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The World of a Private Chef


Timh
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Life takes people funny places. My own grownup life started at fourteen years old when my mother decided she did not want to care for a child. After working all sorts of entry-level jobs in Manhattan, the world of food became important to me - more as an interest, a way to be artistic, a way to have a rich sort of home life with the man that I married at nineteen.

This led to my becoming a pastry chef, a cook, a chef, an executive chef to some of the wealthiest people in the world (Wall St investment bank private dining) then finally into management as a VP in the operations division of that corporation in charge of foodservices.

Against all advice, I left that job because there were aspects of it that I greatly disliked. It did not matter to me what reasons there were in any intellectual or practical way, and neither title nor money finally carried any weight in terms of what really mattered to me.

So I completely understand what you're talking about, and I have also had friends that worked as private chefs in positions similar to yours in scope, nature, and client.

You've got to follow what your intuition tells you.

My concern, in your situation, was more that within the exhausted state that you may be that the wrong sort of jump might not be made. (Been there, done that. :wink: ) And also, as I am a single parent with two children with the other parent sort of "missing in action" due to divorce and then his move to a state far away it sort of behooved me to bring up the fact of how much your children do really need you - now - while they are growing. . .so much more than they need other things. I hope this does not sound like I mean to lecture, I don't - I just have a sort of "thing" about parents being there for their kids - and that is only "my" way. It doesn't have to be anyone else's.

Change can be harder on the kids than it is on us - and goodness knows the hours the usual restaurant gig brings with it. :blink:

Your ideas sound good - they sound better than good, they sound responsible in a way that is larger than just your own "stuff". Sometimes, just the right thing does happen for people with jobs - I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed that it does for you.

Sante!

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Jumping on the bandwagon of what has been mentioned many times above, this is fascinating.

Three questions, though:

1) I saw it mentioned above a few times, but didn't see where it was

answered: Does the family do any cooking, or is it all you?

2) Have you tried to, if they are interested, show them a few things?

Or is it better not to, kinda like job security.

3) Having worked for them this long: compared to your initial impression,

how has your opinion changed (if at all) about the family, and possibly

individual members?

You may now continue. Please. And thank you.

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"Jumping on the bandwagon of what has been mentioned many times above, this is fascinating.

Three questions, though:

1) I saw it mentioned above a few times, but didn't see where it was

answered: Does the family do any cooking, or is it all you?

2) Have you tried to, if they are interested, show them a few things?

Or is it better not to, kinda like job security.

3) Having worked for them this long: compared to your initial impression,

how has your opinion changed (if at all) about the family, and possibly

individual members?"

They primarily reheat, or will make sandwiches(I prep all of the set ups for them). Often they have the house keeper do the work. Is it cause they are too busy? No, its because they don't want to(or don't know how) and can afford to pay someone to do it for them. I can always tell when they've tried something. I come in and find scorched pans left for me to clean.

Because they are so rich, therefore they must know more than me, so what could I show them? To them, cooking is a pedestrian chore for the lower masses(or uneducated).

As I've grown to know them, and experience them, I can definitely say they are not folks I would choose to hang out with . New England aristocracy( and those that strive for it )is a cold and shallow pool of fishes, all wanting to be the big one. Its less about who you are as a person, and more about who your family is, what school you went to, what clubs do you belong to. Seems to be a lonely self imposed existance. I once heard him say that "money doesn't buy happiness" and about crapped all over myself. I remarked, "you never heard a poor person say that."

Edited by Timh (log)
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To them, cooking is a pedestrian chore for the lower masses(or uneducated).

To a lot of people, cooking is a pedestrian chore. I reckon either you get it or you don't.

I'm not trying to bring you down or provoke a fight between you and your employer, but...how does their attitude affect your job?

Does it make you want to "show them up" (so to speak), by being the best you can be? Or do you do enough to make them happy, but not as much as you'd do for someone who really appreciated what it is you do?

Again, this whole thread has been (to overuse the word) fascinating.

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  To them, cooking is a pedestrian chore for the lower masses(or uneducated).

Cooking is one the last noble crafts we have in the modern world - to eat a fine meal is one of the most satisfying things I can do. To prepare a fine meal is one of the most gratifying things I can do.

Bon Apetit

Edited by GordonCooks (log)
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  To them, cooking is a pedestrian chore for the lower masses(or uneducated).

Cooking is one the last noble crafts we have in the modern world - to eat a fine meal is one of the most satisfying things I can do. To prepare a fine meal is one of the most gratifying things I can do.

Bon Apetit

"While cooking is a brutal business, in which knives cut, whisks whip, forks prick, mortars mash and stoves burn, still it is our most civilized act."

