More and more, the somewhat cute and offbeat concept of Friendsgiving is leaving the television screens and social media campaigns and becoming a real thing. If your family members live far away, or the notion of an elaborate gathering is just too stressful–then a low-key gathering of like-minded friends might be just the ticket this particular season. To help get you in the holiday spirit, we turned to some very cool locals for their ultimate Friendsgiving tips.

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Ally Chen, Youtuber and influencer, on doing it right on social media:

“Don’t be afraid to host a brunch or lunch for your Friendsgiving. By hosting during the day, you will have better light for photography, plus more time to hang out with your friends after your food coma. Create a memorable video to capture the party on Snapchat or InstaStory. Interview your guests and ask them “What they are thankful for this year.” Plan ahead and create a Facebook group to organize the party, and delegate food and drink assignments to specific guests.”

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Rena Ramirez, founder of Provocateur Media, on making everyone feel comfortable:

“For additional guests coming into an already pre-formed Friendsgiving group, things can be pretty intimidating.  Running my own PR agency, I know the importance of human connection and getting people talking. First, find the person in the room with whom they might have the most in common with, introduce your guest and tell them one interesting, fun fact about them to spark conversation. It is important at dinner parties to go beyond boring ‘job talk’. Get everyone talking about interesting life experiences, for example, ‘Stephanie just got back from a trip to Taipei.’ This makes people have a better connection, form better conversations and making for an excellent gathering.”
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Blair Warsham, chef at The Bird, about on-point food:
“I may already be beating a dead horse, but—now that marijuana is legal—I recommend pot brownies as a classy, unexpected, and very California addition to the spread.  Just don’t consume three of them unknowingly like I did a few Thanksgivings ago at a friend’s place. If you are showing off, head to the Sonoma coast and free dive for uni, aka, sea urchin, in season right now. Serve uni on toast of some sort to make it palatable for all. If all else fails: go for green bean casserole. I know this is not quite what some would expect, but if you break down the flavor components, there is room for a ton of creative liberty.  I like to follow the classic French’s recipe, but try folding some wood roasted maitake mushrooms and slowly cooked button mushrooms with sage, thyme, garlic, shallots and cream into the green beans and frying your own onions with rice flour so it’s super crunchy. Friendsgiving guests should be able to handle that.”
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Ana Kamin, photographer and founder of California Weekend, on the perfect setting:

I love the idea of Friendsgiving. Since we moved from Germany to San Francisco, Thanksgiving was a whole new holiday for us.  As we don’t have family here, we started celebrating Friendsgiving. My number one tip is to keep it simple and diverse. Friendsgiving is, for me, about the people, not the food, so don’t stress about making the perfect pumpkin pie or getting the gravy silk-smooth. Make the menu a collaboration, not a one-women/man-show. Always have some appetizers or snacks ready, one thing is for sure–the dinner will never start on time. I also aim to keep the decorations simple; a bit of greenery on the table dotted with small pumpkins will give that traditional look, without overdoing it. Pop open a few bottles of wine so no one is without a drink, get your playlist going (which you have created few days in advance) and your party is set for success.”

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Jeff Anderson, Executive Chef at Safeway, on shopping without regrets:

“Plan for the ‘walk-in’ [guest/s] and stock up. Be ready for that extra friend-of-a-friend who decides to show up day-of by stocking up on the basics. Put extra flour and sugar in the pantry, grab an extra 18 count of and butter in the freezer so you can whip up any last-minute dishes. If you’re cooking for a crowd, do yourself a favor and prep items that can be made ahead of time and then freeze them until it’s go time! And finally, avoid the picky eater dilemma: For the friend who refuses to indulge in the pumpkin pie, encourage them to bring their own backup dishes.  Try sending them alternative recipe ideas like this Pumpkin Pie Dip that brings the same great flavors without the hassle of baking.”