3 holiday hosting hacks NYC chefs say can save you money and impress your guests

Chefs Ryan Lory and Adam Bordonaro.
Courtesy Ardyn

In early 2019, chefs Ryan Lory and Adam Bordonaro opened their first restaurant, Ardyn, in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. Just eight months later, they've already been recognized by the world's fine dining authority, the Michelin Guide, which called the restaurant a great date night pick, praising it for its "clever cocktails" and carefully prepared dishes made with fresh ingredients.

The restaurateurs, both in their 30s, knew from the minute they started working together as chefs at Charlie Palmer they would get along. "We hit it off. You could see we were going to be good friends," says Lory. What they didn't know was that less than three years later, they'd together achieve their lifelong dream of opening a New York City restaurant.

"Now we're doing what we want. We're doing what we were designed to do," says Bordonaro. "It's a lot of real-time problem solving, creating art and, at the same time, making people happy."

The chefs attribute some of their success to their unique restaurant concept, which they call a reverse speakeasy. In a hidden dining room in the back, you can sit around the chef's counter and watch Lory and Bordonaro in action. "We joke all night long, which I think translates to our guests. They can feel that. It's kind of like being around our kitchen islands where we're just cooking dinner. It's a great time," Bordonaro says.

Here's how the Ardyn chefs say you can create the same joyous atmosphere when you're hosting a holiday gathering. And try these three cooking hacks, they suggest, that will save you money and impress your guests.

Carve your turkey right

Last Thanksgiving, Americans spent an estimated $48.90 — or less than $5 per person — on their holiday meal, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual survey. The big ticket item is almost always the turkey.

No matter the size of your bird, there is a cost-effective way to carve your turkey, says Lory. Cutting along the sides of the breastbone to remove the entire breast will give you the best yield, make for juicer servings, and give every guest some of the flavor-packed skin.

In addition, Lory's carving method makes for a restaurant-quality presentation.

Afterwards, "throw the carcass into a pressure cooker with carrots, onions, celery, some herbs, and garlic. Fill it with water and pressure cook it, and you'll have a beautiful stock. That will be the base for your gravy. You can put that into some quarts, throw that right in the freezer, and it will be good for next year," Lory says.

If you have leftovers, "get creative," Lory says. Use the turkey meat to make a sandwich dipped in gravy, for example.

How to properly carve a turkey, according to a professional chef

Upgrade affordable recipes with posh presentation

The way you present a dish can make any inexpensive recipe look fancy, says Bordonaro. You can elevate a simple dessert by using a few tools you may already have on hand. Chocolate mousse, for example, costs less than $2 a serving.

If you quenelle the chocolate mousse, using hot water and a spoon, it takes on that elegant egg shape you see when dining at a high-end restaurant. And serving your dessert in a martini glass will take it to the next level, he says.

Try piping whipped cream to decorate your dessert, too. All you need is a plastic food storage bag and whipped cream or frosting. Fill the bag with the whipped cream, seal, cut off one corner, and squeeze your cream next to or around your dessert, he says.

Use a potato peeler to shave chocolate from any store-bought bar on top for a fabulous finish.

Chocolate mousse
Adam Bordonaro & Ryan Lory
30 min. 6 servings
per serving
Prices based on national averages.
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped $1.00
  • 3 tablespoons sugar $0.05
  • 4 large egg yolks $0.40
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¾ cup heavy cream $0.46
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • In small bowl, beat ½ cup cream to stiff peaks. Cover bowl and chill.
  • Combine egg yolks, salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in heatproof bowl.
  • Create a double boiler by setting bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water. Don’t let bottom of bowl touch hot water.
  • Cook, whisking continuously for about 1 minute, until mixture is about doubled in volume and appears lighter in color.
  • Remove bowl from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Let sit, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.
  • Beat egg whites with electric mixer in medium bowl on medium speed until they foam.
  • Gradually add in 1 tablespoon sugar. Increase speed to high until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  • Fold whipped cream into same chocolate mixture.
  • Chill mousse for at least 2 hours.
  • Serve in a cocktail glass with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Download recipe

Make a batch of craft cocktails in advance

The man behind Ardyn's impressive cocktail list is mixologist Chris Burke. Alcohol can cost a fortune, especially around the holidays, but there are ways to save, Burke says. Making a large batch of a signature cocktail can make guests feel special while keeping your costs low.

You can elevate your cocktail with add-ins you probably already have on hand, says Burke. A $0.61 "Cold Fashioned" cocktail combines leftover cold coffee or cold brew with whiskey and traditional holiday spices like cinnamon.

To save time when hosting, Burke suggests preparing a big batch of a cocktail the night before and mixing it in a large pitcher without the ice. The next day, simply pour your drink over ice and serve it to your guests with a festive garnish, such as a cinnamon stick or a rosemary sprig.

Making your guests a signature drink will help you avoid spending on multiple kinds of liquor while showing that you put thought into planning your gathering, Burke says.

Ardyn's overarching recipe for a successful business is one you can easily recreate this holiday season, says Bordonaro: "How do we put out the best food at the right costs and be able to serve the quality that we want, and do it efficiently? That's what we try to do."

Cold fashioned cocktail
Chris Burke
5 min. 1 serving
per serving
Prices based on national averages.
  • 1 ounce leftover cold coffee or cold brew $0.02
  • 2 ounces whisky (Scotch, bourbon, rye) $0.70
  • 2 shakes bitters $0.21
  • 1 pinch cinnamon $0.04
  • 1 pinch cocoa powder $0.04
  • Pour coffee, whisky, and bitters over ice.
  • Stir or shake for 30 seconds.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass with ice cubes.
  • Take a lighter over a glass, pour pinch of cinnamon into the fire, let it fall into the glass.
  • Add a pinch of cocoa powder.
Download recipe