In the kitchen at the home of one of her regular weekly clients, personal chef Kristi Piazza taught me a new way to fine-chop onions — extremely finely chopped.
“This client,” she said, “likes the taste of onion, but not the texture of onion chunks.”
Piazza said a personal chef is for people who either don’t know how to cook, don’t want to cook or don’t have time to cook. “I liken it to a housekeeper. I cook what they love and what’s good for them.”
Piazza is the owner and operator of Thyme for Dinner, a customized in-home personal chef service based in Aurora. The company offers “palate-specific” personalized meals, cooked from fresh ingredients in private homes. Piazza brings to her client’s kitchen all the food, cooking utensils and storage containers to prepare and store tasty home-cooked meals. She leaves the kitchen as she found it.
“I spend about five hours cooking in their kitchen and about four to five hours planning, creating recipes, nutritional information and shopping. I’m a very cost-conscious shopper. A can of diced tomatoes is a can of diced tomatoes. Although I’ll shop wherever they want.”
For her client who does not like onion chunks, the cost for four entrees and four sides for four people (16 meals) was $64.28. The four entrees were chicken fettuccine alfredo, caramel apple pork chops, crab cakes and Irish stew. “I used real crab, both lump and claws,” Piazza said.
Piazza will plan and prepare for a client’s likes and dislikes and provide nutritional information. “This client wants to keep the calories under 650 (per meal). If a menu item goes over that, I know where I can always decrease oil or butter.”
She can also accommodate special dietary needs, something with which she is very familiar, for she has three young sons, one of whom has a severe allergy to eggs and nuts. Menus are then agreed upon with the client and a cooking day is selected.
In the personal chef business for four months and a member of the American Personal Chef Association, Piazza tries to do some marketing of her business every day. “I spend about 80 percent of my time marketing and 20 percent cooking. I already have two weekly clients. It takes some personal chefs a year to do that.”
With a degree in food science and nutrition from the University of Illinois, Piazza was a restaurant manager until she quit to have more time with her growing family and went to work for a building contractor. Laid off from that job, she decided the time was right to launch her personal chef business. “Now’s the time,” she said. “I love to cook. That’s what I want to do.”
For one in-home cooking session to prepare five meals and five sides for four people, Thyme For Dinner charges $325 (20 meals at $16.25). Prices may be adjusted for quantities and preferences. Piazza also cooks for private parties and offers in-home cooking lessons. Gift certificates are available. For new mothers who are too busy and too tired to cook, they are the perfect gift, Piazza said.