Let's face it, everyone is very concerned about entertaining safely during COVID-19 pandemic isn't easy. We all know humans are inherently social creatures and have a deep-rooted need for human contact. We've all been on "social distancing" lockdown for what feels like decades. Together, we want to all do our part to help lower infection rates in hopes of lifting the lockdown restrictions, but at the same time still, be able to have some degree of "normality" in our lives.
We've come up with 7 helpful tips on how to entertain safely and reconnect with friends & family during these challenging times.
You should always follow the most current set of published guidelines by your local public health officials. We are not public health officers, nor officials. The views expressed in this post are of our opinion only and must not be used or construed as official directives, guidelines, or advice.
The public health officials have been saying it all along, and it is certainly worth repeating. Limit the number of people gathering to those who live in the same household, or are within the same quarantine unit, "social bubble", also known as a cohort. The more people that you invite, the larger chance of virus transmission. If you are fortunate enough to already be fully vaccinated, remember that not everyone else has. Continue to focus on having smaller groups. Before inviting people over, always check with your local health department's website on the current limit to the maximum number of people you can gather with.
A great way to maintain that fun and intimate feel is instead of sitting close together at a single communal table where no one can hear each other talk anyway. Try setting up individual "sweetheart" style tables for guests, couples, or small round or banquet style tables for other families or guests who don't reside in your household. Smaller tables allow for better conversational flow. Decorate the tables with small floral arrangements, and some decor surrounding the theme of the party. This way you can still dine together, carry on conversations, and enjoy each other's company, just at a bit further of a distance (minimum 6 feet).
We all know the importance of washing those hands! Set up a handwashing station that's available for everyone to use both upon their arrival, as well as throughout your time together. Hand sanitizing wipes, gel, or even a bucket of soap and water and a garden hose can absolutely do the trick.
Have a good supply of single-use paper towels on-hand, and a recycling bin on-hand for people to deposit their spent paper towels in. You can even take it a step even further if you wish, have mini hand sanitizer bottles on each table tied with a nice ribbon or a note, or give them to your guests as a host or hostess gift. Having sanitizer visually present will encourage automatic use of it without having to remind your guests of its importance.
Even if you are gathering with others who you think "have been safe", or may have been vaccinated, there is never a 100% guarantee that one or more of your guests may not be asymptomatic. Have some extra masks available for your guests, just in case they forgot theirs.
If kids will be joining you, have them use washable markers and have them create their own works of art on their masks prior to going to the gathering. That way they are encouraged to participate and it's something fun for them. Perhaps have a prize for each of the kids who participate in the "show us your mask" parade.
Make sure that all of your guests know where the "guest" bathroom is. Try and avoid having all of the bathrooms in your home used by guests & others not living in the home. If possible, designate a single bathroom that is closest to the backyard to be exclusively for guest use.
Tell your the family members that live in your home, to use the other "non guest" bathrooms in the house. On the bathroom counter, have a stack of folded single-use paper towels on hand, of course, plenty of hand soap. Place a cheery note on the bathroom mirror encouraging guests to use paper towels to turn on and off faucets, and when opening the restroom door handles. Have guests always put their masks on before entering your home to use the restroom. Again, a little sign by the door as a friendly reminder is a great way to keep things light, but still reinforce the importance of keeping your home safe too.
Let's get outside and dine alfresco! Some public health agencies have either severely restricted or expressly forbid indoor gatherings of those who do not reside within the same households. You can still have a wonderfully relaxing, socially interactive, and memorable event simply by moving the party completely outside.
If you are located in an area that now permits indoor dining, make sure to leave as many doors and windows open for adequate ventilation as possible. Also, the use of fans to assist in ventilating the area can help to increase airflow movement. A great rule of thumb is have a minimum of 30% of the openable windows and doors wide open during the entire duration of your event. If the weather is nice, the more opened doors, windows, skylights, etc... the better. Moving fresh air is a wonderful way to help to minimize the risks.
A great way to keep things focused when gathering outdoors is to gather around your fire pit, break out the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows to make some S'Mores.
By having your family on one side of the fire pit, and your guests on the other, the flames help to create natural thermal protection, as well as a more comfortable natural visual barrier without being invasive or off-putting.
