ChefXclusive, owned and run by professional chef Philip Pesci, is a recruitment and consultancy agency, specializing in sourcing culinary professionals to work in the luxury sector. Their clients often require staff for a regular domestic role in the home, but increasingly, there are requests for chef services during holidays abroad. The challenge of Philip’s work is that it isn’t just about finding a great chef, but more about ensuring he finds the right chef for the right client. Luxury lifestyles can include catering for several homes, yachts and parties, as well as guests’ dietary requirements and fitting in with their busy schedules. We have been talking with Philip because we often get asked about arranging chefs at luxury villas, particularly if the guests have planned a special celebration during their stay.
We asked Philip how he finds his chefs, and how the services of ChefXclusive would work for our clients/destinations:
TLTB: Do you have particular destinations you specialize in and, if so, do they include our most popular destinations (Paris, Italian cities, Tuscany, the Amalfi coast, the Greek islands, the Balearic islands and New York)?
Philip: We have chefs dedicated specifically for short-term villa positions and place them globally. Our clients have very specific preferences that may require us to fly a chef to their chosen destination. For example, an Italian chef could be required in the Caribbean for a luxury retreat, or perhaps a city stay in New York. Sometimes the position may be straightforward and require a local placement. We frequently service French and Italian cities and the coast, mainland Greece and the islands and indeed the Balearic Islands, as these are all very popular destinations for our clients. Offering an international solution in today’s world is a necessity.
TLTB: What about catering for special events like a wedding?
Philip: Weddings require precision planning; the food service is short, and normally completed in one day. However the preliminary planning for menus, tastings, equipment, provisions and logistics is extensive. We love to be involved and to contribute in special events like these.
TLTB: Tell us a bit more about the chefs, and what qualifications/experience they need to be on your books? Are they people who have another fulltime job, but like to do something like this as well, as a change of scene?
Philip: Chef selection is key to the success of our business. Without sourcing such a high level of professional chefs we couldn’t meet the demands of our clients. I love recruiting new chefs, chatting about their previous experiences is very interesting. Our recipe works very well. Firstly, specializing in this field means we attract excellent candidates. Secondly, our recruitment process is thorough, meaning we get to know their personalities as well as their expertise. We don’t recruit chefs with another fulltime job, our team only consists of professionals dedicated to their career. We look for solid traceable work history, excellent references and not forgetting a great personality. In this kind of role the chefs have contact with both the principals and their guests, so polite, happy and enthusiastic personalities are essential. This role is hard work and requires long hours so the right personality is a must for us.
TLTB: For a holiday villa, how well do they need to know the destination they are sent to in advance? Presumably the chef is not necessarily from the area where he is going to cook for guests e.g. to work in a villa in Positano, do they research local food suppliers for fresh products in advance? I realize they would need to talk to the guests directly beforehand to discuss specific requirements. I can see that it must be quite a challenge!
Philip: Even when the chef is familiar with the area it still requires research. The clients’ preferences and the supply chain need careful consideration. A detailed client preference list is generated including; likes and dislikes, allergies, specifics regarding guests and children’s requirements, mealtime structure, to list a few. Digital and telephone based research is carried out to assist with preparations. If special ingredients are needed then these can be ordered in advance. There is no substitute for touching, smelling and looking at produce; so fresh ingredients will be purchased the good old-fashioned way when the chef arrives. We advise our chef to arrive a day or two ahead depending on schedules so that the preparations and purchasing can start in advance. We rely on local knowledge to help us obtain the freshest and finest provisions. Villas normally have additional staff that are always happy to offer a lending hand, so it takes no time to become familiar with the area. Research is ongoing throughout the placement, client preferences change, new ingredients become available, the hunt is always on for excellent produce!
TLTB: Can you give us an example of a particularly interesting, but demanding, placement?
Philip: I’ve yet to experience a placement that isn’t interesting or demanding, it goes with the territory. Diversity within a placement is also normal. Last summer one of our clients was relaxing in their villa in the Cyclades for a month while combining it with time on their yacht moored close by. The preference list was extensive with an average of 20 guests throughout each day. A typical daily schedule included a mid-morning brunch, followed by a light two-course late lunch and finished with a 3 to 5 course dinner party. The clients moved freely between the villa and the yacht keeping our chefs on their toes. To ensure a service that flowed seamlessly the client requested a chef dedicated to the villa, another dedicated to the yacht, with a third floating between the two assisting wherever necessary. It was a logistically challenging placement, but good communication and professional staff means anything is possible.