Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for the 'Work Musings' Category
My poor blog has been woefully ignored of late. On one hand I feel guilty, but my darling keeps reminding me it’s not quantity that’s important, it’s quality. I’ve had a lot of ideas for posts (some of which will eventually make it here), but my schedule has put writing on the back burner. Besides, I can’t say I’ve cooked anything of note lately (although I’ve tried several recipes from Heidi’s new book and hope to do a few more before posting). We’ve either gone out or I’ve thrown together the most simplest of meals: pizza (natch), baked tortillas with refried beans and salsa and whatever green veggie we have on hand, stir-fried veggies and chicken over pasta — you get the idea.
It all started a few weeks ago when the ServSafe book arrived in the mail. Although I have my Washington state food handler’s card (for which you need to sit through an hour-long class before taking the test), ServSafe — a much more comprehensive food safety training course — is required to re-certify through the U.S. Personal Chef Association. So instead of cooking and blogging I got to read about such nasties as clostridium perfringens, staphylococcus aureus, vibrio vulnificus and other food bacterium and toxins. We’re havin’ some fun now!
I’d be lying if I said I diligently studied. Basically it consisted of skimming the first seven or so chapters in the weeks leading up to the test, then cramming in the last 6 chapters in the 45 minutes I waited for the class to begin (to my credit, I took meticulous notes during the class portion). But it’s all common sense stuff: 1) Wash your hands, 2) Cook food to appropriate temperatures, 3) Wash your hands, 4) Make sure food spends minimal time in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees), and 5) Wash your hands. Because I had a client later that day I sped through the test (I’ve always been a speedy test taker). I’m happy to report I passed with flying colors (91% — woo hoo!).
Then, in addition to my regular client schedule, I had parties on June 9 and 16. The former was a buffet dinner for 25 (the hostess had been to another party I catered) and the latter was a 40-person graduation buffet for the son of one of my weekly clients. I now have the luxury of picking and choosing what parties I do. My regular schedule keeps the mortgage paid, so I don’t HAVE to give up my nights and weekends if I don’t want to (believe me, that hasn’t always been the case). But I knew both of these would be rather casual, and besides, we have a trip to France to pay for.
The final big project of the past two weeks was a presentation on “A Day in the Life” for the USPCA’s Philly conference in August. It didn’t need to be the final final (in fact, my actual presentation will look drastically different than what I sent in), but the organizers wanted some semblance to put into the conference notebooks for those who were attending other classes (I know what you’re thinking: who WOULDN’T want to partake in the wit and wisdom that is Ovens to Betsy?)
Anyhoo, this has all been a long and rambling way of saying I’ve been crazy-ass busy. (Oh, and did I happen to mention I’m also training for a marathon?)
With my current personal chef client schedule I don’t have much time to teach cooking classes or cater dinner parties. That’s fine with me, as the latter can be much more stressful. With my personal cheffing gigs, I don’t have to give up nights and weekends, plus I don’t have to be “on.” I’m typically in the home alone and my meals get packaged for the refrigerator or freezer. The client then heats them up long after I’m gone.
With catering and cooking classes, however, I’m on stage. The host/hostess and guests often mill around the kitchen as I’m preparing the food, and timing is crucial — side dishes and entrÃ©es must be ready at the same time, and ideally there should be no more than 15 minutes between courses.
If I forget an ingredient during my day job, it’s not a problem; I just head back to the store. (Unfortunately these “senior moments” happen all too frequently; I once had to hit the store THREE additional times during a cook date). Whereas with catering/cooking classes, if I realize I’ve forgotten an ingredient once the event has started, I have to wing it and hope either 1) the host doesn’t notice, or 2) is too tipsy to care.
Last night, fortunately, I had the latter in my favor.
Back in my PR days I was compelled to attend the monthly luncheon meetings of the Public Relations Society of America under the guise it was best way to “keep my finger on the pulse” of the industry. In reality I just wanted to bag off work for a few hours, even though I had to endure rubbery chicken while listening to someone blather on about “connecting to their publics” (yes, that’s really the term many used). I’d listen with feigned enthusiasm, hoping the PR muckety-muck at my table would be impressed with my dedication and offer me a job (I was ALWAYS looking for a new job).
Thank God I gave that up.
While I still view membership in a professional organization a terrific way to stay involved (I’m a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association), I no longer have to put up with insipid meetings. Take our recent chapter function: eight personal chefs trying to out-yummy one another with our resident wine connoisseur, George Marinovich, on hand to pair our treats with an appropriate wine. I love my job!
Our wine & food pairing meetings (this was our third) are always a favorite. It’s so much fun to see what other chefs whip up — not only the food but also the presentation (I’ve stolen many ideas). George has an incredible knack for choosing the most complementary wine for our dishes, despite the fact we’re a flighty lot who changes our respective minds at the last minute about what we’re to prepare.
I love calls like these:
Potential Client: “I’m a friend of DW (a current client) and really need you to come cook for us for the next week. My husband is ailing and I just broke my hip and there’s no way I can cook. DW’s been telling me I need to call you.”
Ovens to Betsy: “I’m so sorry, but I’m totally booked. But let me give you the name of another chef who might be able to help you.”
PC: “Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do. We need someone now. Can’t you just make a few meals to deliver to us?”
OTB: “Unfortunately I don’t deliver; I just cook in my clients’ homes. And I have a client every day this week.”
PC: “What if you just make some extra meals for us when you’re cooking for DW?”
OTB: “Well, you’d have to eat the same thing as they do.”
PC: “That’s fine.”
OTB: “And I just prepare 5 dinners; no breakfasts, no lunches.”
PC: “That’s perfect.”
OTB: “Do you have any allergies, or are there any foods you don’t care for?”
PC: “Nope — whatever DW eats is good enough for us.”
OTB: “Well, I’m not sure how I’d charge for this.”
PC: “I know you’ll be fair.”
sigh… How could I say no?
When I call DW to tell her the news, she tells me “God is saving a place for you in Heaven.”
I think it’s more likely there’s a spot saved for me in a nether region, but it definitely makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.