How Toronto’s Yu & Mei are Mastering the Art of Hosting

Childhood friends, Amy Yu and Sasha Mei, have made it their mission to bring simplicity back to the art of hosting. Through their platform Yu & Mei, they emphasize that the simplest gestures of connection can create unforgettable experiences. From stripping away the unnecessary to embracing the power of conversation, they offer invaluable tips for hosting individuals alike. Here, Sasha and Amy share their wisdom on effortless gatherings and the magic of a great dinner party.

What’s your best advice for hosts looking to create an effortless dinner party?

“It sounds so straightforward, but remember that you’re hosting a dinner. We find that a lot of events tend to be convoluted with extra fluff and activities, and when done incorrectly it can come off as cumbersome and overwhelming. In a world where “doing the most” is so prevalent, we like to strip things down to the bare minimum: food, friends, and good decor. Our guests are such an important part of the recipe for an effortless evening — a diverse group of friends or strangers create the best conversations, and the rest comes naturally. Creating an inviting and joyful environment to facilitate those conversations is key; we find standoff-ish attitudes a little outdated.”

On social you mention the importance of planning ahead. Could you share some of your best tips for party prep?

“We rely heavily on software and organizational tools such as Notion to help us keep track of everything, such as who’s doing/bringing what, what tasks are completed and what still needs to be done. Laying everything out visually helps so much. So does delegating where you can — we work as a team and involve many people in the process of putting our dinners together. On the day of the event, everyone is lifting things, carrying things, doing the dirty work. No job is too small. We also prepare a run of show prior to any event with contact info, task lists, and the responsibilities of each team member to ensure things go as smoothly as they can. The more dinner parties we have, the more we can rely on experiences to plan better. Learn from each one and add your expertise to the next.”

What tableware brands/designers are you loving right now?

“We love brands like Fable, EQ3, and Hay Design for classic, core pieces that can be used time and time again. However, we also don’t shy away from colourful and exciting tablescapes, and love brands like Misette and Gohar World for their playful aesthetics that are still elevated. Lately we’re also in awe of artist-designer Sarah Espeute and her store. She creates beautiful and sentimental pieces, and we particularly love her embroidered textiles. The work that Alice Moireau is doing with her brand Table is also very influential and inspiring to us.

Could you share some of the dishes you personally enjoy preparing when hosting?

“Though we mostly work with other chefs for our events, when we’re hosting for our friends and family and cooking ourselves, we always gravitate towards pasta! It’s simple, always appreciated, and is easily shared family style. We want our guests to feel like they’re at a family dinner in our homes. We also love to serve sourdough — Sasha’s mother is a phenomenal baker and guests often hear about this bread before they arrive. It’s become a part of the Yu + Mei lore. Dishes that chefs we’ve featured have prepared that are always hits are usually fish (a whole cooked fish just looks so visually pleasing on a table). And desserts — there is so much room to play here! Pies, tarts, things that are sliced and shared, preferably highlighting seasonal fruit. These are simple to prepare and always a crowd pleaser.”

Could you describe one of your all-time favourite dinner party moments and what made it so memorable.

Amy: “Watching new friendships form is my personal favourite part of any evening. For example, seeing two of our friends make plans for coffee the week after our Women’s Month lunch was so wonderful. The whole purpose of Yu + Mei is to bring people together, and seeing that extend beyond the day is so rewarding.”

Sasha: “My favourite moment of any dinner party is that in-between stage between the last main course and dessert where everyone is satiated and happy, hopefully enjoying another glass of wine. This is where the best conversations happen and everyone is relaxed. It’s the best time to soak in the good company and energy, and appreciate all the time that goes into planning a dinner.”

What are some future plans or aspirations you have as hosts, whether its new themes, collaboration, or venture in the hosting and entertaining realm?

“We hope to continue working with and highlighting local, up-and-coming chefs at our dinners and give them the space and opportunity to have creative freedom. We also plan to make our Women’s Day event an annual event, and hope to add a Lunar New Year event to incorporate traditions we both had growing up.”

Photography by Vanessa Cassar courtesy of Yu & Mei.