Come dine with us: the modern dinner party

Come dine with us: the modern dinner party

by Ollie Lloyd 2 November 2016

While a casual midweek dinner might be something quick and easy, when it comes to cooking for others the true foodies of Britain are eager to impress. See what Great British Chefs readers had to say on how they prepare dinner parties today.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs. He has been experimenting in the kitchen since he was five years old. Never known for shying away from a challenge, he has taken on some of the most obscure cuts of meat and ingredients that he can lay his hands on. As a marketeer, he's worked in the US, South and Southeast Asia, always taking the scenic route that might involve food trucks, hawkers and elusive soup dumplings.

We set up Great British Chefs as a business in 2010 because we believed that there was an audience for inspirational food content that went beyond the more mainstream offerings of Jamie Oliver, Delia and the like. While the general public might lean towards convenience over quality even when it comes to cooking for friends, we have always believed that there were some who aimed higher. Laurent Tiersen, country marketing manager for IKEA UK, noted recently that ‘these days we seem to be focused on convenience and 42% of Brits claim they can’t cook at all.’ While this may be the case for a large section of the UK, our audience couldn’t be further from this. Whilst we regularly reach for the ready-made pasta sauces and ingredients during the week, it’s when our readers are cooking for occasions that they really pull out all the stops.

Six years into our journey, we have conducted a piece of research to understand how the one million people who visit our site every month cook dinner parties. It has to be said that the results have surprised even us! It seems the majority of you are an amazing and really committed group of home cooks. While this may not be the case for your average Brit, we have attracted an audience who are avoiding the shortcuts and investing time and money to create great dishes. Over 1,000 of you let us know how much time and effort you put into hosting fantastic dinner parties, reaffirming the fact that you’re part of a community of home cooks who go above and beyond the general public in the kitchen. In fact, an incredible 70% of you make everything from scratch for a dinner party, boiling up carcasses for stock, resting your own pastry and oven-drying fresh tomatoes. Half of you host between two and six dinner parties a year, while a keen quarter of our readers will invite people round for dinner parties between six and twelve times a year.

Time and effort

Rather than buying ready-made dips or sauces, you’ll seek out recipes like Richard Davies’ Hummus, Marcello Tully’s Sweet chilli dip or Galton Blackiston’s Tartare sauce. You’ll happily measure, toast and grind spices rather than buying ready-made blends or spend those extra minutes with a pestle and mortar to make a more fragrant curry paste. You’ll even patiently wait a month or two for your homemade pickles to take on the flavours of your own infused vinegars, just so you have the perfect garnish for a dinner party starter. This is the sort of dedication you’d normally associate with chefs in restaurant kitchens, but it’s clear that the same passion can be found in many homes across the UK.

80% of Great British Chefs readers admitted they've spent more than a day creating a single recipe for a dinner party, and 40% take at least six hours to prepare for the evening every time they host. Not only that – 66% of you also visit specialist delis, butchers and fishmongers to stock up on unusual ingredients or to ensure they’re using the highest quality produce. This means recipes like Kevin Mangeolles’ twenty-eight hour braised goat shoulder or even Russell Bateman’s Slow-cooked Jacob’s ladder with Jerusalem artichoke chips and Roscoff onions (which takes an incredible 60 hours!) are being recreated by the real foodies of Great Britain.

Fun in the kitchen

Just because we’re whipping up foams, rolling tuiles and brining meat for days on end, it’s good to know we’re still actually enjoying ourselves come the big day. Instead of throwing pans around and swearing ourselves hoarse à la Gordon Ramsay, over 40% of us are actually cooking while sipping a glass of wine and 12% are even treating themselves to a flute of Champagne! While we might be a nation famous for finding any excuse to enjoy a tipple, this shows we see cooking for others as something to enjoy rather than a chore.

In fact, sixty-five percent of you said you ‘love’ cooking for dinner parties. While we’re sure all that free-flowing alcohol certainly helps, it seems the sense of occasion combined with a chance to show off your culinary skills in good company is what really makes us happy. Guests should expect a wide selection of things to taste too, with almost everyone we asked saying they always serve pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, and nearly three-quarters taking the time to make homemade canapés.

Talking of aperitifs, wine is still the most popular choice, but Prosecco in particular isn’t far behind. 40% of Great British Chefs readers will even make cocktails for their guests, putting as much effort into their drinks offering as the food to come. This could be something smart and simple like Monica Shaw’s Elderflower Prosecco cocktail to the much more ambitious like Vivek Singh’s Parisian Pisco punch, which requires a homemade pineapple compote and a garnish made from pineapple leaves and fresh lavender. Finally, once dinner’s over and done with, nearly half of you round things off nicely with a sweet wine, port or whisky.

So there you have it – while only 26% of the general population say they have a passion for cooking*, 65% of Great British Chefs readers love it so much they’ll regularly invite friends and family over to prepare complex, time-consuming and delicious dinners using the best quality produce from specialist suppliers. We are delighted that we’re attracting an ever-growing audience who are passionate about great food and see the best chefs in Britain and Italy as experts.

If you want to see the full results of our survey, please download it below, and if you have any questions please use this form to get in touch.

*GfK, The UK Cook ­– A Changing Breed, 2015

Dinner parties: in numbers

65% love cooking for dinner parties

70% cook everything from scratch

66% go to butchers, delis and fishmongers to buy specialist or top quality ingredients

83% have spent more than a day preparing a recipe for a dinner party

69% bring out special crockery and glasses for the occasion

91% buy a special non-alcoholic drink for those who aren't having alcohol

83% serve an aperitif with nibbles