Contact your local party rentals company and rent china, silverware, glassware, napkins, tables & chairs, and whatever other items you may need for your event. Instead of using your own plates & flatware, the use of rentals allows you to keep these items that have been used and touched by others, completely outside of your home, and simply have the rental company come pick them up and cart them away after your event is over.
BONUS: Not having to do any dishes, but you aren't bringing possibly contaminated, or high-touch items into your home and dishwasher.
Alternatively, if you are having a more casual style gathering, simply break out the Chinet and red Solo cups! Have appropriate trash, compost, and recycling bins already set out and clearly labeled, and simply ask your guests to chip in and bus their own tables or if you've selected, to have our catering staff handle it for you.
The days of self-service buffets are sadly now a thing of the past with COVID-19. In a traditional buffet environment, all of your guests would congregate near the buffet table, and touch the same serving spoon or set of tongs to serve themselves. This is called a "high touch" item.
Instead of having each guest serve themselves, instead, designate a single member of our catering staff or one person in your group to do all of the food handling for your micro event. That person should always wear a mask and gloves while working with food for others.
Remember that just because we are still in the midst of this COVID-19 mess together, doesn't mean with a little planning and forethought, that we cannot safely gather in small numbers to help emotionally support each other. To celebrate a special occasion, create memories once again, or reconnect with friends & family we haven't seen in a long time.
Just use common sense, maintain safe social distance, and always fully comply with your local health authorities current regulations surrounding gatherings. In the end, we will all make it thru together and can return to normal much quicker!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and continue to make positive memories together! Safely.
About the Author: Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.
The surge of private dining events across the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last several years, and now more than ever before since COVID-19 came about. We surveyed our clientele as to why they are hiring a private chef over going out to dinner at a restaurant. You might find their answers a bit surprising.
More people than ever before are being deeply into food and foodie culture as not only basic nourishment, but also as a source of conversation, entertainment, social status, and excitement, your run-of-the-mill chain restaurant just isn't cutting it anymore. Hiring a private chef allows diners to enjoy a fully custom-tailored menu, where ingredients that they may not enjoy, be allergic to, or don't excite their taste buds, will never be used. Our hosts and hostesses find that there's no need to worry that one guest is "deathly allergic" to something.
Let's face it, we've all hosted a party where you end up spending the entire night running around getting people drinks, preparing food, serving, or cleaning up, and your energy is focused on task completion, instead of being the perfect host/hostess to your guests. Hiring a private chef firm like AWG Private Chefs to prepare and serve your meal, has become more desirable than ever before. Not only will your menu be prepared by one of our highly skilled Certified Master Chefs to wow your guests, but you as the event host/hostess will be able to relax, enjoy, and truly have the unique and wonderful experience of being a guest at your own dinner party.
Special occasions are one of the most popular reasons that people hire a top ranking chef. On that special date, the insane number of details of a celebratory dinner party event all pile up on the host or hostess, becoming even more stressful than ever, especially when so much is riding on that one meal and one special day, details can easily get missed. Our concierge team will work with you to ensure that all of your details are handled for you.
For anniversaries, birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, wedding rehearsal dinners, or every type of celebration you could imagine, you want great food and amazing service throughout the evening so you and your guests can celebrate your special occasion together, while your hired private chef prepares your fully custom-tailored menu for you & your guests.
Sometimes a special occasion, event, or even an intimate dinner party really calls for privacy. This is virtually impossible to accommodate in most restaurant settings. Especially now with limited restaurant indoor dining options due to COVID-19.
A crowded, noisy, bustling restaurant is not always what you want for your event or intimate dinner party. Private dining in your own home, with food prepared by a hired top quality private chef, using only the finest ingredients, really cannot be matched in both quality or guest experience. Hiring a custom-tailored private chef service that is geared to fit your needs exactly will make your event that much more memorable.
If you appreciate great wine or wonderful handcrafted cocktails, you automatically know how much more expensive a good bottle will cost you in a restaurant. Did you know that the average markup on alcohol or a bottle of wine in a restaurant is somewhere between 400 to 1200 percent? In most cases, your fine wine or cocktails will often cost more than your meal.
By hosting your event in your own home, you have the ability to serve your own selection of wine or cocktails, without paying huge markups. AWG Private Chefs has Certified Sommeliers & Wine Educators on staff, to work along with your Certified Master Chef, our team can design your menu around the wines and spirits you will be serving. This offers you an overall amazing and memorable dining experience, and it can save you some serious money on the booze bill too.
