Sheer joy best describes the dinner Chef Serge Pambo prepared for us December 26th, 2016. His presence in my kitchen may have been serendipitous and last minute, but the results were scrumptiousness and the memories of the meal and the positive energy he brought along with the ingredients will last for years to come.
If you don’t have the time or patience to read my whole review, read this:
HIRE CHEF SERGE!
Now here’s the long form:
Our family of three children and one finance’ are rarely in the same city at the same time. The day after Christmas (and third night of Hanukkah) was one of those times. I had made a reservation at a wonderful steak house, which I remembered had small private rooms available. I was somewhat surprised that there was a charge for renting these rooms for a party of fewer than eight people. That got me thinking that as much as the room would be private, there would still be waiters interrupting our conversation and the evening would be limited to the time we were eating. That led me to Google the concept of bringing in a private chef, even though the dinner was less than a week away. Immodestly, I must say that I am a gourmet cook, who has been asked countless times to cater or create a recipe book. I’ve never allowed anyone to cook a meal in my kitchen. I knew, however, that if was preparing food, I could not be equally part of this precious family time, so I was willing to give up the keys to my kitchen to someone else, but that someone else needed to be special.
Enter Chef Serge, who was one of two who replied to my on-line request through Thumbtack. Doing my do diligence, I researched the chef’s credentials was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had appeared on Food Network cooking shows like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Beat Bobby Flay and had won many awards. Bad news, though, he was based in Washington D.C. and I assumed that hiring him would also mean paying for his transportation, which I was not willing to do. I did, in fact have to pay for his transportation, but it was $25 since he was already going to be in Atlanta for Christmas, celebrating with his wife’s family and was also trying to establish a base in Atlanta
To make this long story, just a little less long, bottom line is that Chef Serge and I communicated quite a bit over the next couple of days, mostly on the phone. I told him what I was looking for, sent him information about each family member and their food likes/dislikes and requested that the food be as healthy as possible. Within hours, he sent me an initial great menu. We had to tweak a few things so that everyone would love everything (which is not easy to do, in my family). He was both flexible and creative and the menu sounded perfect and included dishes I do not prepare.
By the time Chef Serge showed up at our front door, along with a helper from his family (no extra charge), we were on a hugging basis. He introduced himself and his Atlanta resident brother-in-law, explained the menu and answered questions. When the left the kitchen for the evening, it felt like we had family cooking for us. The rest of the evening, which went on for 4 hours, we were treated to dish after delectable dish, one better than the other. We had two hors de oeuvres before going to the table, a salad course, two main courses (beef and fish) and dessert It was one of the best family times we have ever shared. Even after a well-earned large tip, the evening cost about the same as it would have at the restaurant, but we got so much more. It’s unanimous that we all want to make this a family tradition.
One last note: when Chef Serge asked why I do not cater, I told him that I was afraid that if cooking became a business, it would no longer be a pleasure. No question, Chef Serge has worked it out so that he sill loves what he does after so many years, and makes each experience and meal “a la carte”.