With preparations for seasonal gatherings underway, Harry & David culinary ambassador and award-winning chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, shares a peek into his holiday plans, tips for effortlessly hosting the ultimate feast, and insights into some of his favorite products.
Zakarian on how he and his family make their own contributions to the holiday menu:
- “My wife, Margaret, and I usually try to make holiday dinner together, which is a fun challenge that we always look forward to. First things first, we make the menu. At this point we also decide who will take the reins on preparing which dishes. I typically handle grocery shopping three to four days prior, as well as the bulk of the prep. If the prep is all taken care of, then everyone can actually have fun in the kitchen when the real cooking begins! The kids might jump in and help remove stems from the string beans, peel vegetables, or grate cheese—simple tasks that don't take too long.”
Zakarian's must-haves to keep in any kitchen during holiday meal prep:
- “As much as I wish I only had three must-haves during the holidays, the truth is, I have many holiday-feast essentials. I really rely on having a properly stocked pantry. Just to name a few, you need good olive oil, red wine vinegar, champagne or white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, high-quality finishing salt, black pepper, dried spices that aren’t passed their expiration date, plenty of dried pasta, rice, and beans. The list goes on! Hors d’oeuvres and snacks are always laid out on the table so that when guests arrive, I can concentrate on any finishing touches for the big dinner.”
The biggest mistakes he sees people make when hosting at home:
- “People don’t realize that the prep work is really what takes up most of your time. You have to get organized well before you begin so that the process is seamless. Plus, you will be able to spend more time with loved ones, rather than doing all the cooking.”
A few of Zakarian's snack favorites from his latest curated collection with Harry & David include: