We live in a casual time. With tech magnates in T-shirts and ladies who lunch in athleisure, it’s a long way from the suits and pearls of Mad Men. Entertaining, too, has become more casual, as open kitchens invite guests to sidle up to the island and culinary tastes have shifted from ‘haute’ to ‘home.’ Much of this change is positive, making entertaining more democratic and accessible. Amidst the shift, however, something has been lost, and in The Art of the Host (Rizzoli New York, 2019), chef and host extraordinaire Alex Hitz is on a mission to reclaim it.
Hitz plants his flag firmly and unabashedly in the traditionalist camp. When it comes to old silver, fine china, tall candles, and fresh roses, more is always in vogue.
Though much of the book is recipes, the first few chapters are the real draw, with personal recollections and words of advice under the (subtle) headlines “The Things I Always and Absolutely Love,” “Always,” and “Never.” Here Hitz includes tips like “Never use your guests as guinea pigs” and “Always turn the lights down—no one came to bear witness to a root canal.” For Hitz, entertaining is theater, demanding mystery, surprise, and a hefty dose of preparation. “Make an effort—a huge effort,” he writes. “Otherwise why are you having guests?
By Kirk Reed Forrester | Photography © Iain Bagwell from The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining by Alex Hitz (Rizzoli New York, 2019)