Chef Mark’s Personal Chef Careers Feature on

This is a video that was recently produced for’s Careers Website. I was approached by a producer for who produces videos about the various careers available to people, and she asked if I would talk about what it’s like to own a personal chef business. The video focuses on aspects of the business, but it also gives viewers insight into what it would be like to have a personal chef of their own.

You can see the full video and post at

To see the video on click here

No comment

Breakfast musings

Alright, perhaps I’ve been working too much and sleeping too little. While eating breakfast today, I had a craving for a glass of chocolate milk. While sipping my drink, I glanced around the kitchen and noticed the bag of Rice Krispies sitting on the microwave (memories of marshmallow-y treats past and crisp rice brittle yet to come, all dance in my head), I found myself contemplating this culinary conundrum:

If you pour chocolate milk over your Rice Krispies, is it just the same as eating regular milk and Cocoa Krispies?

Hey, I warned you I might not be getting enough sleep…

Chef Glenn Burgess

No comment

Chef Lia’s Brasciole

Thanks for the opportunity to share a recipe with you!

Growing up with my grandparent’s was an amazing culinary adventure.  My grandfather was from Sicily and emigrated here back in the 1920’s.  He became one of the leading sales reps in the NY City area for Progresso Foods when these products were first being imported from Italy.  Because he and my father were food brokers, I had access an amazing pantry in the basement of high quality Italian ingredients.  Many weekends were spent, not playing outside with friends, but in the kitchen developing creative meals for the family.  This long-term love for cooking encouraged me to start my own personal chef service 4 years ago here on Long Island.  Since I cook for clients and need to make many meals at one service, I’ve developed ways in which to incorporate my pressure cooker to handle long cooking tasks.  This recipe for brasciole are done in a much shorter amount of time, but are really tender as if they were braised for hours.  The sauce is also delightful with your favorite pasta.

Lia’s Brasciole

Serves 4

4 Each Thin Sliced Beef, top round sliced thin for brasciole
1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Medium Onion, minced
1/4 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley, minced
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Pine Nut (pignolia)
3 Tablespoons Raisins
1 Each Egg White
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 Slices Prosciutto
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Can (28 Oz) Crushed Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
Pressure Cooker
Kitchen twine

1. Process garlic, onion, and parsley until finely minced in a chopper or food processor.  Blend this mixture with the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, pine nuts,raisins and egg white.

2.  Lay a slice of prosciutto over a piece of brasciole meat.  Place the stuffing on top of the prosciutto.  Roll and tie with twine to secure.  Dredge the rolls lightly in flour and set aside.

3.  Heat the pressure cooker and add the butter and olive oil.  Brown the brasciole rolls on all sides.  You may have to do this in batches to fit in the cooker.  When finished browning, remove meat and add the wine to deglaze pan.  Add the crushed tomatoes and the italian seasoning.  Add the rolls back to pressure cooker (it is okay to stack them on top of eachother) and bring the sauce to a boil.  Close the lid and cook the rolls for 20 minutes, (you may need to vary the time depending upon your pressure cooker, and the number and thickness of the rolls).   Release the pressure naturally.  If the rolls are not tender enough (test with a fork), you can continue to simmer them in the sauce until desired doneness or recover the pressure cooker and cook for an additional 10 minutes, and check again.  Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chef Lia Soscia, CPC
Home Cooking Consultant Personal Chef Service, Long Island

No comment

Long Island Chef, Lia Soscia, CPC Wins Recipe OF The Year Award At National Convention

Chef Lia Soscia, Certified Personal Chef with the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA) has taken top honors for Recipe Of The Year during the 2009 USPCA national convention in New Orleans, LA.

Chef Soscia’s winning recipe was a Brasciole (pronounced bra’zhul) dish that she created for her Personal Chef Service clients. “I am always searching for recipes that work for me for my clients.  Often times I find that the best recipes are a blend of two or more proven dishes that compliment each other” Chef Soscia stated.

Chef Lia Soscia is owner/operator of Home Cooking Consultant, a Personal Chef Service operating in Long Island, NY since 2004.  Chef Soscia is a graduate of the Culinary Business Academy which provides specialized business development training for culinary talented individuals.

