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Menu for a master chef guest

Danioro Feb 18, 2014 10:25 AM

My friend is a very accomplished chef/owner of a resto here. James Beard finalist, modernist farm to table techniques, blah, blah.... He, of course, says that he is NEVER invited to dinner. I am an enthusiastic and adventurous amateur cook, and I find that after multiple dinner parties, I am NEVER invited to dinner. (I hope this is because my friends are intimidated, and not because of my undesirable personality!)

Anyway.... What to cook for the man and his wife? I am not going to try to compete with him on a technique basis, but am tempted to do a great dish, served family style, something like my fave choucroute garnis with a tarte flambée app and then a homey Moroccan orange cake for dessert.

Any chefs out there please weigh in with what you like to experience when invited to dinner. I would appreciate any advice or comment!



  1. Gastronomos Feb 21, 2014 04:21 PM

    steak and a baked potato

    1. CCSPRINGS Feb 21, 2014 02:00 PM

      Its been said but I will do it again. Keep it simple and savory. Do not go loco and try something wild.

      Make a pot of zesty bison chili and serve with corn bread. For a sweet treat after dinner, prepare a chocolate tort.

      All relatively easy plan ahead stuff.

      1. r
        rjbh20 Feb 19, 2014 01:27 PM

        Fried chicken. Gets 'em every time. Particularly when it includes rice & gravy, pole beans with ham hock & squash casserole. I serve this every year to a friend who is one of the most highly regarded (by other chefs, that is, not TV idiots) chefs in the country. We have a ball & he loves it.

        1. KarenDW Feb 18, 2014 08:47 PM

          My colleagues and I are happy and grateful for whatever someone else cooks. Some of us own culinary businesses, restaurants; some teach. When we cook for each other, at home, we usually just avoid whatever is the guests' specialty dish :)
          And when invited to a non-pro-cook friend's place, I especially appreciate any meal that allows us to enjoy each others' company.

          1 Reply
          1. re: KarenDW
            Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:42 PM

            Thanks Karen, come over for dinner sometime!

          2. w
            Wilks Feb 18, 2014 08:10 PM

            Family Home Style Cooking.. ask Chefs what was the best food they had, and in many occasions was 'My mom' or my 'Aunt' made this & that.. etc.. etc..

            if you from two different cultures, serve him food from your culture, something that he hasn't tasted before, A true Chef would love to experience new foods, flavors, ingredients spices etc..

            If Gordan Ramsay comes into my house, I'd serve him instant noodle with a sesame peanut chili sauce (on a clean plate), and I'd bet he would be thinking of another dish incorporating that sauce.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Wilks
              Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:46 PM

              There's an idea! I come from Southern Africa originally, so maybe a nice Bobotie with some cool Cabernet from the Cape..... The plot thickens!

              1. re: Danioro
                greygarious Feb 20, 2014 12:56 PM

                Avoid cooking the type of cuisine the chef specializes in. A) he's better at it than you are, and B) he can eat it anytime he wants to, if he's not completely sick of it already.

                Make what you are comfortable with and if it's something you think he's not had before, so much the better.

                1. re: Danioro
                  Ttrockwood Feb 21, 2014 06:18 PM

                  There must be some wonderful south african dishes that you are familiar with, and of course some wonderful wines from the area

              2. d
                Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:51 PM

                Lots o' good stuff there wifey! I look so forward to our future life together.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Danioro
                  urfuturewifey Feb 21, 2014 12:54 PM

                  hehe ;) glad I could help!

                2. c oliver Feb 18, 2014 06:27 PM

                  The only time - so far - I've cooked for a professional we did burgers (from our home ground pork) and he loved them. I'm sure he loves anything that someone else cooks for him.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: c oliver
                    Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:40 PM

                    That seems to be the operative thing. If someone else is doing the cooking it is like a vacation,

                  2. chefj Feb 18, 2014 05:10 PM

                    As a Chef I would say just do what you do best.The more familiar and relaxed you are about what you are doing the better the evening will be. You do not need to try to wow dinner guests. Good company and Food are plenty.

