Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cooking Spree

I have been reading about an occupation, that of personal chef. Personal chefs take on clients and cook meals for them, usually a week's worth at a time. Typically, they cook in the client's home and prepare five meals in several hours and then store the food in the fridge or freezer, leaving instructions for reheating.

I thought I'd give it a shot in my own kitchen to see what it feels like to cook for a week in one day. It's a short week because of the holiday, so I chose a menu for four days using recipes from a favorite cookbook. I bought groceries based on the recipes, and spent about $140.

I began cooking at 10:30 in the morning, and I finished sometime around 2:30, allowing time to eat a quick sandwich and take a ten-minute break for a glass of water and a small piece of a Scharffen Berger nibby bar. I just had to mention that because they are so irresistible, and Small Town's grocery store has just started selling them. Here is what I cooked:

Meal 1: Grilled T-bone steaks with a fresh tomato salsa. Side dish—grilled asparagus with a red wine vinegar and honey aoli

Meal 2: Chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and basil. Side dish—fresh vegetable succotash

Meal 3: Salmon baked with rice and leeks in puff pastry and drizzled with a creamy tarragon sauce. Side dish—green salad (to be prepared later)

Meal 4: Roasted pork tenderloin with a port wine and cherry sauce. Side dish—potato, leek, and Gruyere gratin.

While the process all went smoothly without any major glitches, I did run into a few problems to consider the next time I do this. First, the grocery store was out of limes that I needed for the fresh salsa, but I hadn't allowed time to go to another store. I could have fit that in, but I cheated and used bottled juice instead. That's never a fair substitute. I also neglected to read through every recipe before starting, so I didn't realize the red onions for the salsa needed to soak in cold water for three hours. That pushed back the salsa until the end of the cooking time. Had I known about the onions before hand, I would have had them soaking while I was working on the pork and potatoes, the two things that took the most time.

And then there was the creme fraîche, which is nearly impossible to find in the middle of Ohio. I have always substituted sour cream for it in other recipes, but the cookbook I was using provided instructions for making my own—you heat heavy cream to 85 degrees and stir in a little butter milk. Then you let the mixture sit out on the kitchen counter for a day or so until it becomes creme fraîche. So, that's sitting out and will later be used to make the tarragon sauce.

Now, I've got it all stacked up in the fridge to be reheated day by day. We'll see how that goes. Not everything reheats well, so I tried to choose things I thought would work.

I beg you to answer the poll in the sidebar and tell me if you would consider hiring a personal chef. If you think $15 is steep for a meal with groceries, shopping, cooking, and cleanup included, what would you be willing to pay?


dive said...

Hail to the chef!
All that sounds very yummy, Robyn, but …
(a) Doing that as an experiment sounds like fun but HAVING to do it when you're not in the mood and your client is an asshat and their kitchen is a dump might be a different matter, and
(b) What in the world is a Scharffen nibby bar?

I'm afraid I love cooking far too much to want a personal chef.
A personal washer-upper, however, would be a different prospect.

RoverHaus said...

Well, yeah!!!! If the meals are what you're talking about.

Tuna sandwiches, the way I make them, won't ever get $15. I think it's a great value!

Shazza said...

Wow! Sounds delicious!

You Dad who is a recent widow hates to cook for himself so he buys a meal package from a local restaurant. Same principal I suppose. I think for people who don't have time or don't like to cook may buy into this. I would actually pay a service like this for him to try out.

Mrs. G. said...

I would hire you yesterday.

Alifan said...

Well done Robyn, but heed Dives words, I have been there done that, and it is very very time consuming.. but then you have such great talent you can turn your hand to anything...whatever floats your boat as they say here..!!!!!

Rich said...

If you were the chef, Robyn, I would hire you for sure. What a menu!!

I do this a lot on sundays as I am the cook in my house so I try to prepare meals for the week ahead of time. I'm cooking for only three now though.