Come Dine With Me: Keeping Out of the Kitchen

I overheard two women on a train talking about entertaining guests – at home. Come Dine With Me (the TV show) sprang to mind, as points are usually lost for a host that is barely ever out of the kitchen.

Woman 1: My husband says he wants to have some of his family round for a party but I said you know what will happen. I’ll spend the whole time in the kitchen and never get to hear what everyone has to say or join in the conversations. I’m sick of it. I’ve told him I don’t want them round. Then he says Oh I’ll help you!

Woman 2: I know what you mean, I felt the same, like the skivvy while everyone else is enjoying the evening.


It’s true. Entertaining guests can end up feeling a bit like – them having a wonderful time while you’re whizzing in and out of the kitchen like you’ve been hired for the evening. Not forgetting all the prep leading up to your guests arrival, and that’s before we even get onto all the cleaning and tidying up afterwards.

If you’re having people round and trying to keep out of the kitchen, are there any good tips you’d share? The list below might be worth considering, subject to space, number of guests, budget, notice period before arrival and the sheer will to bother. Here goes: ๐Ÿ˜Œ

  1. Cater the food in, rather than cook (some might think that’s cheating but as long as everyone enjoys the food it’s a win – you’re supporting an independent business, double win, and you get to spend more time with your guests, triple win right??)ย  Don’t pretend you cooked the food – be honest.
  2. If space permits, find somewhere to set all the food up buffet style and let your guests fill their own plates at will. You only need lay the table. There are various food warmer and heated/electrical serving dish type equipment you can buy online or possibly hire.
  3. Set up a drinks corner or bar area with a good selection of drinks, glasses and a big ice bucket with tongs, making it easy for guests to ponder over and help themselves – add a few bottles on the table as well, but there should be no need for you to be in and out of rooms nonstop with drinks. If you need to fetch extra drinks occasionally, that’s okay.
  4. If you decide to cook (which is probably the less expensive option), try to cook what you can early on and keep it warm/reheat when guests arrive to save you slaving away in the kitchen while everyone’s having a lovely time. Get things organised and easy to find. Salad always tastes better made fresh though, same with fresh fruit….it never looks or tastes quite the same once it’s been sliced up and left in the fridge for a while.
  5. If all of the above sounds like way too much hassle, invite them for ‘take-away’ night instead, keep it simple.
  6. If you’re feeling fancy, don’t mind having strangers in the house and you can afford it, hire waiting staff! Or ask a friend to come over and help.
  7. Try to anticipate the sorts of things guests might need or ask for and have them within easy reach – like a tray of condiments, lemons/limes for drinks….
  8. Get some disposable food containers for guests to take away leftovers, unless you think you’ll have enough space to keep it.
  9. If it all still sounds like too much of a headache, just forget the food. Don’t do food. Simply invite them for drinks and nibbles only, and maybe some deserts.


Feel free to share any other tips you have in the comments – don’t keep them to yourself!


All images from free clip art sources

35 thoughts on “Come Dine With Me: Keeping Out of the Kitchen

  1. puppy1952

    I am not a brilliant cook, but I enjoy entertaining. I keep it simple and am happy to have people over at short notice. They have to just take potluck. In the past there were six at our table every night and on weekends up to twelve. It was never a problem. My husband and I cook together. It will either be a braai/barbeque or a roast leg of lamb with lots of vegetables and salads. Now that I’m retired, we seldom cater for more than six at a time. In the past and now I would get caterers for a big function.

  2. Basia Korzeniowska

    My husband always does the cooking. mostly in advance for dinner parties. Always something simple but usually very good quality. This Sunday we are having guests. Pre prandial drinks with Spanish ham croquettes (I made those already.) Rolled loin of venison ( he will roll it in pancetta tomorrow, fry it briefly and refry on Sunday) with roast potatoes, red cabbage or horseradish beetroot and something green. I will make a very easy chocolate and almond cake with raspberry coulis for dessert. Then cheese and biscuits and coffee. Nothing difficult. we will both be in and out of the kitchen briefly while the guests are here, but not at the same time. But it will take three or four dishwasher loads later. luckily we do not go to work!

  3. Ellie Thompson

    It’s really good to see you back again, Cherryl. Firstly, thank you for the two blog posts you sent me about writer’s block – both were very helpful. The only suggestion I struggle with is reading enough. I am always writing, either for my blog, but also for my coursework. It’s a writing course, and I have work to do for that every week, mostly essays. I’ve got a book out of the library I’m dying to read. It was suggested to me by another of my readers, Janet. It’s called Room by Emma Donoghue. Apparently, it was a film at one time. I can’t concentrate on reading at home, so I try to go to the library to read instead. I just don’t get enough time to keep up with the story.

