Chefs are employed to cook gourmet meals in French homes.
Employing a Chef to cook all your meals is traditionally the preserve of royalty and the super-rich. But now a phenomenon imported from the US is changing the culinary habits of France. Instead of going out to dinner, the French are increasingly likely to employ a chef for the evening, entertaining friends or business colleagues in the comfort of their own home.
I caught up with Emmanuel Sofonéa, a private chef who is reviewed in this month’s ‘Restaurant of the Month’, to ask him how and why he started his company ‘Un Chef Chez Vous’. After a vast amount of cheffing experience, 10 years of working all over the world, 2 years fo cheffing on yachts, and numerous major awards for his culinary skills, Emmanuel decided to settle in his own country, and do what he does best – cook. He didn’t want to work for anyone else, or have the restrictions of a restaurant to run, so he developed a way of working which he had encountered in the States, and ‘Un Chef Chez Vous’ was born…
When did you first start cooking?
“When I was 15. I grew up in Lyon, where I would help out in local restaurants during weekends and holidays. I knew I didn’t want to stay at school, but it was quite by chance that I got this kitchen job and realised that that was where my future lay. I subsequently graduated from the chef’s school in Lyon. I now have 26 years experience in professional cooking, and 5 years as a personal chef.”
(Not bad for a 42 year old!)
Why did you decide to cook for customers in their homes?
“I was no longer happy to work in a restaurant, because of the stress, and because you never get to see your customers. Although I wear a chef’s uniform to cook, and make meals to a very high standard, it is a much more relaxed and friendly way of doing things than a restaurant, where a chef’s attention is on too many things at once, and the food can suffer. I had seen private chefs starting to appear when I worked in Chicago, in 1990, and always liked the idea.”
Emmanuel works alone, but manages to find the time to choose all of his ingredients himself. He emphasises the importance of quality ingredients in creating a gourmet dish, and enjoys making his selections from the colourful local markets. He has settled in Antibes, on the glamourous Côte d’Azur, where there is always plenty of fresh, local produce to choose from, and a wealth of customers wanting some luxury.
All the ingredients are bought fresh on the day that a meal is served. My mouth waters reading his inspiring menu, which sounds so fresh. I think I’d go for ‘sea bream carpaccio with fresh herbs, followed by Ostrich tournedos with curry and roasted carrots scented with vanilla. Then, after cheese, I’d like the mango tarte tatin, poached in cinnamon, and served with chocolate sorbet. Emmanuel also provides the puff pastry nibbles to go with aperitifs, and a different bread tailored to each course.
Why do people choose you over restaurants?
“It depends. A friendly atmosphere, people can enjoy themselves and relax with their guests, but also sometimes because they like to say, “Tonight we have a Chef”!
Business entertaining with a personal chef is also becoming more popular. This approach is used a lot in the USA.
Also, people can pay individually for their meal, so it’s a good way for friends to meet more often at each other’s houses, for a gourmet meal, without the worry of who is going to pay.”
Sounds tempting. – He even does the washing-up!
© Gem Driver 2005
There is a French association of private chefs, so you can experience this kind of soirée, wherever you are in France, see www.chefadom.com. (Chefs à Domicile).
Emmanuel is also the French representative for the international ‘Private Chefs, Inc.’ you can contact him for details of services across Europe.
You can also contact Emanuel personally:
34, rue James Close
Tel: +33 (0)4 93 34 62 55
Mobile: +33 (0)6 73 22 65 44
By Gemma Driver
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