FINDING NEW VOICES
DEFINING NEW GENRES
As a little helpful treat in the run-up to Christmas, here are six essential tips from Diego Masciaga on perfect Christmas entertaining:
1 – The seating plan
• It’s often actually easier to seat work friends and neighbours than it is family. Spend a lot of time thinking about whether it’s a good idea to seat that brother next to that particular sister. Don’t seat hosts at the head of the table – they should be in the middle, helping with the flow of conversation, looking after those most likely to feel left out.
2 – Welcoming the guests
• Every guest (and that includes the latest ‘plus one’ strangers), must have a ‘piece of red carpet that is the same size’. There are no special guests for this occasion. As host you never appear to be a step below, or above, the guest. Remember, even trillionaires are human. They crave the chance to be just that, enjoying the same experience as everyone else and able to relax during their visit. There is a Russian oligarch I once ‘treated’ to a shared lasagne in a one bedroom flat I was living in at Maidenhead, he still remembers it as a special occasion.
3 – Be a listener
• There are those people who like to talk, but don’t like to listen. Start to listen genuinely if you might be like this, you will learn a lot. Everyone appreciates being listened to. Never imply that another guest must have most of your attention, so no looking over the shoulder of the person talking to you.
4 – At the table
• Don’t try to impress people with your food and wine. They are here to have an enjoyable experience, and so are you. Stick to traditional recipes that work. When people recall a lovely time, it’s not usually a list of the food they ate, or wine vintages, but how much they enjoyed the company. So no pointing out how expensive a particular wine is, announcing ‘this is from 1994’.
And it really doesn’t matter if some things go a bit wobbly, like sauce being spilled on the table.
5 – Avoid unnecessary formality
• You will have succeeded if people feel like they are in their own homes, and are not afraid to ask if there is any chance of some French fries. Over doing it can spoil it for your guests – it’s like employing a butler for the day, it’s not natural, just a big façade. It is a sure sign that things are going wrong if gatherings start to thin out early or people are exchanging glances and looking at watches. Always remember these are people first, not just guests.
6 – No showing off
• Don’t try to demonstrate how well you are doing in a bid to impress guests. Getting out all your belongings to do this is very wrong. In the same way, if someone is talking about, let’s say wine, and you know better, don’t bother about correcting them and showing your own knowledge. Again it doesn’t matter, and nor do you want to make any guest feel small. Others will then worry about what they might say that’s ‘wrong’ in your view.
You can read all about Diego’s amazing and inspirational customer service philosophy in The Diego Masciaga Way by Chris Parker.