An appetizer sets the tone

23 July 2014
Love it!

At the start of a meal, the crucial thing is to set the right atmosphere. Make your guests feel welcome as soon as they arrive. Some nice background music, the aperitif glasses at the ready, a beautifully decorated table: these are all things that are just as important as the food itself. And they work! Always! If Paul comes home after a busy day and sees the cheerful atmosphere I have created, it always makes him feel good.

Of course, as the host or hostess, you also want to join in the conversation with your guests. You can't do this if you are running in and out of the kitchen all the time. So make sure that your appetizers are quick and easy to make. The best ones are those you can prepare in advance. Put them on the table just before your guests arrive. Olives, stuffed baby tomatoes, something on a stick: these are all ideal.

The worst thing you can do is to try to compete with all the top chefs you see on television. Don't serve appetizers that are almost a meal in their own right! Leave this to the star restaurants. They have a whole kitchen full of staff to prepare these things - you don't. 

As a host or hostess, you should try to focus on the things that you can manage and are good at: originality, creativity, a warm and friendly atmosphere. Make the kind of appetizers you don't get in a top restaurant. If you want to show off your cooking skills, make just one appetizer that is a little bit more special than the others. I like to do marinated raw fish with vegetables - a winner every time! Prepare everything well in advance, so that you have time to welcome your guests. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks to other members of the family. For example, your partner can serve the drinks, while you serve the food. And remember: nothing is more important for your guests than to see that their host and hostess are enjoying themselves as well!


If you want to follow the right combinations from my good food combinations, remember to do this for the entire menu, starting with the appetizers. You need to see your menu as a whole. If you are serving fish for your main course, you can't use cheese as appetizers! 

'Don't spend too much time in the kitchen; a nicely decorated table is just as important.'

Pascale Naessens