When Fabian, Dave and I started Holstee five years ago, we cut nearly every expense while bootstrapping, and dining at restaurants was no exception.  So instead, we would invite people over to our cozy (NYC real estate talk for tiny) East Village apartment. As Holstee grew, so did the potluck dinners -- the tradition had stuck, and it helped us focus on the quality of our relationships rather than the quantity. Today we host regular potluck dinners in our Work/Shop in Brooklyn.

Ideally, a potluck feels like a family dinner: sharing food with people you love in a homey environment while having meaningful conversations. Over the past 5+ years of regular potlucks, here are the five key ingredients we have learned:

  1. Real Food: We encourage our guests to bring a savory dish (to avoid a meal full of sweets) and a beverage. Real food means minimal processing and hopefully homemade. Bonus points for a dish that comes with a story.
  2. Real Conversation: We are not big fans of events where people pitch their work and everyone’s first question is, “So what do you do?” To avoid this, we pose single thought-provoking question that we ask to the whole table. For example, What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
  3. Real Community: When dinners take place in a home, it can change everything. Our dinners started out in our East Village apartment with guests sitting on any surface they could find. Despite the space, we found that it’s the small details that help to create a special and memorable evening. For example, asking guests to take their shoes off when entering, suggesting people who know each other already not to sit together and consider sending a connecting email to all guests at the end that will allow the conversations to continue.
  4. Real Connections: Once dinner begins, we ask everyone to put away their phones and be fully present. It’s hard at the beginning, but really pays off.
  5. Real Clean: And so no one gets stuck with clean-up alone, we developed the “7-minutes in heaven” policy. Everyone takes a turn washing the dishes, but no one is allowed to clean for more than 7 minutes. A timer works great for this.

To this day, the values of a potluck dinner echo much of what we have strived to build at Holstee: a moment thoughtfully prepared by and for a community of friends. Today we continue to host potlucks at our space in Brooklyn and in our own homes. We invite you to join us at the next one or to host a potluck in your city.

Want to practice intention this year? Come to our Intentions & Habit Building Workshop on January 20th!

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Michael Radparvar is a cofounder of Holstee. Always one for brainstorming, snapping photos or cooking up a storm, you can likely find him riding his bike around Brooklyn or whipping up a batch of his signature hummus

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