You see what full time work has done to me? I never cook any more. I can’t remember the last time I posted a recipe. I suppose I could look it up, but I don’t have time (and I don’t want to disappoint myself).
It was my birthday. A lovely bloke called Karl called me up and told me he’d like to have me try out his service. I could have a chef of my choosing, in my home, to cook for me and my buddies. All I had to do was try it. And… if I liked the system I could shout my praise from the rooftops (or the social media equivalent of).
So, instead of spending all my money on ingredients, I poured it all into the cellar down in MMI and came home with some spectacular French tipples. I then plucked chef Pascal from the list of willing chefs, and happily engaged in banter on the Chef Xchange platform. It was all so smooth. Choose the chef, agree on a menu, tick boxes so the chef knows what he might find in your kitchen (although no box provided for hungry pet dog it seems), provide details, and then wait for the big day.
I wish someone had told the wiring in my kitchen that this day was supposed to run smoothly. But my electrics had absolutely no regard for my birthday, nor respect for the illustrious Pascal, because they chose the moment 25 minutes into choux pastry baking time to have a little tanty and fry themselves.
I was apologetic. Pascal was devastated. Husband had another drink.
8:15pm and the challenge was on. Find the groundskeeper. Turn on the barbecue. Tell Pascal that everything is fine – (we are Australian – we think you can cook anything on a BBQ. Even though it’s in the dark because all the outside lights went with the kitchen hob). Watch guest George stare miserably at the shriveling choux, thinking that this is probably the closest he’s ever going to get to a Paris Brest (because in his mind, we all know how he’s spelling it). Open some more Taittinger Rose.
I suppose the whole experience was somewhat catastrophic for Pascal, but I didn’t really notice. That’s the wonderful thing about having someone else master the kitchen on your big night. You talk, you drink, you laugh, you eat, you talk about drinking and laughing and eating. At some stage, groundskeeper Joy got the stove back on, but I can’t remember at what point exactly. The night flowed, from my perspective, fairly seamlessly.
We ate perfectly grilled scallops with caramelised leeks that smelled like heaven. We drank the 2010 Blain-Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot, and melted at the knees. Then we had slow-roasted lamb with thyme, and some creamy polenta that questioned the need to ever order mashed potatoes again. We drank Louis Jadot Pommard (2010) and Chateau Chantalouette Pomerol (2007). The Paris Brest was unsaveable, but Pascal had managed to knock together a hazelnut parfait with crumble, resting on some meringues found in my cupboard, partnered beautifully with my 2009 Carmes de Riuessec Sauternes.
And then they cleaned up.
Would I use the service again? Definitely. Would I ask for Pascal again? Very likely.
But there’s a swathe of capable cooks available on the platform – Pascal comes with my personal recommendation, but loving the look of these other three. There are also plenty of apprentice or amateur chefs available for hire, with two-course meals starting from 100AED (to about 650 for 3 courses at the top end).
Highlights: Quintessentially French
Price: from 400AED to 600AED
Cooks for: 4-12 guests
Highlights: Delicate fusion with Japanese influences
Price: from 300AED to 400AED per head
Cooks for: 4 to 20 guests
BBQ and larger parties
Price: from 100AED to 300AED per head
Cooks for: 20 to 60 guests
Highlights: Gastro-pub style, but also offers a gourmet veg option
Price: from 250AED to 450AED per head
Cooks for: 4 to 20 guests