My day as a personal chef begins promptly at 8am this Tuesday, when the doors of Whole Foods swing open.
There is already a congregation of personal chefs at the San Francisco Franklin Street Whole Foods. You can spot them by the focused shopping sprint they are on and the fresh ingredients in their cart.
Today, I am shopping for two weekly clients. First, I'll be preparing four entrees for a busy professional couple. Then, later this afternoon, I am cooking for a family of four. It takes 60 minutes to shop for both clients. The cart is overflowing but meticulously organized, and it takes me 15 minutes to go through checkout because I am buying enough ingredients for eight meals.
I get to my first clients house and let myself in with a key. The kitchen is small, so I take out their largest mixing bowl and unpack all the vegetables into it. I take out the cutting board, my knife, the olive oil and the salt while NPR plays in the background.
On The Menu
- Rice Noodle Salad with Lemongrass Chicken & Thai basil
- Indian Lamb Curry
- Polenta with Mushroom Ragu
- Wild Salmon with Lemon & Chives with Black Rice & Shitake Mushroom Pilaf
These are four dinners with enough for leftovers, which the clients like to take to work for lunch the next day. I will prepare everything in under eight hours.
I begin by marinating the chicken in lemongrass and fish sauce. I continue by searing three pounds of lamb cubes, chopping onions, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, and assembling curry spices. Meanwhile, I begin cooking the black rice, soaking the rice noodles, and warming up broth for the polenta.
I am using all four burners and all the counter space that I have. Despite all this, I am calm, focused, and in a zone.
There are mushrooms, shallots, cucumbers, and herbs to dice. Carrots to shred. I use fish sauce and lime juice to create a vinaigrette for the rice noodles. The lamb curry is in the oven and the mushroom ragu is simmering in red wine. I need to drain the rice noodles.
It is a constant juggling of multiple tasks at once.
I am packing the meals into glass containers. I label each dish and place the containers neatly in the fridge. I've been cleaning dishes as I go, but I will now have to clean the stove, the floor, and the counters, which adds an extra 30 minute to my day.
I am ready to head to my second clients house. I pack myself a tiny portion of rice and lamb curry for lunch and eat it on the drive from Pacific Heights to the Portola neighborhood.
I am ready to begin the same cooking process in a slightly bigger kitchen. I unpack all the groceries and get ready to cook four different entrees.
On The Menu
- Korean Chicken Bulgogi with Kimchi Fried Rice
- Vegetable Potstickers (with Cabbage, Carrots & Shitakes) with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce, Cucumber Sesame Salad
- Minced Tofu & Kale Stir-Fry with Sushi Rice
- Chipotle Pork Meatballs with Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Puree
I begin with the chicken marinade and the chipotle meatball mixture. I slice cabbage, mushrooms and carrots for the potstickers, which is a kid favorite. I wash and chop kale, grate onions, garlic and ginger. Multi-tasking is my jam, and it takes me 3 hours and 30 minutes to cook the four meals.
I am packing up the chicken, the veggie potstickers, pork meatballs, and tofu and kale stir-fry. I clean the stove, floor, and counters, and triple check that the kitchen is impeccable before I leave.
I head home, tired and hungry. Take out is not an option, and I need to cook dinner when I get home. But having spent 10 years as a personal chef has its perks — I can make a delicious meal in less than 15 minutes.
I broil a piece of salmon with lemon zest and cayenne for seven minutes and serve it with one minute blanched broccoli with spicy lemon butter.
Dinner is served with glass of white wine. I relax and get ready to do it all over again the next day.
Photo Credit: Stocksy