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Relax! Leave the cooking - and cleaning - to us

April 6, 2018

It's the best of both worlds: Food and service worthy of the finest restaurants, yet you dine in the privacy of your home, surrounded by your favorite music and your cool stuff that you can show off to your friends. Personal cheffing in Delaware has hit its stride, and my experience last week at the Wilmington home of Chef Robert Lhulier was one of the best I've had so far.

This seasoned chef is not new to the game. He cooked for many years at Wilmington's busy University & Whist Club - sporting eight private dining rooms - and has garnered acclaim for his performance at the James Beard House in New York and at Charlie Trotter's eponymous restaurant in Chicago. This Zagat-celebrated chef now displays his talents at uniquely tailored pop-up dinners and events. Last week's feast for eight was held in his home. The experience began with an ad hoc cooking class in the kitchen, where Lhulier showed us the various courses in various stages of preparation. Questions were asked, hors d'oeuvres were consumed, and I now know how to candy orange zest without burning the house down.

Robert's handwritten menu included one of the most amazing dishes I've ever had - especially in somebody's house! The first-course raviolo (homemade pasta, of course) enveloped a sous vide egg yolk nestled comfortably on a dollop of black truffle ricotta cheese (real truffles, mind you, not that nasty truffle-oil horribleness that never even encountered a single truffle). The second and third courses were equally amazing, with whole roasted monkfish surrounded by a chickpea, caper, garlic and olive ragout, and an adorable little quail stuffed with farro and foie gras. A refreshingly acidic red rhubarb gastrique provided the canvas for this creation.Last and certainly not least was a diamond-shaped slice of Lhulier's famous almond cake, decorated with that candied orange zest and drizzled with a tarragon cream. For a rare (and welcome, I'm told) moment, I was without words. 

The southern part of the First State is not without its own personal chefs who provide similar experiences, each with his or her personal touch. Jay Allen's Elegant Plate will happily convert your kitchen and dining room into the finest eatery that serves whatever dish you desire. 

Chef Jay studied under Chef Donna Crivello and also at L'Academie de Cuisine and The Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy. His credits include Tersiguel's in Ellicott City, Md., The Buttery in Lewes, three-time James Beard nominee Hari Cameron's a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth and Blue Moon Catering. 

Jay has taken his talents to the streets as one of the guides for the almost-always-sold-out EatingRehoboth restaurant tours. Each of the guides brings his or her individual interests to the guests, and Jay regales his faction with little-known culinary facts centered around the food presented by participating restaurants.

For many, living at the beach seems to be all about career change, and nowhere is that more obvious than with musician - and EatingRehoboth food tour guide - Paul Cullen. Paul is one of the (very) early fans of RehobothFoodie.com, and his love for wine and food - particularly Italian food - quickly became evident. We eventually became friends, and I've watched in amazement as Paul not only created his own wine label, but grew into the role of a personal chef himself. But Paul brings a value-added to the table: not only does he keep his guests informed about what he's doing with their food, but he treats them to a live guitar concert during the meal - giving rise to his moniker, "Tune your Palate." This multitalented guy treats his lucky clients not only to his extensive knowledge of wines, but also to his genuine love for non-pretentious cuisine and good music.

And yes indeed, there are more cooks lurking out there who will happily bring their talents to your kitchen! But I'm out of space already, so we'll make this a two-parter sometime in the future. Bon appétit - at home!

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.