Make It Work: From plate to page
New York member Amber Mayfield launched her events production company To Be Hosted with a mission to centre Black culture in the food and entertaining business. Here, she explains how a national pause on events inspired her to find alternative ways to spread her love of hosting
By Britt Julious Above illustration by Elena Xausa Tuesday 25 August, 2020 Short read
While some restrictions have lifted, hosting large-scale dining events for groups of strangers still feels like a far-off prospect. The mystery of the future has made Mayfield and her To Be Hosted team rethink the dining experience, looking for ways in which they could bring the experience to everyone’s home. Here, Mayfield talks about how she’s grown the reach of To Be Hosted by bringing the event-hosting experience to our doorsteps with a new magazine, While Entertaining.
Life in ‘the before’
‘When I graduated from college, I started working in TV with Bravo. I quickly noticed that the food-related content they had was the stuff that really excited me. So, I started my own events business, To Be Hosted, on the side. When I was working in corporate America, I saw that it was the same five caterers getting all the business, doing all the same dishes. It wasn’t very diverse. I came up with this concept of hosting dinner parties so that I could work with different Black chefs and caterers. Then, also have these cool experiences for young, Black professionals to meet and network.
‘We grew from offering supper club-style events to agency-style events [where] a lot of brands will come to us to curate media or influencer dinners. My business was really starting to pick up. In the first week of March, we did three dinners – two for Tinder and one for Bulleit.’
The big idea
‘I was working on so many events. But right after my birthday, around 15 March, that’s when it became very real that none of my events, at least for the spring and summer, were going to happen.
‘It made me slow down a bit and really look at the world around me. What would be the future of To Be Hosted? I started thinking about ways we could make it work post COVID-19. But a few weeks in, I realised I didn’t need to think about the logistics, because there might not be any events until 2021 or even 2022.
‘We really started to pivot and come up with more creative ways to reach our audience. The first idea was a magazine called While Entertaining. It was originally [going] to be this beautiful print magazine that would share Black culture through the lens of food and home entertaining. I feel like it’s so hard for me to find different perspectives in that space. When I’m looking at home entertaining and lifestyle content, it’s really Martha Stewart or bust, right? I wanted to take those two problems and try to solve them with this magazine.’
'I hope it sparks a curiosity for [people] to learn more about Black culture, Black food and the rich history that’s in our food'
‘We ended up pivoting to digital and our first issue actually came out in March, in the middle of everything. It shares the stories of 20 chefs and beverage professionals. It has tips for what to cook for dinner, what to pair with it and how to be a good hostess. We knew everybody was going to be at home looking for something to do, and cooking seemed like a nice release for people.’
‘The reaction to [the magazine] has been great. I hope it sparks a curiosity for [people] to learn more about Black culture, Black food and the rich history that’s in our food. And I hope it helps readers feel like a more empowered hostess. Ultimately, I want the magazine to make hosting and cooking feel way more approachable.’
Life in ‘the after’
‘For the next issue, I will definitely be aiming for a print magazine, so long as we reach our fundraising goals. In this world, where we’re on the phone, on Zoom and doing so many things with people that we can’t touch, it would be nice to have a physical manifestation of the stories that are in there, and then the food that you’ll bring to life.
‘We are also launching an entertaining box set, so people can get the ingredients, recipes and playlists sent to their homes. Then they can create an experience with whoever they’re socially distancing with. It’s our way of trying to bring the spirit of To Be Hosted to your home.
‘When it comes to my events, it’s the complete opposite. I want to keep it small and take on event projects that are really thoughtful, and obviously innovative, because we’re going to be in a totally new event landscape once all of this is done.’