-Betty Fussell, My Kitchen Wars

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Friday

Per request I made a chicken sandwich for her.

No dinner, everyone was out for the evening. I spent the day preparing weekend food.

Beef and barley soup

Buttermilk fried chicken wings, and a couple of cutlets

Italian sausage and peppers

Boiled shrimp

Antipasti platter

Mixed salad

Guacamole

Crudite platter

Chocolate chip cookies

Even when they underwhelm me with simple request, I always try to make it the best. My chicken sandwiches are legendary at his office, as well as the lobster rolls. One of the kids only will eat my grilled cheese. I would rather not prepare something, than do it half assed. As disgruntled as i may seem at times, I still maintain my professionalism, if for no one else then for my self. Any bad habits picked up would be difficult to break in another setting.

Edited by Timh (log)
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To them, cooking is a pedestrian chore for the lower masses(or uneducated).

Plenty of people find cooking boring or just plain annoying. This is how I feel about football (:wink:), so I can relate. However...

To say that cooking is pedestrian and belongs to "the lower masses" is to display one's own idiocy and complete lack of class, not to mention a glaring absence of insight into how many well-educated, interesting people choose to spend their leisure time.

Not to mention the bright, fascinating folks who have chosen to make their careers of it.

Snobbery for snobbery's sake, completely divorced from reality?

Reeks of new money to me. :wink::laugh:

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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As I've grown to know them, and experience them, I can definitely say they are not folks I would choose to hang out with . New England aristocracy( and those that strive for it )is a cold and shallow pool of fishes, all wanting to be the big one.  Its less about who you are as a person, and more about who your family is, what school you went to, what clubs do you belong to. Seems to be a lonely self imposed existance. I once heard him say that "money doesn't buy happiness" and about crapped all over myself. I remarked, "you never heard a poor person say that."

Oy. I went to college with a boatload of people like that. Boy are they ever tiresome. If you didn't go to the right prep school, your presence was barely worth acknowledging. And if you were a public school product like myself, you might as well have been invisible. I could only imagine what they must have thought of the people their parents paid to run their households. :rolleyes:

The whole thing's a crock, of course. I recall thinking as a freshman how weird it was for them to look down their noses at my distinctly un-preppie attire, when I thought their preppie clothing had to be the most butt-ugly fashion statement I had ever laid eyes on. :laugh: And as far as I could tell, the Boston Brahmin culinary sensibility seemed rather laughable too. Once only did I attend one of the formal teas at one of the more heavily preppie-identified dorms at my school. Ugh. I'd much rather have been getting shnockered at the TGIF at my (decidedly anti-preppie geek-haven) dorm--or escaping into the city for "low-class" ethnic eats and other bohemian delights.

Ech. Too bad. They may have the bucks, but yeah, they don't know what they're missing, let alone how to fully appreciate what they have. Here's a hoity-toity motto with which to defend your brain against them, Tim: Illegitimus non carborundum--don't let the bastards grind you down. :smile:

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As disgruntled as i may seem at times...

I wouldn't say you were disgruntled, more like passionate. However, there seems to be a lack of co-workers to talk with to keep that passion going. You like your job, hell I'd like your job, but it seems you don't have any co-workers to share that passion with.

By talking about it here, you can vent some frustations, help keep things in check. And give us all some really cool stuff to read and discuss and think about and mull over.

...I still maintain my professionalism, if for no one else then for my self.

If not if yourself, then who? You have to pride in your work, but not too much. Or it becomes vulgar.

You seem to have found the balance that many seek, but few find.

I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into this all this. But I got lots a time to think about stuff.

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They may have the bucks, but yeah, they don't know what they're missing, let alone how to fully appreciate what they have. Here's a hoity-toity motto with which to defend your brain against them, Tim: Illegitimus non carborundum--don't let the bastards grind you down. :smile:

Amen, Ellen.

Though, if I may, I'd like to speak up on behalf of preppies everywhere: being from New England and attending prep school ain't what makes you turn bad. It starts way before that.

I can say this with authority only because I turned to evil in elementary school. Prep school had nothing to with it. :laugh: Seriously, though, I made some of the best friends of my life at prep school, and can honestly say that it was one of the more egalitarian, merit-based places I've had the pleasure of spending my time. Clothes didn't matter - smarts did, and compassion did, too. And a sense of humor was a huge asset. Done right, it's not all bad.

As I meant to say before: chin up, Tim. Sounds like you're doing a good thing - providing for your family, living up to your job description, and enjoying your craft. Those are things that should make you very proud. And, who knows - maybe you'll help the kids in the family develop more sensibilities about food. Could be your best legacy, professionally, when you eventually move onward.

