This is my second interview. I’m very excited to introduce you to culinary concierge, Chef Hardette Harris (@chefhdharris), owner of Private Chef Services in Minder, Louisiana. Chef Harris has worked throughout the South as a personal and private chef. She has expanded her services to provide specialized chef services apart from cooking. She is also a culinary lifestyle expert, who is an excellent resource for home cooks of all ages, but I think she would be great for older people like me.
EUGEENA [ME]: Chef Harris, you are a culinary lifestyle expert and concierge. What exactly does that mean?
CHEF HARRIS: I assist people with fast-paced careers and lifestyles with everything from grocery shopping to food preparation to how to eat well while traveling. Think of me as a “Culinary Personal Assistant.”
[ME]: Now, you’ve worked for some very affluent and influential people over the years. What are some of the things you’ve learned that someone like me, a regular woman, can use in her kitchen?
CHEF HARRIS: Don’t keep everything. Throwing things away is not always waste. Maintaining a clutter-free kitchen, refrigerator and pantry allows you to see what you have. Have you ever walked in the kitchen to cook but had no idea what to make? When you can easily see what you have in the pantry and in the freezer, it makes it so much easier to prepare a “quick” meal.
I’m sure you will agree, tearing up your kitchen looking for your favorite spatula or sauté pan will frustrate you enough to say “forget it” and not cook at all.
EUGEENA [ME]: So, a private chef doesn’t have to cook, right? There are other ways people on any budget can utilize your high-end services, right? Can you give us some examples, please?
CHEF HARRIS: Oh yes. That’s the idea of a personal chef, especially one like me and the concierge services that I am now offering. I will try to assist you with anything culinary-related. For example, your spouse didn’t tell you until the last minute that they invited a couple of co-workers home for dinner and to watch the game. Just give me a call and tell me the pinch you’ve found yourself in, and I’ll do the rest.
EUGEENA [ME]: I have some friends, like my next door neighbor Louise, who are older and could use some help around the house. How can she use your services?
CHEF HARRIS: What I’ve found is that in some cases, our seniors still want to cook. Nothing big, but they still can and really enjoy it. However, it’s the chore of grocery shopping and standing while prepping the vegetables, etcetera that keeps them from doing so. I can come in once or twice a week and get everything ready for them so they still make those special dishes their family loves so much.
EUGEENA [ME]: My daughter-in-law is a busy professional woman and I’m afraid my grandbabies don’t eat well like they should; could you tell me how you’d help someone like her?
CHEF HARRIS: Her main issue is time; just not enough hours in the day. I can do the grocery shopping and prepare meal kits for her. That way she can pull them out and she’s ready to cook. The vegetables are cut and the meats are seasoned. I can also drop off a couple of casseroles, roasted chicken or some freshly steamed vegetables. She has endless options.
EUGEENA [ME]: As a culinary lifestyle expert, what advice can you share with my readers about staying organized and having a healthy kitchen?
CHEF HARRIS: Plan. Plan. Plan. Don’t buy the things you are trying to stay away from. Make a habit of using salt, sugar and butter substitutes. Keep them on hand. One bad habit is purchasing healthy ingredients but keeping the not-so healthy ones too. Throw out everything you are not using. Make sure you can see what you have and make sure what you have is what you want to eat. Clutter leads to frustration and frustration will lead to a quick call to the phone for food delivery.
[ME]: Chef Harris, can you tell us what a healthy kitchen is, please?
CHEF HARRIS: To me, a healthy kitchen is designed to make sure every time you enter the kitchen to eat, the result will always be something healthy. You have purchased only foods and ingredients that are good for you. Your appliances and supplies are purchased and stored for preparing healthy dishes. For example, keep your juicer right where you can find it at all times. Make sure you can see it. Don’t put it in the bottom cabinet in the back where you may only see it once a year.
[ME]: Sometimes I don’t like eating the same things over and over, if I take you shopping with me what would you help me do differently?
CHEF HARRIS: Every section that you walk past, I would make a note of it. Then I would turn you around and we would only shop from those sections. Change is hard for us. We simply like what we like. By trying new foods on a consistent basis, you will be surprised at the things you now like that you thought you would never eat.
[ME]: You’re a southern girl like me, what can most of us do better in the kitchen without giving up some of our ways?
CHEF HARRIS: Only keep food and ingredients on hand that are good for you. One good example is using frozen vegetables instead of canned when fresh isn’t available. We all like our favorite not-so healthy dish from time to time. That’s okay, only have it occasionally. Eating high fat, high sugar and large amounts of food every day, three times a day is where some of us from the south usually go wrong.
[ME]: Do you have to be rich to have a private chef’s services?
CHEF HARRIS: No, I wouldn’t say rich. However, you have to keep in mind you are paying a professional chef’s salary and sometimes providing medical insurance for them if it is a full-time job.
[ME]: What is the difference between a personal chef and a private chef?
CHEF HARRIS: A personal chef has many clients they cook for. It can be in the client’s home or meal delivery. A private chef is hired by one family and cooks full-time for that family, usually on a daily basis.
[ME]: What is one thing you hope to do with your services?
CHEF HARRIS: Bring back eating at home as a family. I want people to eat together as families or host fun dinners for friends. Cooking can be so much work that the people really don’t enjoy themselves like they would if they didn’t have to worry about all the work that goes with it. Just the thought of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning will make the host change their mind and go for takeout.