How to Make Normal Food Seem Fancy

holiday entertaining

We’re in the trenches of the holiday season – a time of year when many of us entertain, host, and cook more than usual. Fun, yes, but it can also be stressful.

If you’re the type to lose sleep over the food for your Christmas party or the dish you’ll bring to your neighbor’s potluck, don’t worry. The following tips will help you turn any simple or store-bought dish into something that looks like a masterpiece.

1. Include color. When assembling a veggie, fruit, appetizer, or dessert platter, choose 3-4 items of different colors that together look festive and appealing. When plating, arrange different colored foods next to each other so there’s contrast.

holiday entertaining tips

2. Use white dishes. Vibrant serving ware is fun, but if you’ve worked hard to prepare (or buy) something beautiful, you want it to shine – and it will do so best on a white background. Whenever you bring something to a party or potluck, bring it in/on a clean white dish so the food is the highlight.

holiday entertaining

3. Vary heights. A table full of plates or platters can look nice, but it looks even better if items are at staggered heights. There’s just something about the variation that makes the offerings seem fancier and more appealing. Use cake stands and/or small boxes under a gathered tablecloth to create some height.

entertaining tips

4. Surprise people. You don’t have to make or buy anything crazy to make it appear and taste unique, you just have to add a little twist. A little spoonful of caramelized onions or olive tapenade in the center of a bowl of hummus makes it seem like a whole different dip. Cheese cubes and crackers get an instant facelift when they’re served on a bed of leafy herbs or arugula. And a fruit platter goes from boring to intriguing when you serve persimmons, kiwi, and raspberries instead of the standard melon balls and grapes. Struggling to find ideas? Pinterest is your new best friend.

entertaining tips


  • Deana
    December 9, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Great tips!

  • Lisa
    December 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

    My suggestions:
    1) Get some books at the library about food styling. (It gave me a bunch of ideas).
    2) Take a photography class. Even if you don’t have a fancy DLSR camera, you can still learn some good tricks for taking better pictures with a class. (I found a great class through Groupon and saved a bunch of money, too.)

  • Amelia
    December 18, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Great tips, Lisa!

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