We all have extravagances. Almost all of mine involve food. And, fortunately, Don Day’s Wife shares my passion for most of the same luxuries.
There is a room in our house that Don Day’s Wife owns. And I like it that way. For almost every day I have my own personal chef. Prepping and cooking restaurant-quality dishes while all I have to do is the clean-up. And on quite a few of those days, I can even wangle my way out of that task.
There is the odd day though that Don Day’s Wife wants out of the kitchen. And most of those odd days are when she has the kids and grandkids around. We had nine of them all at the same time recently. Which means meal planning gets a little crazy.
“I want to have at least one sophisticated gourmet meal at home while the kids are here but I want to be in the living room drinking Champagne with the daughters-in-law not stuck in the kitchen.”
Don Day’s Wife said that. Or something similar to that. So we developed a plan: We would plunk the grandkids in front of the big-screen TV in the den with three of their favorite things: Hot dogs, maple walnut ice cream and the Star Wars saga (note my inability to get their eyes off Obi-Wan Kenobi and looking at photographer Grampy). We would then hire private chef Julian Garcia to prepare three or four dishes that we knew, from past experience, might soon be the visiting kids’ favorite things.
One of the nice benefits about hiring Chef Julian is he doesn’t present you with a list of set menus and have you pick one from column A, one from column B…
”As a private chef I like to meet or talk to my clients before the event and know their tastes beforehand, then I can create a personalized menu with my flavors and their cravings or special needs”, Julian told me.
The cravings and needs were a little special in this case. Our youngest sons, the twins, are what are commonly referred to as “meat and potatoes” guys. So our instructions to Julian were “nothing too exotic, nothing too weird…and you’ll be best with beef as the main.” Having hired the chef on a few occasions we were confident that’s all we needed to tell him and he would deliver.
”When it comes to recurrent clients, once I know them personally and sometimes on a friendly basis I can even surprise them with ingredients I’ve heard they love”, said Julian.
Julian knows I adore the meaty, earthy taste of mushrooms. But I was still a bit nervous about the first course. Would the twins like it?
The first course was a huarache, the open faced sandwich that takes its name for sharing its shape with the traditional Mexican sandal. The base was made of masa, the corn dough used for tortillas, then on top of this was spread a rich layer of black beans. Next came kernels of criollo corn and two mushrooms, chanterelles and corals. The dish looked extraordinary. The taste matched it.
Chilhuacle negro is a rare Oaxacan, bell shaped chile with hints of cocoa, dried prunes and apricots among its flavors. It is an essential ingredient in black moles, but, for the next course, chef Julian used it as the heart of a black soup. It would have been good on its own. It was very, very good when Julian topped it with a bruléed medallion of fois gras torchon.
The ingredients of the next dish looked like they’d been picked fresh from a garden just minutes before. The salad combined lettuce, arugula, radicchio, yellow squash, young peas, cherry tomatoes and cucamelon with a carrot, lime and lemongrass sorbet.
“Working in San Miguel gives me the chance to be able to pick my ingredients from local or nearby suppliers and watch and learn the process they go through from the beginning”, said Julian. “Local producers keep growing new things so us cooks can play with different flavors and continue to evolve. A good example is the cucamelon, the grape-sized, watermelon-looking fruit which I used in your salad which is actually a mini cucumber.”
It is difficult to keep Don Day’s Wife out of the kitchen and I caught her in there checking out Julian’s main course.
“It’s beef”, said Julian. “Just like you asked for.”
“And from what part of the animal?”, asked Don Day’s Wife.
“It’s tongue and tail,” said Julian, “two of the very best parts.”
“When you bring it out to the dining room and present it to the twins”, said Don Day’s Wife, “let’s just call it beef two ways.”
The meat, so rich in flavor, was fork tender. The pipian that it was bathed in, made with the central ingredient of pumpkin seeds, I consider one of the world’s great sauces. The guys were all smiles. As were the daughters-in-law.
Now, probably while reading this blog post you’ve been saying something like, “Well, sure, Don Day, but what does all this cost? How would this compare with an upscale San Miguel restaurant?”
Well that depends mostly on how much you drink. In our case, we’re a thirsty family. We drained four bottles of wine that night. At about $350 each at Costco. At an upscale San Miguel restaurant, comparable wines would be about $1200 each. That’s a saving of $3400 and that’s a big chunk of what Chef Julian Garcia and his team charged for the evening.
And, even if you don’t drink at all, you might just find that a private chef still compares very well with a fancy San Miguel restaurant.
You can contact Julian Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 044 415 100 3691.