Big night in

Instead of hitting up the same restaurants, why not invite visiting colleagues or guest (even the boss!) over for dinner?

There are those who look at food as little more than fuel. For the rest of us, food can be a great source of joy, discussion, debate, even collaboration. What’s better than breaking bread with friends? Trying new flavours while ravelling? Nabbing a piece of the cake that showed up unexpectedly at the office? Exactly.

Whether you’re looking for gas (meaning fuel, not, uh, gas) or a gastronomic adventure, we all have to eat. Sometimes we have to eat with those we work with.

This month, I propose you try something new. Don’t take the visiting colleague to the same restaurant you always go to. Don’t hold a dinner meeting in a crowded steak house. Don’t try to network over menus and wine lists. Don’t think I’m out of my mind for suggesting this: I say, invite the boss (or your team, or your guest lecturer) to your place.

“People can relax in their own homes,” says Kurtis Ellis, founder and chef of P.E.I.’s Simple Pleasures Intimate Catering. “They don’t have to worry about taking their children to the sitters; the home offers privacy if people want to talk about business.”

And if you don’t feel like doing the cooking, hire the pros.

Ordering in — in style

When Ellis started Simple Pleasures in 2002, the concept of having someone enter a home to cook dinner was not an easy sell. “But it’s catching on,” he says. “People are getting really comfortable with it.”

Ellis’ goal was to offer a restaurant-quality experience in a private home. Menus are discussed and decided on ahead of time. The preparation of the dinner can be as interactive as you’d like: watch the chef at work, or sit in the living room and enjoy not having to chop and sear. It works because Ellis keeps the quality high, and the prices reasonable (a high-end multi-course meal, food and service included, starts at $50 a person, for a group of six).

Bob Arniel offers a similar gourmet service through Chef to Go in St. John’s. Chef to Go started catering small events in private homes back in 1995. “There are a lot of great homes in and around St. John’s,” Arniel says, “and it’s been fun to work in so many of them.”

These chefs do the prep work back in their own kitchens, and finish up in yours. They will craft menus, cater to special requests, and make sure that dishes are done at the right time.

And what does a host or hostess have to do to get ready for the chef? “Just make sure the counter space is clear,” says Arniel.

More than a meal

Here’s something else to think about. Arniel offers day-long corporate seminars from his kitchen. He develops sessions around the planning and preparation of a five-course meal, ending with a fine dining experience of the group’s creation.

“It’s team-building through food,” says Arniel. “We get people a little out of their comfort zone, and inspire friendly competition.”

Craving more?

Arniel periodically offers week-long foodie trips. There’s one planned for the south of France in fall 2011. I would never suggest you take the boss away for a week of foie gras and Coquilles St. Jacques, but it does sound like a great getaway. Just in case you need one after all that party planning.

Stephanie Porter
About Stephanie Porter

Stephanie Porter is a freelance writer and editor living in St. John’s. In 2003, she helped launch The Independent, a spirited weekly newspaper distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador, known for its investigative news and features. Stephanie was managing editor of the paper until its untimely demise in 2008. She has also worked as a reporter and writer for Downhome magazine, the Express (also now defunct), The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, picking up Atlantic Journalism Awards for her feature and news writing. Stephanie is delighted to be a regular contributor to Atlantic Business Magazine. Photo Credit: Paul Daly.

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