Who’s coming to dinner?
...someone to cook it! Transform your dinner party hosting experience with super talented private chef Steve James
Had friends over for posh nosh at my place last week: canapes, starter, mains and dessert – the works – and I didn’t lift a finger (except to open the wine). That’s because private chef Steve James was in the kitchen doing all the hard work – from delicious gourmet cooking to all the clearing away.
All the faff of organising, shopping, prepping and last-minute cooking puts me off hosting a dinner party these days but with a private chef, after you’ve chosen a date and your menu, your most onerous task is to decide what to wear.
Finalist in the ‘best chef in Somerset’ in last year’s Somerset Life Awards, Steve’s culinary career started after a birthday cookery lesson with Dorset-based TV chef Lesley Waters (Ready Steady Cook) and now he pootles all over Somerset, Dorset, East Devon and beyond, offering fine dining and other catering services.
With guests arriving around 7.30, Steve rocked up to my place about two hours before, armed with a giant cool box, crate and containers and set to work.
You don’t have to have a large, well-equipped kitchen. Steve’s ultra-organised and bring every last thing he needs, from the knives, pots and pans he needs to prepare the food to the crockery – those nice big restaurant dishes and squares of slate – and the cutlery we’ll use to scoff it. The only thing he doesn’t supply are glasses or the wine to go in them (though he does offer a mean line in cocktails).
He’d spent the day before doing all the prep, like oh-so-slowly cooking pork belly for 12 hours and making some delicate squid ink coral tuiles. He’s a friendly chap and happy to talk but will beaver away quietly, blending completely into the background, so you can get on with more important stuff – like cracking open the fizz.
Steve creates different seasonal menus throughout the year, so we’d chosen from the Spring menu, with a choice of three, four and five courses including canapes and petit fours. He can adapt any of the dishes or devise a bespoke menu if you prefer. No probs at all, if you need nut/dairy/gluten/onion-free, vegetarian or vegan – he’ll create the menu you want.
LET THE EATING BEGIN…
Canapes were first up. Chicory leaves filled with coronation chicken, almonds and spring onions; a lovely lemony broad bean crostini with mint and ricotta; red pepper puree, coriander, feta sprinkled with trendy dukkah on a sliver of crisp bread crust – and some puff pastry cups, topped with red onion marmalade, goats’ cheese croquettes and parsley (oops – all scoffed before I could take a snap).
When we were ready, Steve served dinner (did I mention he’d already laid the table?). Here’s the starter, a crab and lobster tian – a mound of crab meat with little chunks of lobster topped with super thin ribbons of cucumber, lacy squid ink tuiles, micro herbs and dulse seaweed flakes sitting in a cucumber horseradish and lemon sauce. Lots of different flavours and textures, and soo pretty, don’t you think?
The braised pork belly main was incredibly tender and succulent and the skin crisp. Asparagus, bok choi and enoki mushrooms underneath and crispy deep fried noodles and red chilli on top. In true fine dining style, we poured over galanghal broth from little glass teapots.
Dessert was spectacular. Passionfruit and mango roulade with cream, macarons (all hand made), little meringues, dragon fruit, pistachios, mint, mango coulis, biscuit crumb and flakes of white chocolate…
The next time we looked up from our deep philosophical discussion (*cough*) around the table, Steve had done all the washing up and cleared everything away – and I swear the kitchen was cleaner than when he arrived. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I’ll definitely be doing it again.
Steve offers sit down dinners, party buffets, dos for for small groups or large (he’d just done a dinner for 40), holiday catering… oh and he also works with the naked hunks Butlers in the Buff (just saying). You can see his full Spring menu here. Prices range from £48-£60 per person – excellent value for fine dining in your own home.