"People would come to my house and ask me how to do this, and it's not tough. There are certain basics to work from," says Cornelia Guest. To prove this point, the entertainer recently published a book, Simple Pleasures, revealing her secrets to a pitch perfect evening—be it for, "Fifty, ten, or 2."
Guest, whose mother was one of New York's great hostesses, C.Z. Guest, founded Cornelia Guest Events and Cornelia Guest Cookies in 2009, but is spreading her message of straightforward but elegant recipes and ideas to everyone. "I don't like to spend my entire life in the kitchen," she says. "You're always running back and forth. I try to get as much done ahead of time. When people get there I give them a drink and let them relax. I've never been a big hor d'oeuvre person." Her honesty, emphasis on a vegan, cruelty-free menu and devilish, carefree approach ("I'm a big believer in cooking the pasta, tossing it in the air and seeing what sticks," she quips) is both unfussy and charming.
"People open up around good food," she emphasizes. And while she's dedicated to her mission of presenting organic, healthy food to her visitors, she's never pedantic in her message. "Even Walmart has organic food," she says, without a hint of snobbery. "Buy stuff in bulk, you can cook a bunch of quinoa and freeze it, and then heat it up quickly when someone stops by. If you can boil water, you can make quinoa." She also believes in consumers educating themselves. "We speak with our pockets. As a consumer, we have to constantly demand," she says of the misconception that organic, locally sourced foods must come with a hefty price tag attached. "Look around online, and you'll be surprised at what you find. You have to educate yourself."
For beginners, Guest has two simple tips: Take it easy, and laugh: "Avoid complicated dishes. If you see something that looks delicious but the recipe is 10-pages long, Google it and you'll find something similar that's much simpler. The simpler something is the less likely it is something will go wrong." That being said, she suggests preparing yourself for something to go wrong anyway. "Laugh at your mistakes and know you'll probably make them anyways," she says. "One time I served a chocolate cake that wasn't cooked all the way through, and everyone thought it was divine. They were asking for the recipe, they thought it was a molten lava cake!" she giggles. "Sometimes if you don't say anything, people won't notice."