Personal chef `Mike' Keating gains entree to clients' kitchens


September 19, 2001|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HOME COOKING IS what Charles "Mike" Keating loves to do. If he's at home, he's cooking. If he's in your home, he's cooking, too.

He is a personal chef, for hire - to plan and execute a top-notch menu for two weeks, perfecting every detail in a client's home.

"The only way they know you've been there is the aroma," Keating said.

His passion for simmer and saute started as a child in a busy home kitchen.

"I grew up with nine brothers and sisters, and we didn't have television back then," he said.

Until recently, Keating led a double life. He drove a tractor-trailer full time and cooked in his spare time. His cooking expertise grew as he prepared dinner parties for friends and businesses and threw an annual Christmas party for 70.

In December, Keating learned that his employer was moving out of state, and he chose to stay in his hometown of Manchester and find a cooking job.

By chance, he read a newspaper article about the U.S. Personal Chef Association begun 10 years ago by professional chef Susan Titcomb and her husband, David MacKay, a marketing professional.

In 1996, they began offering a one-week training program in which cooks can become personal chefs.

The school trains those in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, which includes the service personnel aboard Air Force One.

About 3,200 personal chefs have completed the course.

"I talked to a lot of personal chefs and decided this was what I wanted to do. I took my vacation and went to school," Keating said.

In June, he spent a week at the school in Rio Rancho, N.M.

The dozen adults in his class were career-changers. They spent half their time honing cooking skills, the other half learning health and food preparation procedures, marketing, and how to run a one-person business.

The personal chef graduates stay in touch, discussing techniques and recipes with the founders and each other via the Internet.

With a 600-recipe cookbook from the association and a complete kitchen of pots and utensils neatly arranged in a new van, Keating started "chefing," as he calls it, several weekends ago under the name of "Deliciously Done."

A typical day starts with purchases at grocery stores on his way to a client's kitchen.

In an average eight-hour day, he will prepare two servings of five entrees for two people, and side dishes. That's 20 servings, and side dishes, soups and extras, such as garlic bread, that he packages for warming or freezing. The cost is about $300.

Most personal chefs have about 20 clients in a monthly rotation.

The "personal" in this type of home cooking is important for people on special diets.

Keating spent six hours developing a menu with varied and low fat foods for a client attending Weight Watchers. A second client can eat no carbohydrates.

He depends on calls from the stressed-out caregiver, such as the mother with too many soccer games or those caring for the elderly.

"One caller said, `They'll eat anything, just get down here,'" Keating said.

He estimated that clients gain 12 to 15 hours each week when he's on kitchen duty.

"The people I cook for are people who don't have time," Keating said. "They are getting personal, customized dinners, exactly what they want, and it's healthy. I love to cook. And I like being my own boss."

Chef Keating has a Web site,

Information: 410-239-0480.

Shiloh 03797

The designation for Giant Food bonus cards might sound like a defunct television show, but it generates dollars for schools.

Last year, the program generated about $1,000 for Shiloh Middle School.

Bonus cards must be renewed before Sept. 30 with Shiloh 03797. Other public schools are eligible, and a list is available at Giant.

Silent auction items sought

Area businesses and families are encouraged to sponsor baskets for the Fall Basket Bingo and Silent Auction at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead.

Sponsorships range from $25 to $100. The bingo and auction is the major fund-raising program by the school PTO.

Information: Karen Donaldson, 410-876-1734; Dawn Ros, 410-239- 6136; or Judy Henn, 410-833-8721.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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