Sasha Perl-Raver, left, on Private Chefs of Beverly HillsCombine the sizzle of cooking shows with the drama of a docu-soap, and you've got the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, the Food Network's latest foray into reality TV. Every Friday night at 10 p.m., six private chefs get thrown to the wolves (aka fancy rich people in Beverly Hills), and we get to sit back and watch literal and figurative sparks fly. Fun.
Sasha Perl-Raver is the brash redhead with a wicked sense of humor and many years of experience in the kitchen. Perl-Raver started working professionally as a chef when she was only 16, and this self-taught chef has been rolling with the chaos ever since.
Perl-Raver was kind enough to give me some tips in the kitchen while spilling about her co-chefs, the pressures of cooking on camera, and of course, the wacky clients of Beverly Hills.
How did you get your start in cooking?
I took the bus home from school when I was 7 years old, and my parents gave me enough money for the bus, but not enough money to get anything to eat for a snack. I grew up in New York, so there were these amazing pizza places on every corner. So I'd go home and make myself pizza. I made dough, I made sauce. It would all be from scratch.
It was this preoccupation I had my entire life. I'd read cookbooks and watch food TV. Back when food TV was Two Hot Tamales and Martin Yan as opposed to the Food Network. By the time I was 11, I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner.
I had a family friend who had eaten my food for years and was a pretty big real estate agent in Northern California. So I went to her and asked to cater her open houses. She said, sure, but if the food is bad, she gets to throw it out. I said, okay, fine, but if the food is good, you have to reimburse me for it and I get to put out business cards. I ended up getting a bunch of clients that way. I'm sure part of it was this fascination about this 16-year-old wunderkind. But then I got a good reputation. I came to LA for college when I was 18. In Los Angeles, there was a pretty big market for private chefs and I just kept going.
Why do people hire private chefs vs. caterers?
I'd call myself a caterer and a private chef. When you do a big event like a birthday or a wedding, you're catering.
Personal chefs come in and do something for you at any given time, whether it's a 10-person meal and you just want something nice, or you have someone come into your house every day and cook a meal for you.
I'm not Alice from The Brady Bunch. I'm not going to sit here and make you your pork chop. I'll make pork chops, but they'll be brined overnight and I'm serving them with a balsamic slaw and I got my inspiration from Germany and India. I'm not throwing stuff on the plate just to sustain you. I'm creating something you'd have if you went to a restaurant, but it's in your home.
What's it like working with the other chefs on the show?
Working with a partner is always difficult just because, you know, too many cooks in the kitchen! They ruin the soup.
That's been the most difficult part of the show, learning how to let go of your ego and make it a team situation. What's interesting is that with each chef you have a very different dynamic. With Brian, who I love, we have such a great sort of repartee and respect for each other that we just get into a kitchen and everything's fantastic. Stuart and I have a very brother/sister relationship where sometimes we bicker -- nonstop. Brooke I could cook with every day of the week, I just love her so much. Manouschka and I have fun. She's a little bit more people-pleasing than I am. I'm more like, "God I can't believe they want that!"
Jesse is the one person you have to take a backseat to. I knew he wanted to be in control so I let him drive the bus. But I didn't know he was going to drive the bus over me. Jesse is very, very funny and he's really smart and a good cook. But he wasn't the person who put the goat cheese in those tacos, I was!
Who was the craziest client you had on Private Chefs?
These teenage millionaires were the most demanding clients I've ever had. Nothing that we ever did was good enough. I'm not going to lie, I ended up crying. I put out the best piece of sea bass I've ever cooked in my life and this kid deemed it, "Okay." I was like, "It's not okay, it's brilliant!"
They wanted it to be like a buffet in Vegas where there's someone doing something for you right in front of your face at all times. For 50 people and their teenagers. I don't know if I've ever worked quite that hard.
What's the best quick fix when something goes awry?
I think that anytime you fail in the kitchen, it's a great experience. That's the only way you're going to learn what works -- by screwing things up.
There are quick fixes that I've come to rely on, however.
- Everyone knows the potato in the soup fix. If you've got something that's too salty, throw in a raw potato.
- I used to have a client who asked me to make them osso buco every week and I ended up burning it once. You don't throw away osso buco after three hours. I found that if you took two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter and you stir it into something you've burned, the fat and the salt do something so magical that it'll take away the taste. Obviously, you take it out of the pot where it burned. And it doesn't make it taste like peanut butter! It's amazing.
- Italian parsley and lemon zest will save pretty much any dish.
- Truffle oil is the best single thing to have in your kitchen. You can't cook with it, it burns away the essence. Drizzle truffle oil on top of bread, pasta, chicken, or steak right before you serve. A lot of people won't know what it is and just say, "Why is this amazing?" It's around $20 for a very small bottle but it's totally worth having around.
Any sneak peeks into the rest of the season? Any table flipping?
You put more than one person in a room with a camera and there's going to be drama. But it's pretty much all centered around the clients.
I can tell you the last episode of the six was very dramatic. I almost lay down on the floor at a certain point.
One of the big upcoming dramas revolves around a wedding planner and a cake. And there's a great one with Brian and Manouschka where they had to go to a farm that was all green. They had to pedal a bike to run a blender.
The truth is we all, as a group of people, get a long really, really well. There's no moment on the show where I think anyone turned to anybody else and screamed, "Your mother's a whore!" I might have said something like that about a client.
You have to have some respect for [the clients] because all the people we work for are incredibly successful. At the same time, there's a level of OCD nuttiness that they all had. And that's probably one of the reasons they became successful. But, God, rich people are crazy. The richer you are, the odder you seem to be. That's been my experience, anyway. One day, I can only hope to be as crazy as those people are.
Watch Private Chefs of Beverly Hills on the Food Network Friday nights at 10 p.m.