Hosts with the Most

The Chin Chin Team's Top Tips for Summer Entertaining

Andrew Zuccala
December 01, 2022

Summer party season is here. It’s time for barbecue gatherings at home or in the park, office Christmas parties, long leisurely al fresco lunches, and, of course, New Year’s Eve celebrations. They don’t call it the ‘silly season’ for nothing.

And there comes a time in every adult’s life when they decide to elevate their entertaining game. When we say goodbye to frozen party pies and cheap wine served in red plastic cups — we aren’t in uni anymore, folks.

But, no matter how good we think we are at playing host, we could all probably do with a little help lifting our entertaining skills. That’s why we spoke to the team that makes Chin Chin Sydney such a spectacularly memorable experience for its guests, as it has been doing over its ten years in the game. We sat down with the Surry Hills restaurant’s Head of Events, Executive Chef, Head Sommelier and Head Host to get some tips on how to throw a bash to remember.

with Caitlin Ahu, Head of Sales and Events

The Ideation

Caitlin Ahu oversees operations for Chin Chin Events, the restaurant’s dedicated functions arm that boasts a suite of multi-purpose spaces on the lower ground floor. Caitlin is responsible for creating the ultimate experiences for up to 120 guests — be they for birthdays, milestone events or corporate shindigs.

Chin Chin Sydney is guided by the philosophy that eating and drinking should be fun, relaxing and memorable — and Caitlin is the master at bringing this energy to events of any shape and size.

For many, planning an event can seem overwhelming. Where would you suggest is the best place to start — and where to from there?

The best place to start is by thinking about what is most important to you — is it the food, location, having entertainment or being able to decorate the space? Once you’ve figured out what’s most important, decide what style of event you want to have, approximately how many people will attend and when you want it to be.

The more information you can provide to your event planner or venue at the early stages, the better equipped they’ll be to help you bring the event to life just as you envisioned.

Any tips for keeping your event budget in check?

Outline your budget expectations with your event planner and they can suggest how to best allocate this across your event expenses (food, beverages, styling and entertainment), so you get the maximum value for your money while prioritising what matters most to you.

What role does the venue play in the success of an event?

The venue you choose sets the tone for the whole event — from the event space aesthetics to the type of service (fun vs formal) and of course the catering. The venue is the backbone of your event, and choosing the right one can be the difference between a good event and an epic one that your guests will remember for a long time to come.

Caitlin’s hot tip: “If you aren’t flexible with the date or time, make sure you enquire at least 3–6 months ahead so your favourite venues aren’t booked out.”

with Benjamin Cooper, Executive Chef

The Food

For many hosts, food is at the core of any event. And Benjamin Cooper, Executive Chef at Chin Chin, is an ideal candidate to teach us how to do this the right way. He’s made both the Melbourne and Sydney restaurants as beloved as they are thanks to his clever and creative approach to shared dining experiences.

What are your top tips for making sure your summer event is a deliciously memorable one?

Firstly, have a plan — know what you are going to make but be prepared to change it if the produce at the shops or market is crazy good and demands using.

Second, less is more. Focus on simply cooked proteins or veg and spend your time on a wicked sauce or dressing.

And lastly, remember why. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of planning and doing everything else, that you lose sight of why you were holding the event in the first place — to have fun and make people happy. Focus on that and enjoy the process.

What’s your go-to dish for when you’re hosting an event at home?

I love veg dishes, especially roast eggplant or pumpkin. Simply seasoned and
so easy to add things to, so it’s versatile for any feast.

If you had to bring one dish your choice to a potluck-style event, what would it be and why?

I always love taking a curry. It heats up well and you can make it in advance, and it tastes even better the next day.

In the summertime I like to do a spin on curried egg sandwich, substituting the egg for fresh spanner crab — you can make the mix the day before and then just bring the mix and some fresh bread to assemble.



6 slices fluffy, white sandwich bread
200g cooked spanner crab (you can get this from fishmongers)
80g pomelo or lime segments
50g coconut flesh, fresh or frozen is fine (or, substitute for desiccated coconut)

Curry mayo
100g Kewpie mayo
3 cloves garlic
10g fresh ginger (about a thumbnail-sized piece) (double the amount if it’s coming from a jar)
1 tablespoon curry powder (my favourite is Clive of India)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Handful of curry leaves
30g caster sugar
150ml coconut cream (look for a high-fat, ideally pasteurised brand, like Kara or Hom-D)
30ml oyster sauce


To make mayo
1. Strain crab, reserving the liquid.
2. Pound garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle, then mix in curry powder.
3. Warm frying pan, and add the oil, curry powder mix and curry leaves to pan and sauté until fragrant.
4. Add sugar to deglaze and caramelise, scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure everything is incorporated.
5. Finally, add the coconut cream, crab liquid and oyster sauce. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 4–5 minutes to thicken.
6. Remove from pan and set aside until completely cooled.
7. Once cold, fold in the kewpie mayo and adjust seasoning to your liking.

