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(article, Kim Carlson)
What's your prime food fantasy? As the chief grocery monkey and cook for a family of four, my food fantasies tilt away from food porn and toward the fully catered meal — of whatever tasty foods someone else might put together. There’s something seductive about the idea of home-cooked food that's not home-cooked by me and is ready to go at dinner time. Apparently such luxury is more and more widespread, and not just for the Oprahs of the world. Hasn't happened yet at our house, but in some American households, personal chefs have arrived. Recently, I read about the phenomenon twice in two days, in two publications that are about as vastly different as can be: Vogue, which I pick up every few years, usually when I’m in an airport or having my hair cut; and The Missoulian, the western Montana newspaper I read whenever I visit my hometown. In Vogue, the food critic Jeffrey Steingarten hired a restaurant chef between jobs to cook for him and his wife and various fortunate friends for two weeks. Lucky for him, the magazine picked up the tab. (The website Serious Eats is featuring a video series on the experiment.) Steingarten ate well, but in ways that might surprise you: bq. We noticed several changes in the way we live and eat. For one thing, every meal included several vegetables, each deliciously cooked for its own gastronomic value and not simply because one is supposed to eat one’s vegetables. Plus, we sat down together for every dinner, whereupon we engaged in conversation, a contrast to the sloppy and casual condition into which our mealtimes had degenerated. Thankfully, I wouldn’t call our mealtimes degenerate, but on busy days I wonder how it would be to have someone preparing all those vegetables for us. The Missoulian article, which features several local families who take advantage of the service, distinguishes between people who cook solely for one household, calling them “private chefs,” and people who cook for several different households at once, calling them “personal chefs.” Cost was not discussed, but clearly the personal chef is a more affordable option; another source estimates the cost at less than $20 per entrée (including the cost of the food itself). As for me, I might dream about such a thing, but deep down I know I'd probably miss those shopping excursions to sniff the cilantro and inspect the fish, and the end-of-the-day way I unwind by chopping carrots, cleaning lettuce, and stirring whatever’s cooking on the stove. It would be weird to come home and reheat food that's been prepared, however lovingly, by someone else. But one can wonder.