Everyone from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to food writer Michael Pollan has jumped on the whole-foods bandwagon, aiming to lure more people out of fast-food lines and into their kitchens. But what about the folks who can't tell a paring knife from a pizza cutter?
Enter Memphis' personal chefs — culinary pros who devote their careers to cooking personalized meals in their clients' homes. Clients choose how many meals they'd like to have prepared, and personal chefs use the clients' kitchens to create, package, and store meals in the refrigerator or freezer.
From Real Estate to Real Food
Though Carol Borchardt has always had a passion for food, she pursued a career in real estate when she moved to Memphis about 15 years ago.
"I experienced horrible burnout. I dreaded every mile getting to the office," Borchardt says. "Cooking was always something that gave me a lot of joy, so when I experienced that burnout, it hit me that I could be a personal chef."
The Wisconsin native turned Memphian learned her way around the kitchen from her mother.
"We had a very large family with five sisters and a brother," Borchardt says. "We had to peel potatoes, set the table, and help out in the kitchen."
In 2002, she formed A Thought for Food with a focus on preparing a week's worth of meals for clients. Borchardt enjoys having her nights and weekends free, so she prefers to come into a client's home for several hours during the day to prepare meals for the week.
"I usually arrive around 10 a.m. and work four to five hours or more. I try to do things from scratch as much as possible," Borchardt says. "Everything is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Everything is labeled with instructions."
Clients receive several entrées and a side dish, which covers several servings. But Borchardt tailors the amount of food based on what the client wants.
Highlights from the menu on her website include spinach-stuffed manicotti with roasted red bell pepper béchamel sauce, chicken lasagna Florentine, and Thai shrimp curry.
She says the menu simply serves as a starting point since she has plenty more recipes in her repertoire. She even caters to special diets, such as vegetarians, Weight Watchers, special carb needs, and gluten-free.
The Vegan Chef
Speaking of special diets, Timothy Moore is the man to call for low-fat, oil-free, vegan meals.
Several years ago, Moore was diagnosed with diabetes. Rather than turn to medications, Moore made the switch to a completely vegan diet. He also eliminated all oil from his cooking.
"I went from a size 46 pant to a 32," Moore says. "It took me about a year, but I lost about 110 pounds. Taking the meat, dairy, and oil out really affected my weight."
At the time, he'd already begun his personal-chef business, and he wanted to share his new healthy outlook with his clients. Moore began preparing vegan, oil-free meals for his customers, although some of them aren't even herbivores.
"I get a lot of clients who aren't vegans or vegetarians, but they just like vegetables," Moore says. "I make them food they're familiar with, and they don't even realize it doesn't have oil in it."
Moore says his service is ideal for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems.
Like Borchardt, Moore visits clients' homes during the day and prepares enough meals to last throughout the week.
"I come into your home, but I don't use any of the utensils or anything from your house. I bring everything with me, like my pots and pans. I even bring my own broom and mop," Moore says.
Moore makes a mean vegan Polish sausage from scratch, and he's quite proud of his cornbread chili casserole and vegan German chocolate cake.
"I cook for people who are trying to change their eating habits," Moore says. "And a lot of my clients just don't have time to cook, so they were eating out every day. I can show them how it's economically more feasible to eat at home."
Prices vary for personal-chef services. Contact the chefs for more information:
Carol Borchardt, athoughtforfood.com,
Timothy Moore, email@example.com