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Timh

The World of a Private Chef

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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:

I don't think I attended one of those "right prep schools."

Since all of those are New England boarding schools (well, a couple of them may be in New Jersey), and mine was a day school in the Midwest, it couldn't be "the right school" by definition.

Except in the context of Greater Kansas City, that is.

--Sandy, suddenly looking forward to his 30th high school reunion later this year, even if that means encountering the bigoted redneck who now runs Russell Stover Candies, his family's company


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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Hi TimH, is your Easter menu very involved? We are having the family in for an egg hunt, 400 eggs for 6 kids and then a light luncheon. My employer designed the menu, she wants my root beer glazed ham, assorted finger sandwiches, assorted salads, and cookies for dessert. I had planned a more traditional fare, but if this is what she wants, my job is easier because it will be served buffet style. THen I have to pack them off to the ranch for the rest of the week which means having food stuffs ready to go as soon as the kids leave with their kids. It will be a little hectic, but then I will have a couple of easy days while everyone is gone.

Happy easter ya'll.


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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Tim,

I got addicted to this thread and have read all six pages in one sitting but since you have not updated in awhile I am wondering what you have been doing lately.

Update please!!

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While waiting for Tim to return, I'll offer my own experiences, if they interest anyone. I have seen, as Joni Mitchell sang, both sides now.

In my teen years, we moved from the States to Latin America, where my father was president of an international bank's public relations branch. It was easy to fall into life as a pampered teenager whose parents employed a full household staff: two housemaids, a cook, a chauffeur, a gardener and a weekly cleaner to deal with the heavy work. My mother, herself Latin American, ran a tight ship with no waste, but in no way was there a feeling of miserliness or exploitation of the servants. The staff could eat in the kitchen what we were having at the dinner table if they chose, although they often prefered rice and beans. We ate rice and beans too: the cuisine was just good, fresh, daily Latin American fare.

My father paid good wages, allowed the expected days off and vacations, and gave the housemaids who stayed with us for several years extra personal benefits, such as paying for their dental work. My parents felt responsible for these young women, who had been accompanied by their mothers when interviewing for their jobs, but there was no system of insurance, pension, or benefits other than salary and days off. It was done the old-fashioned, patriarchal way. I hope things have changed for employees in Brazil since my time there; conditions we now think of as normal were considered "good"conditions then.

Fifteen years later, I had moved to Israel, married, had three children, and suddenly divorced. I had total responsibility for the kids and no job - and no up-to-date, marketable skills. It was a bad time, a time when my hair turned white overnight as I cried and clutched myself and wondered how we were going to survive. Well, I thought, if I have to clean houses, that's what I'll do. So when an ad appeared in the paper: "Housekeeper Required" - I called up and arranged for an interview.

The lady of the house was impressed by my approach with small children (there were five kids under age 10 in the house). The women who supplied me with references were warm in my praise; they were all friends and neighbors with whom I had traded many babysitting favors. In brief, I was accepted and spent the next two years as housekeeper and cook for the family. During that time I retrained in office work and management. My schedule was very full: at work by 8:00 am, out again at 3:00 pm, on to classes and then shopping on the way home for dinner with the kids.

It was not easy work, but at least I convinced my employers to hire someone to do the really heavy stuff. I tidied up, washed the previous night's dishes, cleaned wherever necessary, did all the family laundry, and cooked lunch and dinner. I shopped for the food as well. I would have a 15-minute consultation with the wife every morning (rarely had anything to do with the husband), during which time she would bring me up to date with kids sick at home, meal requests, expected visits from plumber or electrician or any other outside worker, deliveries to deal with. Basically I did for my employer what three women had done for my mother before. When she left the house to go to her yoga class or meet with her friends, she went in peace of mind, knowing that her home was running like clockwork; that her kids would be served the kind of lunch they liked and that later she and her husband would sit down to a nice dinner together, he in his ironed and starched shirt, she in her hand-washed silk dress, all cleaned, laundered and catered by me.

When the family would go for a month-long vacation once yearly, I checked in every week to make sure everything was in working order. Upon their return, their fridge would be stocked with fresh food and a chicken soup. Bread and fruit would be arranged in baskets on the table. The cleanliness and comfort were like that of a good, old-fashioned hotel. Time also proved my honesty; as is Tim's creed, I maintained total transparency in all my purchasing and money alloted to me for household use.

