Leslie Byars Register, former Senior Photo Stylist for Southern Living Magazine, is the brilliant author, cook, photographer and stylist of the page turning cookbook "Leslie's Party Diaries." Her cookbook is a revelation of a variety of exciting parties, pretty decorations and delicious food. Leslie not only knows how to throw a fabulous party, but she looks stunning while she is doing it! I hope you enjoy what she shares in her interview as much as I did:
First of all, Sarah Jane, thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. I am honored to be here. I admire all of your beautiful creations—you are such a talented artist.
SJ: Leslie, your Dear Party Diary mini magazine (blog) and cookbook are fantastic, and both have become quite a hit. Congratulations on all of your success! Can you please tell us where you came up with the name and concept of your cookbook?
I decided on Leslie’s Party Diaries for the title of my book because I wanted the party tips, recipes, and themed party ideas to feel as if you were peeking into my personal “party” diary—my secrets for entertaining. The whole concept was to give EVERYONE confidence to entertain. My blog title, Dear Party Diary, was the idea of my site designer, Frances Conner. I loved the sound of it, so we ran with it.
SJ: You have so many wonderful recipes and ideas about how to entertain in your cookbook. What I think is extra special about your cookbook is that you also did all of the photography and staging. You are quite a talent! What are a few of your top tips for entertaining when it comes to selecting what to serve guests and setting a fun table? What is your favorite type of party to host?
I’ve worked on a lot of different cookbooks while I was on staff at Southern Living and freelancing at Oxmoor House Publishing—but as the prop stylist only. For Leslie’s Party Diaries I was the stylist, cook, writer, and photographer. It’s a whole new ballgame when you try to do it all by yourself. I still can’t believe I finished! I made a schedule out each week with the recipes I wanted to photograph and stuck to it. It took about a year to do all 85 recipes and the extras in the book.
My biggest tip is to plan ahead. Do all your prep work in advance. Have your outfit ready. And, always schedule a blowout the day of the party. It’s one less thing to worry about. But mostly, allow a few minutes before the guests arrive to enjoy your clean, “party ready” house.
My favorite types of parties are theme parties. I like to search high and low for authentic touches to make them all unique. It’s exciting to get a pile of party provisions going. For instance, in June I threw a Moroccan party for my daughter’s 18th birthday. I gathered items from all over my house, cut the flowers from a neighbor’s yard (with her permission!), and even made a coffee table from wooden palettes from a discard pile. I moved all the outdoor porch furniture to the middle of the backyard to make a cozy, Moroccan outdoor living room—which in turn freed up the covered porch for dining. Don’t be afraid to redecorate for one night. Oh, and the most important part of planning an outdoor party is to have a rain date!
SJ: A big reason that I asked to interview you is because of your personal sense of style. I can’t help but notice that you love color! You entertain A LOT; what goes through your mind in regards to dressing for an event you are hosting?
When dressing for a party, “comfy cooking clothing” is key. Avoid bell sleeves and uncomfortable shoes. I love bracelets, but if my menu has several stovetop recipes, such as a risotto, I limit them because they are little heat conductors—they get hot! And, never EVER do dishes in suede shoes!
SJ: What are your thoughts about what kind of jewelry to wear when you host a party? What kinds of jewelry pieces do you feel great in?
I like to wear a statement necklace or festive earrings—basically, look like the host. If I win the lottery, please ask this question again. But, until then I am a fan of designer fashion jewelry. I got my first Hermes H bracelet from my mother on my 30th birthday in 1994. Since then their price has tripled. I have several and always feel good in them.
SJ: In regards to fashion, what is your motto? Who are your favorite designers, and can you tell us why? Where do you like to shop? Do you ever buy your clothes or jewelry online?
Hmmm…my style motto? “Be a leader, not a follower.” I like to search for a unique piece, or outfit that sets me apart from the crowd.
I’ve been collecting Louis Vuitton monogram shawls for years. They dress up any outfit. Handbags…my weakness. Givenchy, Chloe, Cult Gaia, and Balenciaga. The key element: lightweight and functional. I have a lot of cross body bags—I love hands-free shopping and cocktailing.
My favorite most recent purchase was on a girls trip in New York City last Christmas. We didn’t have time to go back to the hotel before dinner, so we shopped until our dinner reservation. I bought a necklace in Celine with a gold letter “L”. I get a comment or compliment on it every time I wear it. I also think it helps new acquaintances remember my name.
Let’s discuss ONLINE SHOPPING. Yes, I love it. I call it “secret shopping” or “nightgown shopping.” No one has to know and you don’t even have to get dressed! My husband, Jon, says I’m a professional. I don’t have time to drive around all day looking, and the options are wide open when you go online. Guilty!
My favorite designers for clothing at the current moment are Tibi, Mother, Halston Heritage, Veronica Beard, Wilt, and Ulla Johnson. I need and wear basics most of the time, but I have to have a few unique pieces to add to the mix. I’ve always loved the Pucci prints. I have several dresses, which I purchased mostly off eBay or when they go on sale. I’m intrigued with Libertine, but do not own any pieces yet. When choosing what to wear on the cover of my book, I knew I needed something extra special and timeless. I saw the Mary Katrantzou dress in Elle Décor magazine and tracked it down. The colorful inserts are amazing. I’ve gotten my money’s worth—not only is it on the back cover of my book but I’ve worn it to about ten parties. And the icing on the cake—it’s so comfortable!
For shoes, I do love Prada. I have a narrow foot and they just work. I don’t buy many shoes a season, but the ones I do, I could walk in for miles. Life is too short for uncomfortable, unstylish shoes!
SJ: You are obviously creative by nature, but is there anyone in particular that inspires the way you dress and/or influences your work?
My style icon is no doubt Audrey Hepburn. One of my favorite movies is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I love her zest for life as Holly Golightly in that movie. Fun fact, I have one of the first printed editions of Truman Capote’s book, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I bought it in a bookstore when I was in L.A. If you look closely you will see it on the cover of my cookbook!
If I had to describe my style it would be “designer bohemian.” I love that million dollar casual look!
SJ: Anything new on the horizon that we should know about?
Actually, yes! I am starting a party consulting business, where I go into someone’s home and we map out their entire event from invite to bar placement etc. I do not cater, but I’m the idea person. I’ll give sources and other info. I’m going to my first client next week.
You can follow Leslie:
Blog/Mini Magazine: dearpartydiary.com
How many thousands of tennis bracelets have been lost since tennis phenom, Chris Evert Lloyd lost hers during a match at the U.S. Open in the 1970's? Read why your best diamond bracelet option is Seneca Jewelry's diamond Jubilee Talis Cuff.