An acquaintance recently asked where my restaurant was located. Someone else asked if I would cater an event. Another asked if I’d be selling meals at the farmer’s market. Many people are unfamiliar with the concept of a personal chef, what a personal chef service provides and how it works. Luckily, I’m well versed in this subject, so let me explain…

Simply put, as a personal chef I am a professional cook who is hired by several clients to prepare meals in the client’s home kitchen, based on their nutritional and dietary preferences. Aspects of my service include discussing with the client their needs and expectations for the service, selecting a menu, shopping for the ingredients, preparing the meals, storing and labelling the meals, providing warming instructions as needed, and cleaning the work area of the kitchen before leaving the clients home. I provide personalized service to one client/family per day, usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, leaving them with 20 servings of delicious meals to enjoy as their busy schedule dictates.

The personal chef profession began to evolve in the 1990’s, when folks who wanted to cook professionally began looking for options beyond the stainless steel of the restaurant – options that would allow them to be the boss of their own work hours and to avoid the late nights and weekends traditially required of a line cook. While a personal chef is usually self-employed, wearing all the hats and bearing all of the craziness of managing their own business, the resulting reward is a personal connection with clients and the community which isn’t usually available to restaurant or executive chefs in larger organizations. Today there are over 10,000 professional personal chefs working across the United States, belonging primarily to two professional personal chef organizations – the American Personal & Private Chef Association (I am a member) and the United States Personal Chef Association. Whether trained in restaurants, at home or in trade school, professional personal chefs are required to be insured and servsafe certified, and to abide by a code of ethics particular to this profession. Some personal chefs cater to specific diets – gluten free, vegetarian, diabetic – while others focus on providing stellar service to specific types of clients such as seniors or families with young children.

So, while I don’t cater large events or sell meals-to-go at the farmer’s market, and I can’t welcome you to my restaurant, I can spend my day in your kitchen, creating delicious dishes chosen by you and prepared just the way you like them. As a personal chef, this is my goal: To make dinner something to look forward to and to savor, one client at a time.

If you’ve missed reading up on the top food trends for 2019, they include increased industrial investment in lab grown “meats”, beverages enhanced with CBD, and the unprejudiced acceptance of imperfect ugly vegetables. While these trends may not appeal to everyone, there is one projected food trend that we all may want to consider – Eating at Home.

Wow. How did eating at home become a “food trend” anyway? Have we strayed that far from the generations-old daily ritual of dinner at the table, where our parents and grandparents gathered to eat and share the days news? Yes, it’s true. Many of us would have to admit that long work days and commutes and our family extracurricular activities have turned dinner time into a challenge. The priority list has often become (1) Eating – anything, (2) Eating around dinner time, (3) Eating something healthy, (4) Eating together.

Have faith! According to recent studies, “eating in” as a practice that we Americans are trying hard to hold onto, and we’re turning to convenience to do so. While eating at home is generally more affordable than eating out, the composition of the home-made meal and the means of preparing it are evolving.

Traditionally, the American recipe for dinner has been the combination of a vegetable, a starch and a protein, most often prepared separately and occupying individual sections of the plate. However, the final meal of the day is morphing towards a one-dish-fits-all model as a means of bringing all of the components together with less effort. While our mother’s cooking magazines once boasted recipes for stews, casseroles, or the multi-ingredient taco, we’re now cooking up sheet pan dinners and Instantpot meals. Many of us are also embracing the convenience of gathering groceries without touring the store via online shopping, and cooking without the bother of planning by ordering entire meal kits for delivery. In addition, our local supermarkets are investing marketing dollars and shelf space in more upscale store-prepared meals to go, enticing us away from traditional “fast food” towards meals with a more home-made appeal. Experts hypothesize that meals will trend toward a combination of these practices, containing some store or restaurant prepared components with other areas of the plate reserved for humble recipes made in the home kitchen. Order a burger (expertly grilled), toss up a salad. Pick up a hearty soup (lots of chopping), layer up a sandwich.

As we welcome 2019, consider becoming part of the “Eating In” phenomenon. Hold fast to the time honored tradition of enjoying a relaxing meal on a regular basis with those you care about. Food trend or not, some things never go out of style.

I’ve had the pleasure of being a member of Eight Mile Creek Farm’s CSA program for several years and have enjoyed not only the fresh organic favorites such as cucumbers, cabbage, squash and green beans, but also unique varieties including rainbow carrots, crispino lettuce and siberian kale. And the eggs – did I mention the organic eggs?! The shells come in a variety of delicate hues, and the yolks are large and luminous with a color that brings to mind marigolds and sunshine! I’m also a fan of the many photos which Pam includes in her blog about life on the farm, which frequently feature her endearing and lovable horses, cows and dogs as well as the beautiful surrounding farm land. My family is happily spoiled by the farms rich and abundant produce, and we’re proud to support Pam and her amazing woman-owned and operated business.

More About Eight Mile Creek Farm Eight Mile Creek Farm is nestled away on 250 acres of gorgeous farmland southwest of Albany in Westerlo, New York. The farm dates back to 1835, and now supports a widely diversified agricultural business. With a background in nutritional sciences, owner and self-taught farmer Pam Schreiber maintains the farms annual organic certification and aims to provide her customers with a great variety of nutrient dense products. The farm operates based on the concept of regenerative agriculture, which strives to improve yields while reducing external inputs by conserving water, nurturing topsoil and promoting biodiversity. Pam produces over 100 types of organic vegetables and herbs, along with certified organic grass-fed beef, pork, chicken and pastured eggs. In addition, organic turkeys are available for the holidays. The farm is a member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and Slow Food USA. Eight Mile Creek Farm is resident at the Peekskill Farmers Market on Saturdays and offers CSA shares year-round at slect drop off locations (home delivery available in some areas).

Photo Credit: Pam Schreiber, Eight Mile Creek Farm