    Onto your current blog post … I love your suggestions to make entertaining more of a joy than a chore. When I was married, I used to entertain more often. We usually had a buffet on the circular dining table, where we all sat around and helped ourselves to food. Once I was on my own (my ex left when my children were five and three), I didn’t entertain much. I can’t remember the last time I had anyone here to eat apart from my best friend, who often comes for lunch, and I’ll cook something simple. My family all live too far away for them to come for a meal, so most of the time, I just cook for myself. Now that I’m disabled, too, entertaining would be even more of a challenge – not impossible, though, and I’m always up for a challenge! Now … who to invite?

    I found your clip art interesting. The second image really made me think. What I noticed, as much as anything was that the family were sitting around the table, and not one soul was on their phone, unlike these days when it seems commonplace to have your phone at the table! That always annoys me, especially as my son does it. I think he’s attached to his phone by his umbilical cord!

    I hope you are well, Cherryl and that you have a lovely rest of the week. Xx ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•

    1. Cherryl

      Hi Ellie, I hope you’re well and enjoying the weekend ๐Ÿค— ๐ŸŒผ

      It can definitely be difficult to find time to read, so true, and you also have to be in the mood to sit and read, which isn’t always going to be the case.

      Dinner party-wise – laying all the food out and everyone helping themselves is also my prefered approach – and I think it helps make things feel more relaxed too.

      ๐Ÿ™„ I hear you on the phone thing. Even in restaurants these days, phones are usually on the table. I’m guilty of taking photos of my food sometimes but I try to put the phone away and not to keep it visible the whole time. Sadly, yes – the phone has become the new permanent umbilical cord ๐Ÿ™ƒ

      Have a good week ahead ๐Ÿฅ๐ŸŒธ x

      1. Ellie Thompson

        Hi, Cherryl. How lovely to see you back again. My weekend is okay, although far too busy, meaning no reading time today (story of my life). However, when I think about it, I spend such a long time reading other blogs, which counts as reading, that I don’t have time to do much else. I’ve been writing every two or three days lately, but it is quite a commitment, but one that I enjoy, thankfully. Having said that, I have started that book, ‘Room’, that I mentioned in my comment, and so far, it’s excellent, but I’m only reading it at the library, as I always do.

        Yes, the phone ‘thing’ is here to stay; in fact, I’m pretty sure of it. I have to admit that I have been known to take a photo of my food if it’s something special, like a birthday meal with a friend. Other than that, like you, I put my phone back in my bag, even though I know it could ring at any minute and demand my attention. My son has now graduated from having one ear glued to his phone to now having a headset on both ears, so is hands-free. Now, he just walks about all over the house having conversations with the air, or so it seems. I’m never sure whether he’s talking on his headset or whether he’s talking to me. It wouldn’t surprise me, in generations to come, if we are born with a permanent device in place, like an implant, that will do away with having to use phones altogether ๐Ÿ™„!

        How are you doing? I hope your weekend is going well and that you have a lovely week, too. Xx ๐ŸŒท๐Ÿ’›๐ŸŒน

        1. Cherryl

          All is well thanks Ellie, just having a bit of a blog binge (long overdue) ๐Ÿ˜Š ๐Ÿ’ป
          Reading blogs can take up a lot of time for sure, there is never enough time to read as many as I’d like….glad you got to start that book too, it’s nice to get into a good book ๐Ÿ‘

          Implantable devices are probably close on the horizon – I think they have something like that already rolling out in Sweden to make payments, watch this space! ๐Ÿค”

  4. debscarey

    I enjoy hosting friends/family for a meal, and use a mix of methods – not choosing menu items which require being chained in the kitchen, lots of prep-ahead, some short-cuts (shop bought puds for example), and being organized. My mother’s method was to exchange the servants she was used to from a life overseas with her children once we moved back to the UK, so she always got to enjoy her gatherings and hated eating out. Her children always enjoy eating out!

  5. Sheila Landry Designs

    Hi, Cherryl. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have missed your blogs. I was happy to see you back.

    My entertaining days seem to be behind me. But back in the day, I would have large gatherings (up to 50 or more people) for parties for the kids birthdays and holidays. Many times this included full meals. Buffet style was the way to go, and many of your tips are what I had followed to make the day a success. I usually cooked everything or most things myself with the help of my dear friend who lived down the block. We raised our kids together and were like sisters. So while it was exhausting, it was really fun. I recently was going through some old photos and many were of parties and gatherings like that. They were definitely good times.

    Now I live in a different country circumstances are definitely not the same. My dear friend had passed away right after I moved here and the kids are grown and all in different places. Life changes. But those days of parties are fond memories.

    Have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply