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Close Up Sam Tan of Ken Holdings Berhad on the art of hosting memorable parties

Sam Tan of Ken Holdings Berhad on the art of hosting memorable parties

Sam Tan and Sally Looi
By Calvin Chong
December 22, 2014

Always plastered with a grin on his face, the jovial Sam Tan talks to us about the intricacies and finer details of hosting dinner parties and soirees.

December has always been known for the many parties, dinners and gatherings around town held to celebrate Christmas and the end of a wondrous year. While we all love to attend these fancy affairs, hosting one is a heavy task for most.

Sam Tan of Ken Holdings Berhad has always been known to his close friends and associates as a gracious host who throws memorable and extravagant parties for both business and leisure.

From finding and decorating venues to assigning caterers and deciding on the menu, the art of hosting is perhaps one toughest to master. Lucky for you, we have Sam Tan to share his little tips and tricks to a successful night.

Among your group of friends, are you usually the one hosting all the gatherings and parties?
Well, most of the times I am the one who starts the idea. Only then, everyone else will chip in to the idea. Someone has to to take charge and intiate it.

When it comes to hosting, what is the first thing you need to master?
You need to understand your guests – who are they and what do they like – and you must be very sensitive to all the finer details. You always need to do a little extra something to make them feel special and wanted. You need to personalise the experience for each and every person.

For example, just recently at the REDHA Youth party, we provided many beverage options from sake, whisky and champagne to wine and non-alcoholic drinks. That way, everyone had something that they fancy.

What are the essential qualities a host need?
As a host, you need to enjoy the entire process of hosting, from beginning to end. Sometimes, it is the process of preparing the affair that makes it special.

Always try to come up with new ideas and concept. You should never choose the easy way out and duplicate what you did in the last party. Even though it might be a year ago, your guests might still remember it.

When it comes to caterers, who is your go-to option?
If you are willing to spend, the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur team is a great option because they are well equipped and well versed in catering for parties and events of different capacity. They are one of the few who provides everything for your evening from menu and decor to entertainment – a one stop solution centre for party hosts.

It might cause you an arm and a leg but it is well worth the money.

When you are hosting parties, do you usually cook the food?
I used to do it a lot but now, I believe that as a host, you should be inside the party with all the guests and not behind a stove. A lot of times, hosts don’t realised that when you cook for your own parties, you will completely miss out on the chance to talk and entertain your guests, which is actually your main responsibility.

Do you think a host should be early for their own event?
Most definitely. As a host, you need to be early for your own events to greet your guests. Never let anyone else do the job, especially for intimate dinners. You can’t have your staff or help greeting them, while you make the grand entrance later. Be the one who opens the door.

What is the one thing that a guest should never do?                                                                                          
I think guests should never RSVP for an event and never show up. It is very rude and disrespectful to the host, especially when they have gone the extra mile to prepare everything for you.

Unless it is a big emergency, you should always try your best to attend. Excuses like ‘I missed my flight’ or ‘I can’t catch a ride’ aren't really valid. It just means you don’t put any effort into it.

How can we ensure all guests to arrive on time for the event?
It’s a 'chicken and egg' situation. While guests are late at times, there are hosts who do it too. So, everyone has to make it a point to be punctual. So if the host is there early and starts the evening at the proposed time, guests will understand and be punctual.

When it comes to demanding guests who over-indulge and ask for more than what was offered, what do you do?
I am lucky that my friends aren’t like that but for my business and social events, we instruct the wait staff to serve whatever the guests want, even if it is not on the menu. However, they will have to foot the bill themselves. We can't provide everything under the sun, so if you want more, you’d just have to pay for it.

Do you have any hosting nightmares?
The whole organising process is a nightmare, but it is always something that can be handled and solved.  As long as the guests are happy, I’m happy as well.


(Photos courtesy of Sam Tan)

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