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A cosy dining experience with the Citroën C5 Aircross

Hosting a lunch or dinner party can be overwhelming. We visit Kenneth Yong of The Mixtape Chef at his private home dining at Sengkang for tips on how to host a stress-free party.

Be inspired by your guests
Not sure where to start? Look to your guests for inspiration. Are your guests more adventurous or conservative when it comes to food? Do they have dietary restrictions? Once you take all this into consideration, you will be able to start crafting a menu that everyone can enjoy. Or you can lead with dishes that you are already comfortable preparing. For Kenneth, his go-to dish is his paella, which was actually the dish that kicked off The Mixtape Chef.

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He believes that it is important to give guests the same dining experience as much as possible despite their dietary restrictions. For example, if there is a vegetarian in the group, he will usually prepare a customised vegetarian menu for the appetiser, carb dish and dessert, with an additional option of meat for the non-vegetarians.

Planning the menu
When it comes to the menu details, Kenneth suggests designing one that will not overwhelm you. Try having a good mix of dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and some that can be created just before the party begins. The time of day can also affect your menu. People typically have smaller appetites at lunch so you can consider light, brunch dishes for lunches and heavier creations for dinners.

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You also have to keep in mind how long you will need for each dish and how many people you are cooking for — there is a big difference between whipping something up for two people versus a larger group. He recommends having extra servings of food on standby just in case you encounter a kitchen snafu.

There is no 'ideal' number of guests as it really depends on your space, the type of food you are serving, and the limitations of your cooking equipment. For Kenneth, eight to 10 is a good size to keep things cosy, and he usually hosts six to 12 for his private dining experiences.

Setting the mood
Music and lights play a big role in setting the mood. Kenneth curates a playlist of mid-tempo music as it helps keep the pace of the conversation upbeat but still slow enough to create a relaxing atmosphere. Volume matters too, the background music should be audible but not too loud that guests have to shout above it.

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Lights contribute to the atmosphere as well, and dim, warm lights help put guests in a relaxed mood. The table setting can help with the overall mood but Kenneth advises not stressing over it too much if you want to keep a casual atmosphere — stick to the bare essentials that are functional (and maybe Instagrammable, too) and you are good to go!

Keeping the conversations flowing
Part of what makes a dining experience memorable are the people and conversations. According to Kenneth, it is important to be open and genuine about wanting to get to know your guests. At his Mixtape sessions, Kenneth and his partner Laureen enjoy getting to know people outside their social circle and they have had the pleasure of hosting people with interesting stories and diverse backgrounds.

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One way he kicks off conversations is by asking about what takes up most of their time — and this is usually work. This opens the floor up to guests sharing their stories and getting to know each other better. Through their various private dining experiences, Kenneth and Laureen have met people from all walks of life, and were even privy to certain information — they were the first few to know a guest was pregnant due to her dietary restrictions.

Enjoy!
Kenneth’s most important tip? Have fun. He even recommends having a drink while cooking to help you loosen up. He says it is best to relax and enjoy the process because a stress-free cook produces good food!

CAR IN FOCUS: C5 Aircross

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For Kenneth, hosting guests at home is a breeze with the Citroën C5 Aircross. Its electric tailgate makes loading groceries and other cooking items easy, while its reclining and foldable rear seats, which expand boot capacity to 1,630 litres, give him enough space for all his purchases. Meanwhile, the car’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, which absorb uneven surfaces on the road, and Advanced Comfort seats ensure a smooth, comfortable ride, while Apple CarPlay is his perfect driving companion, playing his favourite tunes on repeat and making his drive home all the more fun.

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