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Hire a French Chef

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 January 2014

Chef Franck Gautherot

Chef Franck Gautherot

Thomas Bowles

No really. For less than the price of a swanky meal out you can now sit down with your family or friends and enjoy five-star Fine Dining in your own home. SUSAN CLARK reports

Piquillo peppers blinis with babaganoushPiquillo peppers blinis with babaganoush

Pack your bags Mrs Padmore. Call a cab Mr Carson. Your services as the long-serving (and long suffering) cook and butler to Lord Grantham and his family in TV’s fictional Downton Abbey are no longer required.

This is because the market in personal chefs has increased to such an extent over recent years that it’s not just the Downton aristocracy who can afford Fine Dining at home – happily, even if it’s just a one-off treat - we all can.

And if you’re looking to try a new foodie experience this January, then look no further than French-born and trained chef Franck Gautherot who for the last three years has been running his private chef company, Franckly Delicious, from his mid-Devon North Tawton home.

“No mess, No Fuss, No work for you” is the promise on Franck’s business card.

The Verdict

The Guests:

Lorna is my neighbour. A publisher and a fellow Devon foodie she is no stranger to good food or fancy dining but like me, is keen on value for money, and so along with her partner, musician Rob, was the perfect “Test Guest”.

“We’d been looking forward to this experience and we were not disappointed. The innovative idea of a chef coming to your house to cook for you takes all the hassle out of going out for a meal: no need to worry about who’s driving, or whether you can get a babysitter. Perfect! From the moment we stepped through the door of Susan’s beautiful home, we were greeted by exquisite kitchen aromas and the friendly welcome of Franck, whose partner Peggy then took our coats and ushered us into the lounge. Susan and her husband Jon were clearly vaguely perplexed that they had nothing to do – not even the serving of drinks. They could relax totally in the knowledge that Franck and Peggy were completely in control in the kitchen.

When our food was ready we could hardly keep a lid on our enthusiasm. Each of the three courses was delicioust: to start, I chose scallops in a spinach and coriander sauce – because I’d never eaten scallops and actually liked them very much, so I wanted to see how a ‘kosher’ French chef did it. They were delicious – cooked to perfection and the sauce was vibrant and piquant. It wasn’t long before the plates started circulating around the table as we all tried each other’s choices and were wowed.

The main courses just looked too good to eat – like little works of art on a plate – but eat them we did, of course! My lemon potato cake was incredible although I wouldn’t have a clue how to make it myself; the roast lamb was succulent and the vegetarian halloumi parcels were sublime. And then came the puds – apple tart with chantilly cream, yum; Mum’s chocolate mousse, yum yum; but the unexpected favourite was the rice pudding with tea and prunes – which sounds kind of ordinary, but was in fact exceptional.

After coffee we all remarked how perfect the meal was: good portion sizes, so you don’t feel uncomfortably full, fabulously friendly and efficient service from Peggy and the gastronomic skills of Franck – the Chef who thinks globally and cooks locally - all this combined made for a memorable meal. And to top it off, when we went into the kitchen to say goodbye to our very own galloping gourmet, it was spotless – you’d never have known a three-course meal had been cooked there.

A highly recommended five-star experience.

The Hostess:

From the very last mouthful of one of the most delicious meals I have eaten in a long time I started feeling sad that the whole experience was about to end. It was a bit odd, at first, handing over my kitchen to a stranger but within less than half an hour we had all relaxed into the role of hosts and guests and we really did have one of the best evenings I can remember. Franck and Peggy were attentive but unobtrusive and the food was Fine Dining Plus – especially the rice pudding with the tea syrup! I am now saving for my birthday at the end of the year when I plan to book Franckly Delicious again.

And if I had to sum the experience up in one sentence is would be: Frankly…beyond delicious and fabulous from start to finish!

Franckly Delicious 07725051972, franckly.delicious@gmail.com , francklydelicious.co.uk, @DeliciousChef

So, as part of our Try Something New theme, we decided to put those promises – and his food – to the test.

Here’s how it works, what it costs, what you do, what Franck does and what you can expect fromthe experience of hiring your own private French chef for the evening.

The Cost:

WHAT WE ATE

Starters

Piquillo peppers, Babaganoush & blinis

Parsley Soup with White Truffle Oil

Pan Fried Scallops, Coriander & Spinach Sauce, hint of Chilli

Mains

Roasted Chicken Breast, Potato & Lemon Cake, White Wine Cream Sauce

Rump of Lamb with Celeriac Puree, Peas a la Francaise, Port Wine Sauce

Halloumi & Tahini Parcels with Sweet Potato Mash & a Seasonal Herbs Dressing

Desserts

Braeburn Apple Tart with Vanilla Custard & Chantilly Cream

Mum’s Chocolate Mousse with Beetroot Cream

Rice Pudding with Orange & Prunes in Tea Syrup

Franckly Delicious charges a flat rate of £140 for up to five diners, rising to £180 for up to 10 diners. This fee includes the cost of shopping for the food, the preparation (which he does in his own kitchen), the cooking and then the finishing off, plating up, serving, clearing and washing up which takes place in your kitchen. It does not include the cost of the food itself but Franck does not put a margin on that so you pay what he pays.

If you have a party of more than four people then you pay an additional £40 for a waiter/waitress for the evening and if your group is bigger than 10, you can call him to discuss rates. He will also charge reasonable mileage to travel to your home and again, you can agree this in advance when you book.

Franck, who became a private chef to escape the unsociable hours and stresses of Fine Dining kitchens, reckons you can eat the same kind of meal we had (see What We Ate) for around £30-£35 a head. You supply your own drinks.

"‘Every dish was a celebration’"

Rob Swann, musician

The Menu:

Several weeks before the date of the dinner, Franck emailed a seasonal menu to the hostess (me) who then circulated it to her guests. We also asked for a vegetarian option and were not disappointed by a veggie menu that was equal to the meat and fish one in its thoughtfulness and eventual execution. There was so much choice the only difficulty was in deciding what to have so these really are menus that can cater for all tastes.

What You Do:

l Tidy your kitchen before the chef arrives

l Set the table for your guests

l Chill the drinks

l Show the chef where everything is and how the oven works

l Leave the kitchen

l Dress to impress

What Franck Does:

Everything else! Including the washing up! Franck, who worked with his partner, Peggy, for our dinner party left the kitchen tidier than he found it. It was as if the fairies had been…and the look of relief (at not having to wash up) on my husband’s face was a picture.

Because we were a small party of just four, Franck brought all his own dishes. He arrived with two neat storage boxes, checked with me which saucepans he could use on the induction hob and was soon cooking in that kitchen as if he had designed it himself.

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