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Old 09-21-2013, 09:07 PM   #1
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Epic Dinner Party

Just made my most epic dinner party ever last week. Spent nearly 4 days working on different components using a giant excel spreadsheet to keep track of things. Does anyone out there have a good planning app or method to keep track of what needs to be done in terms of prep and during service? My excel is feeling a bit antiquatedClick image for larger version

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Old 09-21-2013, 09:14 PM   #2
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Are you doing this as a project or are you actually planning a dinner party?
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:15 PM   #3
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These spreadsheets are how I manage my dinner parties and I'm looking for an easier way. Thanks!
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:20 PM   #4
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How many people attend your average dinner party?
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:24 PM   #5
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It's usually only six to eight people, but I tend to have a lot of components. Here's what I did for NYE last year. You can see the spreadsheet at the top.

December 31, New Year's Eve
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:42 PM   #6
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Ah, that seems to be more towards molecular gastronomy.

I'm okay with spreadsheets generally, and okay with general cooking. But MG I would have to leave to the experts!
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:50 PM   #7
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An expert I am not. Just a good direction follower. Modernist cooking isn't all that difficult once you get past the weird ingredients. It's just a bit more precision in terms of weighing things out and a few pieces of equipment. Give it a shot
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Old 09-21-2013, 10:07 PM   #8
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I've used a spread sheet for the same task for,,, ah - longer than I should admit.....
let's say computers only did DOS in those days . . .

anyway, if that link is one single sheet with multiple days plus the odd notes, I understand why it's out of hand.
methinks you would do best to set up individual sheets-per-day. that way any given day can be "scheduled" by the time.
you can create links between sheets, if needed.

the down side is: "it's not all on one page"
so some thinking & cross checking is required.

I'm not aware of "specialized" software to do similar - but I'm just an old fashioned home cook.

Excel will do "time math" - you can input the "service time" and (on prior lines...) the service time minus x:hrs y:mins, and Excel will figure out / print the "clock time"

I understand Excel is clever enough it will span multiple days - i.e. you could put in 26 hrs prior to service, and it'll calculate/display the day, date and time to execute the task.
personally not gone there - my 'time math' is limited to the day-of-eating
example: eat minus 5 hrs, hard boil eggs....

I use a separate column for the "minus time" - because.... a big turkey takes longer than a smaller turkey.... so I can change the "minus minutes" without recreating the wheel . . . "sort by column" will put things in chronological order....

if you go that route, one tip: I use a background/fill color (pink for me....) to indicate which "time" cells must be manually entered for the "other" cells to be (properly) calculated.

the neat part is, you can save the spreadsheets - which I do 'sorta-by-menu'; add-subtract-refine detail as needed.

clever, cute, time saving - but lacking a stern disciplined approach/review, there is the danger of "over confidence" - don't ask; wasn't pretty......
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Old 09-21-2013, 10:07 PM   #9
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I have made spread sheets previous for parties. I went back to old fashion paper lists. A note book with one page per day. Including menu plan and shopping lists. I think your dinner parties are perhaps more elaborate and maybe more formal than mine. Planning principles are the same.

Putting a time beside some items is both useful and a reminder that your efforts match where you should be on the countdown to when guests should be expected and the party is to begin.

I start with things that can/ should be done xxx days in advance, move forward to the day before, which for me should be most of it, and day of for actual prep cooking that is needed. I Plan to have everything that can be done ahead before guests arrive. There is no reason to be polishing glassware and you haven't had time to change into your own party pants yet.

I also keep a running list of house keeping / cleaning with a final touch up the day of. ( This list could be used again.) (( well, maybe some adjustments as needed)).

The two caveats I have, once I get ready to set the table, the 2 cats are sent upstairs to play. They like to help, and I don't care for them jumping on the table. 2ndly, any fresh flowers are only brought out after they are gone. They are allowed back downstairs once the party starts, or else there would too much yowling. Surprisingly, they aren't interested with more people around and they go elsewhere and settle down by themselves.

I choose menus based on what can be made a day ahead/night before and day of. There is very little if any, that I do during dinner. Just before dinner, I usually ask for helper(s), dress the salad, slice bread, nothing to much but and extra hands are useful and they're hanging around anyway. I am not fussy about having people in the kitchen while doing last minute prep. I am fussy about what tasks I assign, and to who is capable. The least is made to feel equally valuable filling water glasses.

I don't entertain often enough, and I tend to twitch before hand. But really, I am pretty comfortable once I actually start working on the plan of attack. I think making a complete check off list is both soothing in this aspect as well as handy. One other thing I do, is bring out all the serving dishes a day in advance, and a serving fork/ spoon for each with my list in hand. Then set them aside until time to use. There is no reason to say, oh I forgot the xx.
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Old 09-21-2013, 10:18 PM   #10
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OK, I get teased all the time for being too anal with planning a dinner party and I never did this. ...and I have the Excel skills to do it.

I make a menu and just break down the items by day so I can spread out the workload. I am not disciplined enough to follow a tight time schedule.

All that said, if this makes life easier for you, more power to you.
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