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Though, if I may, I'd like to speak up on behalf of preppies everywhere: being from New England and attending prep school ain't what makes you turn bad.  It starts way before that.

Oh, exactly. I certainly met plenty of people at college who happened to have attended prep school, and were great people. It was the folks for whom having attended "the right prep schools" was not an academic brain-expanding thing but soley a class status thing, part of a whole way of categorizing the world into the worthy and the unwashed, who really got up my nose. :smile:

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Though, if I may, I'd like to speak up on behalf of preppies everywhere: being from New England and attending prep school ain't what makes you turn bad.  It starts way before that.

Oh, exactly. I certainly met plenty of people at college who happened to have attended prep school, and were great people. It was the folks for whom having attended "the right prep schools" was not an academic brain-expanding thing but soley a class status thing, part of a whole way of categorizing the world into the worthy and the unwashed, who really got up my nose. :smile:

Gee, I can't imagine why that would bother you! :wink:

Perhaps they've never seen how unwashed many boys are throughout their prep school careers. That might set 'em straight. :laugh:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Thurs

But there's a kitchen somewhere out there calling me and i'm looking for it. In addition to applying all of my experiences to my metier, I want to apply my philisophical principles of environmentaly sound land stewardship thru my use of clean organic foods, taking active role in local hungar issues, and just being an active local communtiy supporter, none of which I can do thru my current occupation.

Timh, from my experience, the best jobs have come to me. Word of mouth sort of thing. Just put out some feelers, to possibly some unexpected places and see what comes up. As an example, I do know from experience and having visited the properties, that Francis Ford Coppola's properties in Central America all are dynamically involved in producing their own foods. Part of that is lack of sources so they source it themselves. One thing I got involved in because I had the time now is being on the board of directors of my local farmers market. I now know the local growers and because of that have access to the best. Just a suggestion. It does not take a lot of time and the bosses think it is cool that I would want to get involved in this way. And it has been a great resource for networking in ways that I never imagined. Keep opening new doors and never close those behind you. Good things come to those who ask.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Joiei, great suggestions, Thanks. I've researched the local farmers mkt, if you can call it that. The growing season here is so short the mkt only operates for 3 mos. or maybe thats threshhold of support its is able to recieve here. The Coppala organisation sounds interesting. The Edible Schoolyard or similar type program is something I find myself constantly looking at. I think my primary need is to step back into a professional kitchen environment and then start reaching out.

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Hi Tim, I don't know how I missed this thread until today but find it fascinating. It always surprises me to realize that there are actually still people who live like this.

When I was young I often thought I would like a job like this but with three kids to raise it wouldn't have worked.

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I think we should hear from the other side. I'd like to hear the employer or potential employer's view.

There are people who contribute to eG who have made enough to to employ personal chefs should they wish, but chose (mostly) not to and still cook themselves.

There are many who employ caterers for private functions or office affairs, with variable results.

There are many here who employ a cleaning person, or professionally have a plongeur in the kitchen.

I have a part time gardener and a part time cleaner. Having staff is always something of a compromise - things are never done quite the way you would do them yourself, and having full time staff about the place means that inevitably some of your privacy is lost. I guess if you are used to institutional, semi-institutional or public life, such as boarding school, the military or a large family, then it comes naturally.

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Thats an interesting point. 6 days a week there are people moving thru the house, at times it seems like a business as there can be up to 6-7 people there doing something in support of the house. Sunday is the only "no staff day" and that changes often. They have chosen to live this way. Even I will soon have an au pair joining me.

Edited by Timh (log)
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Thats an interesting point. 6 days a week there are people moving thru the house, at times it seems like a business as there can be up to 6-7 people there doing something in support of the house. Sunday is the only "no staff day" and that changes often. They have chosen to live this way. Even I will soon have an au pair joining me.

My parents separated when my brother was a year old, the summer before I turned four. A year earlier, in anticipation of going back to work relatively quickly after giving birth, my mother had hired an au pair to join us for a few months. Lori was a college and nursing student from North Dakota who ended up living with my family until I was thirteen. My mother offered to pay for the rest of nursing school, and so she stayed and became my mother's best friend, and a third parent to me and my brother. She eventually went to work as an RN, first part-time, and then eventually full-time, and then she finally left us for her own apartment when I was in eighth grade.

Without her, my mother could never have continued to work the hours that she did, and would never have achieved in her professional life the kind of monetary and less tangible kind of success that she has (and I am thrilled that she never had to give up the job she loves), and my brother and I might never have been as well-adjusted (you know, within reason - we're not irritating or anything :wink:) as we are.

