Welcome! Below are a few photos of some new small plate ideas I’ve been working on including: chili crusted tuna tataki, bobwhite quail w blue corn arepas, vanilla spiked foie w barrel aged burbon and 24 hr sous-vide short rib w syrah redux. Ultimately, the goal here will be to post easy recipes of dishes like these along with plating notes, a step by step photographic guide and wine pairing suggestions. I would love to hear any requests for specific dishes from our readers and of course, #wine pairing suggestions are always welcome. Hope you enjoy!
While a pinot gris or chardonnay seem like a natural pairing choice, this wonderful end of summer seafood dish would actually pair perfectly with a wide array of interesting wines. The combination of rich, lightly acidic chardonnay butter and aromatic saffron basmati offer a powerful counterpoint when paired with a California Pinot noir. Alternatively, the richness and fat content of the sea bass seem to pair very well with a luscious syrah and even stood up nicely to an Argentine malbec. Unusual yet delicious! What would you pair with this dish to go with some of the other components like salty-savory chorizo, spiced parsnip-carrot chips or the sea bass itself?
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Too busy for the kitchen? Special diet? A pro can slice and dice for you — at home.
The busier we become, the more we look to others to help us simplify our lives. Services that might seem a luxury become easier to justify as a necessity.
We’ll hire a lawn service, maybe have someone come in to clean the house regularly, and even drop the laundry off with the dry cleaning.
Now there’s a growing sector of service professionals available to help out with one of your most important daily duties: dinnertime. They’re called personal chefs, and they come into your home and cook your meals.
Oh, right, you’re thinking, I can have the chef bunk with the chauffeur in the rooms over the carriage house. But a personal chef is different from a private chef, and the cost is a lot less than you might imagine. And for some people it’s a service that not only is cost-effective but also a provision that is even more essential than having someone mow the grass.
Eric Kunichika, a Longwood physician, and his wife, Deanne, a dentist, have used Justin of Justin Thyme for about 21/2 years. Kunichika admits that for two doctors the cost isn’t a factor, but he says he has referred friends who are laborers to Justin Thyme.
“It isn’t cost prohibitive,” he says. “The cost to go out to eat is fairly substantial, and I have wines at home I can open that are more economical.”
The client pays for all the food and seasonings the chef purchases, and any items unused are left in the refrigerator. The cost of hiring a personal chef varies from one chef to another and depends on the situation — for instance whether it involves cooking for a special occasion or with special ingredients. Dale Pyle, a part-time personal chef, says $15 to $20 per entrée per person is typical.
And as Pyle says, “If you add up all the times you go out to eat, order in or stop at the drive-through, and the food you buy and throw out” because you never got around to cooking it and it spoiled, the cost is comparable to an average restaurant meal.
“You can get the same meal at your house and eat it in front of the TV in your underwear.”
A measure of independence
A personal chef differs from a private chef in that the latter is someone who is employed by one client and cooks exclusively for that individual or family. A private chef might very well live at the client’s home, though it’s doubtful one would agree to share accommodations with the chauffeur.
A personal chef works for several clients and is an independent contractor who owns his or her own business.
Justin-Thyme has worked as a private chef and also did time working the lines in the kitchens of well-known restaurants in South Florida. But he likes the independence — and the more reasonable hours — of working as a personal chef. When he was working in a restaurant, he says, he never had weekends or holidays off. Now he works only weekdays, 9 to 5, and finally has time to spend with his fiancée. He’s happy he made this career move.
“Quality of life factors into it,” he says.
More chefs are coming to that realization, according to Candy Wallace, executive director of the San Diego-based American Personal Chef Association. She says that when she started her organization 10 years ago, she knew of about 30 personal chefs. Those numbers are blooming. Her Web site, she says, gets about 1 million hits every month.
Of course, some of those hits are from potential clients looking for someone to do the cooking. According to Wallace, consumers will hire a chef for a number of reasons. Foremost is the convenience factor, the dual-income working couple who don’t have time to prepare good food after a day of work.
Some people hire personal chefs for medical reasons. If a physician recommends a special diet, a personal chef can assure that regimen is followed. And seniors will contract the services of a personal chef to maintain their independence instead of moving to a care facility.
Pyle, whose company is called At Your Service, says he often gets calls from out-of-town adult children to hire him to cook a week of meals for elderly parents. Pyle’s last job in a professional kitchen was in a retirement village in Lake County, so a lot of his clients choose him because he knows about proper nutrition and the special needs of the elderly.
Have knives, will travel
That was the case with Lake Mary residents Ed and Phyllis Lower, who found Pyle after doing an Internet search for personal chefs. They wanted someone who could cook meals that fit into Ed Lower’s diet for diabetes. After interviewing three chefs, they decided to hire Pyle.
