Home Chefs

    [photo:1349446906146]You might have heard the recent hoopla surrounding the search for a food blogger by Richmond Tourism. It generated much excitement and noise that over 1500 people applied for this job from all over the world. It was advertised as a paid job for a year with an added gym membership. I suppose the gym is to make up for all the eating. It just goes to show how many people like to eat and talk about food. It's the new social medium! Now it is no longer about cooking at a restaurant or cooking for television shows either. Besides cookbooks, websites, and cooking schools we can now add food blogging to the list. A quick search on the internet and you will find hundreds if not thousands of food blogs. Everyone is in on the action offering their opinions or views on cuisine and restaurants around the world. Some of them are quite interesting and even very professionally done. Most of them offer good reviews accompanied by photographs of the food and interviews with the chefs. It's almost like being at the restaurant without having to actually go there. I personally cannot say anything bad about other people's cooking since I can't cook to save my life. I can boil water though! So as a non-cook and non-food blogger, I feel secretly pleased to be in on another new trend in the art of cooking – the home chef. Okay, so home cooking is hardly a trend as it has been around for a long time; otherwise we'd all be starving. Let's face it, not everyone is a Martha Stewart. Cooking a meal for your family is not the same as cooking dinner for a group of friends. There is a difference. Most people cook out of necessity but there are others who can whip up a feast for a large gathering without breaking a sweat. I am fortunate to know several home cooks and have had the pleasure of dining in their homes. We are not talking spaghetti meat balls or lasagne here, but dishes upon dishes of delicately prepared and beautifully presented food in an elegant setting that is actually someone's dining room at their home. [photo:1349534488297]My friend, Thelma Leung is one such person. She's a talented singer, a full time homemaker and a wonderful cook. Invitations to dine at her house are much coveted as she only cooks for friends and family and not for strangers. Her dining room is beautifully setup with Versace inspired tablecloths accompanied by Versace dishes and flatware. Her large round table can seat 15 people comfortably. Each of us eagerly wait with anticipation, as Thelma wearing a cute Chef's cap (to keep the smell from her hair) and a nifty apron, runs in empty handed and out of the kitchen with her creations. Thelma takes cooking for her friends very seriously. She starts to prepare three days in advance for a party of 15. One day is spent running around the various supermarkets searching for ingredients for her recipes. The second day is spent prepping all her dishes; she will mix the various sauces and cut, dice and chop everything ahead of time. Thelma tells me that some dishes can be cooked the day before, for example, certain appetizers or braised dishes. By day three, everything is ready and all Thelma needs to do is cook the dishes in order of the menu she has designed. [photo:1349534564925]Thelma usually serves up 15 dishes, 6 of those are cold appetizers, then two hot appetizers and a soup followed by the remaining 6 main course dishes. All of this is then followed with a desert which actually makes the total dishes served to be 16 dishes! Thelma tells me timing is everything as she adheres to her three day rule. By day three, the day of the party, she just needs to go into the kitchen and cook. Thelma is so well organized that she can actually sit at the table and enjoy her own cooking. While everyone is slurping their hot soup she quietly slips away to cook the remaining 6 dishes and then she's back to enjoy the dinner with her guests. There are some appetisers that are beautifully presented in dainty spoons or little crystal bowls. Thelma tells me that she likes to search out specialty dishes, bowls or utensils so that she can present her food. I can only imagine she must have many dishes as each course is served individually. I would hate to be the one to wash the dishes (or to break one of them). [photo:1349534628658] One look and one taste of Thelma's food and you can tell she loves cooking. Thelma told me that she developed an interest in cooking as a little girl. However, school followed by a busy and successful singing career, she put cooking on the back burner (no pun intended). Years later, after settling down in Canada she picked up her passion for cooking again. She took a couple of lessons from a famed local Chinese Chef and that was it. Today Thelma has accumulated over 60 of her own recipes. She tells me that no two dinner parties are the same and she is careful not to repeat dishes for guests that have had dinner in her home before. Thelma is also known for her special homemade sauces. I asked Thelma what the secret was to her delicious sauces and she said one word 'experiment'. She likes to scour the supermarkets for all kinds of sauces and then she plays with them at home. Thelma says "A little bit of this and a little bit of that and if it doesn't work – It's only sauce". She just throws it away and starts again. I was fortunate to be at one of Thelma's dinner parties where she served up sumptuous dish after dish of delectable food. Her amazing Avocado Tower was a crowd favourite and all the cameras came out to capture it before it was devoured. Little spoons were used to serve up delicate duck breast with mangoes. There were lovely deviled eggs, a delicious stir fried clam, steamed fish, and dishes too numerous to mention. I asked Thelma what makes her the most happy about cooking and she says seeing all her guests enjoy her food and especially have her husband tell her at the end of a meal that she has surpassed herself again. I eagerly wait for the next invitation to Thelma's for dinner. 60 recipes – There are a few more of Thelma's special creations for me to try out. Thelma, do you remember my number?? [photo:1349534783514]