The Dish Ina Garten Never Serves At Dinner Parties

Dinner parties are ideal for enjoying good food and good company. And that's just the thing — the host should be able to enjoy themselves just as much as the guests. Otherwise, what's the point? So while it might come as a surprise that top chefs prefer to serve simple, easy-to-make foods at their own parties because of the amount of work involved, it's actually a sign that they're prioritizing what matters. After all, why throw a dinner party that will have one stuck in the kitchen for days on end just so that partygoers can gobble it up in a fraction of the time?

That's the sentiment Ina Garten shared when she explained why Bouillabaisse is never on the menu at her dinner parties. "There are things that just take too much time, like Bouillabaisse. It takes a long time to make a classic Bouillabaisse or a duck confit," she told Food & Wine. A complicated dish like bouillabaisse not only takes hours to make, but you can't walk away from it and let it simmer on its own without risking burned spices, boiled-over broth, or tough and rubbery fish. Instead, she focuses on simpler foods that her guests will enjoy just as much without turning her into a stressed-out mess leading up to the event.

What Ina Garten serves instead

The key to an Ina Garten party boils down to her four-dish rule, which allows for varied timing and preparation. For example, she recommends preparing a soup in the days leading up to the big evening — as it will only need to be warmed up when the time comes. A course that doesn't need to be eaten hot, such as orzo with vegetables or a big salad, is perfect to prepare earlier in the day. She'll limit using the stove for one course and do the same with the oven. By organizing the courses this way, the celebrity chef is able to provide her guests with delicious food without having to juggle a bunch of pots and pans all at once.

As for the best foods to serve, the Barefoot Contessa offers up items that may appear complicated at first glance but are actually quick and easy to make — such as a three-ingredient salmon spread or a lamb sausage wrapped in store-bought puff pastry. Classic desserts also offer the perfect opportunity to prepare a course earlier that day or even the day before, in which case she likes to make a cake, cookies, or panna cotta. With such tasty and impressive options in her wheelhouse, it's no wonder she doesn't feel the need to overexert herself with a labor-intensive menu made up of Bouillabaisse and duck confit.

Ina Garten's dinner party advice

Ina Garten has plenty of sage advice for those who are planning their own dinner parties, such as sticking with dishes that they're comfortable with instead of trying out new or complicated recipes. But there is a caveat to this, as she does think it's important to see if there are any foods that the guests just won't or can't eat (due to allergies or preferences). As an example, someone might not be allergic to say pork, but if they absolutely won't touch the stuff, then it won't make a good main course. Entertaining is about including everyone, after all.

"There are a lot of little things that I do that make people feel really welcome and the first one is music," Garten has said, via CNN Underscored. "The second thing is just greeting people." Instead of worrying about preparing a formal dining room and made-to-order drinks, she serves her dinner parties buffet style in the kitchen and makes pitchers of cocktails ahead of time. 

By focusing on creating a fun, casual atmosphere while also being available to chat with guests, you'll be pretty much guaranteed a successful evening. Take it from Garten– the whole point of entertaining is to join in the festivities, not stress yourself out trying to impress your guests with your culinary, bartending, and decorative skills. At the end of the night, you'll be glad you made it a point to mingle and enjoy yourself.