The chef goes to the Lower house with everything he needs, including pots and pans. He has a large Rubbermaid bin, a smaller plastic container, his knife roll and a cooler with meat and fish on ice. Pyle even brings his own cutting boards, including a separate one for the meats.
It would be convenient for the chefs to do some of the prep work at home, slicing and dicing the vegetables for the dishes. But the licensing restrictions don’t allow that unless the chef’s home kitchen is approved for professional cooking. It’s an odd technicality because the clients’ kitchens aren’t licensed for professional food production either.
Pyle, who also teaches at the Orlando Culinary Academy, says he isn’t looking to build a huge client base. He says his average client will have him cook 20 meals at a time, two portions of 10 entrees plus side dishes, to be refrigerated or frozen for reheating at a later date.
Except for the occasions when they’re hired to cook for a dinner party, all the personal chefs fix multiple meals that are fully or partially prepared for the client to finish later.
And here’s the drill
Each meal begins with the chef doing the shopping. Before heading to a client’s home, justin-thyme makes trips to Publix and Whole Foods, where he purchases fresh fish, poultry and produce. Just before he goes inside he changes from his “civvies” into a crisp white professional chef’s tunic, even though he says it isn’t unusual for him to go to a job, spend his 21/2 to three hours cooking and cleaning up after without ever seeing the client.
A personal chef will usually schedule an interview with a new client to assess likes and dislikes. There’s no sense in hiring your own chef if he or she makes food you don’t like. The Lowers keep a file in a bright yellow folder labeled “Chef Dale” with notes on past meals. A note next to the stuffed pork loin notes it was good, but next to the chicken cacciatore they’ve written “bad.” Pyle says it doesn’t hurt his feelings to receive the negative feedback; he’d rather be cooking the things clients like.
The Lowers have Pyle come in to cook several times a year to prepare multiple meals that he freezes. They say they eat out at restaurants often, but when they stay home, they heat up one of Pyle’s frozen dishes, following the typewritten directions he leaves behind.
Phyllis Lower says she used to cook a lot, but now that it’s just the two of them, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
“I like to cook,” she says, “but some of the meals that took a long time to prep . . . why bother?”
And, she says, there’s one other big advantage to hiring a personal chef: “He cleans up so well.”
Scott Joseph can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5514.
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- Tampa Personal Chef Services (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
- Justin-Thyme Food Photography 2011 (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
- Justin-Thyme provides elegant full-service event catering to the to the Tampa Bay area! (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
As a young man growing up in Key West Florida, I was exposed to a variety of fantastically flavorful ethnic dishes from an early age. Dishes that I would, over the years, constantly try to recreate or infuse into new ideas. South Florida in general is home to a diverse multi-cultural landscape of people, rich in tradition and passionate about the foods of their homeland. The bounty of both fresh produce and super fresh seafood readily available in Florida at any given time gives chefs the opportunity to come up with almost limitless inspiration and flavor combinations. Bahamian Conch Ceviche, Cuban Ropa Vieja, Puerto Rican plantain mofongo, Hatian Oxtail stew, these are all dishes that take me back to my childhood. One preparation always stood out for me, especially because I tend to go for fresh and spicy, flavor packed foods with a simplistic approach…seafood in particular, it was Ceviche. Fish, Shrimp, Conch, whatever…I LOVED ceviche.
Long before I ever dreamed that I would end up being a chef, I had the good fortune to eat many, many times at a little place called Louie’s Backyard in Old Town Key West. You see, my mother was a huge foodie and luckily for me, introduced me to all kinds of strange and exotic foods from an early age. The owners of Louie’s had recently brought in a young chef named Norman Van Aken, who would soon blaze a trail for what would one day become known as “New World Cuisine”, he was and still is the father of it…a new world Escoffier of sorts…Norman is obviously a culinary genius, few would argue that.
I used to love the irreverent cooking style and seemingly bizarre, yet playful flavors Norman created and there was definitely a buzz going around about his cooking from very early on. After finishing culinary school, I sought Norman out at his restaurant in Coral Gables and hung around until I was able to work my way into the kitchen, it was a brief time that would change my perception of what food could really be and how far an idea could be taken. Hopefully Norman knows what an incredible impact he has made on so many young chefs, including me…I doubt I could ever really fully thank him in a way that sounds as good as it does in my mind but, thank you Norman.
Now, looking back on a successful career as a professional chef for the last 15 years, I have begun to seek out the flavors that remind me of my childhood. Afterall, isn’t that one of the great things about food? The fact that one bite can transport you back to a certain time and place…remind you of good times or bad, connect you with a family memory or simply remind you of sunday dinners at grandma’s house. Food connects us with our roots in a way that few other things in life can and I think that any great cook, at any given time, draws inspiration from or strives to re-create dishes that remind them of something dear to them.
