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Briarwood personal chef in demand for Thanksgiving meals

Briarwood personal chef in demand for Thanksgiving meals

For the past two years, Jim Huff has been to a number of dinner parties, but he has not been attending them - he is making them possible.

Huff, 54, is the Traveling Culinary Artist, a one-man, in-home customized personal chef service based in Briarwood that has served the five boroughs over the last two years. Chef Jim, who is certified by the American Personal Chef Institute and Association, meets with his clients, discusses their specific dietary needs and requests and then arrives at their house, often when the clients are at work, to spend about six to seven hours in their kitchen.

The result is an abundance of nutritious food that can last from 30 to 60 days and provide 10 to 20 meals, depending on the number of people served.

"A lot of people do not want to go to restaurants and stand in line or take food out every night," said Huff. "I think there is a homey aspect my customers look forward to. I'm sure a lot of my clients enjoy eating out, but not five nights a week. From me, they get good quality food."

As Thanksgiving nears, Huff finds himself especially busy, currently booked to prepare five dishes for three different clients between Nov. 20 and Nov. 24. While his customers purchase and cook their own turkeys, Huff prepares the side dishes, which include steamed vegetables, a variety of potato dishes, wild rice pilaf and pumpkin walnut bread. Huff has a full repertoire of dishes that combine classic Thanksgiving motifs, such as chestnut and cranberry cornbread stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, garlic mashed Yukon gold potatoes, sausage and fennel stuffing and more.

This is the chef's second year in business during the holiday season, following his 17 years working in retail at Toys 'R' Us, and Thanksgiving 2004 will be the kick-off for his most booked months.

"In the late fall and winter up until March is the busiest time of year," he said. "Summer is slow - people go away on vacation and eat out more."

That time of year is perfect for warming up with comfort foods, which Huff said have seen a resurgence in popularity since he started Traveling Culinary Artist. Traditional American foods that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s, such as meatloaf and stews, are among the most frequent requests he gets from customers. Though many of these foods that were popular in the mid-20th century came to be criticized as being unhealthy, recipes have been adapted to create healthier versions of the meals, he said.

"Meat is now leaner than it was then," he said. "What used to be fatty can now be adapted to make healthier and tastier food."

Huff's basic plan costs $325 and provides four servings of five entrees, which provides about ten meals for four people or twenty meals for two. The chef purchases the food, prepares it with his own equipment in his clients' kitchens and cleans up afterward.

One of the benefits of the service, said Huff, is that customers know exactly what they are getting because they are asked for preparation instructions.

"If you have food concerns - lower sugar, less fat, if you have allergies - and are at a restaurant, if you ask for something less, how do you know you are really getting what you asked for? I tailor to requests," he said.

Chef Jim, who typically gets customers through word of mouth or people searching the internet for personal chefs, said that one of the best aspects of his service is that he feels it helps people.

"Most people do not have time to do much preparation for nutritious meals for their family," he said. "My service helps them plan ahead and, within minutes of them getting home (after work), they can have a delicious and healthy meal."

To learn more about Chef Jim's services or for contact information, write to .

By Nathan Duke

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