What Guests Can Do To Help!

SP - Dinner overMany’s the time guests have asked what they can do to help me? Usually, frantic to get everything done and misguided about my role as host, I tell them there is nothing they can do. I believe this has been a big mistake. Guests love to help. Helping provides a level of involvement and connection to you and your home that is real and meaningful. I think a major part of the problem with my turning down offers of help is that I have not stopped to think about what it is that guests can do to help and when they ask, I have no time to stop and think about it. And since statistically, more people will be guests at Thanksgiving than host, and I want to make things easier for hosts, I plan — with your help — to create a list of things that guests can do to help. Together, we are going to make sure that as many Thanksgiving hosts as possible gets this list before Thanksgiving so that when someone asks what they can do to help, the host can respond: “Why thank you, I’d love some help and here’s what I’d love you to do….”

Please post your suggestions for What Guests Can Do To Help on this blog by using the “Leave a Comment” under this post or send an email to me at steve@athomebysteveposes.com. I need your help now to come up with a great list to share with Thanksgiving hosts and I will need your help later in sharing the list. Let’s work on this together over the next two weeks.

Plan to Entertain: Thanksgiving Planner
Over the next two and half weeks, my blog’s attention will logically focus on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the most home-entertained meal of the year. It is my goal with the blog to make Thanksgiving better and especially easier.

The “secret” to a better and easier Thanksgiving is not great recipes — though they help and we have lots of those. Rather, the “secret” is advance planning and moving as many tasks as you can to as early as you can. That’s what Part 1 of At Home is about. Last Friday’s Top Ten Thanksgiving Host Pitfalls was a lead-in to how to avoid those pitfalls — available at athomebysteveposes.com along with a request form for our Thanksgiving Planner. If you are not directly responsible for your Thanksgiving meal, you still have a responsibility to whomever is making your Thanksgiving, so I strongly suggest you pass along word about the Thanksgiving Planner. People who have received it have responded very enthusiastically.

Saturday’s Book signing at Reading TerminalReading Terminal
I met lots of nice people on Saturday at my At Home Reading Terminal book signing — many of whom shared their fondness for their tattered copies of The Frog Commissary Cookbook and their memories of my restaurants. I love the Reading Terminal and if I have friends visiting Philadelphia, it’s the place I suggest they must visit. Among the great joys of having done what I have done is the pleasure I have provided people. It is wonderful to hear of first dates at The Commissary and marriage proposals at Frog. Of Commissary Carrot Cake wedding cakes made. To have recounted Sunday family breakfast traditions at The Commissary and even the occasional “loved the way City Bites looked.” One couple shared how their daughter, having gone to law school and become a lawyer, changed her life and now makes her living selling Commissary-like carrot cakes and macaroons at a shop in a resort community. (I may have this story not exactly right, but you get the idea.)

Also, on Saturday one women shared with me what will remain one of my favorite Commissary stories. She recounted an experience she had as a young women at The Commissary. The Commissary had what we called the “Demo Kitchen” in the back where in addition to the occasional cooking class, we flipped omelets and tossed pasta each day. She order a Pasta Carbonara replete with peas, bacon and cream. She described it to me as an epiphany — a life-altering event. She had never tasted anything so good. She told me that at that exact moment she began a life long love-affair with food.

The Perfect Gift for Your Thanksgiving Host
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining with At Home Online, the companion website for book owners, is the perfect house gift to bring to your Thanksgiving host. At Home is not available in bookstores, but only from athomebysteveposes.com. Order now in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.

Warm regards,



Filed under Entertaining at Home, Holidays, Tips

6 responses to “What Guests Can Do To Help!

  1. Help?? One way is to offer several definite options: I can bring ___. Or please let me handle clean up such & such…i hate vague “what can I do?”
    My favorite – during first course I request all cousins under 21 yrs clear salad/soup plates, clean & dry.
    Then a call for all another group to clear dinner dishes, etc.
    Second, we serve buffet-style with the oldest lining up first and the youngest last, because the babies sit down gobble their food and disappear …one year a 5-year old g-son requested we all stand a repeat the Pledge of Allegiance, it is now a tradition.
    This meal is a huge undertaking, share the work and buy some of the dishes ready-to-serve.

  2. Karen Barbarese

    1. Slice the bread if you have bread

    2. Pour the water into glasses

    3. Fill wine glasses

    4. Light candles

    5. Bring in hors d’oeuvres when dinner is ready

    6. Help carry plated food to each person, or help serve at buffet if it is buffet style

    7. Help clear the table between dinner and dessert

  3. Monica

    I am a big believer in getting guests to give real help – not just do busy work, although that’s right for some guests – so the host can stop thinking about whole categories of things:

    1. Be the gravy master/mistress. Make sure it’s hot when it’s time to serve, and make sure there’s always enough hot gravy available throughout the meal.

    2. Oversee the dessert course: remember to take the ice cream out and put the things that need warming into a low oven 20 minutes before dessert time. Brew the coffee in advance. Make sure there are enough clean forks, dessert plates, coffee/tea cups for all.

    3. Help keep the sink empty – a little washing here and there (especially platters) a little dishwasher loading, a lot of keeping dishes safely stacked outside of the sink. Run the dishwasher at least once mid-meal.

    4. Handle the music – this goes to someone you trust and is best assigned in advance if you want them to actually choose music. Otherwise, it’s about paying attention to volume and timing and keying into the group that’s there to see if something abou the music needs to change.

    5. Be the minister of leftovers; in charge of divvying up fairly (and according to guests’ likes) and leaving enough at home for YOU!. Best assigned in advance because ideally the minister of leftovers can even bring some “to go” containers as their dinner contribution.

  4. maureen prewitt

    I like the “communal feast” aspect of Thanksgiving and do not hesitate to ask the offering guest if they have any special recipe that they would like to share. You can’t go wrong with another salad, vegetable, stuffing or pie.
    My personal favorite food to delegate is mashed potatoes. Cooking 10-20 lbs of potatoes for a large gathering is labor intensive (endless peeling), messy and stove-hogging. I LOVE delegating this task. It is such a gift to find on my counter a pot of steaming potatoes ready to mash or already mashed and ready to place in serving bowls. Mmmmmm…comfort fooood…

  5. Fran DiCarlo

    The most difficult task is the gravy because it must be done at the last minute. Assigning this task would be most helpful. Also the thing I like least is picking the carcass at the end of the meal when I’m most tired and don’t feel like looking at the turkey anymore, so give someone an apron and let them pick away.

  6. I3MK5n Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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