Every year, The Elton John AIDS Foundation throws one of the most exclusive Oscar parties in L.A. Celebrities and VIPs donate $5,000 a person to enjoy a decadent five-course meal while viewing a live broadcast of the biggest night in show business. For the past 13 years, Elton John has hired chef Wayne Elias (pictured below) to create menu items for the fete. With the help of 55 chefs and cooks, Wayne delivers a seamless dining experience over the course of 3.5 hours. Sounds simple...right?
Chef Wayne—who designed the passed hors d'oeuvres, dessert and after-party menu items and collaborated with celeb chef Gordon Ramsay, who designed the dinner menu—took time from his busy schedule to reveal some inside scoop about the soiree with The Feast. He also shared his four tips for creating the perfect Oscars party at home. Here goes:
1. Design a Make-Ahead Menu That Lets You Actually Enjoy the Party
Wayne suggests crafting a menu that won't require too much time in the kitchen when your party starts. “Decide on a menu that's going to be easy to prep the day before and to finish the day of. Most hosts make the mistake of doing things so involved that they're always back and forth in the kitchen. They end up missing half the Oscars and not socializing with their guests,” says Wayne. Create only one or two items that need to be heated up for your event. You can put those items in a chafing dish or warming plate when your guests arrive, then join the party. Some of Wayne's specialties include fabulous shrimp tacos with peach salsa (pictured above). One item that Wayne is creating only for Elton and will serve just below room temperature? Rice pudding. Elton enjoys a serving of rice pudding in his dressing room every year for his event.
2. Find Original Ways to Riff on the Oscar-Nominated Films
Wayne uses the films' locations as his food inspiration. “Take the movies that are nominated and see where they’re taking place, then do a combination of different foods from all over the world,” Wayne suggests. He also likes to educate guests about those geographical areas on the Oscar ballot contest cards. “If you're doing little cards for your event, include information about these regions and recipes,” he says. This year, the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn could be the inspiration behind one of Wayne’s hors d'oeuvres for Elton’s event: namely, grilled cheese. One option he's considering is grilled raisin bread with mascarpone, Gorgonzola and Asian pears.
3. Never Ever Run Out of Liquor or Ice
One of the biggest party faux pas is running out of these two crucial items. Wayne suggests having ample ice on hand, and multiple wine and liquor options. “We offer a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Champagne," says Wayne. Our vodka sponsor this year is Chopin Vodka,” he notes, adding that the brand's mixologists are creating five different crafted cocktails with fresh herbs and ingredients. "The Elton John AIDS Foundation logo is pink, so they will always have one colorful pink cocktail."
4. Don't Drop the Drinks
The biggest blunder Wayne has experienced in his 13 years of working with Elton John was when a waiter dropped a tray of cocktails. This mistake is commonplace, but it's still super-embarrassing. And messy. Especially when guests are sporting their red-carpet best. In a word: Avoid.
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