“The secret to a wonderful dinner is comfortable seating” -Sarah J. Herman
Bold advice coming from an executive chef. Sarah’s Sunday dinners, her families consistent collaboration and care for their guests shaped my understanding of hospitality. The best hosts understand that food is only one part of our shared experience. It’s about the moment when we push back from our food and linger over conversation. It’s stolen moments over the giggles of children. It’s the gentle pursuit of people. It’s the humility to let them see your unvarnished selves. It’s bending together to clean spilled lemonade, laughing through disastrous desserts or toddler tantrums that turns guests into friends. Preparation is a central part of hospitality but it’s the humanity of invitation and participation that turns a meal into something that nourishes the soul.
Today in America, we can gather in a variety of settings to be fed, served and entertained without lifting a finger. We really don’t need to gather in each other’s homes ever again. So why go to all this work? Invitation is important. I’m asking you to enter my space – to get to know my family. If you enter with a critical eye you will find dust on my mantle or spots on my mirror, you’ll probably see me correct a child, drop a fork, ask for help. Hopefully, you’ll feel welcomed into our lives and friendship. Our family has invested time preparing our environment for you. We’ve made beds, wiped down bathrooms, set the table, considered our menu. The central theme of is how we can serve you and make you feel the most comfortable.
I grew up eating around a table that was set every night for dinner with plate, glasses, silverware and napkins. You can imagine the mixed emotions I had when my son and I came across a picture of Cookie Monster setting the table and he asked “are they having friends over?” Our family’s rhythm is a little more chaotic. Paper plates and forks on the counter is our normal. It’s a natural outcome of our busy lives but we make concerted efforts to teach the art of hospitality. It starts with serving our friends and neighbors.
On an average night in our kitchen you might the four of us trying a recipe that’s globally inspired, it’s loose, messy and often improtpu with at least one trip to the store for coconut milk, curry, or lemon grass. Together we try to capture the magic of Thai street food or French casual dining and reminiscing about past adventures. We experiment and play, make mistakes together and fall into bed leaving a mountain of dishes. Hospitality has become a shared family adventure. It’s a way to express our diverse cultures with our friends. A way to create something from our travels that we can share or explore different global issues. This summer, I’ll be highlighting recipes and culinary adventures. Dishes we’ve been making that focus on experiencing the world in our kitchen and sharing at our table.