Dan Levy's tailored James Bond look may suggest he only throws lavish soirees. But in an interview with TODAY Food, the "Schitt's Creek" co-creator and star was quick to admit he's always been a "lazy host" at summer parties. And really, aren't we all?
When the dog days are upon us, creating an extravagant outdoor dinner like Martha Stewart may be more than most of us prefer to tackle. Instead, we'd rather plan a laidback gathering that requires little to no time in the kitchen so that we can spend time sipping drinks with guests. Luckily, Levy, a proponent of fab, no-fuss fun, has a few simple tips at the ready.
"I just finished shooting a television show called 'The Big Brunch' with Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and it recalibrated everything I thought about summer entertaining. For me, I used to order food, make a drink and everyone had fun," Levy told TODAY. "I learned that entertaining is way more thoughtful than I thought. I have a way more dimensional way of thinking. It's about making an experience."
Levy's revolutionized perspective, thanks to the seven-time James Beard Award recipient who sits on the soon-to-premiere HBO Max series' judging panel with Levy and chef Sohla El-Waylly, isn't about elegance or complexity, but simple steps that set everyone — from the guests to the host — up for success.
Anticipate people's needs
For Levy, thoughtfulness can make or break an event, especially in the summer. When asking friends or family to come hang out in the sun, remember these small but important details to ensure things go smoothly.
"First things first, make sure everyone feels comfortable," Levy said, emphasizing the importance of thinking this through ahead of time. "Make sure there are places people can sit. If it's outside, I'm someone that needs some kind of shade. If it's 104 degrees uncovered, it's intense. It can really change the vibe of an event."
In addition to shade, greeting guests with a cold drink (Levy advises alcoholic and nonalcoholic options so everyone can enjoy), choose food that will do well.
"Cold cuts under the summer heat are not ideal. If you do a nice shrimp cocktail, make sure it's on ice. When you put food out on the table, maybe cover it. There's nothing like a bunch of bugs to ruin a party," Levy said. "It comes down to thinking about people a little more, anticipating the extra steps that will leave people with better sense of feeling taken care of."
Batch cocktails — for your own sanity
Equally as important as anticipating guests' needs at a party is considering our own, Levy reminded us.
"Don't forget about yourself! People will have a better time with a kind, low-anxiety host," he said. "My favorite timesaver: batch cocktails! I have punch bowls — I'll do one cocktail in one, and another one that's nonalcoholic. Batching cocktails is key so you don’t have to run back to the kitchen every time someone wants a drink."
Levy's go-to cocktail is a spicy cucumber margarita, for which he shared the recipe with TODAY as part of his new partnership with Cointreau. This one serves one, so it's easy to multiply by the number of guests you expect for a nice big batch.
"I'm not a fan of very sweet drinks, especially for summer parties. The thing I love about adding a little spice to a margarita is you can have a couple drinks in the blazing sun and not feel sick. That’s what you want with the heat. I wanna keep it light, I wanna keep it fresh," Levy said. "I like the idea of an edible garnish. I don’t want something sitting in my drink at the end. Cucumber is a nice conduit for flavor: the fresher version of an olive in a martini."
Use TikTok hacks
To get inspired by other time-saving tricks and unique party ideas, Levy recommends turning to TikTok. Because even when you're an A-lister with Michelin-starred chefs by your side, TikTok is still useful.
"I feel like the internet and TikTok — to really get other people's ideas — it’s a wonderful world to explore. I don't watch TikTok for dancing or anything, but I like it to get all the hacks for what other people are doing," said Levy.
"It was such a simple thing but it made all the difference as the ice cubes melted and changed the drink," he explained.
When it doubt, make a really good burger
"For food, a barbecue situation is always best if you can swing it. Serving straight off the grill onto a plate just makes it feel more alive. I have a child’s palate, so I tend to invite people over who are better at cooking than I am," Levy laughed. "I'm a burger guy and my dad makes the most delicious burger. He always has."
To aid even the most humble grillers such as himself, Levy laid out a few simple instructions for a cheeseburger worthy of his dad, Eugene:
- Take the ground beef and portion out two generous patties for each burger. As you do this, add a little cheese inside each patty until it's covered by the ground beef.
- Heavily season each side with salt and pepper and whichever spices you like.
- On the grill, add a slice of cheese to each patty.
- Remove from the grill and serve on a nice potato bun (it's always got to be a potato bun, in Levy's opinion).
"Serve with a big, lovely green salad to offset the sodium and a margarita that'll cut right through it," Levy advised.
Dream dinner guest?
Levy's dream dinner guest is someone who isn't quite ready to devour Eugene's famous burger.
"Well, right now my sister just gave birth to her first son. I’ve been away for summer. My dream dinner guest is my nephew. He's too little to eat anything yet, so I would just ask my sister what she wants and make that," Levy said of the most recent addition to his family, James Eugene Outerbridge, who his sister and "Schitt's Creek" co-star Sarah Levy named in honor of their dad.
A star host and uncle!