                    1. Ttrockwood Feb 18, 2014 03:46 PM

                      My ex was a professional cook at very high end nyc restaurants
                      We went to dinner at our friends' on evening and their puerto rican mom was in town and she just made very homey comforting puerto rican food- grab a plate and serve yourself from the kitchen. We talked about that meal for weeks! When going out to eat it would be for divey ethnic food or homey grandma made it foods.

                      Make your family recipe for.....whatever it is. Something you can't and won't ever order off the menu from a restaurant. Maybe grandma's pierogies, or your chicken and dumplings.
                      Homey casual comfort food, an excellent bottle of wine, a seasonal fruity dessert with an interesting digestif cocktail.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Ttrockwood
                        Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:39 PM

                        Maybe I should just hire grandma!

                        1. re: Danioro
                          Ttrockwood Feb 21, 2014 06:15 PM

                          If you've got one around (or can get a loaner!!) you can always taste the love in their food......the cute little old lady factor also helps ;)

                          1. re: Ttrockwood
                            c oliver Feb 21, 2014 06:17 PM

                            Woohoo! I'm a 67 y.o. grandmother so I have cred?!?!? Fist bump :)

                            1. re: c oliver
                              Danioro Feb 21, 2014 09:29 PM

                              How much do you charge? :^)

                              1. re: Danioro
                                c oliver Feb 21, 2014 10:12 PM

                                For you? My pleasure :)

                        2. re: Ttrockwood
                          wekick Feb 19, 2014 12:52 PM

                          Agree with this approach. Someone in the family married a chef from a high end place and I had to get over it because he is often at family dinners. I just don't do anything he does. I've tried to develope the relationship with the mutual enjoyment of food and cooking.

                        3. MamasCooking Feb 18, 2014 02:50 PM

                          Just an interesting bit of information. Jacques Pepin is one of the top ten chefs on the globe. His personal dining preference is simple rustic peasant food as he termed it. It would be uncouth for your friend to judge your meal based on his own professional expertise. Prepare foods he loves using the best ingredients you can afford. I am sure he is coming to dinner as your friend to socialize, enjoy your company and *break bread* not to critique your cooking.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MamasCooking
                            Danioro Feb 18, 2014 03:30 PM

                            You are right on all counts! I know my friend would never judge. I think the simple rustic idea is a good one

                            1. re: MamasCooking
                              blaireso Feb 21, 2014 06:21 PM

                              I love serving "snobby" guests a table set with the best china and crystal, and then bringing out ribs! If you have a professional chef in attendance, he/she is likely to appreciate the company and lack of expectation as much as the food. Do what you know best.

                            2. petek Feb 18, 2014 02:12 PM

                              As someone who cooks for a living, I'm more than happy to just sit back and enjoy whatever it is that the host/hostess wishes to cook for me. Simple is better. It's just as much about good company as it is about good food.(and it's such a treat to have someone else do all the cooking)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: petek
                                Danioro Feb 18, 2014 02:20 PM

                                Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement!

                              2. ChrisOfStumptown Feb 18, 2014 01:45 PM

                                A friend of mine is a line cook at a well regarded establishment in Portland says the same thing. Nobody ever invites him to dinner. I went out to his house for a potluck and brought a couple of serviceable quiches and other brought similar serviceable items and he was thrilled.

                                I have another friend who cooked his way up a series of well regarded restaurants and now manages a local restaurant that you will likely have heard of. I was out at some friends' for Thanksgiving and this guy made gloppy green bean casserole and drank a truly impressive amount of bargain basement beer. He's OK with that as long as he doesn't have to hang out with pretentious foodies.

                                I'd echo what everyone else says. Cook something good and casual and have a good time. Your menu sounds great.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: ChrisOfStumptown
                                  Danioro Feb 18, 2014 02:10 PM

                                  I am really not intimidated to cook for the guy. He is really down-to-earth and will appreciate whatever I do. I just would like to do something that he will enjoy.

                                  Hey, here's a thought. Maybe I'll just ask him!

                                  Portland Or or Me?


                                  1. re: Danioro
                                    ChrisOfStumptown Feb 18, 2014 02:19 PM

                                    Portland OR

                                    1. re: ChrisOfStumptown
                                      Danioro Feb 18, 2014 03:28 PM

                                      My daughter does pop up dinners and catering there; hopes to open a brick-and-mortar in Portland soon

                                  2. re: ChrisOfStumptown
                                    MamasCooking Feb 18, 2014 02:57 PM

                                    There are a lot of amazing home *chefs* out there who can cook their butts off too. We all recognize that respect and love of great food/ingredients in each other.

