People often tell me: we love what you do; such a wonderful service, we wish we could afford it. In most cases they don’t realize that they actually can afford the service.
When I cook a week’s or two week’s worth of meals for my client, I work all day in their kitchen, so they have to pay me for a whole day of work; and I buy tons of groceries to put all these meals together. The total price looks big. But when you consider the amounts of food that you get as a result, the price per meal is actually lower than when you dine in a mid-range restaurant.
Today’s package was a “4×6″: 4 main dishes, with sides, 6 servings each, and a pot of soup. 24 complete dinners.
Wild mushroom and barley soup
Steelhead trout fillet, dill sauce
Roasted duck legs with rosemary and orange
Fillet mignon, creamy mushroom sauce
Caribbean pulled pork
Roasted potato “fries”
Garlic and lemon green beans
Mixed root vegetables, honey-orange glaze
My fee for this service is $325. The cost of the groceries today was $149.24. The total bill was $474.24, or $19.76 per dinner. Less then for a decent burger and fries in a restaurant.
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Location:Mill Valley, CA
I get to go to all the parties, and I get paid for this!
The regular personal chef service, cooking weekly family meals, is a lonely job. After interviewing the client about their dietary needs and preferences, I sometimes work for them for months without meeting them. The main reason why they need a personal chef is that they are busy people, right? So when I come with my culinary mission, they are rarely home, and when they are, they are busy in the home office or taking care of the kids, and don’t have time to stop in the kitchen and chat with the chef. It’s fine with me: I love my independence, peace and quiet, and being in full control of the kitchen.
But we all need some social moments, and for me cooking for home dinner parties and conducting interactive dinners and private cooking classes means exactly that. Meeting fellow humans, in their best, relaxed and happy form.
Most modern houses and apartments, fortunately, have open kitchens, so I get to enjoy the party and interact with the guests, share recipes and cooking tips and do a little tasting, while I prepare a special dinner for them.
Also, dinner parties give me an opportunity to practice nice food presentation, while in the regular meal service the presentation options are limited by storage requirements. A meal vacuum-packaged in a rectangular Pyrex dish for storage in the freezer can look beautiful, but I challenge you to make it look striking.
Pictured here is daikon and zucchini salad with lemon dressing that I made for a dinner party for a small San Francisco social media start-up today. This salad is very light and refreshing. It’s also low on calories, vegan, raw, and gluten-free, so everyone, no matter what their diet is, can enjoy it. The choice of a sharper or a fruitier olive oil for the dressing can take it in different directions.
Daikon and Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon Dressing
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 shallot, minced
1 cup olive oil
1 large daikon (Japanese radish), peeled
3 very fresh and tender zucchini
6 large basil leaves
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Make the dressing: cover minced shallot with lemon juice, let sit for a few minutes. Add olive oil and whisk together.
Using vegetable peeler, shave daikon and zucchinis into paper-thin ribbons. Arrange on six salad plates. Rub basil leaves gently with olive oil to prevent darkening from contact with air. Roll the leaves together, and slice them very thin. Unroll the basil – you’ll have very thin basil ribbons. Scatter grated lemon zest and basil ribbons on top of the salad. Pour dressing over salad. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Another raw treat for the same party – raw berry crisp, slightly modified from the recipe on Whole Foods website.
Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries; blue agave and maple syrup, date-pecan-almond topping.
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Cooking and eating are the activities that naturally connect us with the seasons. Living in coastal California, I sometimes cannot tell what time of the year it is by just walking outside. It can be hot and sunny in the middle of January, and our summer fog and wind will easily trick you into reaching for your ski outfit.
But fruits and vegetables don’t grow and ripen in one day, their life cycles depend on the average temperatures, the length of the day, and rainfall, so they can tell you the time of the year for sure.
As a personal chef, I am not bound by a printed menu, so I can select whatever is the best on the market every day. And the best is usually what’s in season right now. I don’t have to buy cardboard winter tomatoes, ever. And if I happen to find a beautiful basket of figs, a handful of young fava beans, a rare boletus mushroom, or tender cute minu-squashes, anything with short season that’s good right now, I’d get it right away, and my clients would appreciate it.
Winter: the start of the year is the time of root vegetables, sturdy greens, cabbages, citrus fruits, pomegranates, and delicious wild mushrooms. It calls for slow cooked comfort foods. It’s also the sardines and Dungeness crab season.
Favorite vegetable: Brussels sprouts
Favorite meat: braised lamb shanks
Favorite seafood: broiled sardines
Favorite fruit: blood orange
Spring is probably the most exciting time at the market. The endless root vegetables of the winter give way to crisp young greens and fresh asparagus, artichokes, spring onions, young garlic, green peas and fava beans.
Favorite vegetable: fava beans
Favorite meat: rabbit mixed grill
Favorite seafood: smoked halibut
Favorite fruit: strawberries
I don’t have to advertise the summer. We all look forward to the grilling season, the heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, summer squashes of all colors and shapes, tender corn, and or course beautiful summer fruits.
Favorite vegetable: Cherokee purple tomato
Favorite meat: grilled tri-tip steak with chmichurri sauce
Favorite seafood: grilled California spot prawns
Favorite fruit: fig
I love California fall! The weather is usually the best of the year, most of the summer produce continues till the winter storms, so you still get your heirloom tomatoes and peppers, but the fall adds to them the wealth of grapes and fruits, winter squashes, new wine releases, and the beginning of the oyster season.
Favorite vegetable: kabocha squash
Favorite meat: duck leg confit
Favorite seafood: oysters with mignonette sauce
Favorite fruit: Fuyu persimmons
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It’s so easy to get into a routine and keep cooking the same dishes for yourself and your family over and over again. In my previous life as a corporate employee, I remember a whole summer when I ate salad nicoise almost every night, just because it’s good enough, and after a whole day at work it was hard to invent something new, just for myself.
It is different when someone asks you to come up with a new or modified recipe for a special diet or a particular taste. Then you have an excuse to turn your home cooking into a recipe development session, trying out various combinations and adjusting ingredients in order to make the new recipe work. This way you eat something new and exciting every day.
I’ve been developing and testing recipes for gluten-free and dairy-free dishes, low-calorie and even fat-free versions of classic dishes, filling and delicious vegetarian meals, making adjustments in traditional recipes for my client’s tastes or dietary requirements, like brown rice paella or chicken cacciatore made with ghee instead of oil and butter, mushroom and rice soup, not to mention low-calorie Mediterranean dishes made without onions and celery for my client who loves Mediterranean but hates onions and celery.
Whatever new seasonal ingredient is on the market, I get to play with it. Sunchokes, blood oranges, Thai snapper, persian cucumbers, fingerling potatoes, duck eggs, venison – I get to taste them all, and then I have a pleasure of introducing them to other peoples tables.
Caliblini Personal Chef Service is #3 top-rated San Francisco area personal chef at Thumbtack.com!
The #1 is Chef Lisa, a San Rafael chef too – I’m proud that Marin County is such a foodie place.
Chefs, San Francisco
Chefs – San Francisco
I am the bearer of ground meat, the source of chicken trimmings, and the creator of these wonderful aromas. Even those cats and dogs who eat commercial pet food every day, appreciate some ground lamb as a treat once in a while.
The furries come out to greet me and check out the groceries, then they sit and wait for me to drop something delicious, either purposely for them, or as an accident. Then they help to clean up.