It’s not a myth: You can make holiday hosting fun and stress-free — at least, when it comes to cooking. (We’re not liable for other holiday drama.)

Take it from Chef Brian Morris, who’s seen his share of holiday get-togethers. Follow his advice, and look forward to spending more quality time with your friends and family and less time in the kitchen.

1. Get ahead in the week leading up to the event.

“The key is having all the work done ahead of time. In the whole week leading up to it, there’s little things you can do here and there, and you can get your friends, roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, kids involved in terms of everybody taking little tasks that they can feel proud of at the party.”

2. Pick recipes that allow you to relax at the party.

“It really comes down to picking recipes and approaches where you get maximum return on your time investment and then understanding how you can do a lot of that stuff ahead of time so people think, ‘How in the world do you look so relaxed right now considering what is in my mouth?’ When I look at recipes for entertaining, I’m trying to figure out, ‘Is this a recipe whose entire success depends on me being the most unbelievably detail-oriented, present, perfect cook in the eleventh hour?’ Those are the recipes I try to avoid.”

3. Get the whole family involved — through music.

“You’ve gotta set the mood. If you’ve ever been to Hattie B’s hot chicken before, you know we value this concept. Before you even hit the door, you hear the tunes, you’re jamming. So step one: Wash your hands. Step two: Turn on some tunes. That generally helps get people engaged, wanting to know, ‘Alright, these people are having fun in here. It sounds like a place I need to be.’”

4. Learn the right techniques.

“Food is all about science. It’s just a series of predictable chemical reactions. A lot of chefs like to do this David Copperfield thing where it seems like magic. But there are some culinary tools you can put in your tool belt that really take the nerves and the potential for failure out of it. A great example is big-pot blanching with green vegetables. I love doing it because what’s true for one [green vegetable] is true for all. Same is true for meat. Cooking doesn’t have to be a precarious undertaking. It’s possible to feel confident all along the way.”

5. Be in the moment at the event.

“The whole fun of it is being able to take care of folks but also have fun and be present and be in the moment, and who doesn’t like making something really great look kind of effortless? It feels good.”

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