Judges for this annual competition consisted of professional members within the USPCA.  Chef Donna Mintz of Basil & Barbells PCS in New York stated “My vote is for Lia’s Brasciole.  I saw this recipe, tried it and OMG!  It was amazing and although the ingredient list is extensive, the recipe is not very difficult”.  ”This recipe is one I would and could use for clients. It freezes well, is written for pressure cooker – not my thing, but easily adapts to stovetop or oven” stated USPCA Certified Personal Chef Barbara Converse, owner of Dining By Design PCS in Boca Raton, FL.

Several hundred personal chefs from throughout the United States and Canada converged on New Orleans this July to participate in educational workshops, business seminars and to hear from industry experts on a wide variety of subjects of importance to independent culinary business operators. “The annual convention is primarily a business building and educational event designed to help independent personal chefs strengthen their business and expand their service” stated USPCA President Chef Gail Kenagy. She continued, “Each year we are faced with a huge stack of recipe entries. Judges spend countless hours reviewing and qualifying recipes.  This decision is not easy.  USPCA members are a creative bunch and always amaze me with their unique talents”.

Look for the winning recipe under our Recipe category.

No comment

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

We all rely on chicken as a versatile, lean source of protein but often find ourselves looking for new and exciting ways to enjoy it.  This recipe is quick, easy and tastes deliciously exotic.  It’s perfect for a weeknight meal, so instead of putting a frozen pizza in the oven after coming home from work, give this recipe a try.  You’ll be so glad you did!

Chicken Curry

Serves 2-3

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 large bell pepper, sliced (color of your choice)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 8oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
3.5 oz. curry paste (color of your choice)
12 Thai basil leaves (optional)
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup jasmine rice, cooked

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until tender-crisp.  Add chicken and saute for 3 minutes.  Add coconut milk, bamboo shoots and curry paste; stir to combine.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Stir in basil leaves.  Season with salt, to taste.  Serve over rice.


Chef Tracy Chin

No comment

BBQ Safety Tips and Favorite Rub Recipes – Chef Lia Soscia

The weather is getting warmer and it’s time to dust off those outdoor barbeques. If you aren’t a diehard griller who has used the outdoor gas grill all winter, chances are you need to do a few safety checks before firing it up. A few simple steps and your on your way to some great meals this season. Not doing these safety checks can cause a very dangerous situation one of which I lived many years ago.

It was a beautiful spring day and my husband went out on the deck to light the grill for the first time that season. We were young and anxious to use our gas grill in our new backyard. As this was one of our first gas grills, we didn’t really know about the dangers that lurk in grills unused for long lengths of time. As it was, some spiders decided to make a home under the cover and in the gas pipes. When the barbeque ignited, it literally blew up. It was very lucky for us that the fire department was only a block away. Things worked out all right and my husband ever determined to not give up on his grill decided to rebuild the grill with new parts and a coat of fresh paint.

Before we move on to some great rub and marinade recipes, you should follow the links below read about grill safety tips:
Gas grill safety courtesy of the Propane Education & Research Council

Charcoal grill safety from the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association

Grilled foods are so versatile. You can spice them up simply or go all out and put on the heat. Depending upon what you are grilling there is a perfect marinade or rub. Marinades are good for meats that aren’t very tender. Rubs are great for meats and fish that you cook quickly. There are many barbeque experts out there, especially in the Deep South where barbeque is the prevailing style of cooking year round. I am particularly fond of Bobby Flay and Steve Raichlen’s recipes as they use basic skills but powerful flavor combinations. Take a trip to the library and peruse their cookbooks and you will discover many new favorites. And, don’t forget those sides! Grilled meats and fish go great with summer’s produce bounty.

To get you started, here are a few of my favorite bbq recipes. Happy grilling!

Basic Barbeque Rub – good for any meat or fish

6 Tablespoons Paprika

2 Tablespoons Coarsely-ground Black Pepper

2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt (or Other Coarse Salt)

1-Tablespoon Chili Powder

2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar – (packed)

1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper – to taste

Mix the spices in a small bowl. Store the rub covered in a cool, dark pantry or freezer. Yields ¾ Cup

Poultry Rub

3/4 Cup Hungarian Paprika

1/4 Cup Freshly-ground Black Pepper

1/4 Cup Celery Salt

1/4 Cup Sugar

2 Tablespoons Onion Powder

2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard

2 Teaspoons Cayenne

2 Tablespoons Dried Grated Lemon Zest (from 3 to 4 Lemons)

Mix ingredients in a bowl. Store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool dark place. Yield about 1 Cup

Beef Teriyaki Marinade

1 1/2 Pounds Sirloin Steak

1/2 Cup Soy Sauce

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Clove Garlic, minced

1 Teaspoon Ginger

1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

          2 Tablespoons Sugar (or Splenda)

Place beef steaks in a shallow dish.

