Stress-free dinner party? It’s possible with these tips from professional chef, Monogram enthusiast Jill Donenfeld

Hosting a dinner party at your home doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor. All it takes is some thoughtful planning to ensure a good time is had by all — guests and hosts alike.

We recently talked entertaining with hospitality expert and accomplished chef Jill Donenfeld – who worked with Monogram to outfit the new kitchen in her own home – about dinner party tips and trends. Donenfeld has a wealth of knowledge on the topic, having founded a full-service, in-home private chef company called The Culinistas back in 2006. Culinistas chefs handle meal planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning, which allows hosts to relax and fully enjoy their dinner party.

“My kitchen is always the focus of a party because I am always cooking,” says Donenfeld. “Anyone who comes over loves inspecting my kitchen because there are so many small efficiencies that come from being a seasoned chef.”

Donenfeld is quick to say anyone can throw a stellar, stress-free dinner party even without the help of a professional chef. All it takes is some planning and a willingness to welcome guests into your home. Of course, that means welcoming guests into your kitchen, a place where her own dinner party guests gather to eat, drink and even lend a hand.

Photo credit: @JDonenfeld

Top dinner-party tips

Given her culinary background, it’s no surprise that Donenfeld urges hosts to find inspiration in

food when planning a dinner party. That can be a family recipe or even a novel ingredient she wants to share.

“Maybe I’ve just received a large bowl of morels from a friend or foraged some spring asparagus,” she says.

It’s also a good idea to “make a star dish that can be served family style,” Donenfeld says, along with a few simple dishes (think: bowl of greens tossed with shaved parmesan). A go-to for her own dinner parties lately has been fluke baked in her Monogram’s 30-inch Professional Range and served with watercress and a mustardy potato salad. 

And while menu curation is key to any good meal, it’s the people around the table that truly make a party memorable. To devise an ideal guest list, Donenfeld suggests finding common threads among potential attendees.

“I like having a reason for wanting each person to meet another… like if two people have babies a similar age or have been talking to me about the same book they’ve just finished,” she says.

Her No. 1 tip for hosting a dinner party: “If you are the one cooking, locate apps in the kitchen, because your guests will inevitably gravitate there!” Once the party migrates to the kitchen, let guests lend a hand.

“When friends ask if they can help,” she says, “I like to have a station set with an easy task for them to complete.”

Photo credit: @JDonenfeld

Party central, at home

The kitchen is the heart of her gatherings, but in her daily family life, too. A love of cooking and entertaining prompted Donenfeld to recently renovate the kitchen of her waterfront cottage in scenic Amagansett, New York. In mapping out the project, she carefully considered how she uses the space before making design decisions — from an impressive island to Monogram appliances.

“I wanted to create something airy and easy but extremely streamlined and functional,” says Donenfeld.

With that in mind, she chose Monogram’s 30-inch Professional Range to create a “range-scape” that is both beautiful and highly functional. The range’s brass accents match other décor elements in her kitchen, such as Futagami brass trivets, and the performance is second to none.

“I love the power burner in the front left because I can crank it high and also drop it so low and tiny in circumference when I make coffee with my Bialetti,” Donenfeld says.

When it’s time for cleanup, the Monogram Smart Fully Integrated Dishwasher is her “best friend.” But ask her to choose a favorite? 

“Don’t ask me to decide! I am in love with them both,” Donenfeld says. Of course, she’s long had a love of luxury kitchens and high-end appliances — it’s one of the things she enjoyed most about her time as a professional cook. Now, as the founder of Culinistas, she gets to bring that to everyone’s homes.

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