NOTE: Chef David Paquet and Chef Terry Henderson are no longer members of The Chef Alliance and we cannot vouch for the service provided or that they have liability insurance to protect clients.
You’d never know that guests are scheduled to arrive in an hour for a dinner party. The hostess, Rachael, is putting the finishing touches on her make-up while host James is still in the shower. Where’s the last-minute rush, the scramble to set the table, the worrisome doubts that the hors d’oeuvres won’t be ready on time? This couple is way too relaxed to be entertaining in style shortly. How did they do it? They didn’t do it. It’s the newest and trendiest way for busy couples to enjoy the pleasure of meals cooked at home and shared with friends, without giving up a precious Saturday. They’ve hired a personal chef.
James and Rachael are representative of today’s professionals. James’ job as head of IT for an aeronautical firm is exciting and challenging but all consuming. Rachael is a registered massage therapist with her own clientele, and while she loves her work, it’s notoriously physically draining. So, when weekends arrive neither of them is interested in the effort needed to plan, execute and clean up after a dinner party.
But here’s the contradiction. Both were raised in traditional families who celebrated food. Their ingrained idea of entertaining is not about a restaurant meal, but about friends around the dining room table sharing good food. “I remember the dinner parties my Mom used to give. She was famous for them, and she would cook for days. Her table was set with fine china, flowers, silver and candles. Those were magical nights, with great conversation and an intimate style. I want the same experience with my friends but it’s out of the question with our lifestyle.
These culinary pros will do your grocery shopping, cook your food, set a fabulous table, serve the meal and leave the delectable leftovers in your fridge. They even clean up the kitchen before they leave. Now that’s trouble-free entertaining.
Over the past few years there’s been a boom in the personal chef market. Five years ago, there were about 10 personal chefs across the country. Now, the Canadian Personal Chef Alliance (CPCA), founded by Chef Terry Henderson in 2001, has ballooned to 150 members. The CPCA website is a good place to look for a chef for that special dinner party. There are listings for chefs and their contact information from all across Canada.
Although the Personal Chef they used is listed on the website, James and Rachael got their chef for hire through word of mouth. Laura McCain, of Creekside Winery in Jordan, frequently used David Paquet for special functions at the winery. She knew he made house calls, and that he was not only an excellent chef but also an engaging personality. She passed on his name to James, and the process of hiring the in-house chef began.
The first step was for David to come to their home for an on-site inspection. “It is essential that I know what kind of space I am dealing with.” Says David. “I can cope with anything from a galley kitchen to a barbecue on the deck, but I have to know in advance how to design the meal and what extra equipment I have to bring with me. “ He brings all his own cooking utensils, including knives, because it’s easier that rummaging around in unfamiliar cupboards to find things. Part of the initial interview process is getting to know each other’s entertaining style. A personal chef has to be able to match the party personality of the client. “I’ve worked for people who wanted a chef who was virtually invisible, as well as those who wanted me to be part of the entertainment. It all depends on the mood that the client wants to have for the dinner party.
James and Rachael wanted an informal and friendly party, and on the night of the dinner David was kept busy, not just cooking but telling stories and sharing cooking tips. He was a fundamental part of the ambience. The menu was decided in advance, with input from David combined with the client’s food preferences. The menu the eventually agreed on began with Tuscan Goat Cheese Crostini with Tomato Bruchetta, followed by a main course of Paella Valencia, a gorgeous layering of saffron infused Arborio rice with chicken, smoked sausage, shrimp, mussels, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts.
Then there was an exquisite salad of radicchio, pear, endive and radicchio with lemon and olive oil, toasted walnuts and Stilton cheese, to wake up the palate. The dessert course was individual lemon mouse cheesecakes with fresh berries.
David shopped for all the ingredients. He has sourced out great suppliers for the freshest of ingredients – from the local organic farmer to Quebec producers of artisan cheeses and even foie gras. He can supply wait staff, a sommelier, or a bartender. If the client needs china or silver, more chairs, linens or a fabulous centerpiece, David can arrange it.
While the dinner was not inexpensive, it wasn’t exorbitant. The price varies enormously depending on the menu, the number of people being served, and the personnel and equipment that needs to be provided. You can design an evening to fit your pocketbook. And, according to James, it’s worth every cent. "The best thing is, all my friends enjoyed themselves, and Rachael and I had a great time too. At the end of the night, we sat back with a cup of coffee and a brandy, and surveyed a perfectly tidy kitchen. Better yet, there were leftovers for lunch the next day."
If you’re considering a personal chef for your next party, start by consulting [The Chef Alliance}. It’s important that you find someone whose personality fits with your style of entertaining. But once you’ve found that special chef, sit back and relax. There’s someone in the kitchen, and it isn’t you.
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NOTE: MEMBERS OF THE CHEF ALLIANCE ARE COVERED BY LIABILITY INSURANCE, WHICH IS INCLUDED IN THEIR MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS.
BACKGROUND: The Chef Alliance is a membership organisation for Personal Chefs, Private Chefs, Chefs and Caterers, Artisan and Cottage Industry food producers and bakers, Home Cooks, Culinary Instructors, Food Stylists, Chef Instructors and other foodservice professionals across Canada. We support our members in growing strong, successful businesses, through mentorship, peer support, marketing, business savings and liability insurance. We have member Chefs in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Burlington, Montreal, Quebec City, Vaughan, Markham, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax... and many other towns and cities in Canada.
DISCLAIMER: INFORMATION PROVIDED MAY BE INCOMPLETE. THIS ARTICLE SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL, LEGAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE. EACH BUSINESS SITUATION IS UNIQUE AND THE ADVICE PROVIDED IS INTENDED TO BE GENERAL. PLEASE CONTACT A LEGAL OR FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL FOR ADVICE THAT IS BEST SUITED FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF YOUR LOCAL/REGIONAL GOVERNMENT LAWS AND BY-LAWS.