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In the Kitchen with Sami

April 24, 2010

In this month’s BRAVA magazine we write about our experience with Sami Fgaier, Le Personal Chef, who came to our house to cook an elegant dinner for us. It was an experience that needs to be told in greater detail and savored slowly—much like the meal he prepared and we devoured.

Sami met with Mike and I a few days before he came to prepare the dinner to discuss his menu plans. We knew that we wanted to serve food that would go with chardonnays because his former restaurant was “Le Chardonnay”. Given the limitation of the wine selection, Sami came up with a delicious menu: oysters, dry sea scallops, rabbit fricassee, Loup de mer (Mediterranean sea bass), Chateaubriand and chocolate mousse for dessert.

On the day that Sami came to our house to prepare the dinner, it was cold outside, but very sunny. He arrived along with one of his helpers at around 2:00 pm, loaded with food, cooking utensils, pots, pans, a radio and other assorted artifacts. For a moment, it looked as if he were going to move in. While he and Guadalupe (one of his assistants) started to assemble dishes, towels, cookware, and utensils Mike and I busied ourselves with the usual Saturday kinds of tasks. I left to run some errands while Mike took to his office to do some work. When I arrived home about an hour and a half later, I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in my kitchen.

There were bowls of chopped vegetables and pots simmering with delightfully smelling sauces. The radio was playing some Latin music. Sami and Guadalupe were busy peeling and chopping vegetables. The house was more alive than it had been since Christmas when our grandchildren were busy opening their presents.

We had invited my sister and brother-in-law—both foodies from Milwaukee—to share our ‘personal chef’ experience. At one point I told Sami that he might enjoy cooking in my sister’s kitchen because she has a real chef’s kitchen complete with all the bells and whistles one would expect to find in the kitchens of Rachael Ray or Emeril Lagasse. Sami replied that he would like nothing more, and driving the short distance to Milwaukee would not be a problem, especially if he was going to be cooking in a well-appointed kitchen. Not that my kitchen is in anyway inferior for the everyday kind of cooking I generally do. We had remodeled it in 2005 (a nightmare story of things gone wrong), and it was fine for me. But when you have a true creator in your kitchen, you’d like everything to be perfect. At least we had a gas stove…

My sister and brother-in-law arrived at 5:00 pm. By that time, the activities in the kitchen had reached a fever pitch. The table was set, pots were bubbling, smells were wafting, people were singing. There was a wonderful ambiance of family and warmth and good food. The four of us, (my sister, brother-in-law, Mike and I) sat down and enjoyed a cold beer while our 7 month old golden retriever puppy bounced about showing everybody exactly how adorable golden retriever puppies can be. A little while later, Sami called us to the table. We were delighted at the sight.

There were 4 champagne glasses placed on the dining room table. The candles were lit, and the lights were dimmed to a romantic sort of glow. Sami poured each of us a glass of Cuvee´ 20 and presented a large bowl of oysters. I was very surprised at the presentation because somewhere in the chaos that is my kitchen, Sami managed to find an old aluminum bowl in the cupboard. It’s over 30 years old—a gift from Mike’s mother that we had used for popcorn when our kids were very small. It’s a wide shallow bowl, with maple leaves imprinted on the lip. It was now filled with crushed ice and nestled in the ice were the oysters. “I can’t believe you found that bowl!” I said. “It’s a great bowl for oysters,” Sami replied. “The ice doesn’t melt and the oysters stay nice and cold.” We enjoyed the oysters with the champagne and invited Sami and Guadalupe to join us, which they did. We all toasted the fine efforts of Sami and Guadalupe as we sipped the brut and enjoyed the oysters, prepared with a bit of fresh lemon.

Each course that Sami presented was more delicious than the previous one. And each one brought more praise from the diners. The rabbit was served with pasta, the sea bass was flaky, light, and covered in a wonderful sauce. The Chateaubriand was so tender, you could cut it with a fork. It was about 9:30 when the last dish, a chocolate mousse was served with Tuaca, a vanilla and citrus-flavored Italian liqueur. As we savored our dessert, Sami, Guadalupe and another helper were busy in the kitchen. Soon all of the pots, pans, dishes and utensils were boxed up and moved out. I heard bustling in the kitchen and wondered what I would find when they left—there had been an awful lot of activity in that space. But after the boxes were moved out, thank yous and handshakes exchanged, our home became quiet again. Even our puppy was asleep. I walked in to find my kitchen cleaner than it was when they arrived. I think they even washed the floor. And the aluminum bowl? Prominently displayed on the countertop…

Visit LePersonalChef.com to arrange your own private marvelous dining experience!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2010 8:03 pm

    Hello.

    I would like to put a link to your site on my blog roll if you want to do the same for mine. It would be a good way to build up both of our readerships.

    thank you.

    • Mike and Jean permalink*
      May 14, 2010 12:06 pm

      Okay, let’s do it.

  2. Deray permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:51 pm

    Great article. Very descriptive. I could taste the fresh oysters, chocolate mousse and the Tuaca. Keep up with your dedication and passion to good food. Good job SAMI!!!

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