Entertaining With FLARE: Party like a French Pastry Chef

Leslie Steh of Toronto’s new Colette Grand Café tells us how to throw a stylish dinner party—right down to a super-easy tip for perfect brownies

Lesley Steh

Colette’s pastry chef, Leslie Steh

Since Colette Grand Café opened in Toronto’s swish Thompson Hotel last month, its gorgeous Parisian-inspired interiors, pretty macarons and delicate French pastries have filled our Instagram feeds. Eager to bring a little Gallic elegance to our own dinner parties, we asked Colette’s pastry chef, Leslie Steh, for tricks on entertaining with style.

What’s your best tip for making an easy meal that will still impress?
Use high-quality, simple ingredients. The same goes for dessert. Serve top-notch ice cream with espresso and your best cookie recipe. Nobody is ever going to complain about that.

How do you spark good dinner party conversation?
All you need is lots of good wine. When people have a few drinks they loosen up and then you have a fun dinner party, no matter what you’re serving.

What’s the best way to avoid host anxiety?
Have a glass of wine right before everybody arrives.

What’s your go-to dinner party outfit?
You have to be comfortable when you’re hosting. I like jeans and a colourful top.

Do you have any tips for serving a Parisian-inspired meal?
To make it really French, do a charcuterie platter first: paté, cured meats, cheeses and even smoked white fish would be delicious. Serve it all with good baguette, obviously.

What special touches do you recommend décor-wise?
Buy lots of flowers! I’m partial to going to a flower market where you can choose your own stems, instead of going to a florist for pre-made arrangements. The selection is better and the prices tend to be lower.

Can you share a pro baking tip?
I just learned how to make the perfect brownies. You have to mix the eggs, butter and chocolate so they emulsify before you go on to the next step. The mixture has to turn shiny before you add the flour—that’s how you get the perfect texture that cracks in the middle when it bakes.