From the Chopping Block: Planning the Perfect Summer Potluck

With the official arrival of summer, it’s time for potluck parties on the patio! The potluck is the most stress-free way to entertain, however even the guest-driven event needs to be managed correctly. Here’s advice from The Chopping Block’s chefs for pulling off the best potluck your neighborhood has ever seen.


  • Assign categories, not dishes.
    Give your guests the freedom to make whatever they like but ensure that each course of dinner is covered by assigning specific categories such as appetizers, side dishes, main courses or desserts.
  • Go with a theme.
    Choosing an ethnic theme such as Mexican, Vegetarian or BBQ, will help give your guests a little dish direction. You’ll also ensure the flavors won’t clash that way.
  • Set the expectations.
    Make sure your guests know the proper quantities to prepare based on your guest count. Try to keep it under 20 people, otherwise it’s a burden rather than fun.
  • Keep it casual.
    If you are planning an outdoor gathering, you may not have a seat for everyone so make sure your guests know to prepare dishes that can be easily eaten while standing up. Kebabs, finger foods and sandwiches are always good choices for this type of fete.
  • Prepare your serving ware.
    Make sure you have your serving pieces such as spoons, tongs and platters ready and available for guests to use if they forgot anything. It’s also a good idea to have plastic wrap or aluminum foil on hand in case dishes need makeshift covers from bugs.
  • Don’t forget the booze.
    Assign a signature cocktail to a guest who may prefer to pour rather than prep or assign selecting the wine and beer to someone with good taste.
  • Have condiment essentials available.
    Condiments and sauces can be used to jazz up dishes, so be sure to have the essentials on hand. Ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, olives, tomatoes and onions are a must.
  • Label and return dishes.
    Guests will likely leave behind their dishes or storage containers to be picked up later, so use masking tape and a Sharpie to label everything when they come in the door so you can return items to their rightful owners post-party.

So, what do you make for a potluck party? Depending on what you’ve assigned to your guests, you’ll want to fill in the gaps with some of our favorite al fresco dining dishes:

Need even more ideas? The Chopping Block’s hands-on outdoor grilling classes in Lincoln Square feature a wide variety of types of cuisines and dishes. From Italian Surf & Turf to Summer in the City to Alfresco Brunch, we’ll teach you how to make many dishes that will impress at a potluck.

Don’t feel like hosting your own party at home? Let us handle everything for you. Book a private cooking party in July and save 10% off food and beverages. Some restrictions apply. Just mention this offer when inquiring about a private event through our online form.

Happy potluck partying!

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