Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Hello and thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my guest post.
My name is Christian Ørner and I am a Private Chef and Chocolatier based in Poole, Dorset. In my blog I am going to talk you through a day in the life of a Private Chef.
So what do I do as a Private Chef do? Well I create bespoke menus for special occasions, bringing the complete restaurant experience to the comfort of people’s homes. My clients usually choose to go with the full 7 course tasting menu option as it is something different when one can get a 3 course dinner in every restaurant everywhere.
How the bespoke menu part works is that after the initial contact I ask what things my clients like, dislike and if there are any food allergies or intolerances that I should know about. With the answers from that I then create a menu which will then go back and forth until my client is happy. The day before the event I then arrange purchase of all the ingredients from my different suppliers; butcher, fish supplier and veg supplier. Then the preparations really begin.
A day in the life of a Private Chef actually starts the day before as I mentioned with the purchase of ingredients. When I get back to my kitchen first job is to make the chicken stock on for the first layer for the sauce to go with the meat course.
The menu for this event is:
Amuse Bouche: Tomato Consomme, Tomato Concasse, Olive Oil
Starter: Sweetcorn Pannacotta, Salted Popcorn, White Crab Meat, Chive
Fish Course: Pan Fried Bream, Petit Ratatouille, Basil Oil
Refresher: Prosecco Granita
Meat: Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Fondant Potato, Buttered Kale, Duck Jus
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Cremeaux Tart, Blackberry Sorbet, Popping Candy
Petit Four: Hand Crafted Salted Caramel Chocolates
(this is a sample menu which has not been done yet so if you like the look of this one, do get in touch)
So first jobs for this menu are, as mentioned, chicken stock – cover chicken carcasses with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4 hours. I also would make the pastry for the tart, temper the chocolate for the petit fours and freeze the prosecco for the granita.
After the 4 fours are up on the chicken stock, I then drain it and refrigerate the stock ready for the next day.
Next day up at 8am to spend a bit of time with my wife before she goes to work and to feed our cat as well. Off my wife goes to work and then the prep really gets underway.
Oven on first, roll out the pastry, line the tart mould and let it rest before blind baking it. Take the duck breasts off the carcass and roast the bones ready for the second layer of flavour for the sauce.
Next job is to get the tomatoes crushed for the consommé then straight into sieve lined with a damp j-cloth to let the juices drip into a clean bowl.
It is important to get the jobs that need a long time to cook eg. stocks, consommés on early in the day so they have time enough to get the flavour out of it that I want in my sauce.
Blind baking the pastry is the next job now the oven is hot. Then onto the crème anglaise for the cremeaux. Then to make the stock syrup and the blackberry puree for the sorbet.
I then pick through the fresh crab meat to check for bits of shell and cartilage, no one wants to crunch down on bits of those. I pick through the crab meat three times just to be certain. This then gets seasoned with salt and lemon juice and I finely slice some chives to go through it as well. I have a taste…delicious.
The duck bones will be nicely roasted now so into the chicken stock they go. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 hours again.
Late morning I normally text my client to let them know that the prep is going to plan and that my intention is to arrive with them about 6:30pm to set up ready for the 7:30pm dinner they requested.
Basil oil is the next job. Blending the nice olive oil I stock up on every time my wife and I (or anyone else we know) go to Majorca, with fresh basil from the herb garden.
I then fillet the fish and pin bone it. Again, no one wants to bite down on a fish bone.
Pureeing the sweetcorn and mixing with the cream for the pannacotta is the next job so the gelatine can be added and it can set nicely in the fridge ready to be portioned when I get to the house of my client later.
Cremeaux finished then goes into the baked tart case and smoothed off then into the fridge to set to be portioned when I get to the client’s house.
I get a message back from my client. They are happy to know everything is under control. They tell me they are setting the table ready for their guests arrival. Everyone is happy so far.
