How I Gather

Bringing people together around a table is our greatest passion in life and we believe food is one of the most powerful tools for connection. In our series, How I Gather we go behind the scenes with our favorite foodies to see how they do it. See All

Dream jobs are hard to come by, but Avalon McKenzie has managed to dial hers in to a T. She’s an experienced illustrator, designer and art director who also happens to be vegan, so it’s only fitting  she was recently named Global Art Director of Whole Foods. She’s also the most demure, unassuming person — you’d never guess that her resume includes stints at Free People and Victoria’s Secret. And if all that isn’t enough, she’s drop dead gorgeous and has the most enviable understated style. We were over the moon when Avalon invited us to her place to show us how she likes to entertain at home. Like everything she does, it was fresh, chic and seemingly effortless.

Wow, we love your home. Tell us about how you found it:

A good friend sent me the listing for our house. I was casually considering buying at the time. The previous owners, who updated the home, had similar taste, and I love Hyde Park, so I went for it.

Your go-to source for recipes:

I have a growing collection of cookbooks, and a Pinterest board where I collect things I want to try. I use Alice Waters books and The Kitchn as references, when I need to learn the basics of something. I try to buy produce in-season, so I usually buy what looks most fresh and then come home and figure things out from there.

Your perfect dinner party playlist:

Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac, Madeline Peyroux, The Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg, and maybe a ‘90s hit or two.

Current favorite color palette for parties:

I tend to buy neutral items, because my style changes often, and I know I’ll never dislike white or cream. I also like to have a blank canvas for the food to pop. But besides tableware, I love vintage patterned tablecloths, especially when they’re well-loved and faded a bit.

Something that scares you about entertaining:

Prepping ahead and making sure that things are timed well, so that I can spend time with my guests!

The one entertaining rule you never break:

I think it’s important to set the table. I really like to find nice, linen napkins too. I often buy them (and other kitchen goods) when I travel because I cook a lot and I like to be surrounded by memories. I usually opt for an eclectic, casual look over everything matching, but I like the ritual, and showing guests that they are special to me. I’m a crafter at heart, and a calligrapher, so I’ll throw a quick place card together too, if it’s a special occasion.

Favorite tabletop item you own:

I collect Heath, and my favorite piece is their shallow salad bowl. It makes any dish look lovely and appetizing.

Your must-have entertaining tool:

A sharp chef’s knife. The one I use most now is a Santoku knife that I found in Paris. I stumbled into a pop-up shop with the most incredible Japanese home goods. In that moment, I knew I had to check my carry-on bag to get this knife home.

Always in your refrigerator:

Besides fresh fruit and veggies, almondmilk, Chameleon Cold Brew, GT’s Kombucha (trilogy flavor), fancy Dijon mustard, every kind of jam, Whole Foods maple syrup, frozen fruit for smoothies and all the hot sauce!

Family traditions you like to carry on:

My mom and sister own two stores in Llano—Texana and Luna Blue, and they’re merchandising masters. I think my mom has taught my sisters and I the power of presentation. My mom was also a really healthy cook growing up. She never spared any expense to buy the freshest ingredients, so I’ve tried to keep that up too.

Your signature cocktail or other drink:

I wish I were more exciting! Red wine—I still haven’t really entered cocktail world. I always lean towards lighter French wine—Beaujolais, Burgundy pinot noir.

Your biggest pet peeve for guest behavior:

I don’t think I have any pet peeves, unless it’s just blatant poor manners. I’m pretty laid back. As long as everyone comes over and has fun, I’m a happy camper.

Your go-to centerpiece solution:

I love getting flowers that dry well. I keep them around the house, so it’s a good sub for fresh flowers, but when in season, peonies, rananculus and poppies are my absolute favorites.

Your standard host outfit:

I’m a jeans girl. Right now, I love Kamm pants and vintage Levi’s. I have a few Doen blouses I really love. Otherwise it’s something vintage. Half of my wardrobe is secondhand. I also like playing with colorful lipsticks. My favorite is Rodin in “Winks.”

Dream dinner guests:

Barack and Michelle Obama. Hands down. Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Michael Pollen and Dorie Greenspan are up there too. I’d be terrified to cook for any of them, so I’d probably make something really simple.

Secret to a great dinner party:

Full wine glasses, too much food and some good conversation topics. I’m of the mindset that religion and politics are fair game most of the time, too.

Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Effortless with the best ingredients (or at least that’s what I aspire to!)

Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”


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Dagny Piasecki