|Chef Mark Tafoya|
Braised beef bubbles into a plume of Moroccan spices, and steam sizzles from a deglazed pork pan.
Tafoya has been at work for about an hour and a half, and he's entering what he refers to as "prime time," which means all real estate has evaporated from the oven, stovetop, counter and cutting boards.
Once the smoke clears, a $100 trip to Whole Foods has been transformed into a week of fresh food, all available at the touch of a microwave button.
Hectic lives, nutrition concerns and a growing number of entrepreneurial cooks have created a boom in the personal chef business.
According to a study by the American Personal and Private Chef Association, the 72,000 Americans employing personal chefs will grow to nearly 300,000 over the next five years.
How It Works
"The food-service industry is changing," says Candy Wallace, executive director of the APPCA. "For decades, culinary schools only existed like factories to churn out restaurant line cooks. We can set up a program for individual clients that would provide Monday-through-Friday meal support for busy professionals who don't want to eat out of jars, cans and boxes."A weekly visit from a personal chef stocks the fridge with enough fare for single professionals or busy families to dine on until the next appointment, without the hassles and benefit costs of a live-in private chef. Payment schemes vary, from charging by the serving, compiling packages of meals for families or just tallying hourly rates with the cost of groceries. Tafoya's single clients pay $300 to $400 for a week's worth of meals. A family of five can cash in on the economy of scale inherent in cook time and grocery costs, and eat for $500 to $600 per week.
Cooking at a ClipTafoya's day starts with an animated trip to the market at 11 a.m. He bills clients half his hourly rate for shopping, and not a penny's wasted as he shoots his cart through open spaces, grabbing granola or a bunch of carrots as he rolls by. Attacking the store with a list of items tailored to the shelves' layout, he's exacting about the details, from the quality of ingredients to how they're packed in the insulated bag slung over his shoulder. "Is your flank steak butterflied or pounded?" he asks the meat clerk before having a pork loin cut to his specifications. "Some of the checkers know me and pack things the way I want. They're like, 'It's the weirdo chef!'" Tafoya quips.
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