Chef-Approved Tips for Feeding a Holiday Crowd


It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a month away. Unlike last year, many of you may feel comfortable traveling to spend the special day with loved ones. Or maybe you’re hoping to host in your own home! If you fall into the latter group, Edible Orlando is here to ensure that your meal runs smoothly. Here are seven chef-approved tips to help you keep your sanity as you prep and plan to feed a holiday crowd.

Prepare Your Menu for a Holiday Crowd

  • Plan ahead. To start, Andrew Axmacher advises that you complete your grocery shopping at least three days in advance to avoid the crowds and ensure that you find everything you need. You can pre-measure and pre-cut your vegetables a day or two early. Don’t forget to stock up on beer, wine, and/or liquor too! Liquor stores are closed on big holidays. 
  • Cook seven items to keep everyone happy. There’s no reason to go overboard! Stick with a curated menu of items that you can make really well. “My grandmother taught me, ‘Everybody is not going to eat everything,’ so I cook turkey, ham, mac ’n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, string beans, and dinner rolls,” shares Lakee Smith. “Picky eaters know they’re the exception to the rule and will accommodate for themselves.” You can also plan a potluck to limit your stress.
  • Do all your prep in advance! “You can literally cook your whole meal the week before,” says Michele Farmer from meal delivery company A Moveable Feast. For instance, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, roast the turkey that day but prep everything else ahead of time. “Put each side in the casserole dish that you’ll cook it in, and add a little more butter or heavy cream. Then cover it and put it in the fridge uncooked,” she explains. Let it sit on the counter for an hour or so before you pop it in the oven.

Chef-Approved Tips for Your Next Holiday Dinner

  • Write out a day-of schedule. That’s what professional chefs do, after all! “Work backwards, and using paper, Word, or Excel, figure out when each food needs to be ready,” explains Clay Gilchrist. “That includes putting the turkey in the fridge to thaw three days in advance and taking the yams out of the oven 25 minutes before serving them.” This organized approach will make sure that you don’t end up with an overstuffed oven 30 minutes before dinner is meant to be served.
  • Don’t let your guest list grow. Get a finalized headcount before you plan your menu and stick with it. As Axmacher says, “If you make a meal for 12 people and your party turns into 20, you’ll end up not having enough rolls, enough turkey, or enough dessert.” 
  • Practice makes perfect. Now is not the time to try out a new recipe. Instead, when you’re responsible for feeding a holiday crowd, stick with your tried-and-true favorites. “Plan, organize, and practice so you have your meal down to a science and you won’t make mistakes,” shares Robert Grebic. Just like an actor practices before the big show, do a run-through of each recipe and make sure you’re happy with the results. 

Enjoy the Holidays!

  • Enjoy yourself! Lastly — and perhaps most importantly — keep a positive attitude, regardless of what happens. Remember that guests will never know what the menu was supposed to be. “If a recipe fails, move on,” advises Susan Ytterberg from Golden Plum Personal Chef Services. “That failure won’t define your party’s outcome. Have fun!”

Tell us: What chef-approved tips will you incorporate into your holiday planning?

A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Edible Orlando.