Ask any parent how hard, if not impossible it is, to bring your littles to a fine dining restaurant. Hiring a babysitter is of course an option, but that adds another cost to an already pricey evening, and you're constantly worrying about getting a call or missing a text.
Parents can really take advantage of hiring a private chef and enjoy both the company of their family and friends, fine food, their own wine while knowing that their children are safely asleep in their own home.
Whenever you go out to eat at a restaurant, you are automatically tasked with trying to select a restaurant that will meet each of your guests food preferences, service style choices, food allergies, and cuisine type. When you choose a private chef, your personal chef will work with you to custom create a 100% unique to your event menu, that will meet each and every guests dietary needs, food allergies, and culinary styling requirements.
Have you ever been to a restaurant where a menu says "no substitutions"? More often these days, you will often find virtually zero ability to customize your menus when dining in a restaurant. Hiring a private chef for a dinner party takes all of the pressure off of you the host or hostess, allowing you to fully relax and enjoy, knowing at each of their guests can completely enjoy every moment of their meal together.
After an insane 2020 with all of its politics, natural disasters, wildfires, COVID-19 stay at home orders, many people have turned to cooking as a source of comfort beyond just basic nourishment.
In most homes, food preparation style trends are highly cyclical, and after spending nearly a year at home, I'm pretty sure that we all are looking towards goals of better health, losing that extra 19 pounds we've all gained, and taking sustainability even further this coming year more so than ever before.
Many of us have discovered many new cooking styles, tried ingredients that we might have bypassed before, and have made a switch to utilizing these newfound things, to make them become a stable part of our culinary cycles and food trends even going beyond the new year.
It's not your standard jerky. More and more chefs are turning towards the incorporation of plant-based items on their menus, from full plant-based meals, to even plant based snacks. If you're thinking about going vegetarian, vegan, or just want to eat less meat, you can certainly still enjoy plant based jerky and get all of those textures, umami, and saltiness flavor profiles that you love. Look to alternatives such as eggplant, mushroom, coconut, or even jackfruit based jerky.
Mushrooms pack loads of vitamins and essential nutrients that help protect your body and boost natural immunity. Look to different styles of wild mushrooms versus traditional white button mushrooms, as they all have different unique flavors, textures, and are so much more interesting than plain boring white buttons.
(aka garbanzo beans). A star of Mediterranean and middle eastern cooking, the chickpea isn't just for making hummus anymore. Garbanzo beans have become the center stage on many menus across the world cuisine map lately, from Greek to Moroccan, Indian, Spanish Tapas, or even American dishes.
Chickpeas are available in virtually every grocery store coast to coast, and are extremely cheap, pack a wealth of nutritional value, and insanely easy to cook, and can incorporate excellent texture, and nuttiness to your dish.
Aquafaba (a fancy word for the water that canned and other packaged chickpeas are stored and soaked in) , can be used as milk or even an egg replacement in dishes for those with food allergies or other dietary lifestyle choices. What is so special about this mystical ingredient? Ask the delicious meringues, macarons, or even ice-cream made from it, and you will quickly learn.
Move over soy, and almond milk -- you've had your time in the limelight. Now enter the next generation of designer lactose-free milks. With a plethora of new designer kinds of milk on the market such as oat, coconut, rice, hemp, just to name a few, those with dairy allergies, or people that are looking just to get a bit healthier, now have many more choices available.
With so many of us working from home for the foreseeable future, breakfast has made a marked resurgence. No longer just being consumed on the weekends, but more so people are making time for "the most important meal of the day" on a daily regular. Instead of just grabbing a cup of tea or coffee on the way to your hour-long stop and go commute to the office, people are taking the time to eat breakfast.
Even if it's something basic as a fresh fruit smoothie infused with designer dairy-free milk and a hand full of nuts or seeds, or a more traditional style breakfast of protein, eggs, or even gluten-free pancakes.
By far this Chef's number one for 2021 and beyond. Buying small-batch, hand-roasted, artisanal coffee that is roasted as local as humanly possible to you makes all the difference in your coffee consumption. The love affair between the bean and the cup runs so deep and well beyond the boring, broad market mass-produced crap that you get from the big named coffee companies.
