L.A.’s private chefs are by necessity inventive, searching for flavorful ingredients at farmers’ markets and adapting recipes, while assisting their clients as they prepare for a role, tour or just living their best life. Likewise, L.A.’s private members clubs (Hollywood’s h club is one player) offer some of the same advantages and menu customizations when their culinary teams strive to meet members’ dietary demands. They’ve seen all the trends and most likely helped start them.
“Once you have that experience of a private chef, it’s hard to go back,” says Los Angeles-based chef Ameera Leguex, above, who’s cooked for Sean “Diddy” Combs and Kelly Rowland, and has made her almond-flour pancakes for Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Clients find her through word-of-mouth. Despite the retainer fees, “It’s an investment in self-care, health and wellness,” she says and most important, even with the options of Instacart and meal-delivery services, a valuable time-saver for clients.
Chicago-based chef Lorin Adolph has worked for the same family for 28 years, accompanying them internationally and shopping farmers’ markets from Malibu to Monte Carlo. He keeps up on culinary trends (juicing most recently) and travels the world with his portable Joule sous-vide device. “The hardest part for a personal chef is considering that you are in someone’s home and respecting their privacy completely,” he says.
Often food trends begin at home, propagated by personal chefs (whose reach spreads through social media). “Veganism, raw foods, no processed foods and soy alternatives: I’ve tested all those trends,” says Leguex. Staples on the rise include ancient grains (like West Africa’s fonio, a type of millet, and Ethiopia’s teff) and nut-based butters, such as macadamia nut and coconut butter. All are increasingly popular fixings.
L.A.’s member-only club on Vine Street, h club Los Angeles, offers a taste of the personal chef experience. Menus are flexible and customizable with diet restrictions accommodated; executive chef Angie Roberts was the late h club co-founder’s Paul G. Allen’s personal chef. With several outlets on-site (the rooftop restaurant Jarman’s is a power lunch spot) and frequently changing offerings, there’s no way menu atrophy can set in at the multi-story urban clubhouse (outfitted with gym, pool, podcasting studio, 35 hotel rooms and screening room).
Roberts sees a zeroing in on ingredients, “There are less bells and whistles and masking of everything: the trend is focus on whole foods, highlighting fresh ingredients,” she says. And increased requests for vegan dishes has compelled her to push her culinary envelope and “lean into nuts for fat, oils and sauces,” she explains.
Roberts’ club lounge menu features several choices of grain-based bowls aimed at today’s “flexitarian” eater: crisp chicken with skin on, hot Brussels sprouts that wilts spinach over quinoa and brown rice. The vegetable-forward vegan bowl combines beets, kale, lentils, quinoa and sweet potato and a savory tahini dressing.
Arguably the most stimulating ingredient in demand these days for private dining is cannabis. The Herbal Chef’s owner and head chef Chris Sayegh has spent more than 10 years developing techniques that responsibly showcase traditional plant medicines. He offers private THC- and CBD-infused fine dining experiences (ideally from eight to 25 guests) where multi-course menus are specifically tailored to the occasion.
“Plants help in spiritual, mental and physical healing,” says the chef, who adds that there’s typically a three-to-four month waiting list for his dinners (rates begin at $250/person). He uses science to monitor the amount of THC dosage (measured in milligrams) each guest ingests. He plans on further de-stigmatizing the use of THC in upscale dining and is opening Herb Restaurant later in 2020 in West Hollywood.