Joseph Marini opens his book Mastering the Art of Entertaining with this declaration: “I have always had an innate love for cooking, from home economics in middle school to studying classical French cuisine in Europe.” And boy does it show as he spells out how he has become adept at masterful entertaining in between those milestones! “Cooking is an intuitive activity that can be learned, practiced, and honed,” he goes on to say. “I learned that a recipe is not a blueprint that needs to be followed to be successful, but rather a guide to assist your intuition in making the best decisions based on any number of fluid variables on any given day.” As I flipped through the pages filled with exquisitely arranged vignettes, I felt Joseph was taking me by the hand and saying, “Let’s create an extraordinary experience you won’t soon forget.”
Joseph Marini’s Brand of Masterful Entertaining
The familiarity he engenders for his readers is heartfelt. “I’m often asked why I love entertaining so much,” he says. “It took me a long time to understand the answer to this. Fitting in, even sometimes within a family, can be difficult. By entertaining, I was allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to be seen for who I was.” His first chapter, “The Importance of Home,” begins with the insightful sentence, “Every home has a story.” In the narrative that unfolds in the book, the residence Joseph shares with his husband Tony and their dogs tells a vivid story that plays out in a beloved string of rooms filled with cherished furnishings and collectibles. “My home is layered with treasures that I’ve collected over the years,” he says. “A mixture of items from tag sales, flea markets, and thrift shops complement garden statues, architectural pieces, and found objects.”
Peeling paint on an aged figure that once resided out of doors oozes authentically, as do picture frames on the surfaces of which the gilding has let go over time to gain greater dignity as only antique artifacts can. The chapter “Before How Comes Why,” is filled with insight. “When your why comes from your heart, all the planning and preparation becomes fun,” Joseph notes. “Play with flowers, polish silver, arrange a room for company, and bake the best damn cookie you can.” The photographs of Joseph doing all of these things aspects of masterful entertaining are interspersed with arrangements he has created that bring soul to the rooms in which they are displayed. Not afraid of tarnish or wood with exquisite patina, he created vignettes filled with antique silverware and oft-used cutting boards that segue to crisp antique linens ornamented with nostalgic patterns.
Chapter three is cleverly called “The Mark of a Good Host and The Merit of a Gracious Guest.” In it, he shares insights such as “Down to the Details” and “The Perfect Time” that center around invitations, and “Buffet-Style Etiquette” that spells out how to seamlessly make guests feel at home while keeping the food and drinks flowing. A beautifully decorated table is one of Joseph’s particular talents, his collecting prowess on full display beneath a gorgeous vintage crystal chandelier. The process shots of Joseph cooking had me salivating before I even reached the section holding his incredible recipes, and his talent for arranging beautifully composed dishes has inspired me to think about how I can be more discerning when I’m entertaining.
The photography in the book is lush—the flowers flourishing in glass vases or iron urns and the fresh herbs wrapped in checkered napkins adding natural richness to the settings while also hinting at the savory pleasures to come. One of my favorite chapters is titled, “Creating a ‘Prop Closet’” and oh if I only had room! Joseph says his love for props began at an early age in New York City where he would assist food stylists during photoshoots. For avid collectors, he advises, “Most importantly—and I can’t stress this enough—use everything that you have for parties. No matter the cost or the history of something, having it just to look at does not add value to a well-lived life.”
Joseph included a chapter on working with flowers, one that explores cocktails with effervescent visuals alongside the recipes, and a chapter that presents his take on planning the menus—the charcuterie, deviled eggs, and aged cheeses a delicious way to begin the journey through a meal. His roasted meats visually tease the taste buds, as do his vinaigrettes and mix of spices, each of these precursors to the mouthwatering crescendo: the recipes for parties of all stripes. I look forward to trying Lemon-Cumin Hummus; Salad of Pears, Endive, Walnuts, and Mixed Greens; Saffron Risotto with Seared Mushrooms; Dijon-Crusted Leg of Lamb; and Pan-Seared Tarragon Salmon. I also can’t wait to make the White Chocolate Pistachio Cheesecake the next time I have company over.
After he has presented this feast for the senses that proves he’s a pro at masterful entertaining, Joseph declares, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It should just be thoughtful.” For those who want to document their own journey toward the attempts to achieve such a passionate view of entertaining, there are ample “Notes” pages in the back of the book, though I’m not sure I will ever be able to write in mine given my looping cursive could spoil the pristine perfection of the experience of flipping through the book in the future. I salute photographer Heidi Harris for capturing the spirit of Joseph’s point of view so beautifully and Joseph, who is so obviously enjoying himself in the images she captured of him. I met Joseph when this book was a mere fantasy he was just beginning to dream he could realize and I salute him for staying determined to share his unique perspective that provided such a satisfying experience for me.