Combine soy sauce, wine, garlic, and ginger. Pour over meat, cover and refrigerate. Marinate 2 hours.

Broil or barbeque beef 2 minutes on each side (or until desired doneness). Pour marinade into saucepan. Add cornstarch and cook over medium eat, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat, stir in Equal. Serve sauce over meat. Chef’s Note: It is very important to boil the marinade after marinating meat to assure that there is no bacteria alive in the sauce.


Thai BBQ Sauce – great with shrimp and chicken

 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce

3 Tbsp. Lime Juice

2 Tsp. Honey

1 Tsp. Fresh Ginger, minced

3 Each Thai or Serrano Chiles, minced

2 Tbsp. Green Onion, minced

1 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

4 Cloves Garlic, minced

Add all ingredients to a blender or a food processor with a metal blade. Pulse the ingredients together to mix well. Marinate the food of your choice for at least an hour. Then throw that stuff on the grill!

No comment

Chef Lia’s Delightful Easter Brunch

Easter meals don’t need to be complicated to be fabulous.  Instead of a huge dinner, you can opt for a quick and delicious Easter brunch.  This meal is perfect for serving after your Easter Egg hunt.  Just be sure to prep everything ahead of time and you’ll have the meal done in a flash.  Serve some soft, warm egg rolls with whipped butter and a refreshing citrus cocktail or fruity iced tea along with these dishes.

Eggs Benedict with Artichokes,  Pancetta, and Lemon Cream Sauce

4 each fresh steamed artichoke bottoms (or you can used canned artichoke bottoms)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, divided, plus 4 sprigs for garnish (if desired)
4 slices pancetta, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons butter
6 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons marscapone cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.    Toss artichoke bottoms with the olive oil and half of the oregano. Place them top-side down on half of a large baking sheet. Place pancetta slices in an even layer on the other half. Roast until the artichokes are just beginning to brown and the pancetta is crispy, 12 to 14 minutes.

3.    Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice and water in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside. Beat eggs and egg whites in a large bowl.

4.    Heat the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook, folding and stirring frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula until almost set, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the marscapone cheese and the remaining oregano and the salt.

5.    To serve, divide the artichoke bottoms among four plates. Top each artichoke with a slice of crispy pancetta, equal portions of scrambled eggs and the creamy lemon sauce. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.

Whole Grain Wheat  Salad With Sweet Peas, Asparagus, And Feta

1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2″ lengths
1/2 pound frozen sweet peas, defrosted
12 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red onion
6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped coarsley
7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1.    Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  Transfer to large bowl.

2.    Meanwhile, cook asparagus  in another saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain.  Add to farro with tomatoes, onion, and dill.  Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.  Add dressing, olives,  and feta to salad; toss to coat and serve.
Note: If you can’t find farro which is usually found in gourmet Italian markets, you can substitute wheatberries or even pearled barley.

No comment

Chef Lia Cooking Tool Review: Best Garlic Press Ever!

I’m frequently asked about various cooking tools during a private cooking lesson.  And I have to say that one of my most frequently used tools is the Rosle Garlic Press.  It is well designed with a separated filter area that easily detaches the garlic skins from the clove of garlic all in one motion.  It is heavy stainless steel and can handle daily frequent use.  It’s also dishwasher safe.

After having used many brands of garlic presses.  This is the one I highly recommend as a kitchen investment purchase.  To find one just search the internet on “Rosle”.  You will find a variety of places to purchase one!

No comment

Let Them Eat Cake!

I was very honored to be asked to be a judge for a great event in Philadelphia, which took place on Tuesday, April 14th. “Let Them Eat Cake” was a benefit for the City of Hope Cancer Center, and was held at the Loew’s Philadelphia Hotel.

If you’ve ever watched a cake competition on TV and said to yourself “I would love to judge that”, you may be surprised at just how difficult it is! Even only taking one bite of each cake, you end up eating from more than 30 different cakes! Among my fellow judges were many of the top cake and pastry folks around, including Cookbook Author Aliza Green (who has been a guest on ReMARKable Palate in the past), Personal Chef and Cooking School owner Kathy Gold, Colette Peters of Colette’s Cakes in NYC, and our good friend Monica Glass, the Pastry Princess!

