The First Step Bobby Flay Swears By For A Foolproof Dinner Party

Hosting a dinner party can be both exhilarating and daunting. From planning a menu to managing the guest list, there are multiple factors to consider that can make even the most organized host and hostess feel overwhelmed. For renowned chef and restauranteur Bobby Flay, there's one key ingredient he swears by to ensure that every dinner party he hosts is a resounding success: a well-chosen theme.

According to Flay, before deciding on a menu or even inviting guests, it's crucial to settle on a theme that will guide every aspect of the party, from the decor and music to the food and drinks. Flay told Good Housekeeping that setting a theme first "gets people excited, and it gives ... an idea of things to go with the main dishes, like sides, cocktails, and wines. So I don't just think, 'I'm going to do a chicken dish,' I think, 'I want to make an Argentinean meal.'"

Flay builds out the rest of the dinner party around a dish or sauce related to that theme, like the herb-based chimichurri sauce signature of Argentinian cuisine. However, this is just one example of how settling on a theme can provide inspiration and direction for every aspect of your dinner party, no matter how big or small. Here's how to take a cue from Bobby Flay and host the ultimate dinner party with a well-chosen theme.

The importance of a dinner party theme

According to Bobby Flay, selecting a theme for your dinner party is crucial because it gives you a clear direction for the menu, wine pairings, and even the decor. Flay advises starting with the cornerstone of a particular cuisine that ties in with your theme, then building out from there.

For instance, if you're hosting an Italian-themed dinner party, start with a classic dish like spaghetti carbonara or sumptuous lasagna, and create a menu and atmosphere that accentuates that dish's unique flavors and style. With the theme in mind and a main dish on the table, you can now craft the perfect wine or drinks menu, too.

Not sure where to start when choosing a theme? Start by thinking about your guests and what they enjoy. Are they wine lovers? Consider a wine and cheese pairing theme. Do they love traveling? Create a themed menu inspired by a particular region or country. Alternatively, consider a unique occasion, such as a Mexican Day of the Dead theme or a romantic Valentine's dinner.

Once you've settled on a theme, it's time to start thinking about the table decoration. Flay's suggestion is to keep it simple. "Just go white because the food is what's going to look really pretty," he said on an episode of the podcast "Always Hungry with Bobby Flay and Sophie Flay" on how to host a dinner party. 

Prepare to tie everything together

The countdown to your dinner party has officially begun. You've got everything ready according to your chosen theme, but to ensure your party is a hit, there's another secret that Bobby Flay swears by: preparation. 

Before your guests arrive, it's important to get organized and tackle some of the big projects, like making sauces and rubs. This can make things easier when it comes to the final stages of preparing dishes. But you can also pre-cook certain aspects of your menu to save time, allowing you to focus on more important things, like socializing with your guests.

Speaking of socializing, don't play bartender at your own party. "Make pitchers of drinks instead of individual cocktails," Flay told Good Housekeeping. Set the cocktail pitchers out with an ice bucket to the side just as guests start to arrive (it's one of our top dinner party tricks). 

British party planner Fiona Leahy echoed this sentiment when speaking with The New York Times, adding that it's a good idea to set up snacks near the drink station so guests have something to nibble on as they arrive.

The final step is to set the right mood. Turn on the music that you've pre-selected to match the theme. If you're looking for some inspiration, consider checking out pre-made playlists on Spotify to find the perfect tunes. You can even take the time to make your own themed playlist.