Food brings people together. Nothing rings truer than that statement. While heading to the newest and hottest restaurant in town can be deliciously fun, there are plenty of ways to gather friends and family together for a truly unique and memorable food experience right at home. My introduction to DIY food experiences dates back to my high school days when my group of friends planned a fancy-ish dinner party at my parents' home. The gentlemen cooked the meal at my home (with the help of my mother), while the girls gathered to get ready at someone else’s home. The meal itself wasn’t fancy, but the night was a memory that I treasure to this day.
Several years ago, a friend and I found a deal on ordering lobster and decided to host a lobster night at her home. She worked from home the day of the dinner to be there when the live lobsters arrived. Long story short, I’ll never forget the fun we had cooking and laughing together that night. My first time cooking lobster!
Two of my fabulous friends brought me back to these DIY dining experiences when they recently decided to start a dinner club inspired by their personal love for steamers, like clams and mussels. Hence, the Steamers Club was born.
This got me thinking about other festive DIY dining and cooking parties ideas. Here are my top four:
#1 - DIY Themed Dinner Club Series
Much like the Steamers Club, a shared affinity for a specific type of fare can bring like-minded folks together for a meal. Whether you plan this on your own or with another person, decide on a theme for the dinner party. Plan a date for the first installment of your dinner club. Do you love Mexican food? How about sandwiches? It can be a simple or complex theme of your choice. Find others who share your love to invite. More than one host can make planning and cooking the menu more fun (and less pressure). Guests can bring appetizers, sides, or beverages as needed.
#2 - DIY Cooking Parties
Yes, you can plan an amazing party at The Chopping Block or attend a class. You can also plan a cooking party on your own. I’ve recently led cooking parties for a few small groups, including a super fun bachelorette party at an AirBnb space. Hiring someone to do a lot of the legwork and instruct the group on what to do is one way to have a cooking party. Another is simply to plan a menu with 3-4 recipes, shop for the supplies, and invite a group over to help cook everything. Split the crowd into smaller groups and each group is charged with preparing a particular recipe. Once all the cooking is complete, sit down and enjoy the meal you created together. Make sure to keep the wine flowing throughout the night!
#3 - DIY Cook the Book Club
Think book club, but with cookbooks. And wine, obviously. Each participant will have the opportunity to select a cookbook they love. If your month is coming up next, bring your chosen cookbook to the meeting the month before. After enjoying dinner, introduce the next cookbook and why it’s a personal favorite. Passing the book around, allow each person to select a recipe that they would like to prepare for the next month. If it’s your month, write down who picked what recipe so you can make a copy or scan and send the recipe to said person. Everyone brings the prepared recipes to the next dinner meeting. As the group eats, discuss the story behind each recipe, the flavors, the ingredients, the likes/dislikes. End the dinner with the presentation of the cookbook for next month. And more wine.
#4 - DIY Healthy Dinner Accountability Club
The hot topic of conversation at the beginning of a new year is how to get healthy and do things differently this year. When we try to “go it alone,” it can be challenging to stick to goals without the support of others. This is a great way to be each other’s cheerleaders and encourage sustainable healthy habits. This DIY dining adventure can be a simple potluck where everyone brings a healthy, nutritious dish they love and copies of the recipe to share with the group. While you enjoy the meal, go around the group and share experiences with your individual goals. Offer support and encouragement, tips and tricks, the good and the bad. Help one another achieve your personal health goals.