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Planning Retirement Online

Let's Party!

July 2011 

Let's party in later life article series...

This series looks at some of the more unusual ideas to help you celebrate with style and panache – at affordable price levels, of course!

To see the full list of articles see the main Celebrating in Later Life page

This month – hiring in a private chef for a meal to remember.

By our features editor, Sally Smith 

Fiona, a friend of mine, was telling me about her forthcoming husband’s 60th birthday: “I am planning such a special meal, it really is going to be an amazing evening.”

private chef

It all sounded fantastic and I eagerly awaited my invitation – and waited and waited. Nothing came and a few weeks ago I bumped into her again and enquired, a tad frostily, how the evening had gone (well, we had been close friends for years and I was a little surprised we had been omitted from the guest list for this wonderful celebration!)

“Fabulous,” she said. “Just brilliant.” It turned out that the amazing evening she planned had just been for the two of them; a wonderful candlelit romantic evening in their own home together. What made it really special was that she had hired in a chef and all she had had to do was choose the menu and lay the table. The chef did everything, from bringing in the ingredients, the pots and pans and even the wine, to clearing up afterwards and even wrapping the left overs for the freezer before quietly disappearing so that the couple could enjoy the end of their evening in total privacy.

Having spoken to one or two others since then, it seems that hiring in a private chef for a really special occasion is growing fast in popularity. Unlike getting “caterers” in, a private chef offers a much more personalised service and cooks the meal in your own kitchen to ensure the best possible freshness, quality, taste and presentation.

The personalised aspect is an enormous plus as you can discuss in detail with the chef beforehand exactly what you want; even to where you would like the food sourced from. So if you prefer just local ingredients, British ingredients, organic and so forth, everything can be arranged exactly to your requirements.

There is now also a growing trend for “assisted chefs”. This is when you hire in a chef, but also help with the cooking under his or her instruction. That way, you can present to the guests truly home made dishes and learn a lot as well as having a wonderful evening.

I asked Fiona about the cost and she said her chef had charged £140 for the evening plus all ingredients. Chefs can be booked at a very wide range of prices, but the one Fiona chose had a good reputation and had been recommended, so she decided to go for it. Costs will also be affected by the number of guests and some chefs can bring assistants when necessary to cater for larger groups.

Fiona said the biggest benefit was that she and her husband didn’t have to go out. Getting dressed up in their own home, making the dining room look special, not having to get in a car or taxi or struggle down the street afterwards. All these things, she said, made the whole evening truly memorable and wonderful.

She also added that she had never seen her kitchen so spotless after the chef had left.

Finding a chef for that special evening is a lot easier today as there are numerous individuals and organisations who have their own websites – see a sample below. It can also be well worth enquiring at a local favourite restaurant for recommendations as often private chefs also work parttime in commercial establishments. Professional caterers also sometimes have experienced chefs who can be booked for private small functions at home.

Fiona is so taken with the idea she is now thinking of holding an early Christmas dinner party for a few guests – with a private chef again. I think her celebrations will be going on for a long time!


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