Cleveland native (and loyal Cleveland Browns fan) Chef Michael Symon is not only a highly accomplished, James Beard-award winning chef, but he also enjoys a tailgate as much as the next person. However, when you’re busy running celebrated restaurants and writing New York Times best-selling cookbooks, making it to the game isn’t always an option. In times like those, Chef Symon opens his door, fires up the grill and throws a homegating party – bringing the tailgate home. Here are his six tips for creating a winning backyard party.
1. “The more you can prepare ahead, the more you can enjoy the party.”
Being a famous chef means you’ll most likely be tapped to do all the cooking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also savor the party. Chef Symon is all about prepping as much as possible before guests arrive. He likes serving food and drinks that can be prepared in advance so when the big game starts, he can sit back and enjoy.
2. “Who doesn’t love barbecue?!”
For any game day, you need food that can feed a crowd – and Chef Symon is always a fan of team barbecue. He’s an advocate for barbecued foods that are cooked low and slow because they can be prepared in advance and hold up well. Plus, everyone goes crazy for them.
3. “Having a variety of seating options is essential.”
Some people come for the game while others come for the food. To satisfy everyone’s needs, Chef Symon makes sure to have multiple seating zones. Adding barstools to the outdoor kitchen is a great option for those who want to belly up to the bar, snack and socialize with the chef. Setting up folding tables and chairs is perfect for those who want to watch the game and have a designated place to put their food and drink. Lastly, offering up additional seating space, away from the game for party guests looking to catch up and socialize is a good idea, Think patio seating, chaise lounges or even a daybed further from the action.
4. “Pre-made cocktails are a great time saver.”
Cocktails are great but who has time to keep mixing individual drinks throughout the day? To avoid this, Chef Symon recommends having ice and a pre-made cocktail ready to roll. Set out a beverage dispenser on a bar cart so guests can easily help themselves to a refill. A bar cart will also allow plenty of space for cocktail napkins, straws or additional garnishes. Chef Symon also suggests that the cocktails be served in melamine drinkware; add some canned beer to your beverage tub as another option. There’s nothing worse than missing the game-winning drive because you were busy cleaning up broken glass. For the perfect Mexcal Old Fashioned, make sure to check out our blog with exclusive Michael Symon recipes for your next outdoor gathering.
5. “I like to make food that you can pick up with your hands and eat.”
Embracing snackable foods puts guests at ease, encouraging refills and seconds on their own terms. Create multiple serving stations so guests can spread out and easily access snacks to avoid any game day bottlenecks. Plus, when the game gets close, guests may be too distracted to sit at a table for a formal meal, so finger foods reign supreme.
6. “Lighting is always key to setting the right mood, both indoors and out.”
Lighting can make or break a gathering. It not only sets the ambience, but it also helps extend the party into the evening, letting you grill, entertain and socialize long after the sun goes down. With the help of a fire table, string lights or lanterns, your alfresco gathering will be a winning combination.