Naeem Khan’s Entertaining Tips

I discovered something recently when interviewing eveningwear designer Naeem Khan for a Wall Street Journal Tricks of the Trade column on how he throws dinner parties.

I realized: I’ve been a complete clod all these years.

Hearing Naeem talk about the importance of plating and presentation as appetite inducers, noting that he doesn’t like to serve several things on the same plate as it’s a “nightmare,” made me think of my own parties. While the designer prefers to serve small portions on over-sized plates so the dish frames the food nicely, my presentations have been known to look like this …    


… which, I suspect, would qualify in Naeem’s book as a “nightmare.”

Granted, that picture was from Thanksgiving, a meal that’s often all about more, not less. But still, his advice lit a fire under my tush to step it up in the presentation department. The man designs for Beyonce and Eva Longoria, after all, so he knows a thing or two about how things should look.

Growing up in Singapore, where the best food to be had is often found in the grimiest of places, where you’re usually sitting on some squeaky plastic chair perched precariously on some uneven sidewalk, waiting for a hawker to deliver an amazingly delicious glop of noodles or rice tossed onto a plate with no thought to presentation, I can see how I came to believe that as long as food tasted good, nothing else mattered.

When I’ve thrown parties, I’ve spent hours carefully chopping, marinating and planning home-made dishes from canapes to desserts. But rarely have I thought to arrange food nicely on a plate before serving each dish — which explains some of the questionable pictures I’ve taken of my own dishes over the years. (The picture below, by the way, was a record of my first stab at ayam masak merah, a spicy, Malay chicken dish.)


Well, dinner guests, not any more. As the fashionable always say, less is more.


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One thought on “Naeem Khan’s Entertaining Tips

  1. This reminds me of the time my sister-in-law and I were working on an antipasto platter. As we carefully laid down the ingredients, my mother-in-law teased us about how much work we were putting into it. In the discussion that followed, we concluded that for our generation (Gen-X), it was the presentation of a meal that was most important; for her generation (the “silent generation”), it was its price/value; and for her mother’s generation (Depression-era), it was having anything to eat at all. We may be going back to the days of having our plates filled with less rather than more, but at least we’ll know how to make them look good!

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