When it comes to planning a dazzling holiday event, there are few better people to guide the way than Alysha Janmohamed, sales and events manager at Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi in Bellevue. Although she just joined the team in April 2021, she’s worked in hospitality and operational management for years — and has been a longtime patron of this sky-high hot spot.
Whether planning an event at home or a venue like Ascend, Janmohamed believes it’s important to envision the entire gathering from start to finish. “Will your guests be arriving all at once, or slowly over time?” she asks. “Do you want to have champagne or a signature cocktail to greet them with? Should there be small appetizers upon arrival, or are we curbing our appetite for a lavish seated dining experience? Do we want the guests to mingle before sitting?” So much of how menu offerings are planned can guide the behavior of guests. “Often people don’t realize that these tiny details truly set the pace of the event,” she adds.
Details are second nature to Janmohamed. Her role at Ascend involves taking care of every step of private events, from the initial inquiries to the execution of every detail. “My goal is to anticipate every need and desire of the guest to create a seamless experience so that, come the day of the event, all they need to do is arrive and enjoy!” she says. That same attention to detail pays off for holiday parties at home, too.
Janmohamed thinks you can never go wrong playing classics as a holiday-time soundtrack, yet ambience is largely created by the way the schedule flows. Decisions such as having a cocktail hour and seated dinner versus an hors d’oeuvres reception or a buffet play a huge part in dictating how the event unfolds. “At a seated dinner, you will often end up conversing with the six guests around you,” she says. “During a cocktail hour or full hors d’oeuvres reception, however, while some guests will cluster in small groups, you often end up with more mingling and socializing throughout the night.”
The holidays are nearly synonymous with excess when it comes to food and drink, Janmohamed believes, “so if your guests are indulging, you might as well make it an experience they won’t forget!” For culinary options, she advises mapping out anything that needs to be prepared ahead of time, and always leaving oneself a little wiggle room. “Think warming, seasonal favorites like charcuterie spreads, chateaubriand, mulled apple cider, spiced cranberry sangria or any flavors that will complement the time of year and your holiday theme,” she says. “Also make sure that you have something for everyone.”
On the menu, it’s always good to factor in a few plant-based items. “Here at Ascend,” Janmohamed says, “our jackfruit cakes are my favorite, as they are not only 100% vegan, but have such a unique and complex flavor profile — sure to be popular with carnivores, too.” As for beverages, offering a custom cocktail or spread of wine is ideal, and it’s also important to have alternatives for those who choose not to imbibe or want to pace their drinking.
At home, the party planner likes to decide upon a theme before addressing décor. “For formal events, try to stay classic and minimal,” she suggests. “Of course, if it’s an ugly sweater party, you may want to get a bit more creative with some fun and playful décor.”
While not always appropriate, whimsical additions like gifts and activities can make holiday events even more memorable. If you are hosting a group where not everyone knows one another, icebreaker games can encourage interaction. “‘White elephant’ and gift exchanges are always a huge hit, and a great way to get everyone involved,” Janmohamed says. “The goal is to focus on what has the greatest meaning to the people attending by adding a flavor of fun.”
So what drives Janmohamed when she’s hosting away from her workplace? “I grew up watching ‘Martha Stewart’ with my mom,” she says, “and our family was always known for our incredible holiday dinners. While the food and beverage aspect has always been my greatest strength, I always channel my mom when it comes to setting the scene for a wonderful holiday party.”
And no matter where the event takes place, she says, “The sign of a great holiday party is the sound of laughter — and when people don’t want to leave!”
Celebrate the holidays at Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi. Private dining rooms are available for party bookings. Please contact us for details and availability.