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The Knack

How To Be The Perfect Hamptons Host

Actor, chef and author Mr David Burtka shares his best tips for welcoming guests to your vacation home

If throwing the perfect dinner party is a checkers game, hosting a crowd at your home for a long weekend is like playing high-stakes chess against Thanos while a bunch of baby Hulks run roughshod underfoot. That’s to say, it can be difficult. But hosting – if done right – is also the absolute best time for bonding with friends. So, do it right.

The actor and chef Mr David Burtka is something of an oracle on this matter, having literally written the book on year-round entertaining. Life Is A Party, out now from Grand Central Publishing, includes ideas for everything from how to keep the party going, to cooking for a multitude and even how to handle the leftovers. With his husband, Mr Neil Patrick Harris, and their eight-year-old twins, Mr Burtka spends much of the summer at his house in the Hamptons, hosting a series of guests, friends, family and their kids, for all occasions. Who better, then, to ask how to take on the Hamptons house-haver’s greatest challenge? Here are a few of the maestro’s top tips.

01. Don’t overthink it

“It’s good to not have a clear-cut plan,” says Mr Burtka. “The fireworks and the combustion that comes from great meetings and introductions is fun, but a safe weekend, when you don’t have to necessarily worry about the people, is also fun. Impressing people and having people you’ve never had over before is great, but so is hosting friends you don’t have to fuss over. Honestly, [our invitation plan is], like, ‘Who’s been to the house?’, ‘Who is available that weekend?’ ‘Who haven’t we seen in a while?’ If we’ve had a high-maintenance weekend the week before, then the weekend after will be super low-maintenance. The way we entertain is the way we live life in every single capacity: there’s no wrong answer.”

02. No itinerary

“I like friends who can take care of themselves and pitch in with dishes and help with the cooking. The only thing that’s really mandatory is dinner at the table. If you want to go to the beach or if you want to hang out by the pool all day, that’s totally cool, but we all sit down together for dinner. And we’re talking the Hamptons so, frankly, there’s not that much to do. We may go to the beach, to an art gallery, or maybe berry-picking if it’s the season, maybe there’s a boat excursion. I don’t like to pack things in for the adults.”

03. Tucker out the tots

“Adults just want to relax on the weekend, whereas I think it’s good to keep the kids as busy as possible. I schedule multiple activities throughout the weekend so they don’t get bored. Lots of swimming time, games options, a party they can look forward to – the more stimulated you keep them, the more relaxed parents can be. Everything I do is centered around the kids, entertaining and making them a part of the action.”

04. Outsource some of the work

“I’m not happy unless I’m moving and busy doing something. So, I’m constantly in the kitchen, cooking, preparing dishes. But I do need some time to myself throughout the day, so we try to mix it up by having lunch delivered or having a guest chef come in for the night and have them do it all. It’s nice to hire a camp counselor or get the kids to pony camp for the day. Although I tend to like having my kids around.”

05. Play with your food

“I like when people gather in the kitchen and make a meal together. I think a group effort is always better than just doing it all yourself. Even if it is just setting out a breakfast buffet of bagels with cream cheese and salmon, or a burger bar; a taco scene. It’s nice to have interactive food. I think people prefer activity to sitting down and being served.”

06. Have a dress code

“I took this tip from Elton John and David Furnish. At their house, you’re not required to dress up, but they bring it every time. We’ve spent the last seven summers at their house in Nice and they really know how to entertain. All you need to do is bring a trunk of clothes – every night it’s a different outfit. I love when people put effort into what they wear, when they dress up for dinner. I think it makes for a special occasion. If you are inviting someone to your home, you should know them well enough to say, ‘We dress for dinner.’ I’m not asking you to wear a suit and tie, but a summer blazer is nice, a dress shoe.”

07. Gift of the guest

“I love a host gift. If you’re going to someone’s house, it’s just nice to give them a gesture. And be thoughtful! Don’t bring flowers that don’t have a vase, especially at a dinner party when the host has to stop and put the flowers in a vase. Anything from the heart is good: a framed picture, anything homemade, some granola, something that can contribute to the mornings, maybe a breakfast bread or scones or muffins. Or go to your local bakery, find a great loaf of artisanal bread that can be used for sandwiches throughout the weekend. I bring something for the host and I always bring something for the kids, such as a summer pail filled with beach goodies. Anything that you put a little effort into is appreciated.”

Hamptons style

  • Brunello Cucinelli Slim-Fit Cutaway-Collar Striped Linen Shirt

  • Burberry Cotton-Twill Chinos

  • Mr P. Dennis Collapsible-Heel Leather Loafers

  • Dries Van Noten 3.5cm Brown Leather Belt

  • Le Labo Tonka 25 Eau de Parfum, 50ml

  • L'Atelier du Vin Cotton-Twill Sommelier Apron

Hamptons bound? Call Nassau County home? Place your order by 12.00pm EST and choose same-day delivery to both the Hamptons and Nassau County all summer long