosely plan the dishes to go with whatever we are drinking. If I ever receive unexpected, hungry guests, I use instant ramen as a reliable fallback. Augmented with green onions and shabu-shabu shaved beef or pork, it’s not only faster than ordering in, it’s also a lot more delicious than most things one could make in under 10 minutes. If I’d prefer the night to go on a little longer, I often serve ochazuke, rice in dashi and/or tea with a variety of condiments. It’s nice and warming but also calls for serving a little more sake.

Photo Issha Marie (Cover)