Tom Colicchio

Tom has two simple rules for cocktail parties, and he's telling you.

on Dec 13, 2006

But there's something else that every chef who caters cocktail parties knows. Unlike a dinner party, where guests are seated at length over a few beautifully presented courses and nice wines, a cocktail party demands variety. Hors d'oeuvres are one or two-bite affairs that take mere seconds to eat. The chef's job is to provide a wide array of food so that the guests won't run through them within ten minutes of showing up. Ideally, he or she will continue to send out different items as the night continues to keep the guests interested, and provide diversion from stultifying office banter -- "As for those year-end numbers -- oh, look! Mini quiches!" Herein lay the Black team's big problem.

Elia, as team leader, decided to focus the group's efforts on four items, each one painstakingly executed a la carte. This would have been perfect for a dinner party, but for a cocktail party (especially one with 200 guests) it was a bad idea. Mia tried to interject with her own ideas while the team was planning. As a caterer, she understood the numbers game -- with 200 guests to serve, it is essential to prepare the kind of food that won't suffer from being prepped ahead of time so that you can get a head start on your guests -- many of whom will be coming right from the office and will be ready to eat. Unfortunately, Mia's ideas tend towards the mainstream -- chicken skewers and that kind of thing. Elia and Cliff wanted to aim higher, but in the process they shut themselves off to what she had to say. Michael, wisely perhaps, didn't try to introduce many of his own ideas (twice baked potato, anyone?) although he did hold out for his "surf and turf." Eventually Mia got sick of trying to be heard over Cliff and Elia's two-man show, and simply went along with the team.