Passing over my Kitchen to a Personal Chef from La Belle Assiette:
A few weeks back I was invited to a preview event for La Belle Assiette. There were around 30 or 40 people seated for dinner and we sat down to a four course meal. Chatting to Kasia, one of the team from La Belle Assiette, I discovered that their chefs were normally hired for dinner parties of around 8 people. Keen to find out a little more about what a real ‘Belle Assiette’ experience was like, I volunteered my new home as venue for a dinner. I was just a little nervous and wondered if someone new to my rather quirky kitchen would be able to produce ‘restaurant standard’ food. But, the attraction of having someone else cook was quite compelling.
I drew up a list of potential invitees in conjunction with La Belle Assiette, who have launched fairly recently in the UK. Everyone seemed really enthusiastic. The menu sounded wonderful and we were lucky enough to be sent matched wines to try with the food.
As the date got closer, I panicked just a little. What would a professional chef think of my kitchen? Would he be able to pull off the amazing menu that was proposed? I really wasn’t sure, mostly because I know I couldn’t turn up on someone’s doorstep and produce a dinner for 8, just like that. But, Kasia reassured me that César Fernandez, our chef for the evening would take everything in his stride.
At about 5.30 César appeared at the door with bags and boxes. It took five minutes to give him a guided tour of the kitchen. I was impressed. He really didn’t seem to have any problems with my odd assortment of pots and pans. And, I left him to it and went upstairs to set the table.
As people started to arrive, we congregated in the kitchen where everyone was keen to find out more about the man who was filling the house with a wonderful aroma of food. Apart from working as a private chef, César has a stellar c.v. He trained at Leiths then worked at a number of top London restaurants. It’s interesting having a real pro in the kitchen. And, it’s given me a lot more confidence in the equipment I have.
We started with a glass of champagne from Frerejean Frere, brought by our hostess Kasia from La Belle Assiette.
Canapes were tiny delicious mouthfuls of gin cured salmon with home made rye bread and grilled chicken with pickled vegetables.
I’d opened the bottle of Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 to breathe an hour or so before we were ready to eat. The result was a light and fruity red wine which paired beautifully with the starter. Those not so keen on red wine enjoyed a bottle of Carmel Road Monterey, a minerally reisling.. Flaked confit of rabbit turned out to be a crisp, crumb coated mouthful of tenderest rabbit confit, served with a dab of wholegrain mustard and a few pretty heritage carrots. It did look beautiful on the plate too. So, any excuses about not having the right crockery to style my food well has now vanished in a puff.
The main course was halibut served with salt baked shallots and broccoli tabboouleh. Another beautiful dish, at this stage I was really enjoying the freedom of having guests in my own home but not actually having to worry about the food. We tried two bottles of white wine with the halibut – both from the same winery as the Pinot Noir we’d enjoyed earlier. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2013, a fruity oaked white and Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2011, which had delicious notes of green apple, vanilla and honey
It’ wonderful when the dessert really is the crowning glory of the meal. I’d watched César rolling out pastry and draping it over pie tins to blind bake. But, by the time it came to making up the chocolate tart we were otherwise engaged eating our starter and main course. The tart was a divinely rich dark chocolate ganache in a crisp pastry shell. Served with salted caramel sauce, honeycomb and clotted cream it was the sort of pudding that I can only dream of producing.
As the guests gradually dispersed, César carried on clearing up in the kitchen. He even offered to mop the floor! But actually I was just very grateful to have had such a great meal cooked for us in the comfort of my own home.
A meal like the one we enjoyed would cost around £60 per person. There are options to suit every purse though, La Belle Assiette have a whole range of chefs with prices per head from £28, with three course meals from £44 per head and even with full tasting menus. And of course the great thing about eating at home is that you don’t have taxi fares to pay or corkage on your wine.
For more about La Belle Assiette, check out the website
Wines are available from the following suppliers:
Carmel Road Monterey – corneyandbarrow.com – £61.84 for a case of six bottles
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2013 – thedrinkshop.com – £14.02
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2011 – thedrinkshop.com – £18.92
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 – winedirect.co.uk – £15.50
If you’d like to read what one of my guests thought, pop over to Yummy French Mummy and read her account of ‘If you don’t have it, fake it‘