There were SOO many cakes, both from culinary students and wedding cake professionals. As there were so many entries, the judges were split into 3 teams. One group judged the student cakes, and I was on one of the teams that judged the professional cakes. We judged on a number of factors including taste, texture, moistness, and integrity of flavor. We also judged visual elements, including neatness, texture, smoothness of the fondant, exactness of the piping and decoration, and of course, overall visual impact.

Let me tell you, it was very difficult! Luckily, our judging was made easier in that we had to apply points on a 1-10 scale in 10 different categories, and our total scores were compiled to arrive at the winners, thus relieving us of the arduous task of subjectively choosing our favorite. We let the numbers make an objective assessment of the best cake.
As this was a blind tasting, we had no idea which Pastry Chefs made which cakes, which unfortunately makes it difficult for me to give credit where credit is due, as I’d like to show off some of the cakes which stood out for me visually.

You can see all my photos from the event on our Culinary Media Network Flickr Feed HERE.

-Chef Mark Tafoya

1 Comment

Chef Mark’s Daily Cooking Tips Podcast

We’re happy to announce that Metro Chapter member and founding President Chef Mark Tafoya is now doing a short daily cooking tips podcast! Chef Mark has been doing the ReMARKable Palate Podcast, a long form weekly audio podcast about food and wine for almost 4 years, and many listeners have been asking for a show just about cooking tips. While a longer form video cooking show is in the works, for now he’s offering a daily audio podcast.

Chef Mark will record a brief 2 minute tip each day. This podcast is not nearly as produced at the ReMARKable Palate Podcast, nor his Culinary Media Network videos, just a quick note to help you improve the quality of your home cooking! Subscribe in iTunes via the link below, or directly to the feedburner feed. Enjoy!

Chef Mark's Daily Cooking Tips Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe to Chef Mark’s Daily Cooking Tips Podcast in iTunes

1 Comment

Luella Semmes on “Eating in the Raw” posted in Canvas Long Island

Eating a simple raw carrot or celery stick may not be a flavorful experience for most. Dipping it in a mixture of hummus or avocado is an improvement, though the average person may find it difficult to maintain this habit for all three meals of the day. This is the notion most people have about the raw food diet: a tasteless meal without the warmth and smooth textures that most cooked foods provide. If you take a closer look, it’s not just a diet of eating salads and unsavory vegetables. Yes, it requires a challenge on one’s palate, but considering the possible health benefits of eating raw foods can lead to a positive and powerful lifestyle change.

Raw Life Benefits
So what does it mean to eat raw? What are the benefits? Changing ones diet and eating habits is a gradual journey. Our palates have been programmed since childhood to feel the texture and temperature of cooked foods plus our bodies have a digestion process to get used to. The main appeal of eating raw foods is the health benefits. Raw foodists publicize that the diet improves chronic conditions, efficiency of digestion, internal body cleansing, and maximum nourishment by maintaining live enzymes in fruits and vegetables. The byproducts of the diet include increased alertness and feeling of rejuvenation, therapy of mind, body, and spirit, and promoting a cleaner planet by saving energy.

The raw diet is about intense nutrition of uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. If the food is cooked or when the food temperature reaches beyond 118 degrees (depending on the source, some state 104 degrees), enzymes die and vitamins can be depleted. Digestion relies on these lost enzymes and as a result the body expends unnecessary energy to digest the food. Because of the added energy use, people feel more lethargic and sleepy, which has been known to occur after eating a big meal. Raw foodists claim otherwise.

The Raw Pantry
Since foods are eaten raw it’s important to include organic ingredients. If some ingredients are not available in the supermarket they are most likely found in a health food store.

cashews (raw)
pine nuts
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds

black pepper, freshly milled
cinnamon, freshly ground
curry powder
nama shoyu
sea salt
ginger, freshly grated

fresh basil
fresh cilantro

apple cider vinegar
olive oil

Other Ingredients 
Almond butter
carob powder (raw)
coconut, shredded
raw honey (rich in enzymes)
maple sugar
maple syrup
water, distilled

The Raw Tools
Aside from a good chef’s knife the following are some common appliances that replace the use of a stove.

