Home for the Holidays


COVID-19 is reshaping the way we host holiday get-togethers.

In any normal November, we’d all be booking flights home to spend time with friends and family we haven’t seen in months — but for many, “months” is an understatement in the year 2020. COVID-19 has lots of us wondering how we’re going to safely host holiday dinners after so much time apart, and thankfully, we’re not alone: Dane Hiett of Chef Dane’s Kitchen (CDK) is giving us some tips and tricks to keep the virus off of our holiday guest lists. 


While buffet-style serving might have been convenient in previous years, Hiatt says this is the first thing on the chopping block when it comes to sanitary dining. “If the host can plate everything individually (including apps and desserts) and serve guests one at a time, that would be best,” he explains. “You really want to minimize foot traffic in the kitchen and prevent multiple people from touching the same serving utensils, so try to bring the food to them.”


If you can’t serve each guest separately, Hiatt recommends doubling up on silverware so one set can be used for serving and the other for eating. “Obviously that’s not going to be fun for whoever has to wash the dishes, but it’s worth it if you can eliminate shared serving utensils and also keep forks that have been near your guests’ mouths away from the serving platters,” he says. 


Like the food, Hiatt says drinks should be served individually by one designated bartender: “You really don’t want people passing around wine bottles or tasting each other’s drinks. Still, you can have some fun with it and come up with a menu of cocktails for your guests to choose from, or ask them to BYOB —I’d list a couple drinks that go well with the dishes you’re serving and let people bring what they like.”


So what about the seating arrangements? According to Hiatt, there’s no such thing as too many tables. “Set multiple tables if you can, ideally seating groups of four or less,” he suggests. “You could also alternate seats, so you have empty chairs on both sides of each guest. However you do it, just make sure the people eating together stay together and don’t mingle too closely with others.”


From your hands to the dishes, Hiatt says sanitizing has never been more important: “We all need to be mindful of what we’re touching and sanitize extra thoroughly. I like to put lots of wipes out on the table and use paper napkins as much as possible. You can also use paper plates and disposable utensils if you don’t want to deal with dishes — there are lots of earth-friendly bamboo utensils out there that look nice for a more formal holiday dinner.”


If you have guests in the danger zone — age-wise or health-wise — Hiett recommends that everyone get tested for COVID-19 before pulling up a chair. “It’s something you can do out of respect to show your loved ones you care,” he says. “Even if you end up with a negative test you could be asymptomatic, so do your best to give others space and wear a mask when you’re not eating, if possible.”

Chef Dane’s Kitchen chefdaneskitchen.com