Raising expectations of dinner guests is an important part of helping ensure they enjoy themselves in your home. Of course, expectations alone won’t bring about such a result. The proof, sticking with a food analogy, is in the pudding and all the things you serve before the pudding.

Such raised expectations are also important in emboldening yourself to prepare a good meal, similar to the way visualization is used by athletes, teachers, lawyers, surgeons, and others to perform at a higher-than-normal level when the chips are down. To excel. To do your best. And to do it with relish (not the type in the pickle section of the grocery store, unless you’re serving hot dogs—one of my personal favorites).

I was pulled into this finding of raised expectations when preparing for dinner guests. Several years ago my sister-in-law, Bobbie Manning, upon arrival at our house for a family gathering, presented me with a chef’s hat of my very own. In those days I was the family grillmeister and probably at the moment Bobbie presented my fancy chef’s hat smoke was billowing from our grill.

Over the years since, when I remember to do it, I lay out my chef’s hat in preparation for our doorbell to ring at the appointed hour. At that instant I don my chef’s hat and walk with Ellen to the door to greet our guests. When we open the door, I call out a hearty greeting with my chef’s hat prominently in place. Unfailingly, our guests have instant high expectations that they are in for a culinary experience like none other.

My hearty greeting of guests, when expectations zoom upward.

My hearty greeting of guests, when expectations zoom upward.

This was certainly true one evening when an eight-member Non-Gourmet Group met for the first time at our house to initiate a series of non-gourmet meals in our respective homes. They received the royal greeting from us with Ellen beaming at them upon arrival, while I stood there looking like a skinny version of Chef Boyardee. Unfortunately, their newly raised high expectations that evening later vanished when they bit into the main course I had labored over quite long enough in my book.

But I digress.

Guests looking up in awe at my chef's hat. L-R, Luke, Joy, & Bobbie, who gave me the chef's hat. R, Co-Executive Chef Ellen.

Guests looking up in awe at my chef’s hat. L-R, Luke, Joy, & Bobbie, who gave me the chef’s hat. R, Co-Executive Chef Ellen.

If you want to raise the expectations of your dinner guests, greet them with enthusiasm at the door while wearing a chef’s hat of your very own. They will expect the best, whether you deliver it or not. But at least it will be obvious to your guests that you have the proper credential.