When you buy coffee from a boutique small-batch roastery, such as my all-time Bay Area's favorite coffee Weaver's Coffee & Tea in San Rafael, CA, you really get the best quality from the micro amount of time between when the beans are roasted, and when they end up in your wake up cup. Look to small-batch, or rare production coffees like my current favorite, Weaver's Java Blue Batavia. This amazingly deep flavor, smooth, and rare coffee is one that should not be missed.
Move over canola or extra virgin olive oil. There's plenty of alternative choices available on the market these days with extraordinary flavor that can really jazz up your dishes. Either in salad dressing or in the pan, more people are branching out with alternative cooking oils that each add their own unique flavor and properties.
Oils such as walnut oil and pumpkin seed oils lend a nutty depth of flavor, whereas oils such as sunflower seed oil or grapeseed oil can be used at high cooking temps, but are delicate enough to be the star in a salad dressing.
(beer-ya) is an incredibly rich warm meat stew hailing from Jalisco, Mexico. The dish is easy to make and extremely affordable as well, as it utilizes the cheap, tough cuts of meat from beef, lamb, or goat. The meat is infused with Mexican chiles and spices and slow-cooked for hours until the meat is completely tender and juicy.
Birria can be consumed both as a stew, or the meat can be strained out of the rich broth, and crisped up on a flat top or in a pan to produce delicious street tacos, or a twist on the original quesadilla called a "Quesabirria". Don't forget a good squeeze of fresh lime juice over the top to make all of those flavors pop!
Gochujang by far is my favorite Korean chili paste of all times. According to our friends at Wikipedia, Gochujang or red chili paste is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment, popular in Korean cooking. It is made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. The sweetness comes from the starch of cooked glutinous rice, cultured with saccharifying enzymes during the fermentation process.
This spicy chili paste adds huge flavor depth and aromas and is the star ingredient for both the marinade, as well as the pop of flavor infusion in my highly requested Korean buttermilk fried chicken sliders.
About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.
What is Seacuterie? We've all heard about the traditional trend of charcuterie -- assorted cured meats and associated accouterments, normally served pre-meal as a grazing or appetizer course. Move over meat, enter the new popular kid on the block, seacuterie! The inner foodie in all of us is constantly hungering for something, new, unique, and different.
Primarily a Scandinavian offering, technically seacuterie has been around for quite a long time, the variety of options tended to be very limited in previous generations, normally consisting of things like cured salmon, gravlax. We modern day chefs have put our own "twist on the classic" by offering new preparation methods like fermentation, alternate wood smoking, or even some have dared to pickle. The sheer variety of modern day fish available to chefs worldwide now has lead to more creative customizations of seacuterie service menu offerings. In addition, many more guests than ever before, are now pescatarian and have reduced or even eliminated their consumption of land based meats entirely.
Seacuterie isn't your typical boring canned fish plate! Envelop your taste buds in something fun and new, such as a Spanish style spicy smoked pimenton fish pate, octopus crudo, smoked halibut rillettes, or pickled Asian style prawns. AWG Private Chefs is fully committed to the exclusive use of sustainable and clean ingredients. In conjunction with SeafoodWatch.org, the leading authority watchdog list of sustainability from our oceans, we continue to pivot and adapt menus to insure sustainability, variety, and best-in-class flavors for you & your guests. The continued proper balance of consumption, overfishing prevention, and exclusive use of sustainable fish, will keep our oceans healthy and sustainable for generations to come.
The fun part of a seacuterie presentation is that you can go as earthy and rustic, or luxury as you wish. Whipped rillettes, dotted with some dijon mustard infused Bellwether Farms creme fraiche, some cornichon, and tranches of a freshly baked baguette are casual and creatively inviting to even some of the pickiest eaters. Whereas, a comparative tasting of sustainable caviars, as well as sustainable smoked sturgeon, from our exclusive caviar partner Tsar Nicoulai Caviar combined with your favorite sparkling wines, proseccos, or champagnes can be that "something special" luxury pop of pizzaz that you've been craving. Sustainable from the sea sausages, marinated, cured, or seared sesame crusted center cut line caught tuna, custom tailored spreads, crudos, the seacuterie catering menu options are virtually endless!
Whatever the mix of fish you select, our Certified Master Chefs will hand craft a beautiful artisanal, mouthwatering seacuterie board menu for you & your guests to enjoy.
About the Author: Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.
As we say good bye to yet another decade and look forward to 2020, we've asked AWG Private Chefs Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade what he thinks might be the next big trends in food for 2020 as we jump forward into "the new roaring 20's".