  • blenders and mixers to whip up soups, sauces, and dressing
  • coffee grinders to powder spices
  • dehydrators and dehydrator sheets used to dry vegetables and fruits. Used for preparing breads, jams, and jellies.
  • food processors to pulverize large batches of ingredients such as converting nuts into flour or vegetables into chopped-sized pieces
  • juicers for fruit smoothes and ice cream
  • molds and pans to create beautiful presentations of various shapes
  • mandoline slicer to create strands of pasta from vegetables
  • water distiller for high quality water

Raw Food Resources
Raw food is an artistic cuisine that rediscovers the intensity of natural flavors with the main focus on maximizing nutrition. It has slowly entered the culinary mainstream with the opening of restaurants, availability of cookbooks, and skilled chefs. Like any other diet, this is not for everyone. Many were initially introduced to “un-cooking” because of weight issues, chronic ailments, and other health issues. The following are some online resources with a chockfull of recipes and blogs. You’ll also find cookbooks in your local library, online bookstores, health food stores and supermarkets such as Whole Foods or Wild By Nature.

Recommended websites:

Recommended books:
RAW: The Uncook Book: New Vegetarian for Life (Regan, 1999) by Juliano Brotman and Erika Lenkert
The Complete Book of Raw Food, Second Edition: Healthy, Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine Made with Living Foods * Includes More Than 400 Recipes from the World’s Top Raw Food Chefs (Hatherleigh, 2008) by Victoria Boutenko, Juliano Brotman, Nomi Shannon, Matt Amsden, and Julie Rodwell

Luella Semmes

Your Kitchen Companion, LLC

email  | 631-830-7998


No comment

Chef Luella Semmes on The Natural Pantry from Canvas Long Island magazine

It’s a New Year—a time for resolutions, setting personal goals, and starting a clean slate. Some people start as early as December to prepare for the New Year by cleaning their homes from top to bottom, getting rid of clutter and all the messy accumulations that invaded the house throughout the year. One likely household candidate that lacks attention throughout the year is the kitchen pantry. Depending on the organization of your pantry and your frequency of cooking, items can be lost for years until they re-surface after a thorough kitchen cleaning. Let’s face it, most of us don’t adhere to a regular schedule of kitchen maintenance on top of our multitude of daily tasks.

If your New Year’s resolution is taking great care to exercise a wholesome approach to eating, now is a great time to clean out those shelves and stock up on healthy ingredients.

Here are some handy tips to keep your resolution in check:

  • Pancake syrup vs. maple syrup. Only pure maple syrup can be called Maple Syrup on the label. Pancake syrup such as Aunt Jemima and Log Cabin is made from high fructose corn syrup. The evidence is on the label.
  • Use less disposables. Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins. Buy a stainless steel cup holder to stop hoarding plastic bottles.
  • Minimize soda intake. Load up on natural juices and hydrate with water. It’s not a secret that sodas are high in sugar and caloric intake, and contribute to weight gain.
  • Stock up on organic rolled oats. It’s a healthy alternative for breakfast and a wholesome snack as a parfait with yogurt. It is also filling and a good source of fiber, keeping your hunger at a minimum throughout the day.
  • Substitute meat with quinoa. With the cost of meat on the rise, quinoa is a healthy substitute for protein that can be cooked in stews, salads, and with your favorite vegetables.
  • Make your own almond butter. Almonds have the property of lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (the good cholesterol). Spread some on whole grain toast, spoon into your salad, and add to your baked treats.
  • Set up a seasonal pantry by refreshing your staples every season from ingredients found at the farmer’s market. Remember to store seasonal sugars, spices, flours, oils, and herbs in air-tight containers that are clearly labeled with a date. Oils for marinades and vinaigrettes should be kept in their original bottles since they have a shorter shelf life.

If random inspections were to take place throughout several households, pantry items would most likely be found alarmingly beyond their expiration date. A quick way to alleviate this dilemma is by creating an open pantry with minimal depth. A pantry should generally have low light and humidity, and a cool temperature. It would be helpful to minimize the depth so ingredients are not difficult to find and there would be less chance of staying on the shelf for years to come. A helpful food list and storage life can be found on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at

Chef Luella Semmes

Your Kitchen Companion, LLC


No comment

Chef Jonathan Taube’s Top 10 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

Lots of my cooking class clients have been asking for advice about saving money at the grocery store. I hope you’ll find the following helpful, too.

Chef Jonathan’s Top 10 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store, ESPECIALLY in These Tough Times  

1. Shop Smart

Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don’t shop when you’re hungry and resist the temptation to buy foods you don’t really need. Use coupons, but only for items you were planning to buy anyway, not for new products you “just want to try.” Resist all those fancy displays, especially at the end of the aisle, and don’t buy on impulse. 

