Red Carpet-Worthy Tips for Hosting Your Oscar Party

Photo: jin chu ferrer/Getty Images

Host an award-winning Oscar party with entertaining tips from celeb chefs, plus a tasty recipe.

Sunday, Feb. 9 marks the 92nd Academy Awards and, while some of you may watch snuggled up in your slippers and PJs, some of you may decide this is the perfect time to host close friends and family while eating some of your favourite foods.

And we’re here to make sure that all goes well for you.

We’ve asked a few entertaining experts for their advice and we have a few tips of our own. Before you read our advice, chef Ricardo Larrivée shares the most critical of all: “You have to remember one thing – food is not the most important thing when you entertain. It’s the people you have invited. The food is there, and it’s an excuse. The dinner brings together the people you love. We have to remember this and it will relieve some pressure.”

1. Keep it social 

Before we get to the food, let’s first make it about the environment. Some great advice Oliver and Bonacini’s Natalie Ho gave us was to try something interactive. “Have a chalkboard wall in your house or some sort of backdrop where your guests can take photos,” she said.

Given that it is the Oscars you’re celebrating, get your guests predictions on the board and draw a prize for the closest guess. The prize can be something simple like your guacamole recipe.

If you happen to have extra time on your hands, make your own Academy Awards scorecards for guests to use throughout the show.

2. Keep it real 

The red carpet might be a tad stuffy, but you don’t have to be. Even Masterchef Canada judge Michael Bonacini keeps it low key when it comes to entertaining.

“It’s family-style, it’s casual, it’s unpretentious because a lot of people will think, ‘Oh jeeze, I’m going to Michael Bonacini’s. It’s going to be a six-course gourmet tasting menu. Nuh huh. That’s not how I roll. It’s wholesome, hearty – but it’s nothing fancy. Something that represents who I am, what I like to eat and the flavours that inspire me. And I think you have to do that when you’re entertaining.”

Bonacini suggests sticking to recipes you’ve been making for years to avoid the stress of inexperience. Don’t try that recipe you just found on Pinterest for the first time.

He says, “You’ve got to do recipes that are tried, tested and true because you want success on your side. You could always take a humble recipe and make it seem more opulent and extravagant. For example, if I’m going to do a chicken pot pie for a dinner for the Oscars, I might decide that before I put the pastry crust on my pot pie, I’m going to add a little bit of truffle or truffle juice and then I am going to add some beautiful lobster to it or even just a touch of foie gras, put the pastry crust on and bake it.”

But if you’re out of an ingredient, don’t be afraid to switch it up, either. “Never be afraid of changing up a recipe if a recipe calls for white asparagus and you can only get green. Whoop-di-do! Use green asparagus; use beautiful green beans. Nobody will tell you that you’ve made a culinary faux pas. They’ll saying, ‘Oh my, this is amazing. Why didn’t I think of this?’

If you’re looking for a new recipe to test out for future events, try this from Bonacini.

Recipe: Chorizo Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Romesco Sauce

  • 1 small fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed
  • 24 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 12 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
  • 24 wood skewers (soaked in water)
  • Romesco Sauce (recipe below)
  • Seedling greens for garnish

Take a little of the chorizo sausage and roll into small pieces to fill the cavity of the Medjool date (looks like a hot dog in a Medjool date). Next, wrap the bacon round the date and skewer so that the bacon does not unravel during the cooking process. In a heavy cast iron pan over medium heat, cook the stuffed dates, turning from time to time, for 3 to 4 minutes. Place in pre-heated 400F  oven for 4 to 5 minutes or until bacon is golden brown. Remove from oven. Ladle Romesco Sauce over bottom of large serving platter; arrange dates attractively on the plate – with skewers removed. Garnish with seedling greens and serve.

Romesco Sauce

  • large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1/2 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In food processor, pulse pepper, garlic, almonds, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, paprika and pepper until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Plan ahead 

Larrivée says, “This may seem obvious, but you have to prepare yourself before hand. You have to create a menu where you can freeze some of it ahead of time.”

Prep, prep, prep! And plan thoughtfully: “Your story is going to be more important than the roast. So I try to – because I know myself ­­– I’ll to have something that I can forget about. And if I talk to you 15 minutes longer, I am not going to ruin the dinner.” Chop your veggies, make your sauce – do as much as you can the day before so that you can enjoy your company.

4. Stay sweet 

Larrivée loves a dessert table, and we don’t disagree. “I love to do a sweet table. At the end in the kitchen somewhere, my wife takes the time to put all of the cake stands and desserts on the table.” This gives your guests a chance to choose exactly what satisfies their sweet tooth.

5. Goodie bags are never a bad thing 

Goodie bags are not reserved for kiddies. Who doesn’t love a takeaway? Last year, Ho suggested a bag of popcorn but not just any popcorn – “Next level-type popcorn. It’s a neutral flavour and gluten-free. A siracha popcorn. You can do dill pickle, you can do seaweed and honey. There are so many interesting combinations.”

And don’t forget packaging. That’s the best part! Get creative and try fun boxes to add your own personal touch.