Friday, March 6, 2009

A Day's Work for a Personal Chef

My cookday really begins the week before when I design the menu for my clients. I know what they like to eat and also their nutritional needs, so I put the menu together based on those things and email it to them for approval. Sometimes I get an email back requesting a special dish that they've enjoyed in the past and I make that change.

I usually make five separate meals of four servings each, and I package this food according to the size of the family. The meals in the picture above were prepared for a bachelor client who is losing weight and getting fit, so I do mostly low-glycemic index, low fat foods for him, and package everything in single servings. What you see will feed him for a month...20 meals to enjoy on weeknights!

The day before my client's "cookday," I print out a menu of all the food I will be making so that I can leave that on the kitchen counter and they'll know what's in their fridge and freezer. I also print out the recipes I'll be using, labels for the containers, and my shopping list. I load my trusty Forester with my Rubbermaid bin full of pots and pans, one that contains my pantry items, such as flour, spices, etc., my soft-sided cooler, and a few other essentials. I have a Stanley tool box that I keep my kitchen tools in: favorite knives, bamboo scrapers and spoons, measuring spoons, instant read thermometer, etc. Everything I will need I take with me.

I love to start my cookday in bed with a cup of coffee and the news, and so I wake up around 6:00 so I can have an hour to enjoy before jumping into the shower. Since my car's already loaded, it's a snap to grab my purse, portfolio with all the printed materials, and my phone. Sometimes I take my iPod or a portable radio. I'm always excited about being able to spend the day cooking. (Yes, the whole day! This is why I do what I do!)

First stop is the grocery store, and sometimes it's more than one store to find everything I need. It all depends on where my client-for-the-day lives. Some days I'm cooking in the country and other days in the city, and by now I know my way around all the grocery stores! I love to shop and I've made friends with the meat and fish guys and the produce managers, so I can call ahead and they'll have special cuts of meat ready for me to pick up, and the produce managers will even order unusual fruits and veggies for me. They are my best friends in the morning on a cookday!

I pull into my client's driveway usually between 9:00 & 10:00 a.m. and unload, put some music on, and I'm cooking by 10:30. I take a break at noon while something is simmering and something else is roasting, and I snarf down a quick cup of yogurt to keep me going. I have to force myself to drink water because I get busy and forget, but dehydration eventually drains one of energy, and I still have four hours to go!

I quick-cool the hot food in ice water baths and immediately package and apply labels and get them in the fridge or freezer. One by one I check off each recipe and then clean up, pack up, sweep the kitchen floor and load up my car. I stick the menu on the fridge or leave it on the counter. The house smells heavenly from all my home cooking and I know my clients will be looking forward to coming home after a long day and having their supper ready and waiting!

I like to do extra things for my clients, too. Sometimes I'll set the table and leave a small vase of flowers. If there are children in the family, from time to time I'll bake some cookies for a treat. Often I'll make a fresh fruit or veggie salad. I really appreciate their business!

I'm usually on the road heading home by 4:00 or 4:30. Another delightful day of cooking for appreciative clients at an end, and this is when I really appreciate what I do as I drive by all the offices still full of people trapped behind desks and in cubes!

Bon App├ętit!
Chef Debbie

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