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Not even Boston Market?

I had an interesting conversation in our local Publix supermarket the other day.  I was grocery shopping for my client, on my way to his house to prepare his weekly meals. When I came to pay for my groceries, the male cashier, a super nice guy, saw what I placed on the belt, and said: ” You’re eating pretty healthy, huh? “

Although this blog is about Publix, here I am shopping another day in Whole Foods
Although this blog is about Publix, here I am shopping another day in Whole Foods

Yes, I guess it was obvious. About 80% of my shopping was different vegetables and herbs; the rest was chicken, veal and fish (as I was cooking multiple entrees for my client that day). There was no junk food, no cans with ready stuff, no processed food or anything close to it in my groceries. I found that comment pretty funny and it got me thinking: what it is, this guy usually eats?

Instead of asking him back, I smiled and answered: “ Well, yes, I do like to eat tasty and clean, but I also cook for my clients, that’s why I have so many veggies today.”

Photoxpress_6343402Now I got the attention of the gentleman who bag groceries, too.

The cashier nodded, and added:” So no frozen TV dinners for you, huh?” I didn’t have to ask what he liked anymore.

The other man laughed because he already knew. There was no chance that I would enjoy TV dinners.

I politely replied that no, no TV dinners for me. Who am I to judge? Maybe the guy is alone, can’t cook and that’s what he enjoys because it’s convenient and affordable. Not everybody can hire a personal chef to take care of their meals.

“Not even frozen pizza?” the guy wouldn’t let it go. At this time I laughed and the guy packing my groceries was right there with me. He just shook his head in disbelieve. Honestly, would you ask chef if he enjoys a frozen pizza?

“No, I would really prefer fresh pizza, and I can make my own so I get to decide what’s on it…” I smiled at the cashier. He really was a nice guy and his questions didn’t bother me a bit. Was I supposed to start lecturing him about the unhealthy habits some people have? Of course not!

Instead,  he got me thinking about how my cooking career is surprisingly similar to what I used to do before I became a personal chef. Just like when I was surrounded by the finest wines of the world, not everybody can or would appreciate a good bottle of wine. If they usually drink “red or white, doesn’t make any difference”, they wouldn’t appreciate a nice bottle of wine, if it kicked them in the behind. It wouldn’t taste “right” for them.

When I was a professional in the wine world, people often asked me what my favorite wine was. It was the toughest question to answer. Not only because there were too many great wines out there that I liked. Hard to pick just one. It kind of depends on the mood and the food you’re having and many other aspects. Perhaps who is paying, too 🙂  The most importantly – the wine world keeps changing all the time, and what was best yesterday, may be replaced with something outstanding tomorrow.

shrimps with muscadetI have my favorite wines. But I never wanted to stand as a snob and point to something that this person, who asked me, wouldn’t like at all. The taste is very personal thing. What I admire, you might not like at all. Therefore there is no sense for me pointing out what I LIKE. If you always drank different wines, you wouldn’t enjoy it just because I liked it. Paradoxically, the same applies to my new cooking career.  There are plenty of people who are perfectly happy with junk food and wouldn’t appreciate what I would cook for them. There are some, who are stuck in that world because of the financial issue. But there is always option to go and buy quality food, and cook it yourself. It’s not that much pricier, it just requires some time and effort. And then there are people, and I am honored that some of them hired me, that can afford a chef to prepare their meals for them.

“Not even Boston Market?” was the last question the cashier shouted at me, as I was leaving the register. The gentleman who bagged my groceries had tears in his eyes from laughing.

“No, I am sorry. No Boston Market for me,” I replied politely, smiled, thanked and left the store. Maybe I should bring him some lunch next time I go there. Maybe he would appreciate it. What do you think?

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How I became a Personal chef Vera

Some of you, who follow my blog, already know that:

1) I moved to Florida (yay!!) and

2) I became a personal chef. How one becomes a personal chef? You love cooking, have a passion for food (and, in my case wine as well), register a business, research all the licensing necessary, obtain all bunch of certificates, join all bunch of associations and basically start cooking!

