Last week, I caught up with East-West cooking authority Ming Tsai. He hosted an event at Macy's to encourage home cooks to get involved in their Come Together campaign, a fundraising effort that aims to feed 10 million people suffering from hunger. The concept: host a dinner party, but in lieu of accepting gifts, ask guests to make a donation.

Chef Ming is a huge supporter of the idea. "Not every corporation's doing this, especially during these economic times," he says. In addition to dishing on his pantry essentials, he also shared tips on throwing a worry-free dinner party at your place. Want to stress less at your own soirées? Then keep reading.

The proof is in the prep. Do everything you possibly can in advance. "People aren't coming to your home to see you cook, they're coming to hang out with you. So if you're in the kitchen the whole time, you're missing out on your whole party," Ming says.


Set the scene with bar snacks. Ming always puts out snacks for his parties, such as wasabi peas, homemade hummus, or edamame. "Try something easy that you can put out an hour ahead, so everyone has something to nibble on, and you don't have to worry about it," he suggests.

Start with a cold first course that's laid out ahead of time. If your refrigerator has the space, he recommends plating a cold dish like tea-smoked salmon or a composed salad ahead of time. Right before serving, drizzle with vinaigrette and add your garnish. "You're not cutting corners," Ming reassures. "This is what restaurants do."

Get your soup on. Not only are soups perfect for Fall and Winter, but they can be made in advance and kept at a low simmer once the party starts. They also add a pleasant aroma to your home.

Hold the party in your kitchen. "I love parties in the kitchen, because people always migrate there anyway," Ming says. This setup is ideal if you've got an open kitchen with a dining table nearby.

How do you keep the stress level low when hosting a bash?