What about the relationship betwen us, how did I feel becoming a domestic servant - a "treasure" - after having once lived a life even more affluent than my employer's? Well, I thought it important to maintain a pleasant face and to be discreet. It's true, a person has no secrets from his servant. I changed the sheets, so I knew who was still having accidents at night, and how often my employers were intimate. Their habits, crises, family dynamics and complications, were all known to me, and believe me, I didn't especially relish the privilege. It became natural to become incurious; the less I knew, the better.

Over time, I discovered that there was a self-referential, self-congratulatory core inside every one of them. It was cool to speak to their servant in a democratic way, but I could sense the distance of a rooted snobbery. Their children were abominably spoiled and arrogant. Little by little, I came to despise the family. I had, not too long before, moved in wealthier circles, bought more expensive clothes and enjoyed more exotic vacations; the great difference between us was not in any basic human worth but in their greater income. Or my lesser one. I never, by the way, mentioned my background to them; they knew I was originally American, divorced and raising three children alone. That was enough.

Working as a servant downgraded my social image, as I found out when I started dating again. Older friends, and even my rabbi, advised me not to tell men about my job. I was stubborn; I thought that the right man would admire me. They were right, and so was I, but I did find myself, several times, sitting across the table from an attractive man whose eyes emptied of warmth and interest the minute I described how I supported my family. I resented that: what was shameful about hard work? However it didn't get better till I rejoined the outside world again.

I stayed till jobs in the office world seemed likely to materialize, then gave two weeks notice. It was a wonderful feeling of release. The wife tried to manipulate me into staying at least one more month, but as I was being paid hourly, by law I was free to leave even from one minute to the next. I felt no great compassion; I'm sure they found an adequate replacement for me quickly.

Twelve years ago my real partner and I met. We married and have the great pleasure of a young child in the house again. My three older ones are grown up and flown away. While I don't expect to ever enjoy the financial ease I knew in Brazil, I can now afford to pay a young woman to clean the apartment every week. She is thorough and honest, and she won't be with me much longer: she wants to study medicine. I don't see why she shouldn't succeed. I wish her immense good luck.

Miriam


Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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I read you well, Miriam. I once worked as a maid for an affluent family. I lasted just about 2 weeks, as I recall. It wasn't anything they did or didn't do, nor said or didn't say, it was a pervasive sense that I was less than they. I had been raised to believe that I was as good as anyone. I had also been raised to believe that honest, hard work was respectable no matter the task. We were incompatible. :biggrin:


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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update June 15

Well folks, I've finally decided to move on and have accepted a opening chef position for a small enoteca/trattoria on the south shore, here in MA. The past few months have been difficult and emotionally draining both personally and professionally as I bare the burdens of a divorce and custody battle and then recievng no support(only pressure) from work. I was fortunate in that i had a few opportunities presented to me, and it came down to either New Orleans or staying local. Both are new ventures and Italian , so staying near my children was the deciding factor.

Anyway, I have offered to stay(a reasonable amount ) and even help them find a replacement for me and train them. They are basically only concerned with someone being ther to cook their next meal, but I also think the shock of a new person in the house must be a little unsettling as I've held the position for 7+ years.

So now its summer and the kids are out, I never know who's going to be around for lunch or dinner. Zero communication(as its always been). I'll come in and be prepping a lunch and everyone will leave and say nothing, or when I come in, there will be a crowd of kids and adults wanting lunch. Dinner is the same, its maddening. But I will continue to do my best and leave on a high note. So I may thread my experiences of opening a new restaurant if I have the time and energy. Thanks everyone for letting me share(vent).

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timh~

Glad to see you checking in . I'm sorry for your difficulties; maybe life will get back on an even keel again soon. Thanks for sharing your world with us. It has been fascinating . Please let us know how the new gig goes !

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Timh-

So sorry for all you are going through. I hope the transition is relatively easy for you. Can you share the name of the restaurant you are going to? I'd love to check it out.

Take care of your self.

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Tim, it seems time for you to move on. You seem bitter, and don't get me wong, deservedly so... it must be quite hard to deal with the unexpected people and no shows all the time and lack of appreciation or compassion for your current issues. Leave on a high note, as you said, and look forward to your new adventure. Congrats on the new job!


Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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Tim, I'm on the South Shore and I would love to try your new place too, so do let us know.

