Remember when people thought their homes were for showering and sleeping?
Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived and it suddenly became apparent the address that appears on one’s driver’s license and junk mail doesn’t belong to a mere residence alone. Over the course of the lockdown, people discovered their homes could function as schoolhouses, office complexes and entertainment arenas.
And as it turns out, a home also can double as an excellent restaurant.
With coronavirus still far from contained in South Carolina, many avid eaters are understandably wary about venturing into confined spaces with respiratory droplets galore. But at least in the Charleston area, where there’s a surfeit of trained chefs and practiced home cooks, it’s not necessary to take restaurant risks for a memorable meal.
Because they operate independently and in separate social networks, personal chefs are sometimes seen as a sidebar to the dynamism of the Lowcountry’s culinary scene. Yet they’re among the region’s foremost interpreters of local ingredients and consistent standard bearers for hospitality and quality at a time when restaurant owners are increasingly distracted by staffing woes and rising rents.
Hiring a private or personal chef (the terms are interchangeable) has always had advantages, chief among them that the client gets to eat precisely what he or she wants to eat, even if it’s creamed mackerel in puff pastry and smoked pinto beans.
- By Hanna Raskin firstname.lastname@example.org
Yet clients are also the beneficiaries of personal chefs’ nimble ways with sourcing. A personal chef can purchase a just-caught obscure fish that would terrify a restaurant chef in need of 30 matching specials to sell to tourists keen on chicken breasts. And while using a personal chef is hardly the height of frugality, the costs can compare favorably to those incurred in restaurants, especially if the party plans to drink wine with dinner.
In the age of coronavirus, though, hiring a personal chef has become even more attractive, in part because a meal is typically prepared and served by one or two business owners, as opposed to dozens of underpaid strangers. Additionally, whoever hosts the dinner gets to make the rules. If you want to position your guests at 8-foot intervals, that’s your prerogative.
(Just make sure to brief the chef beforehand on your plans and expectations. If you’re bowing out of restaurants because you think they’ve become too restrictive, a chef has a right to know in advance that you’re dispensing with masks and social distancing, and to decline the job if he or she isn’t comfortable with the arrangement.)
- By Stephanie Burt Special to The Post and Courier
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Of course, there is no force field around your home keeping the virus out, so it’s still wise when hosting to keep gatherings small; encourage guests to stay home if they’re not feeling well; provide plenty of hand sanitizer; and avoid shared plates.
Really, though, with the following chefs cooking, who’s going to want to share?
Diners seeking professional chefs to prepare at-home meals have long had to rely on sweeping internet searches or secondhand recommendations from friends, so The Post and Courier has compiled the first comprehensive directory of personal chefs in the Charleston area.
Or it’s very close to comprehensive. A few of the contacted chefs declined to participate, saying they picked up all of the business they could handle while restaurant dining rooms were closed.
In addition to providing basic information about their background, chefs also were asked to describe their cooking styles in five words or less; propose a menu for an imaginary woman in West Ashley throwing a 50th birthday dinner for four friends, one of whom doesn’t eat meat; and describe a challenging situation they’ve encountered in the course of their career.
Their answers should help you select the right chef for your home. Or is that a pop-up restaurant you're living in?