Won't Work for Food

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

(Published in the March 2010 issue)

Improving at-home eating habits without lifting a finger (let alone a measuring cup) is simple. Just put down the spatula and pick up the phone-these San Diego chefs prepare dishes with vitamin-rich organics and chemical-free proteins...and they make house calls.

Whether you're time-crunched or kitchen-challenged, or simply lack the resolution to pass up devilish foods that spill from every grocery aisle, a solution to better eating resides in the deft hands and creative minds of these healthy-food pros.

ChileCo

735 E. Mission Rd., San Marcos
866.662.2837
chilecocatering .com

Chef Scotty Wagner's (pictured at left) home-catering business puts organic, hormone-free and never-frozen meals in San Diegans' mouths. Pre-packaged breakfasts, lunches or dinners are delivered in three-day increments to doorsteps countywide.

From steel-cut oats with seasonal fruit to smoke-cured wild river salmon, ChileCo cranks out a plethora of gourmet choices from an established menu, while also catering to customers with the toughest dietary demands. Allergic to soy? Craving new flavors in a raw diet? Wagner abides.
Cost: $20-$30 per meal; three-day-a-week minimum.

Salad Style

807 F St., Downtown
619.255.6731
saladstyle.com

Those who work downtown can enjoy colorful organic salads delivered to their desks, or cop their lettuce fix inside Salad Style's newly expanded storefront. The 100-percent-organic greenery offers nine hardy and customizable salads (also available as wraps), with the Totally Vegan version ranking among the healthiest. It's made with arugula, quinoa, sprouts, tofu, chickpeas and low-oil miso dressing.

Brawnier choices include medleys draped in sashimi-grade ahi, hangar steak, chicken and salmon. Dressings are homemade and daily soups are heated to order. Salad Style makes downtown (zip codes 92101 and 92102) deliveries for orders of five salads or more, and delivers outside the area for orders of 10 or more. If you want to spread the nutritional love to family and friends, check out the largest bulk salad, which feeds up to 20 people. Just make sure to save room in the back seat if picking it up.
Cost: $7 - $11 per salad.

Fresh Cooked

A weapon salesman lays down his guns and picks up a spatula

When Mike Garner became an in-home chef nearly two years ago, he didn't imagine that clients would ask for liver and onions, or the forbidding Scottish dish known as haggis, a gnarly pudding of minced sheep organs. He also takes more mainstream requests, such as plain ol' spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. His philosophy no matter what: "You're paying for it, so that's fine."

Able to construct a variety of cuisines in his customers' kitchens, Garner specializes in small dinner parties for up to a dozen people. His bills of fare can include everything from puff pastry hors d'oeuvres and organic salads to grilled filet mignon with a pretty dessert. Stumped over which wines or cocktails to serve? No problem. Garner fills the shoes of mixologist and sommelier when needed.

"I love making people's lives easier," he says, "whether it's for a dinner party or for someone who is just too busy to eat right. And the cost often turns out to be the same as what you'd drop for dinner in a restaurant."

For a house party of six, for example, Garner has provided cocktails, grilled prawns and proscuitto-wrapped breadsticks for appetizers, plus a light entrée of mushroom risotto for $30 per mouth.

Being a personal chef hasn't paid as well as his previous job in the sales development for General Atomics, but Garner regarded the move as good for his soul.

"I was willing to forgo lots of cash to pursue something I am passionate about," he says. That passion was kindled when Garner was a child, standing at the stove on a footstool. "I would help my mother and grandmother cook pasta sauces. Sometimes they'd let me flip pancakes, even though some of them landed on the floor."

Now with improved aim and a fresh career, he's creating new culinary memories. One such unforgettable evening took place last year-while Garner was still preparing the main course for a high-end dinner party of eight people at a home in Rancho Santa Fe, his customers had already consumed nine bottles of wine.

"They all got tanked," he laughs. "One person passed out in the bathroom. Another vomited in the kitchen while I was grilling the rib eye."

Garner ended up vacuum-sealing the food, putting it in the fridge and leaving. Much to his surprise, he received "a very big tip" the next day.

Overly festive clients and strange meal requests aside, Garner says his biggest challenge has been keeping a consistent clientele in this weak economy. "But I've been fortunate so far with word-of-mouth referrals," he says. "I'm in somebody's kitchen at least twice a week."

With a track record like that, it's a safe bet that when the economy starts cooking again, Garner will, too. mikegarner@gmail.com

Dining Details

859 Jamacha Rd., El Cajon
619.447.4140
diningdetails .com

Staffed by a small army of young, nutrition-minded chefs, Dining Details provides home-delivery of meals, as well as rentable personal chefs for those who might want the cooking process to take place in their own kitchens. The couple who owns the company, Julie and Robbie Frans, recently launched a convenient service that allows parents to pick up the healthy meals from certain schools when they retrieve their kids at the end of the day.

All-natural meats, organic dairy, seasonal produce and healthy oils are at the core of every dish, including meticulously crafted party hors d'oeuvres. Starchy ingredients like pasta and rice take a back seat. As for desserts, granulated sugar is out, agave nectar is in. Average per-week minimum for home deliveries is $300.
In-home chef rates start at $60 per hour.

Healthy Creations

376 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas
760.479.0500
healthycreations .com

Lasagna and chicken pot pies are not the kind of savories typically associated with wholesome diets-unless you're eating Rhiana Glor's (pictured abovet) renditions. These pre-assembled dishes appear in Healthy Creations' selection of everyday meals, made healthier with spices, herbs and crafty substitutions for starch and fat. Instead of sheet pasta, for example, Glor layers her lasagna with fresh squash, and applies the ricotta sparingly. Her pot pies are made with a gluten-free wheat crust, concealing organic poultry and extra vegetables. A variety of other meals (which customers simply pop into the oven upon delivery, or freeze for future consumption) are available in half and full sizes, which feed three and six people, respectively. Cost: $16 to $29. No minimum.

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