A chef’s pre-dinner strategy, from appetizers to an easy beauty routine

A chef’s pre-dinner strategy, from appetizers to an easy beauty routine

Written by: Jean Godfrey-June

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Published on: November 17, 2022

Photo courtesy of @jazminmonetphotography

When you produce even the most elegant, casual dinner for Veuve Clicquot, Nike or goop, you spend most of it on your feet and in the kitchen, says LA chef and entertaining expert Olivia Muniak, who founded La Cura, a hugely successful catering and events company. But entertaining at home requires a completely different approach. “What’s the point of having friends over if I can’t sit down and enjoy their company?” she laughs. Muniak’s strategy: Tackle everything—from appetizers to an easy beauty routine—in advance. “That way, the evening goes smoothly and I get to have fun too,” she says.

1

Step 1: Wake up your skin
(and finesse with touches of color).

My beauty routine is no stress, no fuss, but it makes me feel ready,” says Muniak. “I love a little eye cream to freshen up my eyes. Then I do a quick swipe of mascara and dab on GOOPGEN’S lip balm – I have the new trio and I can’t live without it for long days of setting up events, but I love the new Tomato shade for an easy evening look.”


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“The other thing I always do is smooth on GOOPGEN’S body butter,” she says. “I have parched skin and it really keeps me glowing throughout the evening. I even use it on my hands.”


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2

Step 2: Stick to dishes you know and love.

“I once tried coq au vin for the first time right before a dinner party,” says Muniak. “I had the wrong ingredients and just enough prep time before dinner – needless to say, it was inedible. We ordered pizzas, drank wine and laughed the night away – which is a great reminder that your guests are there to hang out with you, not for the food.” Her tip: “Read a recipe a few days before you plan to make it. A dinner party is probably not the best time to try something complicated you’ve never made before, so stick to dishes you know and love. That strategy will never let you down and will reduce your stress level by a million percent.”

“For example, I do this beef tenderloin forward, so I can put it in the oven while I enjoy a cocktail with my guests,” she says. “To make it even easier on myself, I roast a plate of root vegetables—tossed with the same rosemary-garlic mixture I use to marinate the meat—at the same time.”


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3

Step 3: Prepare cocktails in large batches.

“I pre-batch cocktails so guests can serve themselves, and I provide everything they might need, from glassware to garnishes and ice cream,” says Muniak. She adds that classic cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis can all be premixed, stored, chilled and served in glass flip-top bottles (they also last a long time in the fridge or freezer). “Cocktails like margaritas made with fresh juice last two days in the fridge, so I keep spirits separate from those cocktail mixes and set up the bar with the bottle of mix and the suggested spirits like tequila or mezcal for a choose-your-own adventure on a way,” she says.


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4

Step 4: Go fancy-lazy for appetizers.

“I love dishes like chips and dip, caviar, seasonal crostini or a vegetable pie cut into bite-size squares,” says Muniak. “Anything that can be made in the morning and then dressed just before it’s put on the table is perfect.”


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5

Step 5: Have a uniform.

“I’m a denim girl,” says Muniak. “There’s something about denim that just makes you feel so damn good—a high-waisted wide leg is smart (and comfortable) for a day-to-night look. I’ve been living in G. Label wide-leg jeans paired with a simple cardigan; if the event is more sophisticated, I’ll swap the cardigan for an elegant bustier for an effortless holiday-at-home look.”


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A relaxed holiday menu from Chef Muniak


Herbed beef tenderloin and Citrus Crème Fraîche

Herbed beef tenderloin and Citrus Crème Fraîche

“This festive holiday recipe is equally delicious served warm or at room temperature, and it’s the perfect make-ahead dish. I especially love the zipped horseradish creme fraiche with the earthy vegetables and tender beef.”


Citrus braised beets and spicy yoghurt

Citrus braised beets and spicy yoghurt

“The roots get a lovely winter citrus twist from an orange juice marinade that doubles as the cooking liquid. Then they’re layered with an herbal yogurt and garnished with toasted hazelnuts.”


Caviar chips and dip

Caviar chips and dip

“I always make it for a party. And BEET is the caviar brand I recommend to everyone.”

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