In November, Salt Lake Magazine published an “Ask the Experts” article with hosting tips from Culinary Crafts. Now, as the holidays approach, we wanted to share even more ideas from our experts on how to host like a pro.
Meet the Experts
Ryan, Kaleb, and Meagan Crafts have been part of the catering and hosting business ever since they were big enough to dry a plate or push a broom. In fact, when Culinary Crafts began as a tiny baking company, the Crafts children used to deliver fresh-baked bread and cookies around the neighborhood in their little red wagon! Since its inception 39 years ago, Culinary Crafts has not only climbed to the top of Utah’s catering industry; it has dominated. Winning 27 Best of State awards and 9 Caties (essentially the Emmies of the catering industry), Culinary Crafts sets the standard for catering excellence in the Mountain West. Now that their parents have turned over the reins, the Crafts siblings are more than qualified to show you how to elevate your hosting game.
Kaleb’s Hosting Tips
“My top hosting tip is 'Be there for your guests.'
“We’ve all been to events where the host was running around franticly, trying to put out fires. Believe me, I know how stressful hosting can be! But you can’t let yourself get caught up in other concerns and ignore your guests. If they aren’t your top priority, they can feel it.
“To be there for your guests, don’t crowd the timeline of your event too tightly. Leave time for everyone to savor the experience and for you to adjust when something unexpected happens.
“Also, don’t try to be a martyr and do everything yourself. Let someone else take the photos and handle the music. Delegate. Call a caterer. Ask for help.
“Finally, do as much of the work as possible beforehand. Half an hour before guests arrive, you should be relaxing with a drink, ready to enjoy your own party. Once the party has started, silence your phone and put it away. At that point, your job is to be fully present with the people you love, who are the real reason to celebrate.”
Ryan’s Hosting Tips
“Food is a social catalyst. When I’m hosting, I try to plan a menu that will help guests relax, start talking, and enjoy each other’s company.
“I like to create a menu that’s a mix of the familiar and the new. Some of the dishes should be standbys that guests are sure to love, but I also include one or two elements that might be unfamiliar. Throwing in something a little exotic is a great way to get guests excited and to stimulate conversation.
“When I’m hosting at home, I like to splurge. That doesn’t always mean caviar or wagyu beef; it means that even if I’m just serving grilled hamburgers, I’m not going to cut corners. I love the time-honored tradition of a host giving his or her very best—that’s a tradition you see in cultures all over the world. The way I see it, the ideal time to break out that whiskey I’ve been saving or the special dish I’ve been dying to make is when I can share it with family and friends.”
Meagan’s Hosting Tips
“Hosting is a tremendous honor and one of my absolute favorite things! I can get lost in the excitement of planning a party, so I have to remind myself of what matters. Creative invitations, fun party favors, and adorable tablescapes are all great, but what really matters is helping my guests feel cared for. Years from now, no one will remember what games they played or even what they ate at your event, but they will remember how you made them feel.
“Instead of approaching hosting like a checklist of things to do, focus your planning on the experiences you’d like your guests to enjoy. What are the first things they’re going to see and smell and taste and hear? How can you help them feel welcomed and a little bit pampered? Keep most of your event simple, but find one or two ways to go above and beyond. For example, maybe offer valet parking or a coat check. Put some careful thought into the seating chart, or offer your guests’ favorite desserts. It doesn’t take a lot to let guests know that you planned with them in mind."