I come from a family of chefs. All self taught. My mom’s first entry into the culinary world was working for Martha Stewart. She started out by helping Martha with parties and weddings. As Martha grew into a household name, her team grew as well. Eventually, both my mom and my sister worked for Martha fulltime. And, if they were short staffed, my brother would fill-in every once in a while if they needed someone to shuck oysters or tend bar.
When Martha had her weekly series on NBC’s Today Show, my mom was the person that styled all the food before the cameras ever got to it. She took her craft seriously and her talents were noticed. Later, my mom branched out on her own and operated a successful catering business that supported our family.
Unless you live with a chef, it’s hard to appreciate what my daily life was like. My sister, brother and I reaped the rewards of living in a home with someone who has a passion for food. In addition to insisting that we sit down as a family for dinner every night, we were treated to over-the-top meals. My mom always did dinner in an elaborate way. She doesn’t believe in doing anything unless it is done well.
This means that our dining table was set with the full complement of cutlery, linen napkins, and stemware. Simple, but gorgeously arranged flowers and candles adorned the table before “tablescapes” were even a thing. She would call us all to dinner and once we were seated, she would bring us plated food, served properly to our right. Meals would consist of soup or a salad, an entrée and dessert. It was a culinary affair every night.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for what my mother did for us. She was a single parent on a limited income in Westport, CT, one of the wealthiest towns in America. Even though my friends were dining out all the time, our big treat was taking a drive to buy an ice cream cone at Carvel on a warm Sunday afternoon. It never bothered me. Through a combination of my mom’s parenting ethic and high standards, I knew the meals we had at home were far superior to anything we could have in a restaurant. That, and every time a friend had dinner with us their eyes lit up at the fanciness of it all.
It wasn’t just the quality of home cooked food, it was the quality time. Fast forward to today, gathering together over great food and drink is still one of life’s joys. Sometimes, it feels like an uphill battle to preserve this tradition. We live in a world that seems to thrive on short takes where everything feels abbreviated. I am aware of feeling like I am in a bubble sometimes. It feels like that bubble is closing in around me and my husband and two kids are floating off in separate bubbles. It takes effort every day to push that bubble open and pull my family close to me to make room for the important things.
| Chef Massimo and me in my kitchen |
Table at Home Personal Chef Reviews!
My mom set the standard for eating together as a family. Experiencing that in my childhood had a lasting impact on me. So, regardless of what is taking place that day, we always eat dinner together as a family. When Kerry and I decided to have children (which was pretty much immediately), I shared with him how important it is to me that comes home for dinner every night.
Except when he is traveling, I don’t think that Kerry has missed a meal. Trust me, it’s not because my cooking is that good. I can pull together a decent meal, other nights it’s chicken quesadillas with guac and sour cream on the side (recipe is at the end of this post). My mom and sister are far superior when it comes to cooking – I am convinced it is a gene you are born with. I miss those expertly prepared home cooked meals I had grown accustomed to. Most days I am juggling way too many things to make a meal that I am really proud of.
Thankfully, there is a way for me to re-experience the memories I have of gathering with family and friends to enjoy an excellent meal. I’d like to introduce my Connecticut readers to Table at Home. Table at Home is an online service that connects you with personal chefs that come to your home and prepare fabulous meals. Table at Home also serves New York and Washington, D.C.
We recently had the opportunity to experience Table at Home and I want to share some photos and basically gush about the experience we had! To get started, you create an account on the Table at Home website. You can fill in details in your profile that will help prospective chefs learn about your dietary and cuisine preferences. Next, you request a meal and include details like the date, time, budget and number of people you want to feed. It can be anything from a small family dinner to a large gathering of friends for a BBQ. You can get started in just a few minutes, it’s simple and easy and there are no obligations once you have requested a meal.
After you request your meal, Professional Chefs in the Table at Home network will compete with each other (like a virtual Iron Chef) to win you over with a kickass menu. You can review all the proposed menus and even message back and forth with the chefs before you pick the meal you want. It’s super easy to use and exciting to see what menus the chefs come back with!
I submitted a menu request for an intimate Valentine’s Day Dinner with friends. After reviewing all the proposals, I went with Chef Massimo. We exchanged messages, I made a couple minor tweaks to accommodate food preferences and we chatted on the phone about expectations.
Chef Massimo arrived exactly on time with everything he needed to prepare our meal. I gave him a quick tour of our kitchen and showed him where to find pots, pans, etc. and he made himself at home. If you have a small kitchen, don’t let the size concern you. The chefs in this network are pros and have experience cooking in tiny NYC apartment galley kitchens. Nothing intimidates them. Below is the menu:
A Night in Riviera Menu
TORTINO di PERE e FINOCCHIO – Warm Fennel & Pear Tart + Herb Salad or
GNOCCHI – House-made Ricotta Dumplings + Bolognese Sauce, mushrooms, ricotta salata
TAGLIATA – Roasted New York Strip + Red Cabbage Agrodolce + Apple & Pear Mostarda + Rosemary Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes + Red Wine Reduction or
BRANZINO – Pan-roasted Mediterranean Striped Bass + Baby Artichokes + Roasted Potatoes + Olives + Garlic + White Wine Sauce
TIRAMISU – Layers of Ladyfingers + Fresh Seasonal Berries + Mascarpone Cream Cheese
Yum! I took some photos of our evening that I am sharing below. Nighttime photography is always a challenge, and the pictures don’t do justice to the food. But, the photos aren’t as important as the memories.
There are so many highlights about our evening with Table at Home. I think my favorite part was watching Chef make homemade Gnocchi. He whipped up the dough, rolled it out, cut it and boiled it for just a couple of minutes (literally) until the gnocchi rose to the surface. He created two sauces for the gnocchi, a bolognese and a mushroom. The gnocchi was so fresh, it melted in our mouths. Heaven!
It was such a treat to get a night off from cooking, yet stay in the comfort of my own home. I felt relaxed and happy to be able to handoff all the work to a professional who I knew would take excellent care of us that night.
Taking advantage of this service doesn’t have to be for a special event. Maybe you just want a night off from the kitchen, don’t we all! This would also make a really awesome gift for Mother’s Day (hint hint guys). Scroll down to see the photos..
| homemade gnocchi being rolled out |
| gnocchi cut and ready for boiling |
| gnocchi with mushroom sauce |
| this was my plate after the gnocchi with bolognese sauce |
| Branzino with baby artichokes, roasted potatoes, olives, capers in a white wine sauce |
| NY Strip Steak, roasted potatoes, apple & pear mostarda in a red wine reduction |
*thank you to Table at Home for gifting me this amazing experience, all opinions are my own*
As promised here is the link to the quesadilla recipe: I prepared spicy chicken quesadillas for a segment on News 8 because it’s fast, simple and delicious. More importantly, it helps get our family together for a meal. Here is a link to the recipe.