If you've never provided food for this type of crowd before, be sure to keep it simple. As always, plan well ahead of time and prepare for disasters.
- Find out if any of your guests have any dietary restrictions (i.e. vegetarian, keep kosher, food allergies, etc.).
- Plan the meal with your party's budget and level of formality in mind, although you might consider the ease of casual fare. Buffets are much easier to handle than sit-down affairs.
- Choose a balance of dishes that complement one another. If your party has a particular theme, choose foods that appeal to this theme.
- Keep it simple by using some prepared foods. Even an elegant party can make use of fine cheeses, imported hams, and so on.
- Consider dishes that you can complete in advance or serve at room temperature, such as savory quiches and sweet tarts, or that you can assemble ahead of time and heat on the day of the party, such as lasagnas or stews.
- Before you complete the menu, check cooking times and see how long each dish will take to make, including preparation time. Can you physically prepare everything necessary on the day of the event, with the equipment you have. Realize that some dishes will take longer to cook when made in larger volume.
- Don't use this party to experiment - make sure you've prepared everything on your planned menu before, and know if you can easily increase the recipes in size.
- Finalize your menu at least a week in advance of the party.
- Prepare a generous timetable that maps out everything you need to do. Complete as much as possible before the day of the event: shopping, making anything that can be made ahead, and food prep (such as making garnishes or dicing vegetables that can be kept overnight).
- Ask some good friends to help in the kitchen. Cooking for 50 requires a lot of chopping, mixing and stirring, and can be a little overwhelming.
- Unless you have a clean-up staff waiting, try to clean as you cook.
- Whenever you have a break, wash dishes. It'll keep your kitchen more manageable as well as minimize the after-dinner task.
- Don't overestimate your abilities.
- It is harder to avoid burning food in large pots. Stir food regularly and turn down the heat if necessary.