Party Planning With Padma Lakshmi

Sterling wines is teaming up with hostess with the mostess Padma Lakshmi from Bravo's Top Chef to launch The Sterling Ultimate Host campaign. Together, they're seeking amateur party planners who epitomize savvy entertaining in four separate challenges that all circle around hostessing. You can enter your ideas on Sterling's Facebook page, and they'll pick four finalists to fly to New York City to face off in a live grand-finale competition. GlamNest had the opportunity to chat with Padma Lakshmi about this amazing opportunity in addition to her personal tips, tricks and ideas for easy entertaining. Here's what she had to say…

Tell me about your involvement with the Sterling Ultimate Host Project.
Sterling reached out to me because they thought it would be a cool idea to partner together on this competition. We’re basically launching the search for the ultimate host. It gives people the chance to swap entertaining tips and compete and have some fun. Basically it’s a series of four challenges that we’ll be posting on Sterling's Facebook page. We’ll pick a winner from each of those four challenges and then those four people will be flown out to New York to compete in an event in early December against each other for the Ultimate Host title. The winner will get a $40,000 cash prize, a trip for four to Sterling Vineyards in Napa, and they'll also get to be Sterling's entertaining spokesperson for a year. We don’t just want foodies or professionals; we really want everybody. Even if you don’t want to actually compete, you can go to their Facebook page for tips and ideas.

So what are your personal entertaining essentials?
Good food. Good wine. Good music. A good environment. Most importantly, a good guest list. You want to have a balanced guest list. You don’t want like six hardcore sports fans unless that’s why you’re getting together. But a good dinner party is when you have a nice mix of age groups, professions and different personality types. You need talkers and listeners. Otherwise it’s either cricket city or no one can hear anyone.

Describe your ideal dinner party.
To me the ideal dinner party would be just maybe 12 or 15 people. It would be a buffet so people could mingle and get to know each other. There would be a mix of food that consisted of some light items, some heavier items, and a couple of desserts to finish. I always choose a white wine and a red wine because no matter what you’re serving there are people who only drink one or the other. I would keep in mind what flavors I’m cooking with and either complement the wine I’m serving or contrast the wine I’m serving. And I would make a playlist. It’s pretty easy to do these days with technology. Try to curate the mood of the night.

Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?
Muhammad Ali, Margaret Cho, Prince. Eric Kandel, who is the Nobel Prize winning brain guy. Picasso. Again you see, it’s like a scientist, a painter, an athlete, a comedian and a musician.

Since we’re getting into fall, what would be your favorite fall dish to serve?
I love pumpkin. I love pumpkin soup. I love roasted pumpkin with honey and maple syrup just simply drizzled on top. I love roasted root vegetables for the same reason. I like roasts. In the winter it’s actually easier to cook for a dinner party because you can just serve a couple of beautiful roasted chickens. There’s a recipe I have for chilli honey butter. It’s chili powder, honey and butter. You just whisk it together. You can graze the whole chicken with it. So just do a roast chicken and then you can do a big roast that you slice. It’s really simple homey food. Nothing too fussy. You just want something simple so you can be together. Just really yummy, nice food.

What tips do you have for a New York City apartment dweller throwing a dinner party in the size of a small room?
Actually I’m one of those people. I have a nice apartment, but I love buffets. Even if you have a house the size of a football field, I want a buffet because that table draws people in. It also allows people to go off and break off in a pair of two or three by the couch or by the fire and allows them to get to know each other. Often times, when you have a dinner party where everyone is served course by course, it can be a little limiting in that you only get to talk to the person who sat next to you. It’s nice to have a more informal setting.

What do you think is the easiest thing to wear as a hostess?

That’s a great question actually! I love long flowy maxi dresses. Sometimes if you’re wearing a tight cocktail dress, it’s hard to pick up after people and if you’re in high heels it's just uncomfortable – unless you want the height, in which case I’d say wear wedges. In a long flowy dress, it doesn’t matter if you wear flats. No one is seeing your legs. Be comfortable. Wear a smaller heel. You’re the host and you’re not leaving the house so even if it’s winter you can wear something kind of summery or flowy because you don’t have to go outside.

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