To make sandwich mix
1. Transfer crab, pomelo (or lime) segments and coconut flesh to a bowl.
2. Fold in curry mayo — just a little to start, then keep adding. You want the mix to be reasonably firm.
3. Put it in the fridge until ready to serve — these sandwiches are best eaten super fresh.

To complete
1. Lay out three slices of bread and spread the mix evenly and generously over the top.
2. Pop your remaining slices on top, and with a sharp knife carefully remove the crusts, and cut into 3 finger sandwiches. 
Clean the knife after each cut to keep the edges nice and clean.

Benjamin’s hot tip: “If you can’t find spanner crab, this sandwich works just as well with cooked prawns or even leftover roast chicken.”

with Isobel McFadden, Head Sommelier

The Wine

Is a gathering without wine a gathering worth having? We suspect Isobel McFadden, Chin Chin Sydney’s head sommelier, wouldn’t think so — and we’d be inclined to agree with her. Her job is to understand guests’ tastes and budget and then to recommend the best wines to compliment the food and general vibe, key things to master when hosting a party, so you’d be wise to heed her words of winely wisdom.

What are your top tips for potential event hosts around curating a wine or beverage programme for their summer event?

First off, once you’ve figured out your menu, let the food be your wine guide. Wine belongs with food, so let the context give you permission to add a bit of flair to the drinks program. Even the most misunderstood wine styles absolutely shine with the right food (looking at you, off-dry riesling and Thai food).

Also, the whole ‘white wine-white meat, red wine-red meat’ is so boring. As long as you thoughtfully pair texture, acidity and sweetness, you’ve got a formula for success. Try a delicate Fleurie beaujolais with oily fish like trout. Or vintage champagne with a juicy beef burger and hot chippies.

What are your three no-fail wines for summer gatherings?

If you really want to win first place at the dinner party, bring grower champagne. It’s kind of the perfect all-rounder for pairing with food.

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc NV offers a fresh and linear palate-cleansing style. Lacourte-Godbillon Rosé Brut NV if it’s cheese and charcuterie. Olivier Horiot Cuvee Soléra NV is a blend of seven different varietals, making it incredibly adept pairing-wise — it works with cheese, fish, pork and even spicy dishes.

Textural whites with racy acidity are my go-to for any dinner party. My top three picks: San Lorenzo Verdicchio Classico Di Gino 2020, Arnaud Lambert Saumur St Cyr Bourg Coulée 2018 and Chalmers Falanghina 2021.

And lastly, grenache: the perfect meeting place for staunch shiraz drinkers and devoted pinot lovers. My top three picks: Comando G Bruja de Rozas Garnacha 2020, Reed ‘Alexia’ Grenache 2021 and Samuel’s Gorge Grenache 2020.

From a wine perspective, what do you appreciate when you’re a guest at an event?

If I have méthode traditionnelle sparkling in my glass, I’ll generally be won over. But when it comes down to it, as long as the offering complements the food, audience and season, how can I complain?

Isobel’s hot tip: “Don’t forget dessert wine — sometimes the sweetest moments are the most magical.”

with Riki Lindsey, Head Host

The Hosting

You can have the best location, food and drinks — but without the skills to actually host a party, you will find yourself in struggle town. There is an art to hosting a party, but this is an art that can definitely be learned.

And who better to impart this lesson than Chin Chin Sydney’s Head Host, Riki Lindsey? As the face of Chin Chin, Riki ensures a guest’s entire experience not only runs smoothly, but is one they’ll remember long after they leave. If you want your guests leaving your event with the same joy on their faces that Chin Chin’s guests do, then read on.

What are your three top tips to keep in mind when hosting an event?

Number one is remaining fluid for the event — things are always going to change, so be accommodating when the changes happen and go with the flow.

Next, setting the tone is key. Be cool, calm and collected, because this will set the mood for the whole event.

Thirdly, be fully prepped. If the venue is prepped and everything is ready to go before a guest enters, you’re on to a winner.

What sorts of things do you take notice of when you’re a guest at an event?

When I’m a guest at an event, I am definitely, 100% understanding and grateful for the staff.

For some people, the idea of hosting can be quite daunting. What can one do to ensure that they’re being a good host while still enjoying the fruits of their labour?

The task of hosting should be met with joy. It’s a great way to meet people and understand who you are when you are met with pressure — and, no matter what, learn that every situation has a solution. Focus on the solutions and have fun, too.


Feel like leaving it to the professionals? Book your next event with Chin Chin and see the masters at work. The venue boasts a number of flexible spaces, whether you’re wanting to host a cocktail party or a formal seated banquet, and caters for between 10 to 120 guests. Find more info at the website.

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