I have never thought about hiring a private chef before. I love cooking so why would I? It’s a good question but now I have experienced a private chef taking over my kitchen for the night I might have just had my head turned.
I was contacted recently by La Belle Assiette to ask if I would be interested in exploring the service on offer. La Belle Assiette is an online private chef service, which brings talented local chefs into people’s homes to provide the full restaurant experience, whether it be for dinner parties, events or any other special occasions.
With over 300 active chefs across the country on La Belle Assiette’s roster, it is easy to take the stress out of hosting a dinner party. You can choose the cuisine of your choice, from Nordic to Nepalese, with a host of carefully crafted set menus available to select at the click of a button. Better still, said menus can be personally customised, ensuring that all dietary requirements are easily catered for. The chef will buy fresh ingredients, come to your home and cook a fine-dining meal and even do the washing up! Leaving you to relax and enjoy the evening.
La Belle Assiette put me in touch with Alastair Prichard of Alastair David Catering. Based locally in Totnes, a short drive from Exeter it seemed a perfect pairing. After a quick phone call to introduce ourselves and talk menu options, a date and time was secured. I wanted a menu that was seasonal, using local ingredients where possible to complement the English wines I had lined up. The date chosen was slap bang in the middle of English Wine Week which was fortunate. I always toast English Wine Week but normally always cook myself. Inviting Alistair into my home and kitchen to prepare a vegetarian feast was a novel but much enjoyed experience indeed.
On The Day
With my dinner guests set to arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm sit down my chef, Alistair arrived a little before 5.30pm to get accustomed to his new surroundings and prepare and cook our supper.
My kitchen is compact and bijoux so I was a tad worried that it might be a little confined but Alastair assured me he was more than happy with the space. I left him to it so I could get the dinner table and then myself ready. The sense of calm created by not having that feeling of pressure of cooking was a new sensation indeed. It felt a little odd at first I have to admit but I soon embraced it. It left me with time to decorate my table how I wanted and titivate myself without getting flustered. At this point, I started to understand why you might want to hire a private chef for a celebration, party or simply just as a treat.
Once all my guests had arrived I served drinks in my pretty courtyard garden. The weather was glorious so we took the opportunity to soak up the last few remaining sun rays before supper was served. Pretty much to time Alastair gave me ‘the nod’ and said that the first course was ready to be served. Ushering my guests to the table we all took our seats and within minutes our first course was served by Alastair himself. Ricotta gnudi with courgettes and mint. Served on my own vintage plates it was a delight for the eyes. On first taste, the light and fluffy gnudi melted in my mouth like a cheese cloud. The second bite contained the minty courgettes. It was a sensation not only in flavour but visually too.
I was in charge of the wine selection and obviously kept the English wine theme throughout our menu. We started with a sparkler from Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey. It worked beautifully with the light ricotta gnudi and spring courgettes.
Course two was equally beautiful to look at. A fried duck egg and duxelles puff pastry tart with roasted radish and asparagus with champagne butter. The crispness of the tart base offset with the soft duxelles and oozing duck egg was superb. The pop of the pink radishes, roasted but still crisp and the spring green asparagus created the most delightful dish. The buttery champagne sauce added a gloss to the vegetables and a decadent flavour to the tart. Superb!
With this course, I opened the Simpsons Wine Estate Roman Road Chardonnay. Having never tried this English wine from Kent before I was overwhelmed with the quality. It really was a top-notch drop alongside our tart. Full of vanilla, melon and honeysuckle flavours. It has to be one of the best still English wines I have ever sampled to date.
Dessert came in the form of a vegetarian soft set rhubarb and beetroot jelly, pistachio yoghurt, strawberry sorbet and lavender shortbread. I can’t explain how good this dessert was and once again Alastair came up trumps with the presentation. It was a vision. The varying textures worked so well together. A perfect end to our meal.
After dinner Alastair spent a while with us chatting about the menu, good restaurants to eat in and answering any questions we had. He was a pleasure to talk to and eager to learn more about our local area after moving back from London a few years ago. I wouldn’t hesitate to have Alistair back in my kitchen. He really is a charming man with fabulous menu ideas and the talent to pull them off.
Once all of our plates were cleared away and I had offered my guests tea and coffee Alastair popped his head around the door to say his goodbyes. His part in the evening was finished and we were left to it. I would like to point out that my kitchen was left spotless. It was as if Alastair hadn’t even been there. Another treat for me as the host.. not having to wash up!
I couldn’t fault my La Belle Assiette experience and would recommend the experience wholly from start to finish as would all of my guests. I am already thinking of another opportunity to invite Alastair into my home and kitchen!
To hire a private chef in Devon or further afield click here.
A special thank you to Lee Potter and Nick Hook for providing some rather stunning photographs from the night.