2. Don’t Buy Already Cut-up Produce

While they save you time in the kitchen, pre-cut fruits and vegetables carry a big price tag. You could be paying more than double versus whole produce. Plus many fruits and vegetables start losing nutrients, like Vitamin C, once they’re cut. 

3. Organic vs. Conventional Produce

Even though I’m generally an advocate of buying organic, consider buying conventional produce that uses very few pesticides or whose skins or outer leaves aren’t consumed. Produce with the lowest levels of pesticides include onion, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi, citrus, and bananas. 

4. Frozen vs. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Although I believe in buying fresh and buying local, when fresh produce is out of season it makes more sense, both nutritionally and financially, to buy frozen. Frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen so they often have more nutritional value than the fresh variety which has traveled a great distance and may have sat on the grocer’s shelf for quite a while. I always buy frozen peas, and frozen berries can be a huge bargain compared to fresh. 

5. Buy Whole Chicken and Cut it Up Yourself

Compare the price per pound for whole chicken, then bone-in chicken parts, then boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  You’ll find you’re paying a lot of money for the labor. Whole chicken is often on sale, and it’s really not very hard to learn to cut it up. If there are some parts that your family doesn’t prefer to eat, just freeze them until you have enough to make homemade chicken stock. It will be far superior to anything you buy canned. 

6. Buy Frozen Fish

Most fish in our markets has been previously frozen, and is required to be labeled as such. Fishing boats are out at sea for long periods of time, and are actually floating fish processing plants. Frozen fish, when handled properly, is often of superior quality to “fresh.” Why would you pay for the grocer to defrost the fish for you? Frozen, uncooked shrimp defrosts quickly and is a versatile ingredient to be used in many recipes.  

7. Canned Beans are a Huge Bargain

Good quality canned beans, such as Eden Organic No Salt Added Beans, are inexpensive and they’re a great source of protein and fiber. Use them in soups, stews, and salads where they may not be the star ingredient, but can have a great supporting role. 

8. Buy in Bulk

Always check the unit price on pantry items to be sure you’re getting the best buy whether you’re shopping at the supermarket or at warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. If the largest size item saves you money, go for it. Just make sure you’ve got enough storage space, and watch those “best before” dates on the label. If you can’t use the entire amount yourself, share with a friend. 

9. Store Brands vs. National Brands

The usual advice is to buy the store brand because it’s cheaper. That’s not always the case, so compare prices carefully. If you’ve never tried the store brand of a particular item, buy the smallest quantity you can to be sure you like it. Many store brands are so good they’re indistinguishable from national brands. Stop and Shop has introduced an upscale line of products that’s exceptionally good. 

10. Learn to Cook -  Eat at Home!

Sure rotisserie chicken is convenient, but frozen entrees and prepared supermarket foods aren’t always nutritionally sound (just think about the fat and sodium content). Take-out food can also take a big bite out of your food budget. Don’t know how to cook? Hire a Personal Chef who conducts customized in-home cooking lessons. You’ll learn a repetoire of easy, delicious menus –  plus enjoy great dining at home.

Chef Jonathan Taube

Rocky Rill Foods – A Personal Chef Service

Phone: 845-216-4535   Email:

No comment

Jennifer Urda and Jonathan Taube in Westchester Home

The Winter 2009 issue of Westchester Home magazine has an article about the “quick comeback of the slow cooker” and features recipes from Chapter President Jennifer Urda and Chapter Treasurer Jonathan.  Here’s a link to the on-line version of the article:


No comment

Chef Glenn Burgess published in Personal Chef Magazine

Long Island personal chef Glenn Burgess had two articles published in the January-March issue of Personal Chef Magazine. In “I.C.E. Cubes and the New York Metro Chapter” Chef Glenn, our Chapter’s Vice President, described his vision for an “Initiative on Culinary Education” and his hope to inspire everyone to learn more about their food.

 The same issue of Personal Chef features the three-page spread “Everything you need to know about Paprika”, which Chef Glenn wrote as a companion piece to a taste testing he presented to our Chapter members (we liked Penzey’s Hungarian Half-Sharp).

No comment

Indian-Style Butternut Squash Soup in a Flash!

There’s nothing better to warm the soul that a great bowl of soup. Yesterday, as I stared at the fabulous looking butternut squash and apples I purchased, I dreamed of all the things I could do with it. With dinner fast approaching, I needed something quick. A pressure cooker (of which I have many different kinds) is a great tool for fast, delicious soups in a hurry.

