Colin Cowie
Entertaining is not about making an impression, says this internationally known event and party planner. Instead, it's about being welcoming and calm and making your guests feel comfortable. Colin Cowie, renowned for devising spectacular parties, has orchestrated some of the biggest and most elaborate bashes in the world, including events for Oprah, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise, Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer, and Michael Jordan. His weddings are legendary; his charity galas are magnificent. And on the evenings when he is not working, Colin entertains at home. He is the author of five style and entertaining books, most recently Colin Cowie Chic: The Guide to Life as It Should Be.

"I have people over nearly every night," he says, "and it's never about impressing them. It's about having a relaxed evening with interesting people. I don't entertain in restaurants because, let's face it, at the end of the day, who wants to make choices? It's far more pleasant to entertain at home."

Colin loves the casual world we now inhabit and says his at-home parties are apt to take place around a big table in his New York City loft kitchen. That doesn't mean he has forsaken the finer things in life. On the contrary. "We get to do it all now," he happily explains. "Your presentation can still be chic and stylish and elegant, even in the relaxed environment of your own kitchen."

He reassures the home cook not to be intimidated by the icons of entertaining. "You don't have to perform," he advises. "You don't have to be perfect."

He recommends that when you entertain, you dim the lights, take out the candles, put on music, and greet your guests with a smile. He almost always offers his company a special cocktail and limits the cocktail hour to 45 minutes or an hour, tops. Dinner, he says, should last about one and a half hours. This way, the party moves and no one feels hungry or restless.

When it comes to the menu, Colin serves uncomplicated meals. He relies on organic and regionally grown produce whenever possible and has found gluten-free pasta and low-carb bread in local markets that say "comfort food" without the guilt.