About this book
How to Host a Dinner Party
Corey Mintz • Steve Murray • Sarah Polley
A fun, informative guide to hosting the perfect party every time.
"Every dinner party experience I’ve had in the last ten years at Corey’s has been incredible. But practice really does make perfect and I can now honestly say there is nowhere I’d rather be in the world than at his table ... I can’t begin to express the relief I felt in reading this book and realizing there was a method to his success."
- Sarah Polley, from the introduction
We’ve all been there: twenty minutes before guests arrive, and you’re unsure if you’ve got enough wine, or enough chairs, or whether your friend is a vegetarian or a vegan. Hosting a dinner party is hard, but Corey Mintz can help. For his popular Toronto Star column, "Fed," he has presided over 115 dinner parties, every week opening his home to strangers and friends alike in an effort to perfect the craft of hosting. And in How to Host a Dinner Party, he shares everything he’s learned in a hilarious handbook that will appeal to everyone — from those throwing their first dinner party to seasoned entertainers looking to enhance their skills.
This book guides readers through everything they need to know about hosting, starting with the golden rule — that the goal of a dinner party is to have fun with our friends, not to show off our cooking skills. It will explain why we like to gather for dinner, when we should host, who we should invite, what we should cook, and how we should cook it. Featuring recipes, anecdotes, expert analysis, and an endless bounty of how-to tips, it is the essential guide to perfecting the art of welcoming people into your home.
by Sarah Polley?
I once had a driving instructor who taught in a way that made every lesson a life lesson. He had a knack for turning the specifics of driving into universal wisdom. One day, as we were driving on a busy Toronto street, I heard a car horn honk and yelped, "What did I do?"
"That honk wasn't for you," he said softly. "You are at a point where you worry too much about what other drivers think about you. You may reach a point where you don't worry enough. Try to find a balance."
For me, the only thing that has replicated the experience of learning so much about life from studying a specific skill is the reading of this book. It teaches you how to create a beautiful experience for the people you care about in the context of a dinner party. But since reading it I find myself applying many of the lessons in this book to my relationships and life in general. Be prepared. Be thoughtful. Listen. Watch for clues on how people are feeling and do what you can to make them feel comfortable, taken care of, and well fed!
I first knew Corey Mintz as a teenager, when his idea of cooking came from the back page of our copy of the New Basics Cookbook. The spine of the book was unbroken. On the very last page, in coloured marker, was written "Call Garlic Pepper on Yonge Street. Get them to bring food." It was our only recipe and we used it every night that we didn't eat Alphagetti. Corey and I lived with each other as delinquent teenagers. When I was fifteen I had major spinal surgery and Corey found himself caring for a child while he was still a child himself. He took care of me. Better care than a nurse or relative could have. He learned to cook. I remember lying in bed and hearing the clattering of utensils as he struggled his way through recipes, and the beautiful smells coming from the kitchen as he proudly completed a meal. Corey was and is an eccentric, sometimes brittle person who is capable of great tenderness. Through learning to cook, he developed an eloquent, uncomplicated way of showing love without irony.
Corey now hosts dinner parties for a living. For years he has had a weekly column called FED in the Toronto Star, centered around a dinner party he hosts for an interesting, eclectic group of people. I usually read with envy at his lucky guests who sometimes walk in without knowing what a treat they are in for. I've heard at least two FED guests say later that it was the best night of their year.
Recently Corey invited me over for dinner because it had been awhile and, as he said, "I've learned a lot about hosting since the last time you were here." He wasn't lying. Every dinner party experience I've had in the last ten years at Corey's has been incredible. But practice really does make perfect and I can now honestly say there is nowhere I'd rather be in the world than at his table. The food is always stunning, but that's not what I remember or what is important. What stays with me is the atmosphere he creates, the table and the people around it, and the feeling of being seamlessly taken care and thought of without ever feeling it happen. Somehow joy always arrives at his table, without him seeming to do anything specific to invite it.
It's possible to leave these gatherings intimidated. There is such a frightening organization and charm to the host that it makes you wonder if you should ever bother to attempt to replicate it at your own home. Even though the night is seemingly perfect, Corey himself always seems to be having a good time. He always seems relaxed, engaged and the night appears effortless for him. I can't begin to express the relief I felt in reading this book and realizing there was a method to his success. What I love most about this book is the way it illustrates that your experience and your guests' experiences are intertwined. This is a guide to creating the maximum joy for your guests with minimum stress to yourself. Since you set the tone for the evening, it is paramount that you feel good about it. After reading the book I found it was possible to go back over the dinner parties I'd attended or hosted in my mind to figure out what went wrong, what could have been done differently, and how to avoid those pitfalls in the future. Moreover, it made me feel excited to host more dinner parties of my own.
Corey, it turns out, is a skilled alchemist and he is generous enough to share his formulas. This book is a detailed anthropological study of what makes a great social experience over food, combined with a practical how-to manual to create what could be some of the most rewarding nights of your life.
When you leave a place with Corey, whether it be a party, a movie theater, or a shopping trip, it's always somewhat frightening how he breaks down, analyzes and picks apart what an experience was for him and why. (It was especially unpleasant after he read my last script and left no detail of his utter disdain unarticulated.) He has a ruthless, unblinking eye — ?which is incredibly helpful in book form. Like the man himself, this book is fun, engaging, hilarious, brutally honest, chock full of truths you don't want to hear but should probably listen to, infuriating, and always entertaining.
You may feel you don't need this advice on how to host a dinner party. Maybe you don't. But I guarantee your guests will have a better time if you listen to it. Corey has the key to something ephemeral. He has broken it down and made something mysterious readable. Where we mortals see a mess of food and conversation, Corey sees a glowing map, a series of manageable steps --?a recipe.
I hope you host more dinner parties. I hope this book makes you more excited, confident, and less afraid to do so. I know I myself feel much more assured in my ability to throw a great one after reading it. If more people gathered in environments where they were in great company, well fed, and well cared for, the world would be a much happier place.
About the Creators
Corey Mintz hosts dinner parties in his home every week for his popular Toronto Star column, "Fed." Before that he was a restaurant critic. And before that he worked for a living, as a cook. In the past two years, he has hosted 115 dinner parties. He began without napkins or stemware, serving wine out of Nutella jars. But after hosting politicians, artists, academics, monkeys, librarians, chefs, sommeliers, cops, lawyers, psychologists, a spy, a forager, a rabbi, a gambler, a drug addict, and a mayor, he’s become a pro.
Steve Murray is a columnist, cartoonist, and illustrator for the National Post. He has a weekly illustrated column called “Extremely Bad Advice.” His illustrations have appeared in the Globe and Mail, New York magazine, and Canadian Business magazine, as well as on CBC.ca. He lives in Toronto.