I tweaked the recipe below that I found in my endless quantities of recipes and it was a big hit with the family. (They aren’t big butternut squash fans, but I think I have some converts!). If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll need to vary the time it takes to make this recipe. (I’ve made notes in each step, where appropriate).


Chef Lia

Indian-Style Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4 to 6

2 Small Butternut or Acorn Squash, halved, seeded
1/2 Cup Water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Medium Onion, peeled, chopped
3 Celery Ribs, peeled, chopped
3 Small Carrots, peeled, chopped
1 Tablespoon Mild Curry Paste (Indian-Curry style) – (to 1 1/2)
2 Cups Chicken Stock – (to 3)
2 Tart Apples, Like Granny Smith, sliced
Oil, as needed
Butter, as needed
Plain Yogurt, for serving

1. Place trivet in bottom of 5-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add squash and water. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, place the squash in a large dutch oven with the same amount of water).

2. Close lid and bring pressure to second red ring (15 pounds pressure) over high heat. Adjust heat to stabilize pressure at second red ring. Cook for 10 minutes. (Alternative: bring to boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for about 1 hour or until soft).

3. Remove from heat and use Natural Release Method. (Alternative: Remove squash from dutch oven and set aside to cool).

4. When squash is cool, scoop it from its skin with a spoon.

5. While squash is cooling, saute apple slices in butter until carmelized.

6. Remove liquid from pressure cooker (or dutch oven) and saute the onion, celery and carrots in a small amount of oil, until soft but not brown.

7. Add the curry paste (use your taste here…), squash, carmelized apples, and stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

8. Close lid and bring pressure to first red ring (8 pounds pressure) over high heat. Adjust heat to stabilize pressure at first red ring. Cook for 10 minutes. (Alternative: bring soup to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes).

9. Remove from heat and use Natural Release Method. (Alternative: remove dutch oven from heat and cool slightly).

10. Puree the soup in the pressure cooker (or dutch oven) using a hand blender. Add additional stock if a thinner consistency is desired. (If you don’t own a hand blender, use your regular blender and blend in batches. Be sure to not cover the blender completely and use a towel over it to avoid a massive mess).

11. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If you’re like me and love indian food, you can add some curry powder and ground cumin for additional pizzaz!). Top individual soup portions with a tablespoon of yogurt and serve.

NOTE: Leftovers reheat wonderfully. You can freeze for up to a month or keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

No comment

NY Metro Personal Chefs Celebrate 5 Years – A Big Thank You to our Clients!

It wasn’t long ago, back in 2004, when I first met this wonderful group of personal chefs that are now the leading group of personal chefs serving the NY Metro area. We’ve grown to over 20 members since and are still growing as the Personal Chef industry gains a serious foot-hold in the NY, Northern NJ, Westchester and Long Island areas.

For those of you who have utilized the services of one of our personal chef members, we thank you for your patronage and continuing support of the personal chef industry!  People like you understand that personal chefs aren’t only for the wealthy or celebrities.  For the last 5 years we been asked serve you and your guests at parties, prepare your weekly meals and teach you how to cook better.  We’ve even addressed your diet issues so that you can enjoy a healthier lifestyle, or we’ve consulted with you on a variety of food-related and cooking topics.

If you enjoyed the services provided by your NY Metro Personal Chef, don’t forget to tell them.  And, don’t keep us a secret!  Tell everyone you know -  your friends, family and co-workers -  all about the wonderful experiences you’ve had that can only be delivered by a professional NY Metro Personal Chef.  We will be glad you did and will serve them our best!

We wish all our clients a successful, healthy and delicious 2009!

No comment

Blood Orange Granita

Winter can be a tough time for fruit lovers like me. I love simple desserts made with fresh fruits. In North America, most fruits are non-existent, or shipped in from the southern hemisphere and taste like cardboard, since they’ve been picked far from ripe and shipped in a dark boxcar for weeks. (And you know how much we hate that!) So we must rely on tropical fruits or citrus that comes to us from more temperate climates like Florida and the Mediterranean.

