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What Chefs Really Eat at Home
gourmet articleswhat chefs really eat at home

July 2002
"Wow, you live with a professional chef? That must be fantastic!" These are the words my husband often hears when he tells others what his wife does for work. To people who do not cook for a living, he is living the life of Riley, with dozens of exotic dishes on his dinner table every night, or so they believe. They inevitably ask him what he had for dinner last night, expecting some long answer like " Double cut pork chops with sun dried cherry barbecue sauce, wild rice and porcini mushroom pilaf and lemon thyme green beans." Most often the answer is, " tuna casserole" or "hot dogs" and he laughs at the look on their faces.

I am a professional chef in a professional kitchen. For 10- 12 hours a day, I cook and think about food. How does this go with that, does this need more salt, does this cook know how to prepare this dish properly and so on. It's a lot of fun most of the time, but it is a job, and has its share of drudgery. Imagine, first thing in the morning , you've barely woken up and someone comes to you and says, " Can you smell this? I think it's gone bad." There is nothing to start off your morning more perfectly than a container of something that has clearly seen it's day. Ugh! I recently had the pleasure of smelling something that had become indiscernible just as I walked in the door at 9am. The travel mug of coffee in my hand became instantly unappealing and down the drain it went along with any desire to eat for the rest of the day.

Another wonderfully fun thing to do is to taste things that you really don't like. I am not a huge fish fan, but constantly have to taste things with fish in them to make sure they are palatable. Ever try to have an appetite when you have just had a spoonful of something you think tastes like cod liver oil? I know how things are supposed to taste through years of experience, but trying to make sure it tastes good when your own stomach is telling you the opposite is quite a challenge. I always seek out someone who likes the dish and can give me an opinion. Having to cook something repeatedly that makes you want to gag is very hard to do on a regular basis. I had to taste some organ meats recently, kidney and liver. I had absolutely no desire to eat for the rest of the day and tried to figure out why someone would want to eat an organ whose primary purpose is to filter out waste products.

My chef friends all have the same problem. On a recent visit with a chef friend, she lamented that all she had in her fridge was milk, cranberry juice, vodka and beer. We ate cereal , drank cranberry juice and vodka and saved the beer for later. I think we went to Subway,too. Chefs have low grocery bills, we really just don't want food in our houses.

I get home at night, sometimes late at night, and the last thing I want to do is cook or look at food. Doctors don't due surgery at home, lawyers don't try cases at home, why should I cook? I used to, years ago when I first began cooking . I bought loads of cookbooks and tried every TV chef's recipe I could get my hands on. I still feel a little inspired now and again. Many times I have taken something out of the freezer or pantry in the morning before I go to work with every intention on cooking it when I get home. "Mmm, risotto,,,that sounds good. I'll pick up some fresh vegetables and a salad and we'll have that for dinner. " Halfway through the grocery store,(a place I hate to be, because I am surrounded by food) the prospect of standing over the stove stirring risotto is fast becoming unappealing. By the time I get to the checkout counter, I've put back half off what I came in to buy and try to remember just how many cans of tomato soup I have in the pantry. By the time I get home, I am happy with a cup of tea and two pieces of toast.

I do cook on occasion, but rarely anything to fancy or complicated. Pasta and stir-fries are a favorite, something I can cook in ten minutes or less. On special occasions, I'll pull out the complicated stuff and whip together a five-course meal full of complex ingredients and time consuming preparation. My husband very proficient in the kitchen, ( he made me a pizza from scratch on our first date) baking cookies and bread, making breakfast for me on my days off and generally becoming self sufficient enough that I don't feel guilty anymore by not cooking. I have a large garden in the summer and that makes it easier, I can just go outside, pick some lettuce and veggies and have a big salad. I eat healthier, it requires little effort and no thought.

So the next time you meet someone who cooks for a living, just remember that they are not at home preparing some fantastic meal on their day off and they don't want too, either. You should invite them to your house for dinner, because they are probably sick of Kraft dinner anyway and would appreciate a good meal. Don't be nervous cooking for a chef , if we aren't at work , then we could care less. We probably aren't even hungry.

Here is a recipe that I prepare in a snap. Add a green salad and some crusty bread and you have a perfect meal in fifteen minutes or less. ( Husbands and boyfriends can prepare this , too.)

Chef on the Run Fettuccini
1 package of fettuccini (or any other type of pasta)
olive oil
4 slices of good Proscuitto, cut up into bite size pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 dozen button mushrooms, quartered
1 liter of tomato sauce or 1/2 liter of 35% cream ( for an Alfredo -type dish)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a sauté pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the Proscuitto and all the vegetables. Sauté until the vegetables have softened , about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce or cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour over pasta and top with lots of Parmesan cheese.

Written By: Chef Jeannine M Carney
Jeannine is currently working concurrently on two cookbooks and hopes to have them published in the near future. She opened VICTUALS, a personal and private chef service in March 2002 and will to turn her attention to that venture full time by the end of the year. She is married to Mark Barlow and lives in Saint Michaels, Maryland with 4 cats and a dog.

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