David Burtka on How to Plan a Derby de Mayo Party, Entertaining With Neil Patrick Harris

David Burtka On Entertaining With Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. Larry Busacca/VF15/Getty Images

David Burtka is ready to celebrate! The actor, who is fresh off the debut of his first cookbook, Life Is a Party, which also includes entertaining tips, is in the midst of preparing for one epic Cinco de Derby party. The holiday celebrates both the Kentucky Derby, which falls on Saturday, May 4, and Cinco de Mayo the following day.

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While some might be intimidated by setting the stage for a joint holiday bash, Burtka, 43, welcomes the challenge. “We’re going to take classic Mexican food and classic Derby food and do a mash up on that,” he exclusively tells Us Weekly. “We’re going to do pimento cheese with corn chips or fried tortillas. We’re going to have barbecue pork tacos instead of barbecue pork sliders.”

The How I Met Your Mother alum calls pimento cheese a “very classic Derby dish,” but he’s eager to put a Cinco de Mayo spin on it. “They eat pimento cheese like crazy in Kentucky,” he says. “Instead of using salsa or guacamole for chips, we’re going to use pimento cheese for the corn chips.”

Burtka wants the melding of both holidays to come through in the presentation as well. “I’ll probably put [the dip] in a Mexican dish and take some horseshoes and spray them with gold and put that around so it’s sort of a combination between the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo,” he tells Us.

David Burtka On Entertaining With Neil Patrick Harris
‘Life Is a Party: Deliciously Doable Recipes to Make Every Day a Celebration’ by David Burtka Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

And the food isn’t the only thing that will be getting the mashup treatment at Burtka’s Cinco de Derby soiree. “We’re also going to do a mint julep margarita,” he adds. “We’ll do a basic mint julep, but instead of using bourbon, we’re going to be using tequila.”

Even though Burtka is a professional chef, he insists that party planning and entertaining is a family affair. “It’s a group effort,” he explains, noting that his husband, Neil Patrick Harris, mans the bar while he holds down the fort in the kitchen. “He does the wine. He does the cocktails. He learns how to work with every single spirit,” Burtka says of the Gone Girl star, 45. “He’s the sommelier of the house and I’m the chef.”

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The couple’s children – twins Gideon and Harper, 8 – also get in on the fun. “My daughter really gets into the decorating of parties and flowers and they both love to cook. They love to be in the kitchen with me,” Burtka says, noting that son Gideon has a special fondness for keeping time. “They love trying out new things. I throw them jobs all the time.”

Family involvement, especially in the kitchen, is part of what inspired the title for Life Is a Party. “With my kids and my husband, we just live life laughing and having fun and celebrating and eating great food and going out on adventures,” Burtka says. “We don’t sweat the small stuff.”

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Check out David Burtka’s Cinco de Derby dip recipe below!

Pimento Cheese Dip

Makes 1 batch

• 4 oz cream cheese
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 3 oz smoked gouda, shredded
• 2 tsps Dijon mustard
• 2 tsps Worcestershire sauce
• 8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
• 1 4-oz jar pimiento peppers, drained and chopped
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
• 1 package tortilla chips, for serving


  1. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, smoked gouda, Dijon and Worcestershire sauce and process on high until mixture forms a paste.
  2. Transfer to a medium bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  3. Stir well until fully combined, then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and serve with tortilla chips.

With reporting by Marc Lupo

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