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Jason on Being a Private Chef

Monday, March 14th, 2011

“I have been cooking since I was a kid on the Lower East Side of New York. My family owns a Northern Spanish restaurant, so I was always around food. After I finished at the Culinary Institute of America, my wife and I worked at restaurants in New York. During that time, I remember coming to D.C. and not finding much here. It was a beautiful town, but outside of Ethiopian and Middle Eastern food, there wasn’t much good food here.

“A few years later, around 2000, the city started going through a food renaissance.  My wife and I came down here to take advantage of the explosion of new restaurants. I first worked in Iota in Arlington. Then, I went to the Ritz. About five years ago, my wife and I left D.C. to open a French bistro in Philadelphia.

Gone are the days of peanut butter and jelly. Now, seven year olds have fairly sophisticated palettes and want different types of sushi rolls and things like that for lunch.

“You know, when we moved to this city, we spent the first year lamenting leaving New York. Having lived there my entire life, I kept making the mistake of comparing D.C. to Manhattan and focusing a lot on this city’s shortcomings. It was only when I moved to Philadelphia that I realized how nice D.C. actually was. There, I longed for the strange hybrid of metropolitan and small town charm of D.C. While I loved the restaurant, I couldn’t wait to get back here.

“After running our place in Philadelphia for three years, we decided to sell it and move back. Now, my wife and I work as private chefs for different families here. I cook the family and its staff meals, do private parties, travel with the family, and prepare lunches for their children. Gone are the days of peanut butter and jelly. Now, seven year olds have fairly sophisticated palates and want different types of sushi rolls and things like that for lunch.

“In terms of cooking work, it is a lot easier and less physically demanding than putting in the 60 hour minimum at a restaurant. But at the same time, I miss the restaurant life. While it can be tedious and demanding, it is a lot of fun. You are part of a gang, which is exciting. I mean where else will you work with drunks and criminals and general misfits! Plus, I miss the ego boost and the potential to see your name in a review. However, if you get one or two bad reviews, you long for not seeing your name anywhere and hiding in the kitchen!

“While my wife and I love this work, we’d like to open a place together again. We enjoy working together and were well reviewed in Philadelphia. It would be nice to introduce our food to the District. Our food is not unique food. I mean, French is French, but we do it traditionally and with an appreciation for regional flavors and ingredients. I’d like to get an opportunity to demonstrate that here.”

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1 Comment

  1. Love the story! I run a youth program in Washington, DC. Kids ages 6-12. This year for the summer camp which is 6weeks – 6/25-8/3, we are planning to do what I’m calling a food tour of different cuisines. Wonder if you might be interested in doing a cooking class for us with some simple French dishes that the children would enjoy.
    I’m excited about this new experience for the children and hope maybe you or your wife might help out.

    Comment by Juanita — March 17, 2012 @ 11:48 am

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