With La Belle Assiette, a directory of more than 250 personal chefs across the UK, evading both hungry restaurant crowds and the pressure of cooking is but a click away. Simply enter a location, pick a menu (from £35 person, excluding drinks; customisable according to dietary requirements) on the website – whether a romantic evening for two or a five-course dinner party for friends – and dinner will be served in the comfort of your own home. The chef will buy fresh ingredients, prepare the meal and act as waiter for the evening… even do the washing up, on request.
Decision making is helped along with filters by cuisine and culinary style – from Creole to contemporary European classics – and detailed biographies on each chef. For a VIP spread, try Andrea Zagatti, who numbers Buckingham Palace among his clientele. His wild tasting menu opens with an elderflower, cucumber and mint gin fizz, followed by duck breast, coffee eggnog and burnt spring onion, before a grilled pineapple and wasabi meringue with warm white chocolate mousse. Sweet-toothed diners, meanwhile, may look to pastry specialist Alexandre Thomas, whose Mademoiselle menu works in a chocolate and raspberry millefeuille.
The site’s menus come from the world over. Alec Maxfield, a MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist who has worked in a number of Michelin-starred kitchens, tackles modern British fare such as asparagus velouté with a truffle infusion on his gastro-pub birthday dinner menu; Le Cordon Bleu graduate Luciana Berry offers a taste of Brazil with polvo a vinagrete (octopus in a tomato salsa vinaigrette) or carne seca com purê de mandioca(Brazilian dried beef served with manioc mash); and MasterChef finalist Luke Owen has devised an “Oriental Ballad” (pictured) that starts with prawn toast and pork gyoza, turns to duck spring rolls, and finishes with poached pear baklava.
Budding cooks will be keen to book one of La Belle Assiette’s classes (from £169 for one person): a chef hosting a two-hour lessonchez vous, such as explaining how to make American burgers or providing a crash course in patisserie.