I have been amazed how, in such a short time, I started to receive requests for my services. Instead of thinking about my marketing approach, I am getting requests from potential customers!!! Yes, you read it right – I couldn’t believe it myself! I must have joined the right industry!


You know, I came to U.S.A. from formerly communist country. Even though there is a democracy the last 23 years, the options I have here in United States of America as a starting business are something my friends back in my home country can only dream of! The idea that owners of the successful businesses would donate their time and resources to help starting businesses succeeded,  is something that sounds like science-fiction there.

Because I can compare, having lived in both worlds, I am honestly very grateful for all the opportunities, tools and options I have at my disposal to help me start my business the right way. So I decided to share with you what I found to help me achieve my dream!

The first, absolutely great thing I did was to become a member of American Personal & Private Chef Association. American associationIn order to join, one has to be an accomplished chef (professional or amateur), insured as a business and registered in his or hers state. I have done all that and got a lot of  tools to improve, learn and start my small business. Just to be able to exchange ideas and experiences with fellow chefs is worth a lot. Not to mention an exchange of tested and proven great recipes, shared among chefs.

Before I even had my own website, I have received a question from some lady, who found me at the APPCA (you can search there for a personal or private chef by state and county) – she was looking for a gift certificate for her parents. She never got back to me after I responded, but at least she “kicked me” to quickly set up my website for Vera’s Home Kitchen.   To be a member of this Association gives me another level of recognition, credentials, add seriousness and professionalism to my business.

Chamber of commerceA very important help presented itself from joining a local Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. The amount of information I can get as a member, the events I can join to meet other business owners and introduce each other about what we do, is simply amazing. That is, if you participate in some of the many different events, classes, courses, breakfasts… etc. that Chamber prepares and organizes. It is easy to build relationships while learning about the community that is new to me. Not to be sexists, but I also noticed that being a female owner of the business has its own benefits and extra events just for us, women in business!

The latest benefit I received from joining Chamber, is a chance to have a 30 seconds of professionally produced promo video prepared (a service, donated by one of the members to new members that joined in the month of July). Of course, I took advantage of that! So here I am, sharing with you my first ever professionally done video …  hoping for your comments! Please be kind ♥

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Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse 2011

Years back, Louis Latour’s wines were my very first introduction to the Burgundy region. No, I am not talking about the so-called-Burgundy jug wines  (I still don’t understand how such a prominent wine region allows using its name in California), but the real stuff. The real, extraordinary Chardonnay that grows in French Burgundy.Latour Pouilly Fuisse21

I was lucky to be introduced to this region by one of the best producers in Burgundy. Starting from “low end” but superb Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche, from Corton hillside to the Mâconnais, this tasting included Pouilly Fuisse as well as their most special Grand Crus.

Never before in my life, had I a chance to taste Pouligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, or wines of Marsault, all Premier Crus, side by side. This tasting forever engraved the taste of superb Burgundy wines in me.

It was a privilege to represent wines of Louis Latour’s family at the company, I worked for. Latour remained a family owned business since 1797 (they are a member of the Henokiens Society, which unites independent firms with an age of at least 200 years). The most recent, the seventh Louis Latour,  manages a domaine of 50 hectares of Grand and Premier Crus.

Pretty soon I realized that although these wines were exceptional, they were almost unsaleable on the mainstream market. I certainly didn’t have customers for the high end Crus (they are quite pricey) but it was hard to sell even the most inexpensive of the portfolio. Could it be that retailers couldn’t even pronounce the names correctly? That certainly stopped me from showing it a lot, because I didn’t want to look like a fool, selling something I can’t even pronounce right. Although everybody appreciated the taste, regular retailers rather grabbed another Californian Chardonnay. After all, the Chardonnay variety  is the most selling wine in the United States. wine-retailers

And how about the mainstream wine drinker? Coming to the store, looking for something new to try – unless you had a great wine guy in the store, nobody would even put these wines in the consumers hands. It didn’t say Chardonnay on its label. Yet, I had a handful of clients who were not afraid to do some extra work, and took these wines in their wine stores.  They didn’t mind to introduce them to their wine customers. And they sold! Because they are so extraordinary.

