Take a cue from the past when working with a private chef. It will nourish you and make your dinner parties the talk of the town.
“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”
It may seem like a luxury, but really, it’s not.
It may happen in the middle of planning your next dinner party. You find yourself drifting off into an alternative universe, one where you are living like a modern-day version of Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey. You’re barely aware of the lavish dinner preparations at hand, and not a bit worried. Your team of professionals are preparing a menu that you tasted and approved a month ago. Instead, you are the consummate hostess, greeting your guests as they assemble in the “drawing-room,” gentlemen arriving in dress suits, escorting ladies in beautiful dresses. And when it’s time, you announce that dinner is served and lead your guests to a perfectly-set table with complete confidence and grace.
Or, perhaps your fantasy is about waking up on a late summer morning, intent on making fresh eggplant salad for your brood. The sun shines brightly as you admire your lush kitchen garden. You pick gorgeous, fresh basil and a perfectly ripe eggplant, and some oh-so-green lettuce, from your perfectly composed dirt. Produce in hand, you feel a bit like the Hamptons’ goddess herself, Ina Garten, effortlessly preparing lunch for her husband Jeffrey.
But reality bites – whether it’s that empty space where your perfect kitchen garden should go, or its remembrances of your last dinner party, the one where you were still making the sauce and applying a last coat of nail polish when one of your guests inevitably arrived on time.
And it’s then that you decide. It’s time to hire a private chef. And you should. It is totally worth it.
Why be in it alone?
The food options at our fingertips in Chicago are endless, feeding our appetites both healthy and not. But you can only go out to eat so often, or order so much take out – really, with all the waste “to go” creates, its’ enough already. In 2018, like in the days’ of yore, in order to keep a proper kitchen, and consistently prepare, nourishing and exciting meals for yourself, your family and friends – you need help.
Today, eating is still very much about culinary indulgence, and the kind of happiness that comes from having a great meal and good conversation with family and friends. And yet, these days, it’s also about food values and wellness. Thank goodness.
So with higher expectations for ourselves, and less time to execute, it is not at all surprising that more people today are choosing to bring the best of the restaurant, and sometimes the chefs’ themselves home with them – by hiring a private chef.
Today’s private chefs are artists, experts in all types of cuisine, and in many cases, also skilled in floral and table design. They have studied at the best culinary institutions, understand nutrition and farming, and know where to purchase the most ethically sourced meats and local produce. These modern day godfreys, can make your dinner party the talk of the town and also strictly facilitate your food goals.
Here are few things to consider when finding and working with a private chef.
It’s not just about the food, it’s chemistry.
The key of course, is finding the right person. Just as the food should match your preferences, the chef should be a good match for your personality. He or she should also be private and discreet. Unlike a personal chef, who will have multiple clients, a private chef is going to be up close and personal with your family and friends—and in many cases living and traveling with you. They will be front and center to both your whims, as well as those little personality quirks that make family dinners so fun. So spend time together first. Try out a few meals, and like with anything, iron out your expectations. At best, these relationships should be a collaboration, and the process consultative.
Mindful eating, aka food values
You want a food partner, one that understands, not only your style, and what you’re looking to achieve, but someone who will help facilitate your expectations when you’re there and when you are not. A private chef is responsible, not only with preparing your meals, but for costing ingredients, sourcing product, and planning menus tailored to your wants and needs. For many in 2018, being conscious and aware of where food comes from, whether it has been sustainably and ethically sourced, is of utmost importance. Also, for many, the same goes for having a deep understanding of how what you eat affects your health and wellness. You want someone, who not only shares your values, but someone that you can trust to facilitate. You don’t want to worry about where your vegetables are coming from.
Consider a kitchen garden.
Creating a beautifully maintained kitchen garden, one where you can select herbs, vegetables, and fruit for each meal is the ultimate luxury. City life is no excuse for not maintaining one. In Chicago, we are known for our rooftop gardens and have led the way among many big cities in cultivating this new trend, and the positive impact they can have on our environment. Fresh food also makes us happy, boosts our energy, and gives us an edge. We know this. However, when life becomes busy we tend to neglect these basics. Think about growing all the staple items, like herbs, onions, shallots, tomatoes, eggplant, and other crops that see a lot of daily use, or even some harder to find items like lemongrass, alfalfa sprouts, root vegetables, and maybe some artichokes.
DID YOU KNOW? For every kilogram of vegetables grown in your own dense garden, you are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms, compared with buying in the store.
So, now that you are nourished…entertain and travel
The happiness that comes from bringing friends together for a meal can not be overstated. Why not indulge them? One of the key benefits of hiring a private chef is that you will have a partner when entertaining, whether its for an elegant tasting menu, an intimate gathering, or a traditional dinner party. While served at home, the service and quality will reflect the best of the restaurant feel with the irreplaceable feeling of home. And then when you do leave home, whether it be for a weekend getaway to the mountains or for a month-long trip to the summer beach house, they can come with you.
Creativity…because everything should be as beautiful as the food
Finding a chef that is also your creative partner, is a winning combination. All those ideas you have, like buying spices in bulk at Whole Foods to create your own custom mixes or infused oils, canning your favorite soups and sauces, made using vegetables from your new kitchen garden, harvested in the summer, to enjoy during the endless winter- you can do it together. Create custom gift baskets reflecting your own seasonal esthetic for your friends and family at the holidays or for birthdays. Or consider creating a bespoke cookbook, one that chronicles family favorites, along with new recipes and menus, that can be passed along generation to generation. In addition to projects, your private chef can teach you untraditional cooking methods, like live-fire cooking, using a smoker or a wood-burning pizza oven, or maybe if you are feeling crazy, even sous-vide cooking.
The possibilities are endless.