Last Friday, I was honored to cook dinner for a special private dinner, organized by the lovely Toni Purry. A wonderful woman, with a huge heart, and [luckily] an adventurous palette. The special dinner was for 18 people, at a beautiful estate up in the Pacific Palisades area, called Tuscali Mountain Inn. Stunning location, beautiful views, and a great kitchen to work in– bonus points for sure!
As my first ever catering/private chef job of this caliber I was a bit anxious–but moreover ridiculously excited. Not to mention I had complete creative control over everything from menu concept and design, to what proteins to use, where to source my ingredients, everything. Which, if you know me at all, you know I love to be in control. Kinda a type-A-OCD-perfectionist type… ahem. Anyway– I did three amuse bouche tray pass bites, then 5 courses, + a take away edible gift. Delightful! It was so fun, and so amazing!! Nearly everything went to plan [nearly]. Aside for my forgetting my ice cream maker base, and having to hand churn my ice cream–yes, you heard that correctly, guerrilla cookery– Everything went swimmingly well. After two solid days of prep–and dozens of farmers market and grocery store runs, I think I had all my bases covered.
I had one sous chef to help me with cooking and plating on location– My dear friend and Masterchef cohort, Felix Fang. She was absolutely essential to the evenings success, and I was so thrilled she was able to help out. We worked like a well oiled machine (again, minus the ice cream debacle, and a couple caramel mishaps…) BUT hakunamatata, it didn’t matter we made it work!
The diners all seemed more than happy with the courses, not to mention my servers reassuring me upon their every return, with clean plates no less, that people were ecstatic about the food. My neurotic overly complicated, self doubting self– was sweating bullets the whole time. What if they don’t like the flavors? What if its not hot enough? What if the garnish falls over, what if the sauce breaks? What if the vegetarian options aren’t unique enough? What if we’re taking too long between courses????
My brain was working on overdrive. Simply, I wanted everything to be perfect. PER-FECT. Period. So I’m sure in the midst of service, around course 3, the servers [and Felix for that matter] probably wanted to punch me in my slightly-dictator-like, bossy, scrambled, controlling, anxious head.
But, they didn’t. Everyone was so amazing, I can’t even put into words. I can probably be a bit of a bear to work with sometimes, only because I’m not always 100% sweet, and thoughtful, and understanding in the kitchen. I just want things to be done the way they’re supposed to be done. Fast, perfect, and my way. So if its not happening, I make sure to correct the situation. This means I am not always the warmest cook in the kitchen. I’m not mean, The food is just my number one priority, that’s all. The diner’s experience, the food–that’s all I care about. I’ll console with you after service. Just don’t expect me to vent with you at that moment, and hug it out, not going to happen, just move.– We’ll hug later. Now that said– I was working with great people, and they put up with all my craziness, and did their job, and we rocked it.
Here was my menu — Best. Feeling. Ever.
Pork saam | miso caramel | chili | kimchi
Duck confit tot | umi | preserved cherry | ginger scallion
Focaccia | spring onion
Kiru bluefin tuna | yuzu | nori and sesame | micro daikon | thai basil
Summer salad | heirloom golden tomato | homemade fresh ricotta | aged balsamic | chive emulsion | crouton
Corn soup | chorizo | pepitas | paprika oil
New Zealand lamb chops | charred onion | heirloom scarlet runner beans | king trumpets | gremolata
Ginger peach tart tatin | brandied caramel | vanilla bean ice cream | pecan crunch
mint milk chocolate truffles | pink sea salt
Did I mention there were 2 vegans and 3 vegetarians? Yeah, true story. So I had some pretty clever substitutes for these fine people. Golden beets, sweet yams, vegan chorizo, and maitake mushrooms all made appearances, in lieu of the meaty alter egos… And no cream was used anywhere in the menu (except for dessert). Ah, the magic of the Vitamix– That thing works wonders in the realm of quickly purring and emulsifying. Plus it makes tami-ing the sauces and purees so much easier and faster. Lifesaver. Just goes to show, you really don’t always need a ton of cream and butter to make food taste delicious. You just have to take the time to develop the flavor.
Toni, she is a gem. Seriously, a great GREAT lady. I mean, c’mon, she hired me, so she knows a thing or two… HA! Just joking, but seriously, the dinner looked absolutely stunning, thanks to her and the amazing Wenda Evans event planner, from Always Perpekto, who is also one of the raddest people I’ve ever met. Hilarious and incredibly sweet.
So obviously I was cooking, and as such I wasn’t able to take pictures, so unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of all the dishes. However, there are some, thanks to the lovely people at Luminaire Imagery They were the event photographers hired to cover the event. Thanks Molly! Additionally, you can see more pictures, and get more information here on their blog . All images are © to Molly Ann Luminaire Images Photography
If you’re interested in chatting about my private chef services, please feel free to email me with any questions, queries, anything! I love to feed people, and I’d be delighted to help you make your next event not just great, but extraordinary.