Entertaining guests is less of a hassle with the help of a home chef service. Zuhaila Sedek shares her experience
MALAYSIANS love eating, but cooking? That’s another story. There’s the planning, preparation and cooking and lastly, the cleaning to do. So for those who can afford it, a home chef service is the best way to get around all that work.
It is popular in America and may have stemmed from the culture of having a personal chef, something the rich and famous are known to have a preference for. But a personal chef works for his employer on a daily basis while the home chef service is only for special occasions.
Not quite like a catering service, a home chef service offers more than just food. I was given the opportunity to review The Grand Butler, Personal Home-Chef and Grandiose Service, run by the company, Wati Wong Su Geh which also offers a food delivery service known as The Butler.
It’s lunch time, and I’ve invited I invite some friends over to experience the service. The Grand Butler’s general manager, Peter Koh, provides both a buffet style and a course-by-course dining session for me that day. He says that their home chef service can be called in for any occasion, even a romantic candlelight dinner.
Koh has with him two experienced chefs — Chef Nusmawati Yunus and Chef Redzuan Seah.
Nusmawati will prepare Indonesian cuisine while Redzuan will handle Western. These are just two of the many cuisines that the company offers.
“It depends on the customer’s requests. So, an early arrangement is a must. Usually we will visit the customer’s home first to do a logistic survey,” says Koh, who will check the customer’s kitchen to determine the necessary arrangements.
“Every kitchen is different, so we need to see what they don’t have so we can work around it,” he adds.
He explains that some customers may want the food to be cooked at their own place, while some may go for pre-cooked. In my case, considering the small kitchen I have, the food came pre-cooked.
The Grand Butler team arrives at noon, with a folding table, burners, food trays, plates, table mat, cutlery and napkins and much more.
Two waitresses and a waiter carry the things up the stairs to my condominium unit.
As the team steps into the house, they immediately set up the buffet table. I find it difficult not to intervene as I feel strange having outsiders do the work for me. Well, I better get used to it for the next few hours.
While the waiters are working, the chefs head for the kitchen and turn it into a hotel-like setting.
From the comfort of my sofa, I observe that the Indonesian dishes are already in the buffet trays. My three cats suddenly get excited. Before they steal any of the fish, I decided to lock them in the study.
Then I head over to the dining table laid out with plates and cutlery. There’s a menu there too. “Is this a restaurant,” I think to myself. I read the menu that Koh and his team have created. Choices for starters are Satai Serai, Citrus Orange Salad and Korean Mushroom. The mains are Three-layer Lasagna, Ikan Pepes and Indonesian-style Fried Rice.
As everyone gathers at the table, lunch is served, course by course. Everyone seems curious.
I feel like I am in the home of a dignitary where smartly-dressed waiters serve the food. I find the whole experience very amusing.
We start off the meal with the chicken satay on a lemongrass skewer (Satai Serai). The taste is wonderful and we are very happy with it.
Then, the salad and the mushroom dishes. It is surprising to see the two dishes being served together as these are listed as a separate entrees on the menu.
The Korean Mushroom is not as pleasant as the orange citrus salad. I find the former a bit watery.
Next up is the main dish, the three-layer lasagna, filled with beef chicken, seafood and mushroom. The portion is big and it is served with a tomato sauce. Since the food is pre-cooked, the chef heats it up using my oven.
Unfortunately, the lasagna comes out cold on the inside and not all portions are ready at the same time.
We ask the chef to reheat our lasagna and Koh apologises for the mishap. It is probably due to my oven not working that well. I then tell the chef to use the microwave instead.
The Indonesian dishes are the big winners. Ikan Pepes is quite spicy but delicious. The fried rice tastes good.
To end the meal, a dessert called Super Misu is served. The tiramisu definitely lives up to its name. We wash down the meal with apple mint iced tea.
THE PROS AND CONS
Although the waiters are nice, they may need to work on the table etiquette especially as a home chef service is regarded as a lavish service.
During the lunch, I have to make multiple requests, such as asking for small plates for used cutlery. Since the guests use the same set of cutlery for every meal, we do not want to place them on the table cover.
It is also important for the service provider to bring things that they will need. This is because the customer will depend fully on the chef and waiters to get things done for them and not the other way around.
It is also advisable for the chef involved to interact with the homeowners. For instance, introduce their food to the guests. After all, the whole idea is to bring a restaurant dining experience to the comfort of the home.
All that aside, the best part is of course, there’s no cleaning up after. The Grand Butler home chef service ensures that the customer’s house is in the same condition as when they entered the home.
The team do very well cleaning up the kitchen as everything is washed and placed in their original spots.
When it comes to the service charges, Koh explains that there is no specific charge for their home chef service as it depends on the type of food that the customer orders and the price of grocery. The fee for a chef is RM1,000 though.
“But the price is negotiable. We will accommodate if the customer wants to get his own groceries but this requires more planning. And if you want us to cook using the ingredients available in your home, we can do that too,” says Koh.
Well, whatever it may be, a home chef service is definitely an interesting experience and opens up many possibilities.