                                  3. cowboyardee Feb 18, 2014 01:10 PM

                                    I've cooked for professional chefs and cooks quite a few times - sometimes in cooking competitions and sometimes just socially.

                                    - Don't use your menu to show off cooking technique in general. Professionals tend to judge you not by how many tricks you know but in how well you execute the techniques you use. In other words, your skills will be evident in whatever you make; so choose something you know you can make well.

                                    - If there is some local ingredient that is especially great and you use often, or some specific dish you've been working on for years - this is a great time to use it. Chefs dig novelty just like anyone else - but again, it only works if you can execute it.

                                    I've impressed professionals before just preparing local lamb very simply (the lamb was phenomenal quality, and the professional didn't live in my area). I've also impressed using a home oven to mimic an extremely hot professional setup and make Neapolitan style pizza at home (but the catch is that I've been working on this for years).

                                    The point is to showcase what YOU specifically can do well, not just good cooking in general. Make tarte flambe (et al) if you do an especially great job with it - not because it seems like an impressive dish.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                      Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:57 PM

                                      You are so right. I do not wish to compete in that way, but merely to provide a good meal in congenial surroundings.

                                      We are blessed in Peoria Il to have several fantastic farms and producers in the area. Great local produce, veges, meat (including Katahdin sheep), but I thought the choucroute might provide a nice change from the usual.

                                      Good advice, thank you!


                                    2. perk Feb 18, 2014 12:37 PM

                                      I interviewed a chef once who told me that, on the rare instances when she is invited out to dinner, people tend to try to impress her by doing complicated dishes. Often dishes they're not technically able to pull off. She said the best meals she has at someone's home is something simple....like grilled meat or fish. Whatever the cook is comfortable making. She said it's a treat being invited, and simple is best.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: perk
                                        Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:51 PM

                                        Yep, I think my instincts here are correct! Besides, I want to enjoy the evening and the meal too!


                                      2. f
                                        fourunder Feb 18, 2014 12:36 PM

                                        Even the best chefs like simple, rustic, comfort food.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: fourunder
                                          Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:49 PM

                                          I think you are right. I will just do a good recipe that I know well. Thanks!


                                          1. re: Danioro
                                            fourunder Feb 18, 2014 03:01 PM

                                            I'm pretty sure it was in the last year where I saw a food show that featured Daniel Boulud....he said his favorite Sunday dinner at home with the family was Roast Chicken.

                                            1. re: fourunder
                                              Danioro Feb 18, 2014 03:32 PM

                                              This might work well. We have a number of producers who raise good pastured organic chicken and it is fantastic roasted or as a ballottine.

                                              1. re: Danioro
                                                C. Hamster Feb 19, 2014 04:40 PM

                                                I'd suggest a succulent roasted chicken over ballottine

                                              2. re: fourunder
                                                c oliver Feb 19, 2014 04:56 PM

                                                I think because so many roast chickens don't turn out so great, it's got some wow factor when it does. Mine sucked til I went with the Zuni one. Need to branch out to Keller.

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  fourunder Feb 19, 2014 05:33 PM

                                                  For maximum crispy skin.....vertical roasting, and much easier for most to tie off without having to truss the bird. Simple Seasoning or your favorite rub.

                                                  1. re: fourunder
                                                    c oliver Feb 19, 2014 06:13 PM

                                                    We did vertical roasting for many years but I'm much happier with the Zuni. Try it sometime. No trussing and super easy.

                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                      magiesmom Feb 19, 2014 07:34 PM


                                          2. b
                                            bear Feb 18, 2014 12:03 PM

                                            Not a chef, but an enthusiastic home cook. Good for you for not being intimidated and wanting to nurture your friend. (I'd probably be a little intimidated, though.)

                                            Your menu sounds terrific to me, and it sounds like food you love, and much of it can be prepped ahead of time so you'll have time to enjoy your guests. Both the tart flambée and the choucroute are great comfort food and yet elegant at the same time. Enjoy!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: bear
                                              Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:24 PM

                                              Thanks for the encouragement!

