Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Party Food...by the book!


Hollywood has its rituals. When production on a TV series or feature film ends, companies hold a huge party to celebrate the completion of dreadful 14-hour work days and to thank the crew, cast and studio executives. If it's a TV show, the network brass are de rigueur guests, too.


These "wrap parties" (as in "That's a wrap!"—the sweetest words to a crew member's ears) are only as extravagant as their budgets allow. But the sign of a great caterer is how much bang they can give for the buck. A low-budget film doesn't have to serve extravagant caviar blinis—I've seen cast and crew exuberantly celebrating with a simple down-home affair of hot-off-the-grill Texas BBQ ribs, gourmet sausages, and jalapeño corn muffins, icy brews, and tables bedecked with denim covers and red bandannas for napkins.

Selecting the caterer and the meal was always my favorite task when I worked in Hollywood. The event may have been funded with the studio's money, but the party itself was *mine*! At least, that's how I approached it. From selecting the caterer to devising the meal and entertainment, I delighted in every detail. I like to think my own great flare was the reason I was assigned the position of Head Party Planner, but more likely it was because no one else found the planning as fun as I did. Many folks adore attending parties, but not everyone relishes putting the event together.

You have to love every detail to be a great caterer. Organizing and creativity have gotta be in the blood, or the DNA. Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was a caterer. My clients loved my work, but I guess it wasn't my true calling, or I'd still be doing it today.

Lorna Wing, though, was born with the coveted caterer's DNA. Shall I drop a few names of her clients...? Tom Cruise, Giorgio Armani, Estee Lauder, Chanel...and even the royals.


Dubbed the "Queen of Canapes," Lorna bears the magic gifts that distinguish great party-planners from mere food providers: she embodies creativity and composure. The host's job is to panic. The caterer's job is to remain calm and to exude an intoxicating air of tranquillity, no matter what unforeseen obstacle may suddenly strike.

Lorna shares her caterer's creativity—and her practical tips and guidelines—in Party Food: The Essential Guide to Menus, Drinks, and Planning. Vibrantly rich, colorful photos reflect the message of the book—that fun, festive and fresh foods don't just make a meal—they make a meal into a party. And Lorna shows anyone with a desire to be the belle of the ball just how to do it.

From a former caterer's viewpoint (not that I would ever put myself in Lorna's league!), I found these tips and recipes in Party Food to be "just what the caterer ordered"—and you'll find lots more in the book, a worthwhile addition to any harried host's cookbook collection.



Allow 4 to 6 canapes for each hour that the party will last. For a finger buffet, allow 8 to 12 substantial finger food items, if it is a substitute for a meal. To serve 10 to 20 people at a summer finger-food only party, plan on 6 cold savory dishes of 8 to 12 items each.


When planning a small cocktail party or a meal at home where you are serving wines and soft drinks, you will need to spend about equal amounts of money on foods and drinks. (If you serve expensive champagne, wines, or foods, that ratio will obviously alter.)

The location:

If the party is to be at home, especially for large numbers, be inventive. Be prepared to clear out furniture. The hallway could become a dining room. A bed room could become the bar...or, a tent may be the answer.

Helping hands:

There may be some occasions, such as large parties or special celebrations, where you will definitely need some professional help. The Yellow Pages or local cooking schools are places to start looking for staff...They should arrive about 1-1/2 to 2 hours before the party to set up bars, chill wines, lay any tables, and finish preparing the food.

The neighbors:

Inform neighbors if you are planning a large party where there will be lots of activity with people parking cars, making noise, and coming and going...Whenever I have a party, I send a note outlining what is happening, with the expected finish time, and deliver it with a small bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine. It always works.


Finger-foods are notoriously time consuming to make—but not in Lorna's repertoire. Many of her dishes come together quickly, and you can even prepare most recipes (or portions of them) in advance, as with the selected handful of finger-food recipes below.


Party Food The Essential Guide to Menus, Drinks, and Planning




This Month in Kate's Global Kitchen:

4/03/99: Egg-straordinary Egg Recipes
4/10/99: Party Food—The Book
4/17/99: Rice Vinegar: My Secret Ingredient
4/24/99: Cooking with Kids for Dummies: Selected Tips and Recipes


Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page created April 1999