Eric and Janell Adjepong—he’s a chef, she loves decorating—share their secrets for making your next holiday party your most memorable ever. Plus, get a delicious menu for your party.
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When Eric and Janell Adjepong were dating, she asked him to cook for a dinner party she was hosting. He'd been a professional chef for years, so of course, he obliged. As they were getting ready for the event, he noticed how Janell brought her love of interior design to the event, beautifully setting the table and putting all of the finishing touches on the evening. That night, they decided to join forces and start their dinner party service, Pinch and Plate, with Janell handling the decor—like stunning tablescapes with candles and unique artifacts—and Eric serving up delicious, artful plates.

A man and a woman sitting on a couch
Credit: Emmanuel Boakye-Appiah

With more than 100 parties under their belt since 2015, the Adjepongs know how to throw a memorable soiree without any drama. Read on for their tips and tricks so that you, too, can entertain effortlessly this holiday season. Plus, get tasty recipes, developed by Eric, for your next holiday menu.

A man and woman setting a dinning table
Credit: Emmanuel Boakye-Appiah

5 Tips for Hosting a Holiday Party

Keep the Decor Simple

Don't overdo it on the decor. "I know people go on Pinterest and they see these wonderful, fabulous things, but don't feel like you have to do all of that to have a nice dinner party," says Janell. "Candles and flowers always work." (Flowers are also one of the items our editors buy for a stress-free holiday season.)

Plan Ahead

The mid section of a man with a knife cooking next to a sink
Credit: Emmanuel Boakye-Appiah

Working ahead is key. Janell recommends doing an inventory at least a week before your event. "Compare the number of guests with what you have, so if you're short, you have time to pick up what you need." Eric suggests finishing 80 to 90% of your cooking the day before, so you can exude confidence: "Guests can feel if the host is frazzled."

Get Help If You Need It

Hire help if you need to, whether it's a chef to prepare the meal or someone to clean your home. "People are usually stressed trying to do everything themselves and it's simply not worth it," Janell says. "And it typically results in the host not being dressed in time, burning a dish or forgetting smaller details."

Serve a Big-Batch Cocktail

Spiced wine in a pitcher next to a table setting
Credit: Emmanuel Boakye-Appiah

Have a batch cocktail ready when guests arrive, like this Slow-Cooker Mulled Wine. "Put it out so they can just pour it into their own cups to keep it easy," Eric says. For other big-batch cocktail ideas, try our Red Sangria.

Figure Out the Tunes

Don't forget the music. "Create a playlist that extends beyond the time of the party so you don't have to think about it—even if some guests stay after dinner is over," says Janell.

The Menu

Mulled Wine
Credit: Victor Protasio

Slow-Cooker Mulled Wine

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Arugula & Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Credit: Victor Protasio

Arugula & Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Mascarpone
Credit: Victor Protasio

Butternut Squash Risotto with Mascarpone

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Red Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks
Credit: Victor Protasio

Red Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks

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Cumin Roasted Carrots with Dill Yogurt
Credit: Victor Protasio

Cumin-Roasted Carrots with Dill Yogurt

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Malva Pudding
Credit: Victor Protasio

Malva Pudding

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Lenore T. Adkins is a Washington, D.C.-based food writer.

Currently a judge on Battle of the Brothers, chef Eric Adjepong is writing two cookbooks due out in fall 2022.

Janell Adjepong has limited event planning during the pandemic to her friends and family.

This article originally appeared in EatingWell Magazine, December 2021.