How to host a heavenly long table dinner that’s bound to impress

Posted: 29 February 2024

This is where we’d rather be, nestled under dimly lit trees, with a drink in hand and watermelon tart in the other. Rebecca Taylor, aka @souley_nourished shows us how to create the perfect long table dinner event, providing us with all the tips on how to manage the stress of it all and serve the most delicious food for everyone to swoon over.

There's something undeniably magical about a long table dinner, where friends and family gather to share in the joy of good company and delectable food.

Yet, orchestrating such an event involves meticulous planning and thoughtful execution. Rebecca, a seasoned host, shares her treasure trove of wisdom, offering practical advice on everything from simplifying food preparation to creating a captivating table setting that sets the stage for an unforgettable evening.

Subdued, earthy tones in your table linens will provide the perfect backdrop for vibrant, flavorful dishes that take centre stage. By allowing the food to shine, the humble Napkin and Table Cloth will become an integral part of your tableau, creating a visual feast that complements a culinary one. And to get you started with the menu, Rebeccaa has kindly shared her recipe for the most simple but impactful watermelon tarts.

Q: When cooking for a large group, what tips can you provide to keep food prep manageable and delicious? 

A: When cooking for a large crowd, I like to keep dishes as simple as possible, but still fancy. By fancy I mean, introducing ingredients that people might never have had. A simple pasta dish can come together with confit tomatoes or garlic which can be prepped a week ahead of time, and chopped preserved lemon which I always have on hand! They're so simple to make, just salt and lemons, and they keep in the fridge for up to a year. I use them in dressings and sauces to introduce a rich lemon flavour, and if you don't have time, they're available store bought too. Making sauces, dressing and dips a few days ahead saves me time the day of - plus the flavours have time to develop.

A: When styling a long table, what are crucial styling tips to follow? 

A: When styling a long table, I really pay attention to height. I like tall candlesticks, glasses and flower stems to break up the low dishes and napkins. Sometimes I'll use props to elevate a serving dish to make space and more surface room for abundance on the table - it fills up quickly! Alternatively, if I have a large table that needs fillers, large rustic loaves of bread or fruit in vases can be a pretty accent. Linens that drape, napkins that lay off the table, give an organic feel that invites people in. A hand written menu with my chef notes and drawings really brings a personal element to the table.

I have styled this table with I Love Linen's Milk Table Cloths and Charcoal Gingham Napkins, and I love to wear my Jade Apron when I'm in the kitchen.

Q: There is certainly a lot of preparation for a long table gathering - how do you manage your time and not forget anything? 

A: When prepping for a large gathering, I have to rely on my notes. I think the simple way to wow people is to have little elements that they'll remember. I have a master list of "things to do" that I break down into a week. That way, I have 2-3 hours a day to work on it, and as I get closer to the dinner, I know where I need to ask for help. It's amazing to think you can do it ALL yourself, but as I've worked in food and seen it all, the most important thing I've learned is where I can ask others for support. If a friend offers to bring wine, dessert or flowers, I'm all in! Having someone assist in putting the table together and clearing it at the end is crucial to keeping it fun and easy. I always have an extra set of hands in the kitchen when I'm garnishing and finishing each dish, just as a second set of eyes. I find those kitchen moments with friends to be the most special, even more so than time at the table.

Q: How did the colours of the linens create an atmosphere for your event?

A: The colours of the linens played a very key role in the earthy look of the table we were going for. Surrounded by lush greens, we knew that keeping colours neural with a pop of pattern in the napkins would let the colourful food shine. Nothing was competing with each other, the neutral tones made it possible to have a colourful, whimsical menu and a statement napkin.

Recipe: Watermelon Tarts 

Serves: 8 - 10


- 1 medium watermelon (cut into equal rectangles) 

- 8 oz (225g) goat cheese

- 8 oz (225g) cream cheese

- 2 cloves garlic

- 1 english cucumber

- 1 green apple

- lemon (juiced + zested)

- 1 handful chopped herbs (I like tarragon or basil)

- 2 tbsp olive oil, salt + pepper (I finished mine with wild fennel pollen, but you can leave that out)


1. Leave the cheese out at room temp to soften when you prep the watermelon. Cut the watermelon in half, then into quarters and until you have 8 - 10 similar sized rectangles. Cover with a damp cloth and keep chilled until ready to serve. 

2. In a food processor, chop the garlic, with the cheese and herbs until whipped and transfer to a piping bag. Let chill in the fridge for at least 20 mins to set. 

3. Use a vegetable peeler to cut cucumbers into ribbons and thinly slice apples. Toss the cucumber and apple with lemon juice, olive oil, salt + pepper. 

4. Remove watermelon and cheese from the fridge and pipe a 1 inch zigzag of cheese on each rectangle to cover it completely. Top each with a small handful of cucumber and apple salad and finish with lemon zest.

Q: Do you have any more long table events coming up?

A: I'm working on another dinner with a ceramicist in CA who forages her clay. I use a lot of native and wild food in my cooking, and I want to continue inspiring that in others. Linen has always been my fabric of choice, it's so natural and compliments the nature I love to play with in my cooking.