With summertime trips to the beach, it can be stressful enough organizing and hosting visits with friends and family. The last thing a lot of people want to worry with is preparing meals and dinner parties.
Professional chef Christine Warrington, better known as Madame Chef, has found a way around all that, fixing fresh, delicious meals right in her customers’ own homes. Now in her fourth summer, she’s spicing things up a bit, as well, with her service.
“I’m not a caterer,” she disclaimed. “Everything is prepared on-site in my clients’ house.”
With her personal chef service, Warrington prepares meals that most people believe could only be conjured up in an upscale restaurant kitchen, serving up dishes in Rehoboth, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island and the surrounding areas.
The service begins with a consultation between the hosts and Warrington, to discus taste preferences, allergies or other sensitivities, and dietary requirements for a promising, taste-pleasing outcome. Once a date is scheduled, Madame Chef arrives, all of her own utensils and ingredients in tow, to create mouth-watering meals.
“I can work with what I call ‘one-hit wonders,’” she said, “who host a special occasion party. But the bread-and-butter of my business is the regular clientele, which are on a bi-monthly or monthly basis.”
The personal chef can adjust the evening to fit any mood, from a romantic dinner for two, to a family meal or business gathering. Past and current customers range from the elderly or those recuperating, who do not have the time to fix their own meals, to parties of 60 — though the smaller-scale gatherings seem to be the most common.
Working in her clients’ own houses, the atmosphere already has to it a homey, welcoming feel. Warrington allows for the rest of the evening to be as comfortable and relaxing as the customers wish.
“It can be as hands-on as people want,” she said, “where they can actually learn to make a specific appetizer, or it could be casual. They could just as easily go off and mingle while I prepare the rest.”
Warrington’s love of cooking began in her teens, when she worked in restaurants through the summertime while in high school. Her talent was perfected as she received her culinary arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America in 1987. Since then, she has held positions as banquet chef and executive chef at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club, and executive chef at Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y. But four years ago, she looked to slow the pace of the demanding routine.
“I wanted a more normal kind of lifestyle,” she said, noting the stress that comes with working in executive-style kitchens of upscale restaurants. “The personal chef service is much more gratifying.”
Warrington had heard of this type of service, and it seemed to just make sense.
“Dinner parties are great,” she said, “but the thing is, everyone ends up in the kitchen. What I do sort of brings it all together.”
Her past experience provides Warrington with an extensive selection of dishes, ranging anywhere from Pork Calvados to Scallops St. Jacques. An assortment of 10 different soups, unlimited salad possibilities and numerous original side dishes also line her repertoire.
“If my customers want gourmet, I can do it,” she said. “If they want crabcakes, or meat and potatoes, I can do that, too, or, I can appeal to a special diet they are set on.”
When shopping for food to use, she said she often looks for local ingredients and produce. Customers don’t even need to worry about cleanup, either.
Typically, Warrington will prepare five selections, including a meal that night, with four portions of each that can be stored until later — 20 meals in all for an individual, or 10 complete meals for a couple, will assure clients have fresh meals for weeks to come. The cost of the evening is comparable to having dinner out on the town, averaging roughly $25 per meal.
“People like to see the food being prepared right there in front of them,” she said, “but what they like the most is having the free time.”
Lately, Warrington has been expanding her service to include a little more variety. The in the past year, the success of the South Beach Diet has caught her attention. “I like to specialize in South Beach foods,” she said, “though I’m not limited to it. A lot of people enjoy eating in a healthier way.”
One of the latest features in the works is a weekly dinner club.
“I’m not sure exactly how it would work,” she noted, “but I’d like to make a meal for a collective group, like people who work together. Coworkers could take turns hosting at one another’s houses, and I’d be there each week.” Though it is still in the works, Warrington said she hopes to have this “dinner club” operating by September.
For more information about Madame Chef, Christine Warrington, call (302) 436-6400 or e-mail her at cmadamechef.aol@com. Interested customers can also visit her Web site at www.madamechef.com to find answers to other questions.