Expert Interview Series: Rosie Leheup-Ffoulkes of Chef Xchange About What to Expect From a Private Chef

Rosie Leheup-Ffoulkes is the community manager for ChefXChange, which is leading the way in making private chefs more accessible to everyone. We sat down with Rosie to learn more about private chefs and how they can make any event...

Private chef

Rosie Leheup-Ffoulkes is the community manager for ChefXChange, which is leading the way in making private chefs more accessible to everyone. We sat down with Rosie to learn more about private chefs and how they can make any event a little extra-special.

Since many people only envision a chef working at a restaurant, what types of chefs does your business use?

We use a range of chefs from amateur and apprentice to professional and Michelin-starred chefs of all specialties. All of our professional chefs have trained and worked as head chefs in restaurants. The amateur chefs don't necessarily need to have worked in a restaurant, and if they have they are usually lower-level establishments, but they need to be good at what they do. Apprentices need to have attended or be attending culinary school.

All of our chefs have great interaction skills; after all, that is the whole idea behind the private chefs: to have direct interaction with the customer. Most of all, they create dishes that you wouldn't get at your average restaurant, and they customize all of their menus. So most chefs are specialized in a range of different dietary requirements, such as gluten-free, refined sugar-free, halal, raw, etc.

How does the quality of the food prepared and served by your personal chefs compare with the fare that can be found in a restaurant?

It is much higher. Our chefs obtain the food only when they have a booking, meaning it is fresh and usually has been purchased the day of the booking or the day before. The chef already knows the menu (it is agreed to beforehand) so they buy exactly what they need and there is no food waste; as a result, they can afford to buy premium ingredients which are always organic and sourced locally.

Where do your personal chefs typically obtain their ingredients for their meals and dishes?

They usually visit a few different markets for different ingredients. Sometimes they even grow them; for example, one of our chefs in London finishes all of his dishes with flowers from his own garden.

Our chefs will have a network of markets and stores they visit locally which they have assembled by working in restaurants and from their own personal experience. They will visit one market for fish, a different one for meat, a different one for vegetables, and any other specialist markets to ensure they obtain the highest quality possible. They always visit different markets for different ingredients to ensure they are the best. We do also have partnerships with certain food suppliers/farmers that fit our brand of local, organic, high-quality ingredients.

What are some of the most popular types of cuisines that are being requested by your customers right now?

European cuisine is always popular, no matter where you are in the world. It is such a traditional cuisine that has so many different flavors and is very complex; plus, it is very easy to make dishes healthy as well as tasty. Cuisines based around sharing are also popular, like tapas, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern, where big platters of food are served and everyone helps themselves. These are popular because the meal is centered around a really intimate affair, as well as because people get to eat lots of different foods.

Are there any unusual types of events, occasions, or gatherings for which your personal chefs' services have been engaged?

We do a lot of "surprises," such as birthdays and anniversaries. Recently, we did an engagement, where the chef prepared everything beforehand and dropped it all off at the customer's home with re-heating instructions so he could have a romantic meal to propose to his girlfriend with.

We also have requests to "save the day," like when there was a hen party where they were renting a cottage and had forgotten about the food. We had a panicked phone call from the hen the day before, so we sourced a chef on very short notice.

We had a booking request from a customer who had injured his leg the day of his girlfriend's birthday when he was supposed to take her to dinner, but instead he was stuck in his fifth floor flat. So he had a chef come and cook for them. We really do deal with any kind of request, and often the unusual ones are the most fun.

For someone who is hiring a personal chef for the first time, what should they expect?

Prepare absolutely nothing! If you lift a finger, then you're doing it wrong. The chef buys the ingredients, does some preparation, arrives a couple of hours beforehand, serves the food, and cleans up anything they use. You can list what equipment you have in your kitchen, and anything else the chef needs they will bring with them. If you're interested, you can watch the chef as they are cooking and learn some tips along the way. Some people are a little nervous before their first experience, but it's a walk in the park!

What is one of the most important kitchen tools or utensils that a personal chef uses?

Their knives. A chef is never without their knives. They bring them along to every booking. Their knives are their pride and beauty; they would never trust any other knife.

If you need a new kitchen knife or two, click here to see what Cilantro has to offer.