Usher and Tameka Foster I Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage Getty Images

IF YOU’RE LUCKY enough to be invited to a dinner party at Usher’s place, leave your potato salad at home, he’s not a fan.

But yours is different? The way you add a little horseradish to give it that delicious tang. He doesn’t care. Don’t bring it, it won’t go over well and you’ll be left to slum it on the patio while Jay-Z, Beyonce and the other guests make jokes inside: “Seriously, who bought the potato salad,” whispers Bey, as Usher nods your way. “Dude on the patio, whoever the fuck he is. Thought I made it clear on the invitation: no potato salad. Some people got no etiquette.”

A horrible scenario, I’m sure you’ll agree, but the singer made it clear he’s not a fan in a recent interview with The Cut, in which he discussed his dinner party rules. “Not everybody likes your potato salad, so don’t bring that,” said the impossibly smooth R & B artist, who’s currently in the middle of a Vegas residency that winds up in October.

Usher goes on to say you should bring something. “I think that’s just a natural thing of etiquette, something to just say, ‘Hey, let’s celebrate together, and I brought this in honour for this moment that we have together’.”

Truth be told, as social engagements go, the dinner party is a pretty high stakes affair. You’re being invited into someone’s home, or, if you’re the host, you’re opening up your home and your food for public consumption. You’re hoping for validation. It’s an anxiety-inducing stress test, fraught with potential pitfalls. To help you avoid humiliation and possible opprobrium, both as a guest and a host, here’s Esquire Australia’s guide to dinner party etiquette.

Usher I Johnny Nunez/WireImage, Getty Images.

Bring wine

Contrary to popular wisdom, conviviality has molecular properties that rely on a deliberate and exquisite alchemy of the right personalities, in the right space, at the right time. Failing that, alcohol should do the job. As a guest, as Usher said, you’ve got to bring something and wine offers the requisite air of pretentious sophistication. While George Costanza once made a solid case for bringing Pepsi: “No way wine is better than Pepsi”, are you really going to risk the hot glare of the host when you pull it out? (I mean Usher’s still freaking about the potato salad). So, don’t push your luck. If you don’t drink then you get a pass, bring whatever you want.

Potato chips are ok

Yes, charcuterie and cheese boards look sick. You should definitely have these but if I may paraphrase Costanza again, “no way a dry unsalted cracker is better than a Dorito or salt and vinegar chip that was engineered in a lab to explode on your tastebuds, particularly when dipped into a beetroot relish”. The guy who brought Pepsi will thank you for it.

Invite a bon vivant

Somebody needs to do the conversational heavy lifting, particularly in a room in which there are introverted strangers who don’t know each other. Someone who’s able to regale the table with a mesmerising anecdote about an enigmatic busker on public transport (don’t look at Usher for this, he’s got nothing) is gold dust.

Cut crushing bores

At the same time, the line between someone who can hold the attention of the table in the palm of his or her hand and one who makes guests’ ears bleed as he bangs on about his company’s refreshing approach to OH&S, can be a fine one. But the fact is you’ve got to cut this guy–even if it is Jay-Z. Dude has to learn somehow.

Avoid lobbing a grenade onto the table

Things are going well. Your friends who don’t know each other seem to be getting along famously. You feel confident that everyone here, even John Legend, is on the same page culturally and politically, so you toss out a conversational bon mot about whether the Voice is going to get up in the referendum. Naturally all hell breaks loose. Suddenly you can see the vein on hitherto charming friend-from-soccer’s forehead as he argues with The Weeknd about constitutional law. All because you felt an urge to liven things up. Silly man.

Let people serve themselves

These are adults, right? Then let them decide what they want on their plate and what size portions. Overload Bey’s plate with cauliflower and I swear she will kick you under the table–seen it happen.

Don’t do the dishes, do help clear the table

Of course, as a guest you don’t really want to lift a finger but you were brought up the right way and manners are important. So, help clear the plates from the table but don’t start doing the washing up, you psycho. What are you going to do next, start vacuuming? The host desperately wants you to retire to the lounge room with a Cognac and a cigar. They don’t want you to roll up your sleeves like some glorified kitchen hand. Read the fucking room.

No phones, no phubbing

Bringing out a phone at the table is the height of rudeness. You think Usher lost it about the potato salad? He’s going to go nuclear if you check the group chat for an update on the Matildas’ quarter-final. Seriously, if you even glance at your phone your highly-strung host is going to worry that their dinner party is in a death spiral and could do something rash, like bring up the Voice (see above).   

Don’t show up on time

What, you think this is work? You think your punctuality is going to impress your hosts? They were banking on guests arriving at least 25 minutes past the hour at the earliest. Shit, Usher hasn’t even put the freakin’ pigs in a blanket in the oven. What were you thinking? Go grab a coffee or just loiter in an alley or something, for crissakes.

No test drives

Someone’s given you a killer beef tagine recipe? Tonight’s not the night to bring it out for the first time. Get a few runs under your belt in which you can lock down the nuances of the recipe, add more nutmeg, ease up on the harissa etc, before you debut it in a public forum. This is rocket science.

No apologies

So, you overcooked the caramelised carrots and the beef in the tagine is a touch on the tough side. Don’t draw attention to it, bozo. There is enough performative fakery going on already without people being forced to offer up insipid platitudes such as, “It’s not tough at all” or even worse, “I like my tagines on the chewy side”. Bey and Jay are going to bitch about the food on the way home, anyway, so just pretend all is well.

Nail the playlist

Without wanting to be too prescriptive (particularly if Usher’s here) you want a solid list that communicates what a hep cat you are without drawing too much attention to itself. People should find themselves nodding along and curious enough to enquire who the artist is, to which you can rattle off some Nigerian-born jazz cat and they will pretend they know who you’re talking about and everyone will retain their hard-won position at the hipper end of the social strata.

Manage your expectations

This is more for hosts. Dinner parties are inherently unpredictable, high-stress affairs that are unlikely to progress as you envision in your mind’s eye. People won’t show, some will be late, some early, you’ll mess up some dishes while nailing others and the fact is, some people just won’t have anything to say to each other–seriously, never sit me next to The Weeknd again! And that’s not your fault. Embrace the uncertainty, have a good time and finally, fuck what Usher says, if you like potato salad, chuck it on the table and dare him not to eat it.


The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White’s five strongest fits

Wow, you only need to work out twice a week to stay healthy, finds awesome study