To get the filling ready for the hand crafted chocolates is the next job. So I weigh out the sugar for the caramel and the rest of the ingredients and get the caramel cooking. Once the sugar is ready I turn off the heat and add the butter and the cream and stir to combine. Then in goes the Maldon sea salt. I then let that cool before piping that into the tempered chocolate shells.
Fondant potato next, one of my favourite potato dishes. Potatoes cut in the shape of a hockey puck and cooked in foaming butter with garlic and rosemary from the herb garden. Incredible.
As the potatoes are cooking onto the vegetable preparation. Take the stalks off the kale ready to be blanched just before plating the meat course and then the fine dice of the onions, garlic, red pepper, courgette and aubergine for the petit ratatouille and the concasse of the tomatoes ready for the consommé amuse bouche.
Then churning the sorbet in my ice cream machine is the next job, I love making ice creams and sorbets. There is something therapeutic about it for me for some reason. Not sure why exactly. It is the same for me making soups. I couldn’t do a soup on this menu though as the client has heard that my tomato consommé is the “only way” to start one of my menus. Once churned the sorbet can then go in the freezer…note written on my mise en place list (cheffy to do list) “DO NOT FORGET THE SORBET!!!”
4 Hours is up on the duck stock. So I strain that and in a separate pan I caramelise some onions, carrots and mushrooms. In with some tomato paste and cook that out then in with a glass of red wine. I reduce that down to a syrup then start to add the duck stock and reduce it down to sauce consistency. Then strain that to get rid of the vegetables and any small bits of bone or meat that have come for the journey. Leaving a beautiful duck jus ready to be finished when I get to the house.
Where has the day gone?! Luckily I am pretty much ready with prep so I give myself a five minute break. Right now, back to it.
Pipe filling into chocolates and close them off with tempered chocolate and de-mould.
I cook the ratatouille and get it into the fridge quickly to cool down as it is to be served cold with the delicate fish.
I then start to get packed up. Time for a quick shower and a bite to eat, Usually an omelette as it is quick. Not quite what my clients will be eating later that evening, but still nice all the same.
On with clean chef whites and into the car I get to head over to the house where I will be cooking.
I have not been to this house before, although the clients who are organising it were guests at a previous dinner I did, hence the knowledge of the tomato consommé.
I am greeted by a big smile on the faces of my client. The other guests aren’t here yet so time for me to set up.
People often ask me if I find it challenging cooking in people’s houses all the time with different equipment, ovens, hobs, pans etc. And honestly my answer is always…not really. The most challenging thing is finding out how to turn their oven on.
This one luckily is easy to work and goes on with no trouble. 200 degrees I set it to, ready to cook my duck breasts a bit later.
Thankfully, due to my note to myself, I remembered the sorbet I had made earlier that day. So I get that into their freezer so it doesn’t melt along with the prosecco. I would rather have a sorbet than another consommé on the dessert course this time round.
I portion the chocolate tart and the panna cotta and start to plate the starter, keeping the crab in the fridge until last minute.
Whilst starting to plate the starter the other guests arrive. I recognise my clients from the previous dinner. Is good to see them again. Everyone is happy and smiling looking forward to a nice dinner.
A table of 9 this time. I can comfortably do 10 people on my own, any more than that I have really good front of house people who come and help me out.
I serve the guests a welcome glass of prosecco which has been chilling in the fridge all day according to my client. Pop goes the cork. Everyone is relaxed getting ready to enjoy the evening.
My client ushers everyone into the dining room where it is all set up really nicely. Once everyone is settled I do my little introductory speech. Introducing myself and if anyone has any questions about the menu that they should feel free to ask. I also ask how people would like their duck breast cooking. Duck is like a steak in the way that one can have it rare, medium rare, medium, medium well or well done. I wouldn’t recommend having it less than rare and would normally have it medium rare myself but everyone is different and it is not for me to say it must be eaten this way. Nice and easy for me tonight. They all say “as you would recommend it. We trust you.” Fantastic.
Time to start serving.
