WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Just let your Personal Chef handle it all.


A city more in love with dining than Dallas is hard to imagine. And for good reason- world-class restaurants specializing in everything from classic French to Asian-Pacific are opening at a record pace. Fast food continues to get faster and better. But despite the cuisine explosion and the expansion of boutique takeout markets, an increasing number of Dallas’ busiest movers and shakers are looking for an alternative eating plan that allows them more relaxation. After a day crammed with sales calls, management meetings, and cell phone conference calls, a trip to Eatzi’s is just another decision to make.

So what is a city of hungry professionals with demanding taste-buds to do?

Hire a personal chef.

Easy for us to say, After all, having a personal chef evokes the image of gloved butlers filling crystal wine glasses with Chateau Margaux while serving Chateaubriand from silver platters to a couple seated at opposite ends of a 12-foot dining room table. But weary diner, limes have changed. And so has the feasibility of having your own major domo.

Now you don’t have to have a fenced estate, a flat in London, or a servants. According to Wendy Higgins, director of placement at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, the vast majority of personal chefs in America work for dual income families with combined salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100.000 per year. Of course, we aren’t talking Chateaubriand every night. but in some cases, it is possible to have a custom-designed meal delivered to your table for less than $10 a person.

However, if you do own a flat in London and want a cook to follow you around the world to enable you to stay on The Pritikin Diet, you can expect to cough up at least $75,000 a year, plus travel perks, medical insurance, and housing.

Finding a personal chef to fit your particular needs takes some research. The best method is to start by asking the staff of your favorite eateries as many local private chefs are alumni of Dallas’ finest restaurants. Or contact the United States Personal Chef’s Association for a list of tips on what to look for when hiring a personal chef and a roster of the current candidates available in Dallas. If you are in the market for your own Jacques Pepin, the prestigious Culinary Institute of America has a list of eligible graduates.

So grab your oven mitts and join us as we take a peek into some of Dallas’ premier kitchens and meet the chefs who are making magic.

Cammie Spillyards was a sous chef at The Riviera until she decided to get a haircut. As she was getting shampooed, her hairdresser mentioned that one of her other clients was looking for a private chef. Jumping at the chance to leave the world of working weekends behind, she now works full-time in the kitchen of a prominent North Dallas family. “You can’t beat the organizational skills you pick up working a line in a high volume, high profile restaurant,” she says. ” I had the confidence to go into this job and produce the kinds of results my clients expected.” And her clients do expect a lot-when they aren’t eating at home, they’re dining at The Riviera or The Mansion on Turtle Creek. They want their meals at home to live up to the exacting standards of quality and plate presentation found in a five-star restaurant, so Cammie prepares specialties like seared goose foie gras with crostinis and wild mushroom risotto with black tie scallops wrapped in puff pastry.

But what about the children? “If the parents are having grilled Alaskan salmon with glazed leeks, the kids will have salmon too, just a smaller portion and without the leeks. Every now and [hen 1 get a special request from the 6-year old to make a colored omelet. She’s pretty demanding about her color preferences-if she wants pink, it had better be pink.”

Cooking on a small scale has never been chef Steve DeShazo’s forte. During his stint in the Navy, he passed on nuclear weapons training and, to the recruiter’s surprise, actually volunteered for KP duty. For the next five years, he fed 3,000 men three meals a day. If that wasn’t tough enough, he spent his first six years out of the service crunching numbers as a Dallas accountant, One day, a light went off in his head, and he decided to take a chance on the ever-changing world of cooking. He combined his talents to open Gourmet on the Go-a personal chef service.

From his state of the art commercial kitchen, he prepares and packages his gourmet meals for delivery. Not as glamorous as having an in-house cook? Well, it’s not as expensive either. Chef DeShazo can deliver braised lamb osso bucco, citrus-grilled pork tenderloin, or ricotta-filled pasta shells ready to freeze and reheat as the week progresses. All the above comes to your door for as low as $10 per person per day.

Jim Galie has been the private chef for busy Beauticontrol Inc. founders Richard and Jinger Heath for over 10 years. Galie met the Heaths during his tenure at the Hotel Crescent Court and soon began catering parties in their home. Obviously, the chemistry clicked. Now, in addition to preparing low-key family meals, Jim is also in charge of coordinating numerous large private parties and corporate events. He oversees everything-the food, the bar arrangements, the hired help. He may have entered a chef’s Valhalla: “No expense is spared. I’m free to do whatever needs to be done.” That certainly helps when the dinner guest is former President George Bush or Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

After working with the Heaths so long, he feels like part of the family, but he understands that his life revolves around their busy schedules. “The most important thing is accommodating the client,” Galie says. “Your clients go through changes over the years-difforant diets and food preferences-and you must be aware and able to change with them.”

Does he ever get tired of making the same menus? “It lakes a unique person to be a private chef-you have to be a real self-motivator. The client doesn’t tell you to be creative, they just expect it.”

Most people hire a personal chef to make more time available to spend with their families. Former Baby Routh chef John Brinkman passed up several lucrative restaurant opportunities to create time to be with his. Brinkman, the father of two, says that being a personal chef has changed his life. Even though he travels with his clients to Nantucket, Carmel, and Aspen, he still gets to see his kids more than he did working seven nights a week in a commercial kitchen. Sound like a pretty glamorous gig? Brinkman claims the only views he gets of these cities brimming with the rich and famous is from a kitchen window. ” I had to realize that is their vacation, not mine. However, it is a lot of fun because it gives me the opportunity not only to cook with the seasons, but with the changing area as well.”

A self-professed “adrenaline junkie,” he worried that he would miss the excitement of an à la carte kitchen, but hasn’t found that to be true of his new career. Instead, Brinkman creates his own tension by taking advantage of the freedom he has to prepare whatever he wants. He challenges himself to present an authentic Greek feast one evening and appetizers from Southeast Asia, followed by New Zealand rack of lamb, the next. Eventually, he gets back to the family’s favorite Sunday night Mexican food feasts.

David Skorka got a little more than he bargained for when he decided to move into the private sector, Five years ago, he was placed with the family of a wealthy Dallas investment banker through a staffing agency in Malibu, California. He quickly adapted to his new life of keeping his clients happy with his gourmet creations. It didn’t take long for his routine of preparing gourmet family meals to blossom into a full-time position that now includes co-managing the 4-acre estate, overseeing the ground crew, supervising the two maids, and maintaining the family’s eight cars.

Back in the kitchen, his duties range from preparing food for large corporate events held on the grounds to making many of the family favorites like lasagna, filei mignon, or the kid’s beloved barbecue ribs. Luckily, the lady of the house has a passion for cooking, so some nights he gets off easy by prepping the ingredients for her favorite recipes and leaving them in the fridge for her to finish off. That leaves plenty of extra time for him to get ready for one of the many large soirees held on the estate. Once Skorka arranged a parly in honor of Senator Phil Gramm. Everything went fine until the confirmed guest count of 150 swelled to an unexpected room of 300. “Thank goodness it was a buffet,” says Skorka, who scurried to whip up more cheese tortellini and roasted veal loin. “It’s all in a day’s work.”


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