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What Do You Serve A Real Chef?

I just got a call from a relative, asking for a bit of help with a dinner she is planning. They have invited the owner of their favorite restaurant, his wife the chef, and his nephew the sous-chef over for dinner. It's a serious restaurant -- these folks can cook, so a bowl of chips and a steak isn't going to cut it. Or maybe that is exactly what these folks want? They are around food six days a week, probably twelve or more hours each day, so perhaps the perfect meal is a bag of Doritos and some take-out Chinese.

This reminded me of a similar circumstance in my youth, when I wasn't quite the (sometimes) good cook I am today. I had befriended the owner and chef of a local restaurant that I really enjoyed. We became friendly and I invited them over for dinner on one of their rare days off. I realized as soon as I had extended the invitation that I was incapable of cooking anything like what they prepared every day, but I tried anyway. Needless to say, I failed, but the evening was a success, because we had a nice time. And that is the point, isn't it? We invite people to our homes to enjoy their company, not to provide sustenance. The meal is just a nice bonus. And if the food is boring? so what!

Of course they reciprocated, and proceeded to serve a spectacular meal that I still remember. I guess being a chef does have its advantages.

4 Responses to “What Do You Serve A Real Chef?”

  1. I have, in fact, had a great chef (and his pastry chef) to dinner. I agonized for weeks over what I should serve. I bought dessert because I am a dismal failure at baking. As the first course, I served my modification of Marcella Hazan’s pasta with red and yellow peppers. I served my simple rack of lamb as the main course followed by a huge assortment of cheese (in the good old days when Balducci’s was run by the Balducci family) and a mesclun salad decorated with edible flowers. They loved dinner but they loved not cooking most of all.

  2. I totally agree with your analysis of my upcoming evening. Though I will take your advice, I still want to test a little creativity! Perhaps a simple one course entree so that I may enjoy my guests and the limited “casual” time we will have together! Please feel free to offer suggested menus and wines that will not “intimidate” me since cooking is not one of my strong points. Thanks for your help!

  3. I always plan backwards when preparing a dinner party. Thus, buy a great tart for dessert. Buy fabulous greens for salad and an assortment of cheeses (2 goat, 2 sheep, 2 super creamy, 1 stinky cheddar and a Tomme de Savoie or Pyrenees) and you already have 2 courses that won’t take any of your time during the evening. You must serve hors d’oeuvre with drinks so get some olives where you bought the cheese and Dufours frozen puffs and some cheese straws. How about some Hamachi Tartare with wasabi infused caviar as a first course? This too can be prepared in advance. So all you have left is the main course, maybe risotto or pasta with fall vegetables cooked in stock or rack of lamb with french beans? My advice? Have someone help you in the kitchen so you don’t even have to clear the table and can enjoy your guests AND prepare as much as possible in advance.

  4. Why backwards? What is the difference between planning the hors d’oeuvre first and the dessert last?

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