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Party Planning Secrets Of a Le Cordon Bleu-Trained Chef


With the holidays just around the corner stress levels are rising. But you can keep your stress to a minimum if you stay organized.

Harriet Dupree Bradley, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, caterer and owner of Entrée Vous, a national meal assembly business, offers a few of her secrets to great parties.

• Cocktail Buffets – have about five-six total items of which two-three are meat/seafood.
• Appetizers – no more than two; one hot and one not
• Main Course – Entrée VOUS!
• Dessert – Keep it simple. People don’t eat a lot of dessert.
• Keep a record of what foods you served to your guests. That way you don’t repeat yourself at future dinner parties.

• Make a timeline of what needs to be heated/prepared so that you can focus on your guests.
• Include things like “heat hors d’oeuvres, heat entrée, rolls, water poured in glasses, start coffee.”
• Don’t start to heat hot hors d’oeuvres until the first guest arrives.
• Keep hot foods hot by putting them on heated serving platters or dinner plates. Tips for heating trays: put dishes in a clean dishwasher and run them through the rinse and heated drying cycle. A stack of dinner plates can be heated in the microwave as long as they don’t have gold or metal leaf on them. It takes about for-five minutes for a stack of 10 dinner plates.

• Make sure the dishwasher is empty.
• Clear countertops as much as possible.
• Empty the garbage before the party starts.

• Keep the bar OUT OF THE KITCHEN. Bar needs plenty of access for both guests and a bartender.
• Beer and wine need only one hour to ice down.
• Ice buckets are impractical for more than eight-10 guests. Use a clean, small cooler instead or have it on hand to refill the ice bucket.
• Have a garbage can near the bar.
• Don’t forget cocktail napkins, lemons and limes.
• Have at least one pound of ice per person unless it’s hot outside; then plan on two pounds per person.
• In hot weather, people drink lighter colored alcohols: white wine, beer and vodka.
• In cold weather, they drink more dark alcohol: red wine, bourbon and scotch.
• Need two-three glasses per guest depending on how long the party lasts.

• Serve as many do-ahead hors d’oeuvres as possible.
• Put out small plates (salad size), about one per person.
• Don’t focus on sweets. People don’t eat many when they are drinking.
• Keep buffet food on one or two tables when possible. Don’t spread it around as it confuses guests.

• Set the table ahead.
• Don’t forget salt and pepper shakers, butter plate and knife.
• Keep plates for each course stacked in the kitchen: salad, dinner and dessert plates.
• Water glasses always need to be out. Have a pitcher of water available.
• Prep decaffeinated coffee before guests arrive so that all you have to do is hit the start button once the main course goes out.
• Have cream and sugar set ready to go.

• Have serving pieces ready to go – platters, bowls, etc. and corresponding serving utensils.
• Label them with post-it notes so you’ll remember what food goes into each.
• Don’t forget to have a tray of iced glasses for water and a pitcher of water for refills.

Before you start doing the dishes, do the following:
• Clear all trash from tables and counters.
• Put away all leftover foods.
• Put all dirty silverware and cooking utensils into on big pot of soapy hot water.
• Scrape and stack all plates.
• Keep all glassware together in one spot to reduce breakage.
• Have lots of cloth dish towels on hand.

About Harriet Dupree Bradley
Entrée Vous began in Lexington when chef and caterer Harriet Dupree Bradley saw a need to help her clients get dinner on the table. A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Harriet had been assisting people with special events for years, but the need for non-event dinners was growing. She was receiving requests from clients for items such as a casserole to send to a bereaved friend, nutritious food for elderly parents who don’t cook and just getting the family dinner done several nights a week.

Now, 60 franchisees from all across the country have signed on to develop their own Entrée Vous kitchens. More information about Harriet and Entrée Vous is available at
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