Services: A Master Chef in Your Kitchen on Your Side

One of the most special things one can learn is how to cook in their own kitchen.  Cooking in a home is radically different than in a professional kitchen.  Did you know that in some ways it is easier!  In a home kitchen, you can take the time to make sure a dish is correct.  Yours guests will easily forgive you the extra 20 minutes to prepare something that a paying customer would never accept.  Also, you can focus on just a couple of dishes and really take them to perfection.  Here's something else you may not realize, but when an expert walks you through how to cook in your kitchen you can become a lot better very quickly.  

We are very excited to announce a line of services which will allow you to individually tap into a cooking mentor who can radically accelerate your abilities along with your family or friends.  Here are our new services:

  • Personalized training
    • A home gourmet meal
    • The "mother sauces"
    • Easy homemade pasta
    • Techniques applied in the home
    • How to cook the "weird" items at the grocery store
  • Equipping the kitchen
    • Home evaluation/What should you buy
    • An accompanied shopping trip to a wholesale supply store
  • Tasting Parties
    • Flavor combinations/Spice exploration
    • Chocolates of the world
These services are highly customizable.  While the basic rates are published here, we can customize for larger parties of people or new ideas we do not have listed here.

We also will be offering a kitchen cleaning service for $X for those families or groups which want all of the fun and none of the headache.

Here is a open letter from a friend who wrote about an wonderful day that kicked off many of these ideas.  We hope you'll enjoy reading this and seeing how easily this experience could happen with your family or friends.

Patrick and Dana Farjas are great people who we met professionally and who have turned into really great friends.  Dana is the structure of the family.  She has small town roots and strong values that shine through at all times.  She loves children and good people.  She's practical, but fun loving.  She smiles a lot.  Patrick is over the top.  He's a French Master Chef (for those of you who don't know, this is a really, really big deal that you don't win on some reality TV program: and  He has a genuine love of life and gives out wonderful advice to his children and ours "Learn every day.  Life is short and you don't want to die stupid."  When you're around him, you will laugh, play, and truly enjoy your life.

Today, my family and I went with these two on a Chanterelle hunt.  In one brief hour of hunting, we found about 10 pounds of mushrooms.  It was an amazing day filled with hiking, great food, and a good cheer.  On the way home, as we were indulging in chocolates from Donnelly's Chocolates in Santa Cruz and drinking coffee from Santa Cruz Roasting Company, we decided to cook dinner together at our house.  Earlier, we had discussed fun things to do professionally with Patrick's background.  One idea we kicked around was having private cooking lessons in someone's home.  We thought of techniques, shopping for equipment, reviewing the equipement in the kitchen and what to get rid of and what to buy, which cookbooks to use or to ignore, or flavor combinations, how to make the master sauces and a whole lot more.  We figured this would be hugely exciting to any amateur home chef.  

