Easy Holiday Entertaining Tips with Content Creator Abhishek Dekate
Great style takes years of development, but Abhishek Dekate had a head start. Originally born in India, the Toronto-dweller spent much of his childhood living in the Middle East before moving with his family to Canada. Inspired by his multicultural upbringing and his family’s deep love of food, Abhishek went on to complete his culinary school training, and then on to the George Brown College to study hospitality. Experience as a cook and server refined his unique sense of both aesthetic and flavor. His unique, spice-forward take has proven so thoughtful and interesting that Abhishek recently transitioned from his hospitality work to that of a full-time content creator. We were lucky to grab some time with him to chat low-key holiday entertaining tips.
Don’t Sweat It
His first tip? Don’t worry! It’s going to be great.
“The best meals are shared with the people you love, and the best conversations are shared around food,” says Abhishek of his core entertaining philosophy. Let his confidence calm you: You’ve got this.
His next ideas are more to do with creating a beautiful space that you like to spend time in.
“My apartment is a true reflection of me… I want to share meals and a glass of wine with my friends, and in that way, my space set up is a true reflection of my interests.”
In terms of setting the mood, Abhishek has a few ideas.
“There’s always a loose theme that directs the evening,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as a bottle of wine or something else I’m excited to eat.”
From there, Abhishek relies on music and lighting to drive the mood.
“One thing that’s always on the table, no matter what, is candles. Candles set the mood. I also like to mix and match my plates. A dinner party doesn’t have to be pretentious or formal to feel celebratory.”
And the final touch? Music.
“I always have music playing in the background, especially when entertaining. I curate the playlists for a specific mood, or ask Spotify for something that hits the mood I’m going for. Ambient music just makes a feeling.”
“I always want to cultivate a space where people can feel like they are welcome and can come over,” said Abhishek. “I trust that my style is enough to pull the look together.”
What to serve?
It’s hard for a person who loves food to pick their favorite meal.
“I’m very seasonally motivated,” he said of his cooking approach.
Even when directed by seasonal produce and availability, Abhishek brings his signature style to food through spice.
“No matter what I cook, I am always trying to incorporate elements of my heritage: spices are my life.”
It follows then that one of Abhishek’s favorite, simple snacks is a bowl of spiced popcorn.
“I love tossing popcorn in different seasonings! One day I might be feeling za’atar, another day it will be a masala. It’s just easy and you know people will love it. Plus, it’s not too filling.”
Whether the party is a casual event or a formal dinner, Abhishek always starts with a grazing board. True to his hospitality training, he considers the makeup of his guestlist before deciding what to feature on the board. Vegetarians in attendance? The board will feature a bit more cheese. Oh, your boyfriend is a hunter? Perhaps he will like this interesting boar foie gras. Balance the offerings with something fresh and seasonal (sliced pear or persimmon in the winter, berries or plums in summer), and don’t feel pressure to offer a thousand options. By playing to his audience, Abhishek manages to build a food experience that feels at once novel and thoughtful. And of course, that gives him reason to peruse his favorite market stalls for unique treats.
And what to drink?
Scroll Abhishek’s Instagram page and you’ll notice that the man likes a stiff drink. What started as a pandemic project has turned into a passion — and a great outlet for his spice cabinet.
“I love infusing things with different spices and seeing what unique things I can come up with. You’ll occasionally come across this random bottle that’s been infused with like… tea leaves,” he said.
While he’s always loved mixology, the pandemic (and its early effect on the bar scene) forced Abhishek to learn more about the craft. With his culinary training and curiosity, he quickly mastered the basics and began publishing his successful efforts on his Instagram.
His thoughtful bartending approach extends to serving his guests. While he tends to start the evening with one of his cocktail creations, we asked him to share a few standby favorites.
“Typically I like to start with a negroni or an espresso martini. Both are relatively simple to make, and the bitterness wakes up the palate,” he said.
With dinner or snacks, he’d open a bottle of wine (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are his crowd-pleasing favorites) to share, and end the night (or perhaps just transition to the next spot) with a Gran Marnier or a cognac.
“I love a cognac because it’s a good way to end a meal without feeling heavy,” said Abhishek.
Finally — and this is more preference than a tip — when does Abhishek clean up?
“I’m a clean-as-you-go type,” he said. “That’s the hospitality training coming through. I hate looking at a mess for too long!”