                                            2. hotoynoodle Feb 18, 2014 11:43 AM

                                              not a chef, but worked as a sommelier in fine-dining almost 20 years and am a very accomplished home cook and entertainer.

                                              do you really flambe at home? it's showy for sure, but yields negligible flavor benefits.

                                              cook a menu you feel confident with and will enjoy. make your guests feel welcome, so don't have a millionity little fiddly things that need attention after they arrive. he is tasting rich food all week, so don't bother with any kind of gut busters.

                                              i'd do a braise, like beef cheeks or lamb shanks. (am also in my 3rd blizzard in 5 days, so forgive me for wanting comfort food!)

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                harryharry Feb 18, 2014 01:30 PM

                                                Braise is definitely the right idea - because you want to be free to enjoy your company -
                                                You mentioned a Moroccan orange cake - what about a chicken or lamb tagine? With cows cows (I'm so sick of auto correct!) it's totally make ahead!

                                                1. re: harryharry
                                                  Danioro Feb 18, 2014 02:06 PM

                                                  Now there is a thought. I have a nice leg of Katahdin lamb in the freezer. That might be a goody.


                                                2. re: hotoynoodle
                                                  sbp Feb 18, 2014 02:40 PM

                                                  Plus 1 for a braise. Intense flavor, not a lot of last minute work, and any cuisine will have something. I sometimes make a mole sauce, then braise a brisket in it. You get a very meaty mole, and so much liquid you can save and freeze half the sauce (even after reducing) - a great base for another meal.

                                                  1. re: sbp
                                                    Danioro Feb 18, 2014 03:36 PM

                                                    Got a favorite mole recipe?

                                                    1. re: Danioro
                                                      sbp Feb 18, 2014 07:17 PM

                                                      Not much I can point right to. I used the mole in Bocaditos (Reed Hearon cookbook) as a starting point, cull together Saveur and online recipes, and tweak.

                                                    2. re: sbp
                                                      bear Feb 18, 2014 04:41 PM

                                                      I made the Bayless recipe in Saveur a month or so ago and it was fantastic. Took several hours of hands-on prep, though. Next time I'll start the day before.


                                                      1. re: bear
                                                        Danioro Feb 18, 2014 09:37 PM

                                                        This looks good but wow! Complicated? I need to try it to see if it is worth the effort!


                                                    3. re: hotoynoodle
                                                      greygarious Feb 20, 2014 12:50 PM

                                                      A tarte flambee, aka flammekueche, is in the flatbread/pizza family, not a set the booze in the pan alight display. The flambee part refers to the baking hearth.

                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                        hotoynoodle Feb 20, 2014 02:44 PM

                                                        i figured that out after, thanks. yeah, i am more used to seeing the alsatian word for it. :)

                                                    4. d
                                                      daislander Feb 18, 2014 11:03 AM

                                                      I would stick to something you know and love so you know it will turn out good.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: daislander
                                                        Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:58 PM

                                                        There you go!

                                                      2. j
                                                        JTPhilly Feb 18, 2014 11:01 AM

                                                        Like you I am home cook who gets excited about cooking at home - people I know who do it for a living seem keep it simple at home and seek a break from the restaurant . I would say do something you are comfortable with and enjoy cooking and eating - keep it fun and relaxed - if you are having fun your guests will too - don't stress it.

                                                        Moroccan Orange Cake sounds delish do you have a recipe?

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: JTPhilly
                                                          Hobbert Feb 18, 2014 01:30 PM

                                                          +1 for a recipe!

                                                          1. re: JTPhilly
                                                            Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:48 PM


                                                            This cake is soooo good. Several variations out there, but I have found the almond flour makes it. I just finely grind raw almonds in a robocoup if no flour at hand.

                                                            IMHO the very best way to serve is with a real plain Greek yoghurt, like Fajè. Yummers!


                                                            1. re: Danioro
                                                              Hobbert Feb 18, 2014 02:31 PM

                                                              Thank you!

                                                              1. re: Danioro
                                                                JTPhilly Feb 19, 2014 06:26 AM

                                                                Thanks - That looks great, saved.

