The Consummate Host

NJI’s secret sauce for exceptional experiences

Tracy Cooper

Category: Leadership

08.22.2022

Meals savored together, especially the ones that linger in our memories long after the dishes are cleared, are the most delicious. 

Those perfect bites were conceived long before the table was set or the first drink poured — by a consummate host who considered the experience of the dinner and how they wanted their guests to feel throughout the meal. NJI treasures a sense of camaraderie and teamwork in everything we do, and it is a palpable feeling whenever we get together — at the office, working on site for a client, or even after hours. Our legendary attention to detail with client work and parties alike stems from the exquisite taste and style of our co-founder and CEO Nathan Imperiale. 

Always planning his next amazing dinner party or travel adventure, Nathan kindly indulged the NJI Crew with our request to imagine the ‘ultimate dinner party.’ Get ready to bookmark this to reference for your next inspired evening. We’ve taken all the notes for the perfect dinner party.

What does it mean to have good taste? How does that come into play when planning a party?

I think my goal with any event is to be present for my guests and not caught up in all of the execution. I want to make it feel effortless and beautiful and fun while giving my guests an experience, whether it’s great food or good cocktails or just fun company. 

For more intimate gatherings, I want guests to arrive and feel like they’ve been transported somewhere fun where they can just let go and feel like there’s not a worry to be had. 

On a grander scale, I generally try to do something really unique and captivating. Whether it’s the NJI cocktail parties we’ve hosted in the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach to private dinners in London, I always want there to be some sort of draw beyond what anyone would expect. I never want it to feel like a traditional function if it’s business-related.

How do you decide on a theme and why is it important?  

I love a good theme, and a theme can revolve around almost anything — a color, a cuisine, a time period or just some sort of fun event. Even at the smallest dinner party, I try to find some bit of inspiration, whether it’s the decor or the food.

I love to select a food theme, whether it be Italian or Moroccan, and create a signature cocktail and choose wines from the region. 

I like to select something that will help guide the rest of the party. If you have a good, solid theme, everything else comes together a lot more easily.

What is on the dinner menu? 

I love a good dinner that has a nice, leisurely cocktail hour to start, with delicious little bites of food, that then rolls into a beautiful, multi-course dinner.

Tonight, we’re having a Mediterranean feast, and everything is grilled.

  • We’re starting off with a watermelon and mint feta salad with slivered red onion and champagne vinaigrette.
  • The main course is charred eggplant with tahini, pomegranate molasses, and toasted hazelnuts with a lot of fresh dill.
  • I love serving whole fish or family-style dishes that can be put on platters in the middle of a long table — it brings something really nice to a communal meal where you’re passing food around. Tonight’s fish is a cold branzino grilled with lemon and herbs.
  • For the red meat lovers, we also have a thinly sliced grilled flank steak with chimichurri sauce.
  • One of our mouth-watering sides is charred sweet potatoes with red chile honey and butter sauce.
  • We finish it off with Mediterranean-style sweet corn with cilantro yogurt sauce topped with green onions and feta cheese.

How about dessert? What will leave that sweet taste to remember the party?

I love any dessert that goes well with a glass of champagne. Anything that is a warm fruit tart, pie or galette with vanilla ice cream is by far my favorite.

What’s the most important need-to-know when selecting a parting gift for guests?

I think the most important thing is to surprise and delight your guests. The most exciting party favor I received recently was a little burlap satchel with the ingredients to make cacio y pepe pasta. It had rigatoni, a little jar of pecorino cheese, coarsely ground pepper, and more, along with a recipe card. It was super-simple, beautifully packaged, and really unique. I decided I had to make it for lunch the very next day.

What’s your sign that a meal you’ve hosted has been a success?

I love being surprised. Whether it’s going to a restaurant or hosting a dinner, I want to be surprised by the food. The sign of a good meal is when you have that ‘wow’ moment. The element of surprise is really important.

What are your top tips for hosting?

I love fabulous food, and I always put a lot of thought and effort into thinking through whether it’s a cocktail event where we’re just serving canapes, or a multi-course dinner. If I’m serving, I try to make sure everything on a smaller scale is done in advance so I can focus on the guests and serving.

If it’s going to be catered, I generally look for caterers that have some sort of edge to them. In addition, a lot of restaurants have started offering services in your home or office and can produce restaurant-quality food there.

Thank you for hosting.

You’re welcome. There’s always a seat for you at NJI’s table

fortune favors

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