Cooking up options

Personal chefs provide a tailored menu plan for real people

Personal chefs provide a tailored menu plan for real people

May 26, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Cooking is a passion for Steve Quantock. "I'd rather cook for a group of people than go out to a restaurant," he said. He's been cooking since he was a kid - about 10 or 12 years old. His mother would give him recipes to prepare. He still has them, and he can put them to good use.

Quantock, 32, is a personal chef.

No, he's not a private chef cooking at the beck and call of some wealthy magnate in a mansion on a hill. He's cooking real food for real people in their own kitchens.

Quantock consults with clients - ruling out food allergies and dislikes - and provides a tailored menu plan to meet their individual needs and personal preferences. His Web site includes more than 20 poultry offerings - from simple to elegant. There are suggestions for beef, pork, seafood and vegetarian dishes and ideas for the grill. He will customize meals to the client's tastes and requirements. And, yes, he does low-carb items.


Before the first "cheffing" date of service, Quantock requires a $100 grocery deposit. He does the shopping - the day before or the day he will cook. He prepares the food in the client's home, packages the meals and cleans up the kitchen. Depending on the menu and number of meals selected, prices range from $175 to $400 a month, according to information on Quantock's Web site,

Quantock vacuum seals the food he prepares - in single, double or family-sized servings. He puts the meals in the refrigerator or freezer - depending on the plan - and they are ready to reheat in a large pot of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Quantock doesn't recommend microwaving, because that process cooks the food, he said.

Nancy Main of Walkersville, Md., is hoping to hire Quantock. She soon will consult with him to see if his service will work for her busy family.

Main and her husband are co-owners of a fitness center in Frederick, Md. The couple has daughters ages 16 and 20.

Eating healthfully is important to the family, but with her busy schedule, Main says she doesn't have time to shop for and prepare the kinds of meals she and her family want to eat.

Although there are restaurant and carryout options, finding healthful food on the run is not always easy - and it gets expensive, Main said. Often, she said, she doesn't have time to prepare food she's bought, and that's a waste of money.

The Main family is typical of those who hire personal chefs. They are busy people who work long hours but want to eat good, home-cooked food.

Sharon Worster, co-founder of Personal Chefs Network Inc., said that most clients who hire personal chefs are people who have some disposable income.

Yet, she insisted, having a personal chef is not a luxury. It's an affordable solution.

Quantock is a member of the 4-year-old network. The organization was founded by personal chefs Wendy Perry of North Carolina and Worster of The Woodlands, Texas.

Worster worked as a nurse in Kentucky before moving to Texas because of her husband's job. She loved to cook, but she wanted to do something different. She decided to become a personal chef.

The Personal Chefs Network has more than 600 working, active members. A 15-month new membership costs $650 and includes "The Making of a Personal Chef," a home-study program developed by Worster and Perry. The Web site, at, offers business information, opportunities for online chats, news and recipes. The network has annual conventions that offer cooking demonstrations, classes and opportunities for personal chefs who have met and communicated online to see each other face to face.

Network members are mostly in the United States, but there are some in Canada and South America, and Worster said the organization gets inquiries from all over the world.

Most personal chef clients want comfort food, Worster said. The most popular menu item she prepares is her pot roast.

She used to "chef" five days a week, and there are personal chefs who work full time.

But her organization has grown so large that Worster was struggling to keep up with clients.

Sounds like she needs a personal chef.

Yogurt Chicken is Steve Quantock's favorite and the dish he prepared for his wife on their first date.

Yogurt Chicken

4 chicken breasts, cooked on stovetop in a little olive oil or boiled in water until juice runs clear

1/2 green beans, boiled until bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes

1 pound new potatoes, skin on, boiled for 15 to 20 minutes

2 tablespoons Basil Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

8 ounces plain yogurt

Cook chicken, boil potatoes and green beans.

Once cooked, dice chicken, potatoes and green beans into cubes.

Place in large bowl.

In separate bowl, mix Basil Vinaigrette and plain yogurt.

Toss yogurt-vinaigrette mixture gently with chicken, green beans and potatoes.

Serve cold or warm.

Basil Vinaigrette

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup fresh basil

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

2/3 cups olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Whirl garlic, basil and thyme in food processor or hand blender until chopped.

Blend with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

- Recipes courtesy of Steve Quantock

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