Simon Johnson's 25th anniversary

Photography: Rob Shaw

Simon Johnson celebrates notching up 25 years of helping Australians furnish their kitchens and tables in style.

It might not surprise you to learn that Simon Johnson has seen more than his fair share of good parties. Thanks to the quarter-century he has spent as a pioneering providore, the New Zealand-born entrepreneur and former chef is a household name - in the kinds of households where Colonna oil, Forum vinegar, Valrhona chocolate and Ortiz anchovies are staples, at any rate. We thought on the occasion of this mighty milestone we'd hit him up for a few pointers on the matter of parties.

An eclectic guest list is always a winner, he says, citing the house parties thrown by Sydney art dealer Amanda Love as a favourite local example ("she keeps her food simple, serving it on a white table; everything is large, creating a sense of abundance") and he always likes a cocktail to kick things off with a bang. What's guaranteed to make Johnson's "NTRA list" (that is, never to return again) also makes plenty of sense: any lack of generosity with food or drink, or, worse, warm booze. "And one thing Australians could learn from the Europeans," he says, "is that there's nothing wrong with paying a bit more attention to the dress code."

If there's to be spectacle, it ought to be something integral to the party - someone shucking oysters on the spot, for instance. His own parties, Johnson says, are all about a few smart dishes presented en masse. "Entertaining is, in the end, simply about generosity and making your guests feel welcome and comfortable."

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