                                                                1. re: Danioro
                                                                  pine time Feb 19, 2014 07:42 AM

                                                                  Oh yum. Love almonds and Michel Roux anything (well, except seafood). I'll even do the measurement conversions (and I'm lazy), so that's how much I want to taste this! Thanks.

                                                                  1. re: pine time
                                                                    Danioro Feb 19, 2014 04:14 PM

                                                                    I guarantee you will love this cake! It is so exotic, from both a flavor and texture standpoint.
                                                                    Some Classic Moroccan recipes involve boiling a couple of oranges for an hour or two (to remove bitterness from the peel) , and then chopping, processing the whole orange as a basis for the cake. I have done it this way, but the addition of zest and juice is about as good and much less work

                                                              2. h
                                                                Hobbert Feb 18, 2014 11:00 AM

                                                                Just cook something you're good at and lets you be with your guests. It's no fun to get invited to dinner and watch someone do 36 last minute things. A great roast chicken, some of your favorite sides, and a nice dessert and done!

                                                                10 Replies
                                                                1. re: Hobbert
                                                                  Danioro Feb 18, 2014 01:26 PM

                                                                  My thought too, thanks! I always try to make ahead so I can enjoy a cocktail with my guests. Good advice!

                                                                  1. re: Hobbert
                                                                    GretchenS Feb 18, 2014 01:41 PM

                                                                    I echo what Hobbert said. He will be so happy that someone else is cooking for him. Keep it simple and stress-free. A great roast chicken is always appreciated and I imagine so would a great choucroute garnis. I might keep the app preceding it lighter than tarte flambee but that is personal preference.

                                                                    1. re: GretchenS
                                                                      Danioro Feb 18, 2014 02:04 PM

                                                                      Hmmm. You may be right, although a tarte flambée can be light if the crust is very thin, and one accentuates the caramelized onion rather than the fromage and the lardon.

                                                                      The choucroute is definitely a winter dish tho. Any suggestions for a light app?


                                                                      1. re: Danioro
                                                                        magiesmom Feb 18, 2014 02:10 PM

                                                                        We had this meal recently; we started with a cream of celeriac soup, not terribly creamed, but it was a great start.

                                                                        We finished with an Alsatian apple cake. It was a simple but tasty meal.

                                                                        1. re: magiesmom
                                                                          Danioro Feb 18, 2014 02:18 PM

                                                                          Soup is an idea in this cold weather. I tend to like finger food with cocktails before dinner. But that's definitely an idea.


                                                                          1. re: Danioro
                                                                            magiesmom Feb 18, 2014 02:21 PM

                                                                            We don't do cocktails, so often use soup for a starter in winter.

                                                                        2. re: Danioro
                                                                          DowntownJosie Feb 21, 2014 02:45 PM

                                                                          How about making a pissaladiere to start? It is similar to tarte flambée but usually(French way) does not include cheese so it is lighter. You could use any pizza dough and top it with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies(you could hide these in the oil you brush on the dough). I am french and I say resto all the time.

                                                                          1. re: DowntownJosie
                                                                            Danioro Feb 21, 2014 09:32 PM

                                                                            Sounds good! I love Anchovies although most Americans run screaming when you mention them. I agree, resto is an approved abbreviation!

                                                                      2. re: Hobbert
                                                                        mike0989 Feb 21, 2014 02:51 PM

                                                                        Ditto on doing a bird. If you want to impress him. Buy a quality bird and don't over cook it.

                                                                        1. re: mike0989
                                                                          Danioro Feb 21, 2014 09:34 PM

                                                                          I got bird down pat! I like Zuni too, but french country style with tarragon is my wife's favorite dish.

                                                                      3. c
                                                                        ChiliDude Feb 18, 2014 10:49 AM

                                                                        First, where is 'here?' The term for restaurant 'resto' is not part of my vocabulary. Second, when is this restaurant chef free from cooking at a restaurant to dine at someone's home?

                                                                        I watch food shows on TV. Several professional chefs like just like a simple home cooked meal that has been prepared by someone else to get away from the fancy stuff. Do your own thing. Just prepare it well and don't try to impress him. After all your guest for company rather than showmanship.

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