As a Former First Lady, the Bush family matriarch, and the lovingly nicknamed “Enforcer,” the late Barbara Bush insisted on only the best for her events—a fact Texas event producer Autumn Rich knows well.
Rich worked closely with the Former First Lady starting at the beginning of Former President George H.W. Bush’s first term. She produced high-profile events for Mrs. Bush in Washington D.C., New Orleans, and Texas, and picked up plenty of entertaining advice from her along the way.
“She expected perfection and extraordinary attention to detail, which shaped the rest of my career,” Rich says.
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Today, Rich produces music and entertainment events (ever heard of Lollapalooza and SXSW?), political events such as the Texas Tribune Festival, and frequently hosts dinner parties at her home for friends and colleagues alike. While Southern hosts know a thing or two about entertaining, a few Enforcer-approved tips never hurt. Here, Rich shares her best entertaining advice.
Keep the basics in stock at all times
A good host is always prepared—that means having staples like drinks and snacks on hand all the time. “If someone comes by, I always try to have olives, cheese, and meats to knosh on,” Rich says. “I also always have the supplies to make a martini and a few bottles of wine on hand.” So next time you’re at the store, grab that extra bottle of wine or a few new cheeses to try the next time an evening of hosting comes up.
Give yourself permission to cheat
Sometimes you have months to plan the perfect dinner party, baby shower, or backyard barbecue—and sometimes, they get sprung on you at the very last minute. For a quick turnaround, grocery-ordering services such as Shipt, Instacart, or Amazon Fresh deliver goods right to your door, freeing up your time to prep other elements to perfection.
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Cook what you know
For dinner parties, Rich always keeps her menu simple. “I think the company is more important than the food, and your company won’t enjoy themselves as much if you’re stressing about the food.” A Southern host always has a go-to sheet pan recipe or simple one-pot recipe—and if you’re still searching for an easy signature dish, we have a few we can recommend. (Our Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Brussels Sprouts looks labor-intense, but is actually super easy!)
Handmade details go a long way
Small decorations you’ve made yourself not only add a bit of heart— they also prevent the event from becoming too overdone or opulent. “The Bushes weren’t showy in any way, shape, or form,” Rich says. Her go-to tool for DIY details? A paint pen for making place cards out of unexpected objects, such as outdoor greenery or collected river rocks.
Don’t let guests see you sweat
Your mood sets the tone for the event. And as the host your job is to put your guests at ease. “Mrs. Bush taught me that you could never let your guests see you stress, even if you’re having a bad day,” Rich says. “Mrs. Bush laughed a lot, and she had a way of putting people at ease and making people feel special. I think that’s the most important thing, more than any logistics.”