As it turned out, we were right.  When we cooked dinner tonight, it was as a family.  Patrick and Dana were not working, they were having fun with us.  That said, I reflected on the dinner and what we learned even when we weren't being explicitly trained.  As an aside, I am a fairly strong amateur chef.  I have read a ton of books on techniques, can successfully make dishes using molecular gastronomical techniques, classic or plain mundane.  With that in mind, I recorded all of the new things I learned it while it was fresh in my mind just to illustrate how cool of an opportunity this is to learn from Patrick.  Along with my daughters Bayaan & Sakinah, son Ismail, and wife Alaine, we learned the following new things.
  • Salt the oil, not the fish if you are cooking white fish and the fish will not crumble nor break in the pan.  With Salmon, you can just salt the tray/pan without the oil.
  • When using a fish spatula, turn it upside down in order to get the fish off of the pan and the skin will not "fold like a fan."
  • I learned how to make a Hollandaise sauce and how to make it picture perfect every time.   The secret is holding the bowl above the steam pot and when the bowl is too hot to hold, take the sauce off of the heat.  If it's too hot for your fingers, it's too hot for the eggs
  • I learned the Sabayon is the Hollandaise sauce with sugar
  • The Bearnaise is the Hollondaise sauce w/ shallot, chervil, peppercorn and tarragon in a vinegar reduction added. 
  • "Cooking is simple."  We're simply making sure we do not throw things away.  Patrick used everything.  We cleaned a spice grinder with some grain, that became a coating for a fish as well as an ingredient in a sauce.
  • Poached eggs can be made in batches.  Bring the water toa boil, use red vinegar, not white, salt just prior to dropping the eggs.  The whites will cling to their own yolks.  Pull the eggs and in dunk in an ice bath and serve. 
  • Whisking can be done w/ a single finger.  You can whisk for hours if put the handle in the palm of your hand and simply wiggle the handle with a finger.
  • You can make a sauce of sugar, salt, soy, and balsamic vinegar and boil cipollini onions until the sauce is nearly a caramel and have the most delicious onions ever.
  • Peeling white asparagus is absolutely critical to their edibility.  The fibers are otherwise inedible (which explains why my prior usage of these were miserable!)
  • To figure out where to cut the asparagus on the bottom, tap with a sharp knife until it goes through easily and there is the cut line.
  • You can save a Hollandaise for the next day, add dijon mustard, cover a white fish, broil and when the top is brown the fish is done and delicious
  • Spending more than $5 on a paring knife is a waste of money.  
  • Hard, expensive steel is a pain to sharpen and avoided by professional chefs.  
  • People spend WAY too much money on labels and names on cooking ware and have equipement which isn't as good as a cheap professional pan.
  • Powdering dried mushrooms in a spice grinder and adding to a sauce is an amazing way to thicken the sauce and add a ton of flavor.
  • You can make a "souffle omelette" that will feed 6 people with 3 egg whites.  Simply whisk, add a little sugar, add to a non-stick pan with butter, while frying add fruit to the top, flip the "omelette," dust with sugar, caramelize the top, serve.  There's a great story of the invention of this dish from some women in France who had to feed tons of people with very few eggs.
  • A simple test to determine a great chef is have them cook eggs.  Eggs are tricky and the techniques people use determine how good they are as chefs. 
  • Vanilla pods can be used for amazing flavor.  Cure them in sugar to make vanilla sugar, which is something I had.  Now, take the sugar cured pod, shave with a micro plane into sauces and add incredible flavor.  "These damn pods are too expensive not to use them!"
  • Dover sole wrapped around a scallop is a fantastic dish.
  • A freakishly good salad dressing can be created with a lemon.  Slice in 1cm slices, take the seeds out.  Then mince the lemon.  Add the whole thing to olive oil and 6 or so raspberries.  Add salt and a whole lot of pepper.  Macerate the berries and lemon until the dressing is red.  No vinegar is necessary.
  • A pasta is almost always improved with a light dusting of pepper like a cayenne or chipotle powder.  This enhances the savory flavor and you can actually use less salt this way.

I learned that a 9 year old girl can feel like a million dollars when a kind chef tells her how wonderfully she's doing.  "You're peeling those asparagus even better than your papa!"  His constant encouragement and lessons to my daughter was like a drug.  She smiled from ear to ear as she got to help cook the entire gourmet meal.

I know there were lots more lessons as Patrick grabbed spices and would make a quick comment.  However, I wasn't taking notes nor in a this-is-a-lesson mode.  This was a dinner amongst friends.  So, how much could one learn if they were trying to get the most of the evening and Patrick was in full on teaching mode?  I imagine one could learn an amazing amount.  Most importantly, one could learn how to use their kitchen to its maximum advantage.  They could learn what changes to make, how to do things better and how to enjoy cooking in their home even more.  

I hope Patrick and Dana take up this idea of private lessons in someone's home and if so, I highly encourage anyone who loves cooking to take advantage of a private lesson from one of the world's most distinguished chefs.  It's a rare opportunity and most of all, it is one heck of a fun way to spend an evening.

Matthew Mengerink




Matthew Mengerink,
Dec 30, 2011, 12:25 AM
Matthew Mengerink,
Dec 30, 2011, 12:32 AM
Matthew Mengerink,
Dec 30, 2011, 12:25 AM
Matthew Mengerink,
Dec 30, 2011, 12:25 AM
Matthew Mengerink,
Dec 30, 2011, 12:32 AM