Louis Latour Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche sold around $10 a bottle. Yet it tasted as Chardonnays twice or more the price of Californian wines. Actually, there is no comparison. Burgundy is such a unique region. It could serve as a teaching tool for someone who is still rolling eyes when wine geeks start to talk about regions and terroirs. For those who believe that Chardonnay is Chardonnay and that’s the end of story -it just taste the same.

No, it doesn’t. Although not many regular wine drinkers would get the chance to taste these wines, as I did, side by side, incl. the most prominent Crus, I wish every Chardonnay lover had the chance. It was an eye opening experience for me. I never looked at Chardonnay the same since. Even the few kilometers between the small vineyards made a huge difference in the soil, sun exposure – and therefore the wine tasted completely different. It was fascinating.

As I said at the beginning, it has been a few years back. And, I don’t sell wine for living anymore (regrettably). Yet, wIMG_3263hen I recently noticed Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse in the store, and it was reasonably priced, it brought back the memories of that day, of that tasting. Of course I grabbed the bottle. In sunny Florida, I am always in the mood for some crisp white wine.

We had opened it the other night, when I prepared just simple asparagus fritata and some salad for dinner.  It was one of those lovely evenings, sitting outside, feeling the gentle breeze in our hair, surrounded by palm trees, slowly moving in the wind. I sniffed the familiar aroma and took the first sip.

Boy, that wine was superb!!! The delicate citrus flavors, clean and fresh, covered my entire mouth, every taste bud was awoken.  My husband (which until recently hated dry wines) was charmed the same way. The great crisp acidity of Pouilly Fuisse made my mouth watering for more, as soon as I swallowed, and was left with a long, impressive finish. It was a perfect match for that dinner, and most importantly, for that warm evening.

IMG_3259CWe usually have a glass of wine with a dinner and finish the bottle the next day. Not this time. I can’t stop drinking it. “I am finishing this one,” I proclaimed decisively and pour myself a generous second glass.

My father used to joke: “you don’t pour your own glass, let someone else pour it for you, so you don’t look like an alcoholic.”

Oh well, I missed that one. Love you, dad!

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Please help me find it!

It has been a few years since Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett introduced their hit “It’s five o’clock somewhere”. Even if you are not a country music fan, you have probably heard of it, on occasions. The lovely song’s lyric about pals, sipping margaritas at Alan Jacksontheir lunch break, on a hot July day, and spontaneously decide not to go back to work, became a favorite excuse for us, wine lovers, when feeling like having a glass with the lunch: “heck, it’s five o’clock somewhere…!”

Who ever decided that if you drink BEFORE 5 PM you might be considered an alcoholic, while if you do so AFTER 5 PM, it’s all fine; anyway? What if you open a bottle at quarter to five? Nobody speaks about that.

Then few years back, while visiting our friends in Jupiter, FL, we went to a bar, where video clip to this song was filmed. Anyway, my husband loved the song and one Christmas he found a license plate like this under our Christmas tree:

Its five oclock somewhereDETMy husband loved the gift, although since Connecticut cars have 2 license plates, we couldn’t put it on our car. He kept it for years in his “treasures”. Last year, when we moved to Florida, we had an opportunity to finally present it in the front license plate’s spot of our car. And we did. Its five oclock somewhere

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. One day I came back from running errands (I went to different places, mainly in Boca Raton, FL) and noticed that the plate was gone. I was really upset.

It wasn’t anything expensive, but it had an emotional value for both me and my husband. It was a gift, and it had a true meaning for us.

