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Six ways to turn a classic holiday party on its head

We try out a contemporary twist on the classic potluck dinner, sharing food and music with friends

 (Photograph: Graham Denholm)
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Photograph: Graham Denholm
 (Photograph: Graham Denholm)
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Photograph: Graham Denholm
 (Photograph: Graham Denholm)
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Photograph: Graham Denholm

If you’ve ever watched a dinner party clear out when someone throws a Tom Waits record on, you’ll know that your enjoyment of food goes hand in hand with the soundtrack you’re eating to.

Sonos are intimately acquainted with this concept, which is why this holiday season they’re encouraging the sharing of meals and music. It’s a whole new take on the concept of a potluck party. Instead of asking guests to bring a dish, you ask them to share two tracks to a collaborative playlist, while you provide the eats. If you and your mates build one before December 31, you could have a world famous chef drop by to cook the dinner for you.

Being adventurous types, we decided to test the concept out for ourselves. So we gathered together some of our favourite chefs for a meal at the Fitzroy home of Alejandro Saravia, the chef behind our favourite Peruvian restaurant Pastuso. Ale, his wife Coral Carretero Santos and their friendly bulldog Croqueta invited around a crew of hospo legends, including Steve Kimondes of Burn City Smokers, Christy Tania of Augustus Gloop, Carlo Grossi of Ombra, Jesse Gerner of Bomba and Troy Wheeler of Meatsmith to enjoy a playlist potluck party, co-hosted by Time Out’s CEO Mike Rodrigues and Sonos Australia’s country director Rennie Addabbo.

Over the course of the evening, we discovered just how deep chefs’ passions run when it comes to music. In fact, many of our invitees match their deftness in the kitchen with an equally light touch on a musical instrument. Christy can play the 21 stringed guzheng, Alejandro has dabbled with drums and guitar, while Jesse is a flautist. All the chefs agreed that, with its rhythms and emphasis on timing, the act of cooking a meal is a lot like playing an instrument.  Here’s what we learned from throwing this party, for you to apply to your own.

1. Use music to psych yourself up while you prep

All of our chefs agree the secret to a buzzing kitchen is a great soundtrack.  The faster, harder and more upbeat the music, the faster, harder and more upbeat the work. “I used to work at a restaurant that only played the Sex Pistols,” Alejandro told us. “No matter how tired you were, or how bad your day was, five minutes of that got you fired and ready to go.”

2. Give your guests something the second they walk through the door

We kicked our party off with a snack and drink station. As guests helped themselves to classic cocktails and grabbed a snack, things really warmed up. Not only does this kind of icebreaker take the pressure off when it comes to picking a seat, it also gives the person in the kitchen more time to work their magic. When it comes to picking the right welcome drink, Christy suggests “cocktails should remain classic, old school and minimum effort – done right.” Which is why we opted for a Four Pillars Gin and Tonic.

3. Don’t be afraid to add a little Latin flavour

South and Central American sounds were big at our dinner party, and they’re a perfect mood-setter. For Alejandro, they’re about representing his background and personality, “when I get together with friends, or play music in my kitchen it’s often triggered by memories...” Meanwhile, Daniel opts for Latin beats because “music is emotional for me, it is defined by my mood, I design my lists based on Latin fun party beats, feel-good music and surfy tunes.”

4. Keep your playlist tight

We all got a little overeager with our playlists, adding six or seven songs each. That meant we sometimes had to skip tracks so that each attendee’s tunes got a bit of love and attention. Jumping around with the music isn’t as fun as letting it flow, so put in a bit of paring back prep ahead of time so that everything comes together without intervention.

5. Have music everywhere

Never underestimate the power of a speaker in the bathroom to keep your guests on the up and up…

6. Until you want to send people home

As long as the music’s pumping, people will always stick around. If you’re getting tired and it’s time to wind things down, cut out the tunes and people will get the message nice and fast.

in association with

Try it for yourself...

Host a playlist potluck party of your own

Try it and you’ll have a chance to play host to the ultimate dinner party. The means one of Australia's top chefs cooking a specially tailored menu, at your place, for you and five mates.  Other prizes include a starter pack from Sonos so you can always fill your house with music, whether you’re entertaining or not.

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By: Time Out Promotions