Outsource the Holidays
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Five excellent substitutes for the harried cook of the house
My Private Chef
THE PITCH: Chris Tong, a Continental and French chef for 25 years, is the former executive chef at the Palmer House Hilton and has cooked for Michael Jordan and Nancy Reagan. HIS IDEAL MENU: Lobster cocktail (starter); Kobe beef tenderloin with chanterelle mushrooms in a port-wine reduction (main); black-truffle mashed potatoes (side); and caramelized figs with vanilla-bean gelato (dessert). $180 per person (unless noted, prices listed throughout include chef's services and food). EXTRA CREDIT: He can bring cooking equipment, flowers, linens, china and crystal, and a waitstaff.
THE PITCH: From grocery shopping to the final presentation, chef Duane Boslet insists that clients will not lift a finger. "All you have to do is sit back and enjoy," he says. HIS IDEAL MENU: Bacon-wrapped scallops with asparagus in a truffle emulsion (starter); crown roast of beef with a mushroom bordelaise (main); haricots verts and potato dauphinoise (sides); and peppermint crème brûlée (dessert). $90 per person. EXTRA CREDIT: Boslet offers holiday cooking classes for people who want a crash course.
Custom Dinner Design
THE PITCH: Better known as "Cajun Charlie," chef Charles Murray got the nickname from a regular customer when he owned the restaurant Old Orleans in Evanston. He specializes in authentic Italian and Southern cuisine. "We make things the old-fashioned way," he says. HIS IDEAL MENU: Roast goose with garlic-and-orange marinade (main); sweet potatoes, and a molded cranberry and pecan salad (sides); and blueberry cobbler (dessert). $19 per person. EXTRA CREDIT: Murray can make a deep-fried turkey.
Sakura Private Dining
THE PITCH: With his partner, Jeremy Bringardner, chef Daniel Herskovic incorporates Asian flavors and techniques. HIS IDEAL MENU: Crostini with beet tartare and goat cheese (passed hors d'oeuvre); pumpkin-and-lemongrass soup with rock shrimp (soup); napoleon of sashimi tuna, smoked salmon, and potato tuile (starter); Southeast Asian rack of lamb (main); lobster fried rice and sautéed nameko mushrooms (sides); kaffir lime–and–white chocolate sorbet (pre-dessert); bittersweet chocolate–and–coconut layered mousse dome (dessert). $125 per person. EXTRA CREDIT: Herskovic has studied pastry and chocolate making with French pastry chefs.
THE PITCH: "Not everyone wants a fancy candlelit dinner, and you have to listen to that," says chef Terry Riesterer. "I want the hosts to be comfortable at their own event."HER IDEAL MENU: Seared foie gras with a Bordeaux reduction (starter); Dover sole Mykonos with a white-wine sauce (main); Parmesan potato pavé, and asparagus with carrot confetti (sides); raspberry-crowned chocolate torte (dessert). $75 an hour for Riesterer's services, plus the cost of food and any rentals. EXTRA CREDIT: Once, following a power outage, Riesterer used a camp stove and candlelight to prepare a multicourse dinner for 20.