Good luck -- I expect your new job will be much more satisfying. :rolleyes:

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Timh,

Thank you for updating us. I am glad to see you are getting some closure to the issues in your life. I hope everything goes well for you. I have been through divorce and I know how rough it can be. Believe me, you will eventually come out of the funk this situation must put you in and be able to count your blessings. (One of which may well be the fact that you're not living with her any more.) Please keep us informed on where you are at and how the restaurant is shaping up.

Ellen

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TimH, thanks for the update. I've been reading this thread since way back when I was still a lurker and it fascinates me.

When my family moved to the Philippines, we had two maids who also cooked, but we always gave them a heads-up! Had I just walked into the kitchen and expected a full-blown meal with no notice, my mother would have punished me.


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Tim,

Your generosity and consideration are admirable. Thank you for sharing, I think everyone reading has gotten a little emotionally engaged! I wish you the very best of luck in all your changes - may they be for the very best.

Miriam


Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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Tim, your writing has been incredibly open and revealing. I read this thread yesterday, and then for the rest of the day I couldn't get the images you had conveyed out of my head. It felt as though I had just finished a really good book. If there is a book planned in your future, I am sure your emotions and writings would be up to the challenge. Best wishes to you.

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Tim, I am sure I'm not only speaking for myself when I say you gained a fan club with this thread.

Add me to the list of another looking forward to visiting your new place!


Robert R

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Congrats Tim. I can't wait to hear about your new venture.

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The scenario today-

This week has been a soft one as the Mr. and his son(18yr old) flew to their estate in Boca for the week. Just the mrs. and 2 girls(13, 16). Yes they have their own private jet, so they are able to change their travel plans on a moments notice. They've turned around mid flight to Europe before because one of the kids really didn't want to miss a skating PRACTICE. I've been called home from my vacation early because they have decided to cut short their hiatus due to rain, boredom or whatever. So during my lame duck(chef) period i'm being a little more adventurous with the food to keep myself interested. But also expecting to walk in and see the whole family there, just never know. Tonight:

The girls will get - panko breaded fried shrimp, pilaf w/ fresh peas, corn, and basmati.

The Mrs.- I poached a lobster and will cut the tail into medallions and along with the knuckle and claws will also bread in panko and fry. Will make a tartar sauce for her too. grilled asparagus to garnish. A small greek salad with just tomatoes, red onion, seeded cuccumber, peppadews, arugula and feta to start.

Any left over poached lobster I'll make a lobster salad for sandwiches for the weekend. Extra grilled asparagus I'll toss in vinaigrette and toss on the antipasti platter, and the peas and corn I'll mix with leftover tartar sauce for a sort of wacky version od salad macedoine(look it up in Larrousse).

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Hi Miriam, the way I see it, I can always come back to this little niche if my restaurant endeavors go south. But I trained my whole life to be a chef and to lead a kitchen team and,well, thats what I'm going to do. Regret is my biggest fear and driving motivation. Your story is very interesting, I can so relate and who knows, maybe one of my next patrons will be my next employer(though at this point I can definitely say they won't be my next wife :wink: )

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Tim, I wish you well. Do let us know about your new job - I know that all of us would love to hear how it goes. And I'm sure it will go well - I can tell just from reading this thread how good you are at what you do.

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Your professional and personal adventures have been a wonderful read Tim.

At the risk of echoing, leaving a small notebook for the kids on how to make some of their favorite comfort foods could prove to be a most cherished item. You could also send this to them at a later date when you've had some distance and closure.

I find it surprising how many searching memories are filled around the subject of lost recipes from cooks, etc. I have a friend who would give her right arm for a particular coconut pudding recipe from Antigua!

I'd love to hear your version of grilled cheese sandwiches, you know, the one no one else can replicate :)


flavor floozy

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Funny you bring that up. I managed to develop a whole repetoir of grilled cheese sandwiches out of neccesity, but must confess that I rather like them myself. As I mentioned earlier I'm fortunate enough to have Pain D'auvignon in my backyard so i have a tremendous base from which to start. The two they most want are a cheddar and bacon and a cheddar w/ thin sliced caramelized onions. Welsh rarebit is popular too. I've got a panini press also. But its hard to beat butter or olive oil griddled sandwiches imo.

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Mr. and his son(18yr old) flew to their estate in Boca for the week. [...] Yes they have their own private jet

Jeez, that's sick. And depressing - no matter how successful one is as a cook, achieving the amount of wealth of somebody who starts a mediocre technology company that goes public is impossible. Even a fraction of it. Puck, Emeril, etc. make tons of money, but probably are nowhere near these folks.

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