- A personal hairdresser
- A personal chef
These would be the two things I’ve always said I’d indulge in if I won the lottery. I wouldn’t change much else, but I’d live the rest of my life throwing elaborate dinner parties and tossing my fabulous hair. But while a blow dry in London will cost you upwards of £25 and only lasts until it starts raining or you go to bed, whichever comes sooner, private chefs can actually be had for relatively little $$$.
I know because I had one myself recently, with a company called La Belle Assiette. You select a chef, who lists his or her menus online, and they come to your house, make everything from scratch, serve up the food and clean up. The upshot: a restaurant-quality experience at home, with no travel or corkage costs, for less than your average meal out.
I took part in LBA’s validation process, which effectively meant my six cohorts and I were road-testing a new chef before he was unleashed onto the main site. And look what turned up!
Christ. It’s a good thing I hadn’t decided to throw a girls’ night, otherwise I think we would have all been quite beside ourselves. Fortunately I’d accidentally managed to invite only blokes, though the gay ones and I spent the evening waggling our eyebrows suggestively at each other every time Jody brought our a new course. The straight ones were, obviously, completely oblivious that they were in the presence of a rare and magical thing: a beautiful man who loves to cook.
Ahem. Anyway. Now, I don’t throw many dinner parties, unless you count getting everyone over for wine and takeaway pizza, simply because they are just so bloody time-consuming. Every year in December our flat does Christmas dinner for our urban family, and for the last one we had seventeen people over. It was an unprecedented nightmare; I was up at 8am with a wheelie suitcase to collect the freakishly oversized turkey from the butcher’s, and then spent hours and hours chopping, peeling, basting and boiling, and co-coordinating timesheets with Dave the Vegetarian who was bringing goose fat-free roasties and some sort of root vegetable pie for the rest of his kind. When all the food was out and I had collapsed into a corner with my dinner, everyone else was too drunk to hold a proper conversation.
But when someone else is doing the cooking, you get to spend 100% of the time with your mates and doing what you were born to do, which in my case is drinking a lot of wine and bossing Articulate.
I will admit that a few hours before Jody arrived, I was suddenly paralysed with the fear of potential embarrassment. My flatmates and I scoured the kitchen, lest our hygiene standards didn’t match the ones Chef was used to, though there was nothing we could do about the hideous brown 360° tiling job that some distant landlady had installed decades before. It was also too late to invest in a full set of Le Creuset stoneware; the scruffy set of Sainsbury’s own pans with wobbly lid handles would have to do.
I needn’t have worried; Jody was super laid back and we barely knew he was there the two hours he was beavering away in the kitchen while we made a start on the prosecco. He was also very polite about my shit pans, which goes a long way.
The first course – which arrived after baskets of bread from the Euphorium Bakery – consisted of four kinds of wild mushrooms, sauteed and artistically strewn on toast with pancetta and delicately sliced rings of crispy shallot. Mike, who is a bit of a fanny sometimes with food and has a Thing about mushrooms, got a special miniature Eggs Benedict instead.
(NB: La Belle Assiette send a pro photographer in to document Jody’s food, as it was his first time, but these were the actual dishes served up at my flat. That is some epic plating.)
For the meat-eaters, there was a contra-filet of beef with hasselback potatoes and spring veg, served an inch thick, rare and juicy. It’s a cut I’d never had before, from the sirloin section of the cow, and with an incredibly beefy flavour that held its own against the rich, peppery sauce. For Dave the Vegetarian, there was a homemade rosemary, leek and ricotta tart.
Pudding was originally a pear tart fin, but the best thing about a private chef is that you can change things around a bit, so I felt pretty smug when Jody presented us with a thick, intensely chocolately mousse that managed to be both light and dense at the same time, like closely packed bath bubbles. It came with cream, caramelised bananas and candied pecans, which he’d all managed to whip up in just a couple of hours.
He even left the leftover mousse in the fridge for us as a souvenir..!
This particular menu is £39/person, which most Londoners would spend on a nice meal out without even blinking. That’s based on a group of at least six; if you’d like a smaller group the cost per person goes up, because the time the chef spends shopping for ingredients, prepping, cooking, cleaning and travelling still has to be paid for. So, basically, the more the merrier (but you knew that already).
There are so many occasions for which La Belle Assiette would be perfect: a housewarming or a hen do, or a special dinner for anyone with young kids or pets to look after, or anyone with mobility problems. In fact, for birthdays and suchlike, it’s a good shout just for the value: you’ll spend maybe a tenner on a bottle of wine and there’s nobody to make you feel cheap for ordering tap water. If you’re looking for something extra special, there are fancier menus available too, normally with more courses, amuse-bouches, cheese, cocktails and other extras. (You can view everything available in your area here.)
Whatever the occasion, I can wholeheartedly recommend Jody, who has just added a few more menus to his profile. We’ll definitely be calling him back in December to handle that blasted Christmas dinner.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.