My take on a wonderful recipe by Chef Rick Bayless– Chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, creator of Frontera Gourmet foods, cookbook author and host of “Mexico One Plate at a Time“. This recipe is from his cook book “Mexico One Plate at a Time.” A must-try!
- ½ cup plus 2 Tbs fresh lime juice
- 1 generous pound unpeeled, smallish shrimp
- ½ medium white onion, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1-2 Tbs vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce
- About 2 Tbs olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to smooth out sharpness)
- 1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jicama (or ½ cup of each)
- 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
- Several lime slices for garnish
- Tostadas or tortilla chips for serving
- To cook the shrimp, bring 1 quart salted water to a boil and add 2 Tbs of the lime juice. Scoop in the shrimp, cover and let the water return to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat, set the lid askew and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 10 minutes. Spread out the shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Peel and devein shrimp. Toss the shrimp with remaining ½ cup lime juice, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
- In a small strainer, rinse the onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid. Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, optional olive oil, cucumber and/or jicama and avocado. Taste and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.
- Serving: spoon ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime. Serve with tostadas or tortilla chips.
I recently came across a container of fermented soybeans in the supermarket. I don’t mean an old container of soybeans some stock-boy forgot to toss. These are fermented-on-purpose soybeans from Japan. That’s what Natto is.
I remembered hearing about this stuff on Iron Chef one time when it was the secret ingredient. The judges in the show were commenting on what a great job the chefs had done to “suppress the smell” of the natto. Now, I’m no Iron Chef, but I’ve got a clever way to suppress the smell… Don’t put it in your food. I might not win “Battle Natto”, but I promise you my dinner won’t smell like 26 year old sun baked french cheese either.
I found it slightly unsettling that the sealed styrofoam container had creepy little air-holes in it. As if what was inside needed to breathe. I dared to lift the lid, which made me regret that I needed to breathe. The natto was coated in some kind of sick slime and had the complex yet playful aroma of a dumpster in July.
Actually, the little pile inside looked kinda like baked beans. It also smelled kinda like baked beans…if they were baked in the blistering heat of a dog turd on a hot summer day.
This particular batch was made by a company in Japan called Shirakiku. I haven’t been able to determine if Shirakiku is a food manufacturer, or just a store that sells gag gifts and practical jokes. It might be both.
Not unlike most of the cast of any version of desperate housewives, these harmless soybeans had undergone some kind of hideous transformation which were now a freakish version of their former selves. (Which, coincidentally, should also be kept far away from your childrens’ eyes.)
The most disturbing aspect of this stuff is it seems to get “activated” when you stir it. What I mean by this is, (and I may actually weep, but…) the slimy coating on the beans develops into stringy, stretchy, marshmallow-like strands that will forever haunt my dreams.
Basically, if you move it back and forth enough, you’re left with a gross, sticky mess. And now that I think about it, it looks like the pranksters back at Shirakiku did something really gross into my beans. You guuuys!
I force-fed myself a big ol’ spoonful, and found it to be slightly rancid and extremely bitter. Unfortunately, swallowing didn’t help dissipate the flavor because the strings of bean schmootz melted, coating my mouth and lips with a glistening sheen of extreme sadness.
The entire experience is difficult to describe, but if you can remember back to the very first time you made out with a hobo’s ass, it’s probably a lot like that.
What I find most hilarious is that there is an expiration date on the package. What could they possibly expect to happen to the product on this date THAT HAS NOT ALREADY OCCURRED?!!!
Also, nestled in this mound of compost was a li’l packet of mustard. In its place, I would strongly suggest a hand written apology.
I do have one last theory about the date on the package. It may be an expiration date, but not for the beans. If you finish the container, that’s the day you die.
- Cooking spray
- 25 gingersnap cookies
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into chunks and softened
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Boiling water
1.Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Using a food processor, grind the cookies with 1/4 cup sugar. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until firm, 3 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
2.Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in 2 eggs until blended. Transfer 1/4 cup of the cream cheese mixture to a small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 3 eggs, the pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin-pie spice and salt and beat until combined, 2 minutes.
3.Set the springform pan with the cooled crust on a double layer of heavy-duty foil and wrap the foil tightly around the bottom and sides; set in a roasting pan. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust. Dollop the reserved cream cheese mixture onto the filling and, using the tip of a knife, swirl together. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and fill with enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center is slightly wobbly but the edges are firm to the touch, about 1-1/4 hours.
4.Transfer the roasting pan with the cheesecake to a rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan, discard the foil and let the cheesecake cool on the rack for 3 hours. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight. 5. Remove the springform pan sides. Run a knife under the bottom of the cake to release it, then slide onto a serving platter.
Helpful Links: http://www.justin-thyme.com