And, without Lori, I might never have developed the interest I have in cooking. My mother is an excellent, accomplished cook, but she didn't have a lot of time for it when I was little. To be fair, we had an early bedtime (8:00 till I was 13!), and I was at my father's house every other weekend, so I rarely got to spend time with her in the kitchen. My earliest, everyday cooking memories are therefore of Lori teaching me to make casseroles, salads, and to bake.

I suppose this is very different from Tim's experience; Lori was never treated as the "help," something neither my mother (nor my father, when he was still in the house) would ever have been comfortable with, and even now, when people ask me what she is/was, I just say, "She's my Lori." Her place in my life defies description. She's now married to a wonderful man (who is an Iron Chef addict), and has a gorgeous son of her own, Liam, who is my mother's designated grandchild (I love Liam doubly for the pressure he takes off of me to procreate :laugh:.).

Sorry for the detour...my point being, yes, I think growing up with staff (we always had a once- or twice-a-week housekeeper who did the heavy cleaning and a landscaper who mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedges, though Mom did the flowers and the veggies herself), or experiencing institutional living at a young age innoculates you to the oddity of having people traipse through the house or perform chores you might otherwise do yourself. In ideal circumstances, it also teaches you that those performing the chores are as worthy of your respect as anyone else you encounter in this life.

In my case, though, it gave me a whole lot more, especially when it comes to all things culinary. And, really, in every way possible.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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It doesn't seem to me that there is anything inherently morally damning about employing people to help run the household if it is financially possible and desirable for the family involved.

An environment is healthy and happy (or not) for a family based on so many other things than either money (really :shock::wink: ) or personal choice of lifestyle.

There are many families who do have "help" of sorts in keeping things running in their homes but it displays itself in ways other than having someone unrelated to them in a familial sense in the home to help.

The first example that comes to mind is the growing involvement of grandparents in many families lives, who care for the children while the parents (their own children) work. When I pick up my children at school, at least one-third of the other cars are manned (ha, ha!) by Grandma or Grandpa. Nobody would think of ever questioning this sort of "help" as anything but positive for the young family.

Another example is the growing number of families who order take-out or go to fast-food places or out to dinner at restaurants almost every night per week. In a recent post on eGullet, a newspaper reported that four out of five dinners are eaten at restaurants rather than at home in the category of "families with children".

If the environment is not a good one for whomever is experiencing it, it is not due to simply the titillating fact of "rich people hiring other people to do stuff for them".

We don't question why anyone in this day and age in business has a secretary (or administrative assistant if that is the correct phrase to use). It really is no different, having help in the home. Surely having a well-run home is every bit as important as getting the letters responded to. . .and really, when you think of it, not all *that* different from the ways that many other, less wealthy people are living their lives.

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I thank God that there are people like this who make these positions available. And the fact that these people are basically unable to care for themselves means that there will always be a need for household positions. I may not care for their politics or lifestyles, but their willingness (or neccesity) to farm out basic life functions is opportunity for those of us who are willing to work in these positions.

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This thread is bringing back memories...

Growing up in a labor-cheap country, we had 5-6 house staff for various tasks, including a few personal chefs, who would cook meals for a few hours every afternoon. We even had a chef who accompanied us on vacations to our ranch/farm and would cook "fresh" chickens, wild boar, bake bread, etc.

Unfortunately, it was not until I went to college (in a labor-scarce country) that I decided to learn to cook and wished I would have payed more attention to how the meals were made.

Tim, if you do end up pursuing a different opportunity and wish to leave the kids with something they will cherish, consider sharing some of the recipes of their favorite dishes with them. They will appreciate it later in life...perhaps.

Cheers

Percy

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Gosh, this is really getting interesting. Thanks, Jack, for adding that perspective, and Megan, for sharing your interesting and unusual story.

Tim, I'm so impressed by the integrity with which you appear to do your job. I know you'll do well in whatever you decide to do next.

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Joiei, great suggestions, Thanks. I've researched the local farmers mkt, if you can call it that. The growing season here is so short the mkt only operates for 3 mos. or maybe thats threshhold of support its is able to recieve here. The Coppala organisation sounds interesting. The Edible Schoolyard or similar type program is something I find myself constantly looking at. I think my primary need is to step back into a professional kitchen environment and then start reaching out.

Say, your employers sound just snooty enough that maybe you can convince 'em to pop for a trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country this summer so that you can return with some of the finest fresh foods grown anywhere and let them brag about what you found.

Do it late enough in the summer and you can also return with some of the best tomatoes around too.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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