Cooking together is a challenge. But after all, most party guests tend to congregate in the kitchen. Giving them a task to do is a great ice breaker and takes some of the pressure off you. With some planning, you can create great food together and have a wonderful time too.
For your party, it's best if you plan to have only one or two dishes that need to be baked or fried just before serving. Many dishes can be served cold or at room temperature. If possible, plan on a slow cooker dish, a refrigerated dish or two, one that should be grilled at the party, one finished on the stovetop, and one baked dish.
Take a good look at your kitchen and decide how you can divide it up for the most efficiency. Even if you have a very small kitchen, you can designate one area for chopping, another for cleaning, and another for cooking. Then assign people to the areas, divide up the recipes, and get ready for fun.
When you're inviting people to a cooking party, have a few appetizers ready and waiting for them. People will arrive hungry, and it's really nice to have some munchies and wine or other beverages available while they're cooking. There's nothing cozier than cooking in a nice kitchen, nibbling on snacks, and talking to friends.
Be sure that each cooking area has the recipe, utensils, tools, pots and pans, and ingredients all ready for the cooks. You don't want people having to stop and search for an item when they're getting into the swing of cooking.
You may want to divide up the recipes and ask each guest to bring a certain number of ingredients to defray the costs. This will require a lot of list making and double-checking to make sure all of the ingredients and utensils will be on hand.
How to Divide a Recipe
Take a look at a recipe, study it for a while, and you'll see how it naturally divides into several tasks. For instance, in a stir-fry recipe, the meat has to be prepped, the marinade prepared, and vegetables or fruits peeled, chopped, or diced. Then everything comes together in a few minutes on the stove.
So have a station where the meat is prepared, another for measuring and mixing ingredients for the marinade/stir-fry sauce, another for preparing and cooking the rice, and a fourth for the vegetable preparation. Then you, or another guest, will be the stir-fry master just before you want to eat.
You want to make sure that all of these cooks aren't spoiling the broth. Tell everyone to wash hands before and after the preparation. Those working with raw ingredients like meats or eggs have to be very vigilant. Place containers of wet wipes around the kitchen so everyone keeps it clean.
Divide up the stations according to guest's cooking skills and what they like to do. You wouldn't give the task of cutting beef to a vegetarian, and a person with limited abilities because of arthritis perhaps wouldn't be comfortable handling a knife.
Model your kitchen after a professional kitchen. Each area of the kitchen, and each chef, is designated to produce one part of the meal. If you're preparing more than one dish, mix up the assignments so one person isn't stuck doing all the potato or onion peeling.
Make sure that there is enough space between each station so people can move freely without bumping into each other. Bring some stools or small chairs into the kitchen if there's room, so those who aren't working can rest for a while.
And designate a space to put dirty utensils, pots, and pans. A large container full of soapy water can be placed out of the way. As people work, they just drop the utensils into that container.