Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays

You’ve Been Served

Why cook when you can outsource the prep (and the dishes) to a pro? Here are six private chefs to take home for the holidays

| October 26, 2022
Le Melon

1The chef: Brandon Olsen The food: Fancy multi-course affairs (or his famous fried chicken) The price: $250 per person with an eight-person minimum

The past two years have been a lot for Brandon Olsen. In 2020, he was forced to step away from CXBO and La Banane when King Street Restaurant Group filed for bankruptcy. Since then, he’s turned his best dishes and bon-vivant charm into a travelling supper club. Le Melon dinners start with mixing and mingling over oysters and king crab legs washed down with a glass or two of bubbly. Olsen’s wife, Brittany, handles the front of house, ensuring that glasses are filled and vibes are high. As guests settle in, the courses are rolled out: Wagyu steaks, salmon with quenelles of caviar and a disco-hued aji amarillo sauce. Olsen designs the menu close to the evening of, so he has a sense of what’s fresh. That said, clients can ask him to plate his hits: Bar Isabel’s Basque cake or La Banane’s sea bass en croute. They don’t provide alcohol (or stemware) but will suggest pairings or connect guests with wine importers. They do, however, bring the crockery, which they whisk away as soon as it’s been (let’s face it) licked clean.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photos by Graydon Herriott
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Brittany and Brandon Olsen

Chef Joe Friday

2The food: Four-course meals, barbecue, pizza The price: $75 per person for pizza parties, starting at $175 per person for coursed dinners

Pre-pandemic, Joe Friday kept busy as the private chef to a Toronto Raptor. When the NBA bubbled, he pivoted and started his own catering business. Friday’s dinners combine the best of his background: North Carolina born and Okinawa raised, he serves up southern comfort with Japanese technique—like mochi fried chicken or miso barbecue cod. He plays host to guests in their homes, but he’ll also offer up his apartment or set up in a backyard around a portable pizza oven or a campfire (the man can grill). “It’s great for families,” Friday says. “Kids love getting involved in the pizza-making process.” Wherever or whatever he’s cooking, ingredients are guaranteed to be local—Friday is a St. Lawrence Market devotee.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photos courtesy of Joe Friday
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
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Noble House

3The chef: Dustin Gallagher (416 Snack Bar) and co-owner Flo Leung The food: A rotating menu of coursed or family-style meals The price: Starting at $150 per person, $1,000 minimum

What started as a pandemic meal-delivery service has evolved into an in-home dining experience. “We like to think that we bring the best parts of a great dinner party right to our guests,” says Gallagher. At one event, he turns out a family-style celebration with dishes like sumac chicken, za’atar flatbread, golden rice and citrus-tinged tabbouleh. The next time, it’s carnitas tacos (or roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms for the vegetarians) with all the fixings on fresh corn tortillas. Menus range from casual to custom coursed, and other recent offerings have included a saucy Italian supper and a fried chicken feast. The common thread of all the dinners is community: tables taken over by platters of food meant for reaching, nibbling and—this is family, after all—double-dipping.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photos courtesy of Noble House and Flo Leung
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays

Sima

4The chef: Barbode Soudi The food: Multi-course meals with a Middle Eastern bent The price: $300 per person, excluding wine pairings

After four years at Alo, former chef de cuisine Barbode Soudi started a roving supper club named after his mother. Unsurprisingly, the dishes have fine-dining swagger—they’re made with local ingredients, fancily plated, and centred around the cuisine of the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a welcome change for Soudi. “I’m used to being in the kitchen,” he says. “So it’s incredible to be able to interact with my guests.” His affairs kick off with mezze: dips (muhammara with stracciatella, beet labneh with preserved lemon) and flatbread cooked over coal on the spot. Afterward, guests dig into things like tandoori lobster skewers with koshihikari rice and truffle or duck breast with pomegranate molasses—a homage to Soudi’s mom’s fesenjan, an Iran­ian stew. Dinner ends with tea and baklava, with a to-go box of more for a sweet midnight snack.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photos courtesy of Barbode Soudi
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
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Raw By Nature Oyster Co.

5The chefs: Michael Dixon and sommelier Graidhne Lelieveld-Amiro The food: Seafood spreads The price: Starting at $750

Even the starter smorgasbord from these under-the-sea experts includes 100 oysters with all kinds of fancy frills, like fermented jalapeno hot sauce, yuzu cucumber jelly—and a dedicated shucker who spends the party busting out bivalves on request. From there, add-ons include a deeper dive into the ocean’s bounty: snow crab from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia lobster, BC spot prawns. Lelieveld-Amiro gets the party going with pairings that span Austrian rosés, Ontario craft beer and magnums of champagne. In summer, they take their briny business outside to docks and backyards. In chillier months, things get cozy when they set up in private foyers or by dining room fireplaces.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photos courtesy of Michael Dixon and Graidhne Lelieveld-Amiro
Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays

Crushable Club

6The sommelier: Laura Milnes The drinks: A selection of all-Canadian wines The price: Starting at $139 per person

Ontario is ripe with viticulture, but visiting multiple wineries in a day is impractical—and someone’s got to be the designated driver. So Laura Milnes brings Canada’s breadth of bottles to her dining room, serving up cross-country flights. She focuses on wines—from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island—that can’t be found in the LCBO. Parties of 10 or fewer take place in her downtown condo (with a stellar view of the CN Tower), but she’ll also visit clients for larger groups or corporate tastings. Snacks are a must, and Milnes pulls her food pairings from Ontario businesses. “Why would I put pineapple on a charcuterie board when it doesn’t grow here?” Pay a bit more and she’ll throw in some seafood, break out older vintages or dig into desserts and digestifs.

Six private chefs to bring home for the holidays
Photo courtesy of Laura Milnes and Omar Blackford
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