Consomme first. The clear tomato liquid that has been straining most of the day. I have a taste just before serving to check everything is ok. And also because I like it as well. Yes, delicious. Lets serve.
Everyone loves the consommé. My client says it is just as they remember from before. Success. I come to clear the amuse bouche and ask if everyone is full as that is the only course for this evening.
They all laugh as they have seen what is awaiting them in the kitchen.
I start searing the duck breast so it has time to cook and rest before serving the meat course whilst I finish plating the starter. Into the oven the duck breast goes. Time to serve the starter.
Whilst everyone is eating the starter, I get the ratatouille on the plates ready for the fish course and then grate the frozen prosecco into the granita and then back into the freezer.
Everyone has now finished the starter so I go and clear. Compliments again.
Fish course next. Pan on the stove for the fish skin side down into the pan then season the top with salt, When it is nearly cooked I flip the fish over and throw in a knob of butter and season the crispy skin with salt too. Out of the pan, onto the plate, into the dining room.
For me personally I would say fish is my favourite thing to cook. Just the way it has to be perfect. Over cook it and it will be dry and horrible. Under cook it, depending on the fish, and again it is not very nice. Has to be perfect every time.
I check the duck in the oven when I get back from serving the fish course. It is almost ready so I take it out of the oven and let it rest, ready for a quick flash in the oven when the guests are ready for it.
Next course is the refresher. The point of this with the granita is to refresh one’s palate after the first hot course so it is ready for the meat course.
When I serve this I then put the potatoes in the oven so they will be ready and hot for when I serve the meat course.
After the granita I usually ask how everyone is doing with space in their stomach as there is still 3 courses left. Sometimes guests say “Keep it coming!” but on this occasion they say please can we have a couple of minutes before the meat course. Not a problem. It gives me a bit of time to do a bit of the washing up.
They are now ready for the meat course so into the oven goes the duck again and into the boiling salted water goes the Kale and the sauce is warming gentle on a low heat. Plates out of the oven, first thing on the plates is the potato. Then out of the boiling water into a pan with a bit of butter with the kale. Seasoned with salt and onto the plate. I then slice the duck, perfectly cooked medium rare. On to the plate and into the dining room.
The sauce is something very special to me as a chef and has taken the longest to prepare and the most love has gone into it. So I finish the sauce by adding a bit of butter and taste it. I then take the pan into the dining room and silver serve the sauce to the guests. A little bit of theatre. (I am such a show off!) The guests love it and I love it.
I finish the washing up whilst the guests are eating the meat course. I pop my head into the dining room to see how everyone is doing and to check if everyone is enjoying the food still. They are and I leave them to finish the meat course.
Back in the kitchen I start to plate up the dessert course, then back into the dining room to clear the plates. Everyone is happy.
Sorbet on the plate and serve the dessert course.
Back in the kitchen I finish the washing up of the meat course and start to think of the cider waiting in the fridge with my wife and cat back at home.
I plate up the hand crafted chocolates so they are ready to take in once everything is done. I clear the desserts and wash the plates up. I check everything is clean in the kitchen and pack everything up whilst the guests are happily chatting away in the dining room.
Once everything is ready and packed up I take the chocolates in. It is the course a few of the guests have been looking forward to the most. I say my closing bit and say I must be off.
My client sees me out and at the door they shank my hand thanking me for a successful evening and gave me a gigantic tip. OK I over exaggerated that last bit. But everyone is happy which makes me very happy too.
I leave the guests to enjoy the rest of their evening together. It is about 11pm so I get in my car and drive home. My wife is still up so I ask about her day and she asks about mine. Successes all round.
Now to get ready for my next 7 course tasting menu dinner…
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my addition to the TEDx blog. I hope you enjoyed my writing. For more information on what I do as a Private Chef and Chocolatier please see my Facebook page and on Instagram.
Thank you again and have a great rest of your day. See you on 28th October at TEDx BrayfordPool.