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A Celebrity Chef in Your Kitchen

Lizzie Munro
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012

Love the intimacy of entertaining your friends at home, but miss the wow factor of hosting them to a lavish meal prepared at a restaurant by a top chef? No need to compromise, nor stray far from home when you ask the chef to come to you. Depending on the occasion (and the depth of your wallet), a surprising number of culinary masters are available for hire, and they might just be willing to cook at your next private event.

There’s a website that will hook you up with a four-star experience in your own dining room, but when it comes to landing celebrity cooks, it may come down to just having the brass to ask. It also helps if you’re a regular or you have a good cause.

“It’s usually someone we know pretty well that’s a regular in one of our restaurants,” says chef Tony Mantuano, of Chicago’s Spiaggia, who recently prepared an in-home private dinner for 30. “There’s already a certain amount of trust between the client and the chef.”

You’re also not chained to any menu. To begin, the culinary team visits the client’s home to scope out their kitchen, china and stemware. Together, they custom-tailor the menu to suit the occasion.

Last year, the larger-than-life Wolfgang Puck, with his many restaurants and television appearances, deigned to cater a private birthday celebration for 100 guests. Passed hors d’oeuvres, a caviar service and a multicourse sit-down dinner accompanied a child-friendly dessert buffet studded with miniature chocolate elephants and s’mores whoopie pies.

More recently, Eric Ripert, of New York’s Le Bernardin, prepared an intimate dinner for 10. Following a selection of canapés, the chef offered a seafood tasting menu including a tartare of sweet shrimp and caviar, and langoustine salad with foie gras and truffles. Not surprisingly, these dinners rarely come cheap—the aforementioned meal was auctioned off for $80,000 to benefit City Harvest.

For something a bit less extravagant, look to Kitchit.com, the self-proclaimed, “home of bespoke dining” based in San Francisco’s Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York. Since its launch in September 2011, the website has featured a growing roster of chefs offering private dinners starting at $40 per person. Chefs’ specialties range from French, Mediterranean and Pan-Asian cuisines, to farm-to-table dining and molecular gastronomy. There are even a handful of master chefs available, most of them hailing from Michelin-starred restaurants (chefs Douglas Keane, Corey Lee and Anita Lo, for example).

Not sure if your favorite chef would pay a visit to your kitchen? Just remember that it never hurts to ask, and that even when it comes to a restaurant-quality meal, there’s no place quite like home.

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