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Personal Chefs in the News
Personal Chefs in the News

Cooking Pleasures Personal Best

Cooking Pleasures
October 1, 2001
by Carole Brown
Media Type

Magazine

There is one fantasy most cooks probably share - coming home to a delicious dinner that's been prepared by someone else. For some people, that dream has come true, thanks to the fast-growing field of personal chefs. A personal chef shops, cooks in your kitchen, cleans up and leaves the food in the fridge or freezer. Although they often cook sophisticated gourmet fare, their clients also request a fair share of down-home comfort food. Above all, these chefs specialize in making great do-ahead meals.

Unlike private chefs, personal chefs have many clients. And it's not only the well-heeled who hire them. Their typical clients are busy people who want good food, according to David MacKay, director of the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA), a professional membership and training organization. Many of their clients love to cook, but their work and family schedules leave them with little time in the kitchen.

What kinds of foods do personal chefs prepare? We asked three USPCA members - Eric Gordon, Diane Lestina and Becky Trowbridge - to share some of their clients' favorite dishes. These oft-requested recipes are ideal for family dinners or casual entertaining, particularly because they can all be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen until you're ready to serve them. If you can't have personal chefs come to your home to prepare a meal, at least you can enjoy their recipes.

Kitchen tips from the chefs

Between them, Eric Gordon, Diane Lestina and Becky Trowbridge have prepared more than 36,000 meals for clients. They're constantly looking for ways to work more efficiently. These are some of their favorite tips.

Nonstick cooking spray

When using sticky ingredients, such as peanut butter or honey, spray measuring cups and spoons with a thin coat of nonstick cooking spray to make cleanup easier.

Lightly coat the food processor bowl with nonstick cooking spray before adding ingredients to make them easier to remove.

To prevent a tomato dish from leaving orange stains in plastic containers, spray the container with nonstick cooking spray.

Helpful tools

Use an immersion blender to puree soup or sauce right in the cooking pot.

Use a salad spinner to rinse and dry fresh herbs. It works quickly and removes most of the moisture for easy chopping.

A flexible cutting mat is great for preparing raw meat, poultry and fish. It keeps them isolated from other foods. When you're done, set the mat aside for cleaning, and switch to another mat or cutting board to prepare other ingredients.

Cooking tips

After dredging pieces of meat in flour, toss them in a strainer over the sink to remove excess flour before sautéing. This leaves a light thin coating of flour that doesn't get cakey.

To avoid dry meat and mushy pasta, slightly undercook them in dishes prepared in advance. They will finish cooking when you reheat the dish.

For a refreshing flavor boost to a recipe that uses fresh herbs, reserve some of the herbs and add them during the last few minutes of cooking or when reheating the dish.

Freezing & Storing

All of the recipes can be assembled, cooked and then frozen for up to six months. To make certain the food keeps well during freezing and storing, follow these suggestions.

Cool or chill foods before covering and freezing them. If moisture from warm food condenses inside the container it's stored in, ice forms and makes the food watery when it thaws.

Freezer burn occurs when food is exposed to air and becomes dry. To avoid it, package food in freezer bags or containers that keep out moisture, air and odors. Another way to discourage freezer burn is to put plastic wrap directly on top of the food after filling a container. Then put on the cover. Remember to remove the plastic wrap before reheating. You can also double bag food.

Using a permanent marker, write the date and contents directly on the package or on freezer tape.

To find a personal chef in your area, contact the USPCA at (800) 995-2138 or www.hireachef.com. To learn how to become a personal chef, contact the United States Personal Chef Institute at (800) 995-2138 x 195 or www.uspci.com.
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