Personal chef cooks up popular service


May 14, 2001|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A PEEK INTO the reconstruction of a neighbor's home provoked a question: Is that little room over there supposed to be the kitchen?

"Yes," said another neighbor, Jim Gebbia. "It's that small because no one cooks anymore."


This came as news to the neighborhood columnist, who can be particularly backward when it comes to being hep - is that the word? - on trends.

"All you really need these days is a freezer and a microwave," added Gebbia, no slouch with the skillets himself.

Or, as an alternative, one can call Terry Sielert, who will show up with her own pots and pans, with a toolbox full of spatulas and peelers, and just the right amount of eggs and vegetables. She's a personal chef, and will whip a meal together and leave it for the microwave.

Sielert then will depart with her stuff.

The kitchen - sometimes a very chi-chi contemporary one, with six-burner range and Corian countertops - will be left as its owners apparently wish it, ready for a photographer from Bon Appetit.

Sielert's business is called House Specials. It started very casually, as these things do.

"I was a teacher in Dallas," said Sielert, 38. "That can be a relatively stressful profession. I started to cook to relieve the tension. I went to cooking classes, started collecting cookbooks."

The idea of switching professions gradually crept into her head. "I read about the U.S. Personal Chef Association in a business magazine," she said. "Catering is too expensive to start up, so I decided about trying this personal chef thing. It's a fairly new idea that is now being listed as an eating trend. So many Americans just don't have that much time to cook for themselves."

She ran House Specials for three years before moving to Annapolis two years ago at the urging of her fiance, Jeff Antoniuk, a saxophonist in a jazz ensemble.

Although she numbers the well-to-do among her clients, she said her typical customers are "two-income couples with young children."

"It seems I cook for a lot of new moms," she said. "Some people will donate my service as a gift to a new mother. Most of my customers I would call Average Joes, people who really have a need for the service."

Seniors also are among her clients, including one attorney who, she said, "announced that retirement meant retiring from having to cook."

She described the bulk of the meals she cooks as "homestyle - beef stew, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and fish. They don't have time to figure out what they want, so they ask me, `Make something I don't have to make.'"

She cooks maybe 20 percent of her meals in her kitchen.

"My life revolves around lists," she said. "Client lists, shopping lists. I go to a round of two, three different stores to set myself up for an afternoon of cooking. Then there's packaging, then delivery. It means I have to be ultra-organized."

She will cook gourmet meals and for small dinner parties.

"My goal will be to move into a commercial kitchen. With maybe four or five staff, I could crank out maybe 20 services," she said.

A typical fee for two adults for 10 days, 20 meals, would range from $265 to $295. She can be reached at 410-990-9924.

Horses in the gallery

An exhibit titled, "And It All Began Here in Annapolis: Thoroughbred Racing in Maryland Colonial Days," opens Wednesday at the Mitchell Gallery at St. John's College and will continue through May 27.

The exhibit features paintings, trophies, letters, advertisements and other memorabilia from Maryland's early racing days. The story begins in 1720 when the Annapolis city council arranged for the clearing of a racetrack and ordered 12 silver spoons as prizes.

Ellen Moyer, an Annapolis alderman, mayoral candidate and member of the Maryland Racing Commission, organized the exhibit.

The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.