Friday, October 31, 2014

Tips from Alex Hitz, a famous Southerner with a French flair

I learned so many great entertaining tips from the handsome and charming Alex Hitz when he signed copies of his book “My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist” Oct. 30 at Allison Sprock Fine Art.

(The photo above of Alex was taken at the event by photographer Daniel Coston)

A native of Atlanta, Hitz now divides his time between New York and Los Angeles. His hosting abilities, as he explains in the book, were evident when he planned his second birthday party menu including the decor of coordinated bibs, napkins and tablecloths. The caption on the book's accompanying photo explains that the Chagall watercolor in the background, which matched his party color palette, was a gift to his mother from Alice B. Toklas.

His stepfather was the Grammy Award-winning symphonic and choral conductor Robert Shaw. Along with Hitz’s mother, Shaw helped shape Hitz’s passion for beauty and quality. Shaw’s quote to his stepson was, “If you expose people to the good stuff long enough, some of it just might rub off on them.”

The day before his Charlotte book signing, Hitz spoke to more than 500 women at an event in Richmond, Va., then drove here. When he arrived, Allison took him to dinner at Dressler's at the Metropolitan and he's now a fan of the locally owned restaurant.

Because of her incredible connections in the art world, Allison is able to bring a really interesting mix of celebrities to her gallery. I encourage you to keep up with her web site so you won't miss out on anything (

"We came in late that night, but the staff was lovely to us and I was so impressed with my meal," he said.

He thinks the major entertaining mistake is to not enjoy it. "Entertaining is about making a gesture and showing that you care," he said. "Don't invite people and have it be a burden."

He hopes manners will never go out of style because manners are based on kindness and consideration; and etiquette is based on manners.

His one modern pet peeve? "Put down your cell phone forever if you're socializing with other people!"

A life well lived is one of his goals. "That means having a passion and appreciation for beauty and quality," he said. "Celebrate every single day because you never know what's going to happen. You only have today, so make it count."

When he entertains at home, depending on the occasion, he'll have a buffet for 150, or a dinner for 8. "Unless it's a super special day, I don't invite too many guests."

Although his party menu changes, his famous friend and florist, David Jones, always did the arrangements. The only time Alex's brilliant smile dimmed during our conversation was at the mention of Jones, who recently died. "The New York Times did a wonderful obituary. I encourage you to read it," he said.

Here's the link to the obit:

The French flair in his entertaining skills comes from his mother's love of the country. She attended school in Paris and  she was deeply influenced by Post WWII France, which Hitz describes as the height of elegance, sophistication and taste. In the 1970s, his mother bought a house in France. "Anytime we had more than three days off from school, my mother would pack us up and we would go there," he said.

"The food was better then. Now it's not. It's become more American," he laments.

If you're already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, he gives you permission to not stress over the holiday.

"Thanksgiving does not have to be oppressive anymore. You can buy so many wonderful things. It's not hard to roast a turkey but if it intimidates you, there are wonderful ones you can buy."

He says the same goes for anything else on your menu, but that you need to have at least one homemade item whether it's a soup or a dessert. "Always have a standout on your menu. For me it's my Butternut Squash Soup or my Pecan Shortbread Cookies." The recipes are in his book.

Frank from Park Road Books was at the event. He had Alex sign a stack of extra copies, so if you buy the book there, you might luck up with a signed copy (

In the spirit of his mission to spread the gospel of good food and living well, here are Alex's Top 5 entertaining tips:

1.  Never skimp on anything. "Whether you're serving frozen pizza or caviar, make sure it's the best of whatever it is and have plenty of it."

2. Make a schedule and stick to it. "Don't wait on anyone. If you do that, you reward the people with bad manners and you punish the people with good manners."

3. Do everything ahead of time. "Don't leave anything to chance. Food tastes better when it's made the day before because the flavors have a chance to mix."

4. Never be pretentious. "Remember the old saying that the higher the monkey climbs, the more he shows his (behind). Impress your guests with your simplicity and your style."

5. "If all else fails, call Dressler's!" (I told you he was charming!)

Follow Alex on Twitter @HitzAlex and on his web site,

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson