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Home chefs feed guests then wash up afterwards

Trending: every edition we assess an aspect of the French zeitgeist. This month: the increasing popularity of hired help, by Jane Hanks

Formerly, only the very rich could afford to have a cook in their home, but now it is becoming more and more affordable to hire a professional chef to cater for your dinner party.

He or she will do the shopping, the cooking, the serving and the washing-up leaving you to entertain and enjoy the company of your guests without having to worry whether the tart in the oven is burning, or when you will ever get the mess in the kitchen cleared up.

There are now several companies offering this service throughout the country, with prices ranging from €35 per person, without wine, to over €200.

As it becomes more and more popular it means a wider public can enjoy having a “chef à domicile”, perhaps not every day, but at least for a special occasion.

Most of the companies work through websites. They include the upmarket Gastronhoming which operates in and around Paris, has menus from €80 to €220 per person and provides a top chef and waiter to do the culinary honours in your home.

There is also www.invite1chef.com, which has a list of cooks in different areas with their own menus and prices. The cheapest meals start from around €35 to €55 per person, with cheaper options for brunches or cocktails and, of course, you can pay a great deal more. 

www.miummium.com has chefs on hand, not only in France but also in the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA, New Zealand and one or two in other countries.

A leading website in France is La Belle Assiette. It claims to have served over 1.3 million meals in clients’ homes since it was founded in 2013. There are four menus on offer costing from €35 to €100, with chefs available in 46 towns across France. Events and Content Manager, Anne-Cécile Airiau, says it is a growing trend: “It is just beginning really, as more and more people are getting to know about it and we expect it to grow even more this year. We started with very few chefs four years ago and now we have 800 across the UK and Europe, with around 300 in France.”

Each chef is a qualified cook and has to pass a selection test by serving a meal to a jury of eight people. They like cooking in homes for a number of reasons: “Sometimes they work in a restaurant as well and then it is an extra source of income for them”, says Mrs Airiau.

“Others find it is a new way of working so that they are not constrained by unsocial restaurant hours. They enjoy it, because they can talk to the client whereas usually they are confined to the kitchen.”

She says the advantage to the client is that it is stress-free for them: “The conversation can just flow and the host does not have to worry about whether the food is burning, or getting cold. Everyone can relax. You can also talk to the chef, as he is the one serving the food and ask any questions about where the ingredients come from, his inspiration and how he has cooked it. It can also be handy for families because you do not have to book a babysitter, and you can ask for a kid’s meal as well.”

There are varying menus with exotic Asian or Italian food, but Mrs Airiau says the most popular is French traditional cuisine: “The typical meal is for 6-8 people. It can be for a birthday or other celebration and it is popular over the Christmas period. It is best to book about two weeks in advance, but we will do our best to find you a chef if you need one last minute.”

Once you have booked, the chef will arrive about two hours before the meal with all the ingredients. He will prepare the meal, lay the table, wait at table, and best of all, clear up at the end.

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