Posted on: Tuesday, November 11th, 2013

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays at Chef’s Expressions. Besides the delicious food, it is a time to celebrate with friends and family. Entertaining for a large crowd can be overwhelming, but our team of event design consultants had some useful suggestions for hosting a flawless dinner from start to finish.

The key to avoiding last-minute kitchen disasters and trips to the grocery store on Thanksgiving morning is planning far in advance. Start creating your holiday menu in early November, giving you enough time to test new recipes if necessary. Inquire about guests’ dietary restrictions and food allergies to ensure that you will have dishes for everyone to enjoy.

To keep it simple, stick to traditions and aim for quality versus quantity. You may have five different casseroles featuring spuds, but if you leave out everyone’s favorite mashed potatoes, there will be complaints. Jen recommends scaling down the variations by perfecting the tried-but-true dishes.

Once you have your recipes, compile a shopping list for the ingredients. Keep in mind that quantities will be limited as the holiday gets closer, so go to the grocery store early to stock up on non-perishables. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself fighting for the last can of pumpkin, and no one wants to be without pie on Thanksgiving!

By determining what can be made ahead and reheated just before sitting down to dinner, you’ll have more time to spend with relatives and less time will be needed in the kitchen. Desserts can easily be made in advance and then frozen to maintain freshness. If your guests offer to contribute, let them pitch in by bringing drinks or a dessert to share. Use social media to connect with relatives beforehand; we suggest creating a private event on Facebook and inviting family members to join. As soon as the menu is set, post it online so that everyone can select a dish to bring.

Another huge time saver? Setting the dinner table a day or two in advance. Focus and hone in on a theme, then decorate accordingly. Small touches make a lasting impression–fresh flowers add color to the tablescape, patterned cloth napkins are both functional and attractive, and place settings give a personal touch. Bonny often uses trinkets as place settings so that each guest has a favor to remember from the holiday.

To create a warm and inviting experience for guests, designate rooms in the house for different interests. If there’s a highly anticipated sports game on TV on Thanksgiving (like this year’s Ravens versus Steelers game), set up the basement with after-dinner snacks for the football fans. Provide crafts and coloring supplies for children, or set out board games for everyone to play.

For more Thanksgiving inspiration, follow our holiday board on Pinterest!