Secrets of a Private Chef: Exclusive Tips to Fool Your Guests

April Peveteaux
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sasha perl raver private chef tipsSasha Perl-Raver of The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, has seen her share of drama. From Jeremy London run-ins to some of the most demanding clients in Los Angeles, Perl-Raver maintains her cool and serves up mouth-watering morsels with a side of biting wit.

Super impressive, yes?

If you want to look as good as she does in the new season of the Food Network reality show, Sasha has some tips for the uninitiated. Follow her advice and stock up on these five ingredients that make your food look and taste like a million bucks: You'll feel like a Food Network star too.

As a private chef for the last 16 years, I’ve developed all kinds of little tricks to make my food appear more dynamic, high-end or effortful. Here are five easy additions to any recipe that will make you look like a pro.

#1. Truffle Oil

I like to call this stuff “Liquid Gold.” It’s pricey, about $20 bucks for 4-6 ounces, but it’s well worth it and way cheaper than an actual truffle. Besides, a few drops goes a long way so that tiny bottle will last you months.

Made by infusing olive oil with either black or white truffles, black truffle oil, which is slightly less expensive, tends to be lighter and spicier than the deeper, muskier overtones of white truffle oil.

The two most important things to remember about truffle oil is you don’t want to store it in the refrigerator, just in a cool, dry place like the pantry, and you never ever want to heat it or cook with it; that burns off the flavor. When your dish is done cooking, the idea is to drizzle truffle oil over the top, allowing it to release its rich earthiness, just before you serve. Think of it like spritzing perfume on your neck just before you walk out the door.

Use it to top pasta, eggs, meat or, my new favorite, mixed with stone ground mustard and lemon juice to make an amazing vinaigrette.

#2. Sriracha

When I was a kid, I traveled around Southeast Asia quite a bit with my family. When we returned to the United States, I was so disappointed to find that my favorite table staple, a thick hot sauce paste made from chili peppers, garlic, sugar, vinegar and salt, was nowhere to be found, replaced by boring ol’ Heinz. Luckily, in recent years, Sriracha, or “rooster sauce,” has started to infiltrate more restaurants and recipes. It even got a shout out during Top Chef’s ice cream Quickfire Challenge in season three.

Adding heat, tons of pungent garlic flavor and just the right amount of acid, Sriracha brings new dimension to everything from soup to chicken. But use it with caution if you’re not much of a chili-head.

#3. Zest -- the rind of citrus, not the soap

I used to have a client who was good friends with Bill Clinton. I never had the chance to meet our former president but I did get to use a gift Bill bestowed on them; the raddest microplane ever. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was a Clinton-approved zester or simply the ease of use, but it got me obsessed with adding zest to dishes, especially when I discovered how it brightened them up, both in terms of flavor and presentation.

Zest, the outer rind of citrus like oranges, lemons and limes, is where all the good citrus flavor lives, thanks to oils in the fruit. It’s also beautiful and colorful, adding a little visual pop to your dish. Added bonus: a good microplane or zester only costs about ten bucks.

Try lime zest in Mexican dishes, orange zest in pancake or muffin batter and lemon zest with seafood or vegetables.

#4. Flat leaf (aka: Italian) Parsley

I’m a garnish eater. When I was younger and would go to Denny’s with friends, I would always steal the wilted curly parsley from their plates and pop it in my mouth. Because of its clean flavor and vibrant green color, parsley is the perfect addition to any dish that needs a little freshening up. Chopped, left whole, added to sauces, used to make Gremolata or Chimichurri, parsley is the bomb. But stay away from the Denny’s-style curly stuff and go for the flat-leaf variety. It’s got way more flavor and none of the diner food connotations.

#5. Kosher Salt

There are all kinds of scientific reasons for why chefs prefer kosher salt but basically it comes down to basics. Less flaky and overwhelming than flake salt, less cumbersome than sea salt, more flavorful than table (or iodized) salt; kosher salt has the perfect texture to pinch and sprinkle over dishes, the slightest crystallized crunch and a delightful briney flavor. Plus, it’s the salt of my people. I gotta rep The Tribe.

By adding any of these five things to your repertoire, you can make everyday dishes, from eggs to salads to dessert, taste infinitely better.


Image via Food Network

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