This is Party Time, a column featuring industry and Young Gun-approved approaches for acing a dinner party.
Eater Young Gun DeVonn Francis (’18) is a professional party thrower. He’s the chef and founder of Yardy, a New York-based event and production company that focuses on Caribbean culture and storytelling through food and art. Yardy often joins forces with like-minded artists, chefs, or brands to create one-of-a-kind experiences. When Francis entertains in his personal life, he takes ideas from his company and recreates them on a smaller scale, which means a co-host is a must.
“I always make it collaborative in some way,” he says. “One of the best things about having a party is being able to meet other people, other communities and creating a more diverse room conversationally.” Francis likes to split the guest list with someone he admires, whether that’s a friend or a mentor. He keeps a list of people that inspire him through fashion, art, wellness, or activism.
The two hosts each invite about 15 people and then brainstorm the concept for the gathering. “I am deeply, deeply a Virgo, so there are many planning sessions that happen before I do anything,” says Francis. “I like to sit down or discuss through email or phone call what we’re excited about and if there are any new recipes or wines that we can riff off of. We can volley back and forth for a while and delegate who’s going to do what and why.” Divvying up the responsibilities makes it easy to play to each host’s strengths.
For Francis, a dinner party concept might start as something specific like a certain bottle of wine or an obscure song from the ’70s. The co-hosts then use that starting point as inspiration for the party’s culture, color, and overall vibe and plan the event’s details accordingly. “It’s a really fun project to work on with someone because everyone has their own relationship to wine and music and time and place,” he says. “It’s a way to get to know people in that planning process, which I really like.”
Francis also likes to bring a humanitarian aspect into the mix. “I like throwing a party that raises awareness for something that my co-host and I believe in, something that we can turn into a celebration,” he says. The cause may be reproductive rights, immigration, or climate change. “We can make small gestures to alleviate the pressures of having to raise big sums of money,” he says, noting that each guest can donate $5 through Venmo or the Cash App instantaneously.
“A thank you party for those organizations that want to keep my community safe and thriving through nonprofit work is really fun to do,” Francis explains. “Thinking about how fundraising can happen and what scale it can happen on is really powerful.” With a good co-host, the possibilities are limitless.