Peter Callahan

Peter Callahan is king when it comes to events. An expert on the art of the dinner party, he’s come to dominate what we find a largely unexplored niche – the catering industry. Putting just as much of an emphasis on the aesthetic and design of food as he does the taste, Callahan represents so much of what we love about the dining experience. He was nice enough to share dinner party tips and some great go-to holiday recipes in the spirit of the season…

What would be your ideal food day?

My ideal food day would start with sugar donuts from The Downyflake on Nantucket, then lunch over the wood-burning stove in Aspen’s Ajax Backcountry Powder Tours. It is the finest lunch one can have, as you are in a one room shack after having skied fresh tracks all morning out of bounds. Then Après-ski at The Little Nell at the base of Ajax mountain.

What do you always put out when hosting a dinner party? 

Good wine. People will drink more – when they drink more, they are having a good time.

What are your ultimate go-to appetizers for your guests?  

Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. They are so easy – you can make ahead and pop in the oven. Pair that with a tin of American Paddlefish Caviar and buckwheat bilinis and you have the perfect combination of high/low without the high brow cost (Paddlefish costs approximately $12/oz wholesale). 

What do you always bring to a dinner party as a guest? 

Good wine

The ultimate dinner party faux pas…

Working during your party. A host or hostess should always make everything look effortless. Whatever you do, make and set everything ahead of time, have it all streamlined and easy so you can relax and have fun with your guests.

If you could cater a dinner party for any six people, living or dead, who would be there? What would you cook? 

Jimmy Hendrix (you always want a rock star), Bridgette Bardot during her James Bond era (you always want an ultimate bond girl), Henrik (my favorite ski guide from Alaska), Bode Miller (he’s colorful and I really like skiing), Grace of Monaco (a little royalty goes a long way) and my glamorous grandmother (who was from Europe and who I never was fortunate enough to meet).


Caviar Cones

Salmon Tarts

Short Rib Burger Dinner with Onion Rings

View recipes below:

Caviar Cones


Makes 2 Dozen

One of the most elegant cones Peter makes…

¼ cup whipped cream cheese

24 cooked potato cones *** (see below)

3 ounces caviar, such as American paddlefish

¼ cup crème fraiche

Smear ½ teaspoon of the cream cheese across the top of each cone. Mound ½ teaspoon of the caviar on top of the cream cheese. Place the crème fraiche in a pastry bag fitted with a small metal tip, and pipe a small pearl of crème fraiche on top of the caviar. The cones can be presented on a platter or served in small shot glasses to keep them upright on your tray or platter.

{Tip}:  If steady hand assembly is not your strong suit, sturdy thick-cut, ridged, or waffle-cut potato chips can be used in place of the potato cones.

Potato Cones:

Makes 2 Dozen

6 cups peanut oil

2 large russet potatoes

Nonstick pan spray

Line a plate with paper towels for draining.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees over medium heat.  Using a mandolin or a very sharp chef’s knife, slice the potatoes lengthwise into twenty-four 1/16th inch thick strips. Spray them with the pan spray.

Coat 16 #800 heatproof pastry tips with pan spray. Starting at the narrow pointed end of a tip, wrap a potato strip in a spiral up and around the tip, slightly overlapping the layers until you get to the top. Use scissors to cut away the overhang. Repeat with three more pastry tips. Fit each potato-wrapped tip into another tip (the second tip holds it in place) and fry until the potato is golden, about 30 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon or frying spider, transfer the cones to the paper-towel lined plate to cool completely before removing the tips.

While the first batch cools, repeat with the remaining eight tips. Remove the tips from the first cooled batch and set the fried potato cones aside. Remove the second batch from the oil and set aside to cool. Repeat four times until all are finished.

{Tip}: The potato cones can be made ahead, up to four days, and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The cones are great for lots of fillings, crab salad, chicken salad, tuna tartare…

*Photo by Ross Whitaker/Peter Callahan