This year, even more than most, you can’t be blamed for feeling like Rosh Hashanah is sneaking up on you; 5774 starts Sept. 4! If you can’t wrap your head around planning a new year’s menu in the middle of August, you may want to check out Kitchensurfing, a new website that lets you book a professional chef to cook in your home. I talked to president Ben Leventhal and chef Matt Harker about the service and their ideas for the holiday table.
So, Ben, explain the concept behind Kitchensurfing. It sounds a little like Airbnb but for chefs?
In many ways, it is. Kitchensurfing is a global marketplace that connects chefs of all kinds with people who want a chef—for a cooking lesson, for dinner, for a week, for a lunch at the office, for anything.
Matt, give me the chef’s perspective here. What was your reaction when Ben came to you and asked you to cook for strangers who hired you over the Internet?
Believe it or not, being hired by strangers to cook for them was something I was familiar with. I have been booking clients that stumbled across my own website for several years now. The concept of Kitchensurfing simplifies this process for the prospective client. It allows them to find the perfect chef for their event without having to take time to surf through dozens of independent chefs’ pages.
I always try to make a connection with my client during the booking and menu planning process. I hope this gives my clients a greater sense of who I am and the feeling that they know me before I arrive at their home. I think it is important to take the time to thoroughly discuss the details and expectations with your client so you can exceed what they envision.
Ben, you also co-founded Eater.com, which reviews restaurants. What’s more fun: helping people dine in or helping them find a good place to dine out?
Helping people find exactly what they’re craving is what’s fun. Sometimes that’s a restaurant. Sometimes you want to bring the restaurant home.
We’re coming up on Rosh Hashanah. Ben, explain how someone would go about getting a chef for Rosh Hashanah. And Matt, give me a preview of what you would cook for a client for the Jewish New Year.
Ben: Go to kitchensurfing.com/match and tell us what you’re looking for. You pick the time, the place and the price, and tell us a little about what kind of food you’re looking for (it doesn’t have to be kashe varnishkes, but it can be!) and we’ll send you great chefs to pick from.
Matt: I created a menu for the Jewish New Year that has some modern takes on more classic flavors. For holidays, I prefer to give a menu with choices, rather than set options, as everyone has different tastes and desires. Some of the options on my menu include grilled fig with matchstick apple salad, truffle honey and challah croutons; Bubbie’s chicken matzah ball soup; gefilte fish pâté; pomegranate-glazed brisket with crispy sweet potatoes; Malbec-braised beef short ribs; salmon with melted leeks; honey cake with caramelized pears; and apple-date swirl cookies.