Now for the personal chef

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NO LONGER reserved for the rich and famous, personal chefs are fast becoming a staple in busy Canberra households.

Chef Maggie Taylor... “I try to up the level a bit from ‘mother’s cooking’, it’s very seasonal.”
Chef Maggie Taylor… “I try to up the level a bit from ‘mother’s cooking’, it’s very seasonal.”
An era ruled by reality cooking shows such as “Masterchef” and “My Kitchen Rules” has seen time-poor families and singles paying to have gourmet meals specially prepared at home.

Chef Maggie Taylor set up her personal cooking business The Gourmet Saint in Canberra last year, and says her clients aren’t the cashed up executives people expect.

“I’ve got busy mums who don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals for their kids each week and there’s a lot of bachelors who don’t want to or can’t cook, but are sick of having to get take away all the time,” Maggie says.

Maggie’s clients pay between $280-$310 for five meals and five sides that usually last a fortnight.

“We’ll work through what they want and their dietary needs, then we’ll do the grocery shopping and a chef will come to the client’s home with their equipment, spend five hours cooking and stock the fridge with meals to be re-heated,” Maggie says.

“I try to up the level a bit from ‘mother’s cooking’, it’s very seasonal. In winter we do soups, casseroles – I can do mashed potatoes 78 ways. In summer I try to include salads, smoked salmon fillets are popular, and I jazz it up with flavours.”

Personal chef Ben Harrison... “I’ve done romantic anniversary dinners... where I bring my own gear and wash up after.” Photo by Brent McDonald.
Personal chef Ben Harrison… “I’ve done romantic anniversary dinners… where I bring my own gear and wash up after.” Photo by Brent McDonald.
Personal chef Ben Harrison says his Canberra-based business Home Plate is booked out “almost every weekend” preparing meals for dinner parties, celebrations and intimate dinners for couples.

Ben, a chef at Manuka cafe Urban Pantry, set up the business in March 2011 after seeing a growing demand in the market.

“Anyone who has hosted a dinner will know it comes with stress – there’s the cooking, making sure everyone’s drink is topped up and, at the end of it all, a huge pile of dishes to clean,” he says.

“I’ve done romantic anniversary dinners where the couple don’t want to worry about a babysitter, where I bring my own gear and wash up after. They like that they have control over music and wine, rather than having to go to a noisy restaurant.”

Dishes on Ben’s menu include vodka-cured ocean trout, cider-braised pork belly and zucchini flowers stuffed with herb ricotta, with three meals starting from around $150 for two people.

He believes the rise of reality cooking shows has prompted higher demand for fine food.

“I think the days of sausage rolls and party pies are gone,” he says.

“People are expecting more, they want fresh ingredients and something that looks impressive. Pretty much every time I cook, I have clients come to me and say ‘Thank God you were here’, which is nice to hear.”

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