Dining out " without leaving home
May 31, 2006
What if you were able to work with a world-class chef to create a delightful evening for your family and friends, complete with a fun theme, a comfortable atmosphere and a heavenly menu from cocktails to dessert? Does it sound like the perfect restaurant? It could happen in your own kitchen.
Some of the most unique culinary experiences people are having in the Roaring Fork Valley are now within their own homes, thanks to a wide variety of professional chefs who have left the realm of restaurants to truly cater to their clients’ whims. These are culinary masters who have spent years at world-class restaurants and sometimes as private chefs to influential local families before going out on their own.
“My venue changes every day,” says chef Randy Placeres, who created Aspen Culinary Solutions as a high-end catering company. “Catering allows me to spend more time with my family, and focus on more creative event planning instead of being at a restaurant every day. Sometimes I’m in a home on Red Mountain or sometimes I’m catering a friend’s wedding at Difficult Campground. It’s exciting and fun.”
Placeres specializes in Japanese/French-based world cuisine, he says, and lately finds himself catering parties with a menu of small plates ” from sweet chili-soaked and broiled sea bass to a tenderloin filet accompanied with a blue cheese pot sticker and sweet Korean honey demiglace. It’s the sort of party everyone loves ” when you get to sample some of everything.
“There are so many beautiful homes in the valley, and people love to have control over the ambiance of a party,” he says. “It just makes a meal a little more special to be in someone’s house, using their own china, plus developing the menu specifically to their tastes. You can’t get that in a lot of restaurants.”
Chef Glenn Smith of GH Smith and Co. has his own private chef business and also focuses on smaller, specialized events. His cooking focuses on regional ingredients that are in-season, like slow roasted pork chops with a peach and chili salsa ” peaches that are from Palisade, of course. His Olathe sweet-corn soup with rock shrimp and Gorgonzola is also a regional hit.
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“I definitely design menus specifically to a client’s likes, needs and wants,” he says. “Everything is tailored, but with my twist on it. At this point with some of my clients, they don’t ask what I’m doing anymore ” I just cook.”
Catering services most often include a full staff, from bartenders to servers and dishwashers. Smith says each of his staff members is “terribly entertaining,” so they become “more of a part of the party instead of just the service.” In fact, he and Placeres both offer interactive, private cooking classes in clients’ homes, where they show a small audience of guests how to prepare a dish or two, serve wine that complements the menu, and turn a catering gig into entertainment that includes hands-on cooking experience and fine dining.
“Any good caterer will make a party seem effortless,” Smith says. “You won’t have to deal with the mess, the cleanup or organization of the event. Plus, it makes [the host] look like a better entertainer than they are.”
In coming up with a theme, caterers often have suggestions that you may never have imagined. Former Hotel Jerome chefs Todd Slossberg and Rob Zack recently developed Crave Kitchen together, a catering business that will soon include a restaurant in the Willits neighborhood of Basalt. Having catered private events since January, Slossberg said they quickly learned how diverse catering could be.
“Your clients may want a Moroccan menu, a Hawaiian luau, or even a clambake, so you have to adapt to your clients,” he says. “But 80 percent tell us they want us to do what we’re good at, which is American regional cooking.” A mentor of his told him in order to be successful in the food industry, he’d have to create food that people crave, which is how their business name was dreamed up.
“A lot of people are doing events at home these days,” he says. “Instead of dragging people to a restaurant, you can have guests in your own house, and we’ll come in and cook the best dinner so you don’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning and serving. It doesn’t even have to be a set menu, we can do a choice of three entrees and appetizers ” whatever you’re willing to do and pay for, we’ll do it.”