There’s a chef in my kitchen!
Planning a special celebration in Cornwall? Hire this brilliant private chef and let the restaurant come to you
I don’t like to brag but a couple of week ago I threw the dinner party of my life. The food was spectacular and the hostess was relaxed (ok, a little drunk) and attentive. No, I haven’t gone all Nigella Lawson on you – I invited a pro to do all the hard work.
We discovered Craig Barrett (aka Duchy Chef) thanks to La Belle Assiette, a nationwide service offering 600+ private chefs, based on location, price, cuisine and reviews. When a new chef joins La Belle Assiette’s rosta they have to do a ‘validation dinner’, like a trail run to make sure their food and service is up to the website’s exacting standards. Naturally, I was only happy to provide a venue and some hungry friends but our chef for the evening brought everything right down to the plates (much prettier than my Ikea dinner service). All you need to do is get the wine in.
Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a private chef sort of person – sounds a bit posh right? But it was both much more laidback and affordable than I expected. We went for a 3-course, £39 menu (plus homemade bread , Cornish coffee and fudge) titled ‘from the sea’ and enjoyed restaurant-quality food in intimacy of our our own little kitchen/diner.
Of course you could go for a pricier menu and if you have glam dining room, I’m sure the whole affair would feel more formal – but that’s not really us. It was a bit odd letting a stranger take command of the kitchen but it’s part of Craig’s charm that he made it feel so relaxed.
The meal started with Mevagissey mackerel with dashi kolhrabi, tarragon emulsion, seasame seed and oyster leaf. Here it is in all it’s glory:
For the main, we had Newlyn hake with fennel several ways, saffron gnocchi and Canarra Farm tomatoes. Oohs and ahhs all round!
And to finish? summer in a bowl – Trevaskis Farm strawberry textures, baked yogurt and mini meringues. Craig even brought a coffee machine and Mevagissey-roasted coffee.
Here’s the bread, served with whipped seaweed butter (which we’re still polishing off).
This was a really fresh and colourful trio of dishes that offered so many tastes of a Cornish summer and decent portions left us full but not uncomfortable.
Personally, Craig was great company and clearly a pro. He arrived early with everything immaculately prepped and struck just the right balance of chatting and telling us all about the food, without being intrusive in any way. He was great with our kids as he worked in the early evening and gracious when I took over the stove for a chaotic 15 minutes to whip up their fish fingers. He joked with our guests and left the kitchen spotless but most importantly, he served up a beautifully presented and delicious menu that I’m sure will never be topped under this roof.
As far as credentials go, Craig’s are impressive. He honed his craft at some of London’s finer foodie establishments including, The Lanesborough Hotel Hyde Park and The Pelham Hotel in Kensington. He gained rosettes one and two as Head Chef at French House in Soho and The Lightship Ten at St Katherine’s Dock. And his final role in London was with Roux fine dining. After years of holidaying in the South West, Craig moved to Cornwall with his young family in 2009 and launched Duchy Chef.
This service and chef is an easy recommendation for me, whether you’re planning a special birthday or anniversary celebration or fancy a night off the cooking on your Cornish holiday. It’s particularly good if you have less mobile guests or a tribe of children sleeping upstairs – bringing all the occasion of a posh meal out to the comfort of your home. It also eliminates the argument about who’s driving (*pours herself another glass of pinot).
More about La Belle Assiette
If you like the idea of less puffing over the cooking, serving and cleaning up for your next dinner party, check out your local chefs on La Belle Assiette. Across the country, there’s a huge choice of chefs (600 and counting) who you can select by proximity, type of cuisine, numbers catered for, the kind of party you’re having (canapés or tasting menu?) the reviews and the price – £39, £59 or £89 per person. Your chef will call to discuss your likes and dislikes, details of your kitchen and any special requirements. Then you sit back and let your private chef take care of everything from prep and cooking to cleaning up!
La Belle Assiette. Tel: 02033185003. Email: contact@
All photos by Anna Burt,at Exposure Photo Agency