In the "twenty-tens" we saw a focus really turn away quickly from reaching out to farms that were out of our local areas. The ability to source ingredients microlocal represents a wonderful tool in a Chef's toolbox to not only maintain peak quality and freshness in the dishes we prepare but also the ability to actually meet and greet the farmers that are growing these bounties for us.
"Having the ability to actually go out to the farms, shake hands with the farm staff, and learn their stories is a critical part of our commitment to excellence in the food we produce." Chef Sean said.. "I want to know the faces, the names, and more importantly understand that the farm staff and their families are being treated properly, and absolutely being paid fair wages!"
"It's really difficult to do that when you are sourcing ingredients from farms that are either hundreds or even thousands of miles away from you." "Working with farmers that their soil regenerating does wonders for bio-diversity, and helps drastically reduce carbon. We all absolutely must immediately do our part with the climate emergency that we are facing, there is no excuse for laziness when it comes to the future of our planet," said Chef Sean.
Whenever you buy locally sourced organic and sustainably grown ingredients, it reaffirms a strong commitment to our planet, the climate, and our beloved farmers, and the people that handle your food.
Over the last decade, we've observed the growing addiction our children have to their electronics, video screens, and the internet. Some parents continue to use these devices as a way of keeping their kids preoccupied without them actually ever teaching them critical life skills they will need down the road in life.
The generations behind ours had a unique way of teaching kids essential life skills. Normally via "the school of hard knocks" now more well known as hand-on experiences. "I think it's so very important to get our kids into the kitchen, even to learn basic things like how to properly wash vegetables, or something simple like how to scramble an egg". So many millenials and teens use food delivery services on the daily as a substitute for knowledge on how to prepare a basic meal.
I think it's critical that kids are taught the cuisine of their ancestors. The food that they prepare doesn't have to be fancy at all, but empowering a child to cook hands-on, will give them a gift of knowledge and experience that will last a lifetime.
The ongoing demand for higher and higher quality antibiotic, hormone-free, pasture raised meat choices will most certainly continue into 2020. Consumers palates are also starting to widen in that they are requesting other cuts of meat, not just filet mignon and breast of chicken for example. Utilization of the lesser requested and primal cuts of meat are going to become more common, as consumers are more focused in utilization of the entire animal.
With the "meat centric" also known as high protein diets such as Paleo, Keto, or "clean eating", more and more people are demanding unprocessed, or unmodified protein choices in their meals. The producers of meat in the US have heard the call of the masses and will continue to step up to meet the demand by offering more and more un-processed options to the consumers.
"It's our duty as chefs to not just feed our clients, but also to educate them in making the right choices when it comes to expecting natural proteins on our menus".- Chef Sean Andrade
As Chefs, I feel we have a duty to have offerings on our menus that will meet the requirements of most every person we cook for, regardless of their age. As adults palates continue to not only grow, and get more sophisticated, so are our children's!
Kids these days are being much more adventurous in what they are choosing to eat. Gone are the days of burgers, fries, mac & cheese, and chicken tenders on the menus for kids. Now more than ever children are eating more fresh organic vegetables, whole grains, and generally more nutrition-centric foods than ever before.
Parents are also discovering that there are many more widely available healthier selections in their local grocery stores. Combining the demand from the kids for something other than "burgers and hot dogs" on a kids menu, and parents steering their kids to eat more natural and organic foods, this is certainly going to be a winning combination that will carry forward into the new decade.
Over the last decade, we've seen a dramatic rise in alternative diet lifestyles such as Vegan(ism), Pescaterian(ism), etc.. Welcome to 2020 and the Flexitarian Diet! Merriam Webster defines Flexitarian as "One whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish".
Diners are continuing to tick the special dietary requirements boxes by getting really granular with their diets and what they consumer. Flexitarians eat a primarily plant based diet, however aren't as strict on the use of meat or animal proteins in their dishes. This allows chefs to create a much wider breadth of dishes for our clientele, all while respecting their plant centric dietary choices.
"I think that the Flexitarian, or "Flexies" as we like to call them, are absolutely here to stay! I'm super excited for the opportunity to create many more new dishes around their dietary requirements and needs," said Chef Sean. "This is certainly going to be much more globally common as the 20's progress, I can't wait!".