Chefs For Hire
Let someone else do the cooking (and shopping and cleaning and stressing)
By Dana Asher
Self-described foodies Melissa and Frank Drazka spent last Christmas Eve enjoying an intimate dinner, toasting the holiday with friends in their Purchase home. And toast they did, with caviar and Champagne, followed by a six-course tasting menu that included the Drazkas’ favorites: lobster risotto, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, rack of lamb with herbed crust, and individual chocolate soufflÃ©s.
Such a culinary feast takes plenty of work, yet Melissa barely lifted a finger. Instead, she hired Certified Personal Chef Jonathan C. Taube, owner of White Plains-based Rocky Rill Foods, to do all the work. “It was just fabulous,” she recalls. “It was like being at a four-star restaurant in your own dining room.
Melissa is on the cusp of a growing trend: hiring personal chefs for at-home festivities. Just as you may have hired a landscaper to tend to your garden and a housekeeper to tend to your home, you can hire your own chef to do the cooking at your next party. More and more families—particularly those with two wage earners—say that having a professional prepare their holiday meals and do the shopping, cook in their kitchens, and (perhaps best of all) clean up afterwards—isn’t an indulgence at all, but a necessity.
Personal chefs can whip up not only the menu you want, but agree beforehand on how much of the meal they’ll cook (which means you don’t have to sideline Grandma completely). They can handle the entire Thanksgiving dinner or just prepare side dishes in advance. They can create a smorgasbord of hors d’oeuvres for the office holiday party or plan an intimate dinner for six from soup to nuts (more likely, from butternut-squash soup with hints of green apple to pecan pie with dulce de leche ice cream).
Here, we present the answers to the most frequently asked questions about personal chefs.
What can I reasonably expect a personal chef to do for me?
Personal chefs usually offer customized menu planning, grocery shopping, in-home meal preparation, and cleanup.
What’s the difference between a personal chef and private chef?
A personal chef isn’t quite the same as a private chef, who tends to be at the daily beck and call of the rich and famous. Visiting weekly or monthly, personal chefs create several meals at once, freezing certain entrÃ©es to be reheated by the clients. When cooking for special occasions, they’ll work with you to create a custom menu and may remain at your home during the party.
How about a personal chef and a caterer?
A personal chef usually takes the time to ask about your likes and dislikes, your allergy history, and your health needs, according to Candy Wallace of the American Personal & Private Chef Association, whereas a caterer hands you a menu from which you make your selections. And a personal chef prepares the meals at your home, while a caterer cooks off-site, either delivering the food or requiring you to pick it up.
How does the process work?
If a personal chef will be making meals for you on a regular basis, he or she will meet with members of your family to find out their likes and dislikes (no need to sautÃ© the Brussels sprouts if no one will eat them), dietary requirements, and specific requests, right down to how spicy everyone likes their chili. The chef does the shopping and comes to your home to prepare the meals, and then packages and stores them for future use.
How much is this going to set me back?
Some chefs have an all-inclusive price, others charge by the meal, and still others charge for their services and separately for groceries. For some examples, see the Resource Box on the next page.
Leave the cooking to the following:
Chef Sue Fay
Your Personal Sous Chef
Party Prices: Cocktail parties—$25 to $30 per person. Holiday meals range from $45 to $150 per person, depending on number of guests and menu selection (e.g., turkey costs less than lobster tails)
Meal services throughout the year: $26 per meal
Chef Danielle Fragala
Your Culinary Experience, Inc.
Party Prices: $45 an hour plus groceries
Meal services throughout the year: one to two persons (10 meals), $285 service charge plus groceries; three to four (20 meals), $335 service charge plus groceries; five to six (30 meals), $385 service charge plus groceries
Chef Stewart Goodwin
Dinner By Design—Personal Chef Service
Party Prices: $650 for Thanksgiving meal for 10
Meal services throughout the year: $325 plus groceries for four portions of five different entrÃ©es, plus three to four side dishes
Chef Jonathan C. Taube
Rocky Rill Foods
Party Prices: $95 per hour plus groceries
Meal services throughout the year: $65 per hour plus groceries
Chef Jennifer Urda
The Runcible Spoon Personal
Party Prices: $80 an hour plus groceries
Meal services throughout the year: Starts at $475 for 20 meals