Dining In Is The New Dining Out: How To Host A Virtual Dinner Party

On Friday night, we shared a curry with our best friends. It was like any other catch up aside from the fact the whole conversation took place in front of a laptop. It made me realise how important staying in touch during this time is, so I decided to get together a group of friends and host a virtual dinner party. To be honest I needed an excuse to put on some mascara and get out of my rather unglamorous ‘long cardigan, no bra, slack pants’ look. Following a bit of research from the Guardian’s Samantha Payne and the Irish Times Rosita Boland, my takeout was the same rules apply with the addition of some tech – a laptop or phone will do nicely. Here’s my top tips on how to be the perfect online host.

Step 1: INVITE your guests

Just like in real life, a thoughtful guest list can make or break your party. When deciding on numbers, it helps to think about it in terms of video streams. Too many digital faces around the table can get a little overwhelming – so we recommend four as the magic number to keep the conversation flowing. Once you have your lineup ready, cook up a little anticipation by sharing ideas, banter, and photos in a group chat on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. If you’re feeling fancy, why not send an invite through Paperless post.

Step 2: CHOOSE YOUR menu

Make your online dinner party feel a little more offline, by getting everyone to cook the same meal. To help create a shared experience, we’ve dreamed up an avo-inspired cocktail, main course, and ready-to-go dessert for you and your guests to enjoy together. But remember, these are just a guide. Feel free to put your own spin on our recipes. You can substitute ingredients out for whatever you have at home, or even design your own menu from scratch. It’s all about having fun – so get creative, and remember to tag us on social media @kitchentakeovernz.

Step 3: STYLE it out

You wouldn’t go to a dinner party in your PJs (we hope…) and your virtual version should be no exception. Make the effort, put on your glad rags, and get a little dolled up. Dust off the family silver, set the table, and style your dining space. After all, what better time than lockdown to finally learn how to fold a linen serviette into an elaborate swan!

Step 4: CONNECT with tech

If you’ve already set up a Whatsapp or Facebook group for your guests, you might find it easiest to use the app’s video call function. For larger groups we recommend Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime. A bad connection can kill the party vibe, so if you get the chance, it pays to do a quick test run. Remember to leave yourself plenty of time to get dinner prepared, so you’re online in time to greet your guests at the digital door.

Step 5: HOST your party

Dinner’s ready, you’re all dialed-in, and it’s time to P.A.R.T.Y! Let the conversation (and vino) flow. And if things start winding down, you could always try spicing it back up with an after-dinner quiz or a cheeky game of charades. Before you sign off, make sure you give your guests something to look forward to by getting your next digital dinner date in the diary.

Bon appetit!

Most importantly, have fun – if you find yourself hosting a virtual party, we’d love to see the snaps. Don’t forget to tag @kitchentakeovernz. Why not check out our latest collab with NZ Avocado – 4 delicious recipes from Kitchen Takeover’s Head Chef Shane Yardley.