Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chef Spotlight Roundup: Taste of Ebony

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This month for our Chef Spotlight Dinner, we are highlighting African American chefs in honor of Black History Month. It was a delicious dinner where we learned a lot about the chefs who created the recipes we prepared. I've included biographies of these chefs within the recipe links below so I hope you not only take away some great recipes to try, but a little more information about the chefs and how they got to where they are now in the culinary world. For our dinner, we enjoyed the following dishes (with clickable recipes)...


Preparing a day before:
  • For our Chef Spotlight dinner, I opted for a a colorful table runner to add some color to the table and red chargers for my dinner plates to rest on.

  • I normally don't use any centerpieces because the focus on my tables are usually the food and wines. But if you wanted to have a centerpiece, I would suggest something simple and low so that you and your guests are able to see each other across the table. Nothing is more annoying at a table than a centerpiece you have to dodge around to see and speak comfortably with guests! For our dinner I just put out a few tealights in clear votives.

  • Because our group is coming together to celebrate African American chefs, I made placards of various African American chefs with their bios. It will provide for conversational pieces and a chance to learn more about the chefs we are highlighting for the evening.
  • To save time, I set the table the night before with all the serving ware & utensils, dinnerware, appropriate flatware, glassware, chargers/placemats and linens. I also take some time to fold napkins to add some flair to the table.
  • Since this dinner is a potluck, I have various serving ware (bowls & platters) and serving utensils ready for friends to transfer their potluck dishes into. This allows a more streamlined presentation at the table and ensures all dishes can be passed easily. When having a family style meal, it's important to note that your serving pieces should not be too heavy and are easy to pass. Avoid large, heavy serving pieces or ones that are an awkward shape for your guests to handle at the table.

  • For every 3 people attending, I have a water carafe and a bottle of wine set on the table which prevents having folks to get up for drinks.

  • I set our buffet table where I placed cups, saucers, teaspoons, coffee & tea accompaniments. About an hour before my guests arrive, I'll brew some tea and coffee which I'll place in these carafes which will keep hot until we're ready to enjoy it after dinner.

Preparing the day of:
  • In the living room, we have a few bookcase shelves filled and ready with various boardgames which we can play after dinner.

  • I clean up the living areas in which we will be in during the dinner - living room, second bedroom, bathroom, dining room & table and kitchen.

Preparing 1 hour before guests arrive:
  • Regardless of whenever my event is scheduled, I finish preparing the dishes I'm serving about 1 hour before my guests arrive. To keep them warm until then, I set my oven to 200-250 and store my prepared dishes there, with the serving pieces/utensils I plan to use nearby. I don't like fussing over things I need to do when guests are over so I make sure I set my deadline to 1 hour before they come... that way when they are here, I can give them 100% of my attention.

  • When folks are bringing dishes to a potluck, it can be a little challenging as the hostess, especially if I'm not ready for them. One big distraction is a cluttered and messy kitchen. An hour before guests arrive, aside from having my prepared dishes ready, I also clean my kitchen and workspace:
    -- No dirty dishes, pots, and pans are allowed in my sink when they arrive - friends can wash up and do some last minute prep without having obstacles in the way in the sink. I also make sure soap and paper towels are refilled if needed.
    -- My stove, oven and microwave are clear of any pots, pans, bakingware and are wiped down clean - friends can use my stove and ovens to warm up or finish cooking their dishes.
    -- The garbage has been taken out and a fresh empty garbage can is nearby - so folks can discard foil, plastic wrap, packaging, etc without asking where the garbage can is and from having the garbage can getting too full.
    -- Counterspace is all wiped down and is ready for friends to use.

Preparing 15 minutes before guests arrive:
  • About 15 minutes before my guests arrive, I filled my water carafes with ice and water, opened up my wine so they could breathe a bit and lit my tealights to set the mood. I also put on some soft jazz to add to the mood.

  • Brew coffee and tea then place in carafes to stay warm out on the buffet.

  • I also check the bathroom to ensure there is enough toilet paper available, the hand soap is refilled and clean hand towels are ready.

  • Lastly, I do one more walk through of the places where my guests will be going through to check for cleanliness - living room, second bedroom, bathroom, dining room & table and kitchen.

Event start time/as guests arrive:
  • As guests arrive and settle in, I have them place their coats, jackets and belongings.

  • I also have drinks and appetizers ready for folks to nosh on while we await for all my guests to arrive.

  • I then welcome them into the kitchen to plate the dish they've brought to the potluck. If they need to do any last minute prep, my kitchen is available for their disposal. If they need to transfer their dish to something smaller or more appropriate, my serving ware and serving dishes are ready for their use.

  • If folks need to use the oven, I remove any dishes being warmed, plate and set on the table.

  • Once their dishes are plated, I take them to get photographed (for blog and our group website purposes) before we place them on the table.

  • For my dinner parties, I generally allow a 30 minute cushion to allow for traffic, parking, and public transportation timing. I tend to start our meal 30 minutes after the set time I indicate in my invitations. This is communicated to my guests and I also welcome them to arrive early if needed.

About 30 minutes after our event time/as guests arrive:
  • We all gather at the table and do a round of introductions along with a little explanation or information of what we brought to share at the table.

  • Then we dig in! It's such a great time to be able to enjoy various dishes and learn about the recipes and each other.

  • We enjoyed dessert, coffee, tea & more wine, which was easy to do seamlessly since everything was ready the on the buffet.

After dinner:
  • We moved into the living room and settle in with our food coma to play boardgames and relax.

  • We was definitely a fun time enjoying a fabulous meal, learned more about some amazing chefs and had a great evening with friends!

3 comments:

Tangled Noodle said...

What a marvelous idea and thank you for sharing not only the recipes but your preparations! One thing: please tell me you'll post Gia's Family Red Beans and Rice!

Diedra said...

What an excellent idea and how lucky are your friends.

Anna said...

Thanks again for having me, it was a lot of fun and I'll definitely come back for more events in the future :)

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