Chef’s Secrets: Pick a Theme for Your Event

By Chef Marcus Webster

photo (1)As we usher in the season of endless parties and get-togethers, it’s important to pick a theme, in my opinion.

Picking a theme helps keep the event details focused. It also helps to avoid “cluttering” your event with unnecessary stuff or uncoordinated elements.

Make it fun, creative and something that your guests will enjoy being a part of and can easily adapt to.  How do you achieve this? If there’s a guest of honor, what does that person like? If it’s a summer barbecue, what is available and appropriate for the season?

When it comes to food, not everything goes well together. Can you picture a spread full of carbohydrates–rice, potatoes, pasta and bread; or tacos with pasta, sandwiches with fried rice, and so on? The list goes on and on.

Simply said, pick a theme for your spread, buffet set-up or sit-down menu.

Here are some tips:

  • Brainstorm.

Enlist the help of family or team members. Ask some basic questions. Who’s invited? How many are invited? Where’s the venue? What time of day? Do we have a budget?

Once you nail these questions down and know your audience or guest list, it will be easier to choose a theme.

Also ask, “Will it appeal to your guests?” Pizza and finger foods will probably be more appealing to teens and children than to a guest list full of grandparents.

  • photo (6)Think outside the box.

Sometimes, this is easier said than done especially if you’re so used to ordering or having food delivered from the same neighborhood place all the time.

Do your guests like Mexican food? Try a taco bar. Aside from carne asada (steak), how about carnitas (pork), grilled vegetables or some chile lime chicken? Wow your guests and top your tacos off with some tomatillo salsa, some Baja slaw and some pico de gallo.

Are they mac & cheese fanatics? If so, a mac & cheese station will send your guests over the moon with this array of cheese: blue cheese, asiago, cheddar, pepper jack, etc. Then throw in toppings of pico de gallo, applewood smoked bacon, andouille sausage and shrimps, and your mac & cheese will be the talk of the town!

If your budget allows for it, hire a good caterer who will be able to help you execute your theme.

  • Apply your theme across the board.

Once you decide on a theme, it is easy to tie the other event aspects together. If your budget allows it, head to the nearest party store and get invites, signs, décor and party favors to complement your theme. Yes, I mean that piñata will actually go well with the taco bar.

For a Memorial Day weekend or Fourth of July barbecue, you could go all-American and get really creative or go all-out with pennants and red, white and blue-themed decors which are easy to find these days. The mac & cheese bar or a station with pulled pork, tri-tip, chicken and shrimp sliders would work really well for these occasions.

Can you tell I love themes? I could discuss themes, color schemes, set-ups, bars and stations all-day long, until you’ve had enough. But you get the message, right?

Always pick a theme for your event. It’s fun, creative and it shows you put thought and effort into your event.

Chef Marcus Webster has been a professional chef for over 20 years, starting as a private chef before becoming a corporate chef at the Thousand Oaks-based Auctions in Motion. He is currently the executive chef and co-owner of Nawlinz Bistro in downtown Oxnard and Conejo Valley Catering, the catering arm of Nawlinz Bistro


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