Whoever took it from my car, must have did so in a bright day light, on a crowded parking lots, because I don’t remember visiting any empty, lonely, dangerous places that day. It happened on last Halloween. I know that for sure, because I stopped at one store to buy some costumes for our evening Halloween party. First I thought – well, stuff happens, I can probably just re-order it from Alan Jackson’s fan store. But they don’t sell it anymore. As I said in the beginning, it has been a few years since I first purchased it.

And then I thought – maybe my internet friends may help me find it! Because, after all, I really want it back!!! So, if you live in South Florida and may have seen it in somebody’s house (I do believe that it’s going to be rare by now, and a collectible), maybe you can give me a tip. And anyone who will bring it back to me, will get a nice bottle of wine. Something that highly exceeds the value of that plate. Not for my husband and I, though.

You know how to get in touch with me, don’t you? No questions asked…

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My Personal Chef story

Yes, it’s true. I’m excited to tell you that I became a personal chef! I always cooked with a lot of passion, and the more my friends and family suggested that I should open my own restaurant, the more I knew that wasn’t the way.

Veras Home Kitchen

I ran a restaurant before. It’s a lot of work. There are days when it’s truly a torture. Everybody who ever worked kitchen in the restaurant knows exactly what I’m talking about.

As a restaurant chef, you work crazy hours, you’re hot, stressed, tired, yelled at, stuff gets messed up, people don’t show for work – yet everything must come out perfect every single time. So no, thank you. Been there, done that.

But I truly love cooking. I love it when my friends brag about what they eat. I love to create new flavors, work with new ingredients, create new recipes – and pair it with the perfect wine.

Being a personal chef is quite different than running a restaurant. First of all, you pick and choose how many clients you take on = how much do you want to work. It’s fun to meet new people, and get to cook in their own homes. I like that I get to create individual menus for my clients, based on their likes and dislikes – so I never cook ‘the same old same old’ 2 days in the row. And the dinner parties – how much fun is that! I really enjoy it. Every day is another challenge, I work in a different environment, the most beautiful kitchens, in the most beautiful houses, meeting interesting food enthusiasts … what’s not to love?



Prior even having my own website for the Personal Chef business set up, I got approached by somebody who found me on “American Personal & Private Chef Association” website. This lady was interested in purchasing a gift certificate for her parents, so they don’t have to cook for themselves. Sounded great.  I answered her the next day while I stayed overnight, quickly putting together my first website. I wanted to answer her with a link to my website. But I never heard from her again.

That’s OK because I wasn’t nearly ready to perform the service to my standards. At least, she gave me the virtual kick in the butt I needed and start “before I was ready”. She provoked me into developing my website really fast. And thinking of creating a gift certificate packages. My prospective client gave me the ideas what’s the most important to start with to be prepared for my potential customer’s needs.



Every time somebody approaches me with a job request is a new beginning. Every customer is a different challenge. And I feel blessed that they’re calling despite the fact that I didn’t spend a penny on advertising yet. Well, that’s not completely true because I’ve ordered magnets for my car. But my car is dirty, so the magnets aren’t up yet. And brochures. And nice promotion cards. But they still sit on my desk. Nobody saw them yet.

Nevertheless, it seems like this Personal Chef business is a perfect way to go. It is a new industry that’s gaining a lot of attention and momentum lately. I really enjoy cooking and entertaining, and this combines both. Where the good gourmet food and wine is involved, I’m in!

Would you be interested in attending some of my  “chef’s tasting menu dinners” ? I would like to do one at least once – twice a quarter, maybe more. If you have a group of friends who are into food and wine (a must), and will be interested in attending an unconventional gourmet evening, please shoot me an email. We can discuss whose kitchen is the best to do that in, and we’ll taste new recipes together. An evening of laughter, great food and wine. Doesn’t it sound like fun? Would you like to be a part of it and get invited? If so, please shoot me an email and let’s make it happen!


Please check out my new website. And most importantly, wish me luck!!! I appreciate your support!!