Party Planning Ideas

Since 2005, I have received many terrific questions about party planning ideas, party menus and cooking for a crowd.  To all the unsung yet remarkable chefs out there....


I hope by sharing some of your gems, others will find the answers to their party planning questions.  If not, just email me.  Keep the questions coming!

Happy Cooking!
Chef Deb

Some questions have been edited for clarity and the names have been changed to protect innocent chefs everywhere. 

chef hat

Plating and Serving for 200
My hubby and I  are catering a plated dinner for 200.  Plan is to serve chicken cordon Bleu, rice pilaf; peas, mixed green salad with cranberries, feta cheese and walnuts with a light balsamic vinaigrette. And simple cake for dessert.

We have no experienced servers (all volunteers).  How can we set this up in a non- commercial kitchen to plate and serve this food in a timely manner.  If you can offer some help, I would be forever grateful.

First off, it will be a tremendous success because of your determination.  
How you set up service will depend a great deal on how many volunteers you have working with you.  Before you start, make sure every volunteer knows their job and you should have one person who expedites, or who keeps everything moving.   Keep everything warm on the stoves, ovens and by using chafing dishes or other food warmers you may have. 

Line up as many plates as you can on tables and flat surfaces.  Serve the salad first. Have one person put the greens on the plate, the next person follows with the cranberries, then feta etc.  If you can, put the dressing on each table.  Do the chicken, rice and veg the same way, put the veg, rice and chicken on each plate in that order.  Dessert can be plated as soon as the entree is finished.

Get the completed plates out quickly.  Realistically and depending on the number of volunteers, you will only get a certain number of people served at one time.  Everyone will not be eating at the same time.

Hope this helps.  Let me know how it turns out!


Dinner for 70 - What to Serve
I need to serve 70 people for a rehearsal dinner please help. I do not have any ideas where to begin the planning. Thanks

Thank you for visiting  The very first thing to do is to recruit some help!  Meet with your "chefs" and brainstorm. Figure out who makes the best stuffed beef roast etc. This is not the time to experiment with new dishes.  Then decide whether the party will be buffet or sit-down. I would say buffet is better for this sized crowd.  Decide what dishes you can prepare or cook and freeze 2-3 weeks in advance. 

Also decide if you need to hire additional help. Remember, during the party, someone has to set-up the food and slice/serve, monitor the tables, clean (during and afterward) answer questions and put out fires (the ones not in the kitchen!).

If you need more party planning ideas, the best advice I have is to look at these pages if you haven't already:

Menu Planning
Party Planning Ideas
Cooking for a Crowd

I would also suggest that you follow this guideline. Serve: 2-3 TYPES of meat: 2 "whole" such as whole turkey, ham or roast and something like meatballs or a "saucy" casserole type chicken; 2-3 types of starches (1 hot 1 cold); 2 types of vegetable dishes; 1 salad; 2 types of dessert.

Does this help? Let me know if you have any other questions. You can do it!

Chafing Dishes
I am planning a party soon and have never used disposable chafing dishes. Do you have any advice on using? They seem scary to me, the fire and all. Thanks

Thanks for visiting the site. Chafing dishes can be a little frightening at first. Check out this article and if you have other questions, please let me know.  Brave cooking, Deb

Fondue for 20
I am planning a 80th birthday party for a crowd of 20. I was thinking of a fondue (Chinese with beef and chicken) with the usual trimmings (potatoes, 3 different salads, sauces - I guess 3-4 different sauces for dipping the meat and baguettes.   I would start the meal with 3-4 different appetizers and end with a plate of special cheeses and then dessert of course - coffee and tea.

My questions are: do you think this is feasible??? Do you have suggestions of appetizers and also salads and desserts???   Thank you so much for your help. If you think fondue is not really feasible for a crowd of 20, do you have any other suggestions???
Thanks again.


Thanks for visiting Fondue sounds great, fun and different. It sounds feasible because I'm guessing you have 3-4 fondue sets, which you would need for 20.

For appetizers and dessert I would suggest something light for both, something that is not being used for the fondue. So no meat, no bread, dip. I don't like to repeat ingredients bc I like variety and to experience different tastes, but that's just me. How about something crunchy like veggies in olive oil and vinegar for appetizers and fruit and lace cookies for dessert?  Hope this helps 


How Much Alcohol to Serve
We're hosting a couples' bridal shower dinner - casual with an Italian dinner menu. We plan to serve only red & white wines and beer, but will have water and some soft drinks on hand.   I read your chart, but please advise on beer and wine quantities I'll need since we're not providing mixed drinks. Only beer and wines.   Your site is super! Just help me with more detailed specifics on the booze!

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the compliment on the site! Have you seen Guide to Serving Alcohol.    This page gives info on how much to serve and how much to buy, which includes wine and beer.  If you've already visited this page but still have specific questions, please let me know. Hope this helps.  Have fun at the party! Chef Deb 


Baked Rice for 60 
I am having a big party with about 60 guests. I want to make white rice as a side dish.   I heard you can make it in the oven in a big disposable pan. Do you know how you would do this and what the measurements would be


Hi, thanks for visiting Sorry to take so long to respond--I was having a great time in stormy Florida!   I have oven-baked rice numerous times. To me, it is the easiest way to prepare plain rice for a large crowd because you can bake and serve right from the pan.  

The following will yield about 1/2 to 3/4 cup servings; 10 to 12 cups respectively. If the rice is a side dish and you are serving other starches, 1/2 cup servings may be enough. 

For 60 guests:
-10-12 cups of regular long-grain rice (about 5-6 pounds of raw rice) 
-20 1/2 to 25 cups of liquid (water, chicken stock or combo) 
-About 2 1/2 tablespoons of salt 

Divide the rice into two equal amounts and place rice into two 13 x 9 x 2" aluminum pans (these dimensions may vary depending on what's available in your area, so purchase whatever comes close). You can oil the pans if you wish. 

Bring the liquid and salt to a boil. You need to boil the water in a large enough pot first because it would take forever to boil in the oven and that would be a culinary disaster waiting to happen. 

Divide the liquid between the two pans and carefully pour it over rice. Stir to blend. Cover pans tightly with heavy duty foil and bake in 350F oven approximately 1 hour or until rice on top is tender. Start checking after about 40 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to rest, covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff well with fork. Serve immediately or keep warm, covered in a 200F oven.  

For an easy tasty touch: Melt about 2 sticks of butter in a sauce pan until it is foamy and just becomes fragrant. Pour this over the rice just before serving, do not stir. Sprinkle on about 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley per pan and serve.  Hope this helps and thanks again for visiting.


Meat and Potatoes for 30
Hi, how much hamburger would be needed to make meatloaf for 30 people.  Also how much mashed potatoes? Thank you 

There is nothing better then meat and potatoes. You will need about 8-9 pounds of 20-25% fat meat and slightly less for lean ground meat (any combination of meats).  This could make 2 large loaves or 3 smaller. For the potatoes, about 10 pounds. This way you will have enough for seconds or to freeze for later (takes the same amount of work).  Hope this helps 


Quantity Pasta and Potato Recipes 

How long does it take to make gumbo?

How long is a string?  Seriously, thank you for visiting  The actually cooking time can be less then one-half hour. It is the slicing and dicing of ingredients and making the roux that takes the most time. 

So let's say: 45 minutes to prep and pre-cook the meats/seafood, and dice the vegetables and herbs (you may be faster or slower); 45 minutes to 1 hour to make the roux; 45 minutes to simmer. So I would round up for incidental mishaps and say 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Gumbo is well worth any time it takes!  Chef Deb 



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