One of my favorite fruits of winter is the blood orange. Native to Sicily and Spain, the blood orange is unique among citrus fruits for its intense deep red coloring, in some cases as deep and dark as blood. Like other citrus fruits, the blood orange is high in vitamin C. But what makes it unique is its high concentration of anthocyanin, an antioxidant which is believed to reduce the risks associated with many ailments, including age-related illnesses. Blood oranges diminish the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and “bad” cholesterol build-up. They may also reduce the risk of cataracts, and aid in the body’s healing process. [wikipedia]

While in Sicily last Spring, I got to taste many fresh blood oranges in the markets of Palermo and in the countryside near the slopes of Mt. Etna, whose rich volcanic soil aids in the growing of the blood orange. There are three varieties of blood oranges, the Tarocco (a “half-blood” variety), the Moro, and the Sanguinello (both “full-blood” varieties). The Tarocco and Moro are native to Italy, while the Sanguinello originated in Spain. All three are grown and highly prized in Sicily.

So while I enjoyed the blood oranges of Sicily greatly, I didn’t expect to be able to enjoy the juice so readily here in the US. Well, recently, I received a package with samples of a new juice available here in the New York area from I.O. Italian Organics. I.O. is a blend of all 3 major varieties of blood orange, and it’s certified organic. Curious, I drank a bit (chilled, of course), and found it to be nearly as flavorful as the freshly pressed blood orange juice I sampled in Sicily. Sadly, it didn’t have quite the same punch of freshness that you’d get from a just-pressed orange, but it does have the sharp tartness and wonderful bitterness that hits the back of the throat.

So to really test this product, I decided to make a simple recipe, a blood orange granita. I love to have sorbets and granitas as an intermezzo between courses at a long dinner, or as a simple weeknight dessert. Cold desserts have to start with an intensely flavorful base, since the cold dampens the taste buds and makes it harder to taste the subtleties. So what better way to see just what kind of punch this juice would pack?

The recipe is quite simple:

Blood Orange Granita

3 cups blood orange juice

1/4 cup simple syrup:

(2 parts sugar to 1 part water, heated to boiling, then cooled)

splash of lemon juice (optional)

grind of black pepper (optional)

Mix the simple syrup into the juice until it tastes sweet enough to you. You want it to be too sweet to drink, but not so sweet that you won’t taste the distinctive tartness of the blood orange. You may not have to use all the simple syrup. If the juice is not very tart, you can add a splash of lemon juice, or a grind of black pepper to bring out the flavors.

Pour the mixture into a wide flat metal or glass dish. You want to have as much surface area as possible to help it to freeze quickly. Place flat in the freezer for a while, then scrape with a fork to break up the ice crystals and return to the freezer and repeat until the mixture is totally frozen and granular. I prefer to serve it very granular, with “chunks” of crystals. If you prefer, you can run it through a blender, then freeze again, if you want it to have more of a sorbet consistency.

I.O.’s juice did not disappoint. I found it to be very flavorful, very tart, and with a distinctive sharpness, that served as a perfect dessert for our New Year’s Day meal of Sausage and Mussels (see our recent video shot in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with Chef Rick Ogilvie.) Try this yourself at home, but do try to get real blood orange juice, whether you find them fresh and juice them yourself, or from a quality bottled juice.

-Chef Mark

1 Comment

Notes on Kobe Beef

I got an email right after Christmas from my friend CC Chapman, a social media guru you really need to be following if you’re at all interested in the New Media space. If you read my Remarkably Mark blog, you will remember a VIDEO I posted tasting Magnolia Cupcakes with CC. He had a request for help with cooking tips:

So my business partner sure does know me well. he was extremely disappointed when he found out I had never had Kobe beef, so for Christmas he gave me 4 Kobe Filets.

Curious what is a good way to cook them. I’ve actually never cooked a Filet before if you can believe that.

After swallowing my envy at CC’s bounty, I typed out a response, and figured that it would make a good article for our dear readers.

Firstly, I should note that while there is no official governmental regulation governing naming of Kobe Style beef (as there is for Champagne, Parmigiano Reggiano, and other recognized heritage foods), it’s still important to discuss naming. Kobe is an area of Japan, in the Kansai region in the Western part of the main island of Honshu. Kobe is a port city, and is known worldwide for its beef. What we know as Kobe Beef usually refers to the style raising of the Wagyu breed of cattle. Kobe is legendary for the pampering given to the cows, from drinking beer or sake, to frequent massaging of the cows during their weeks of “finishing”, to assure for ample marbling of fat amidst the muscle. Much of what people know about this comes from run-away marketing. While these cows are well fed, the image of Geisha girls in full dress gently massaging cows as they sip warmed sake on a tatami mat is just not the reality.

Here in the US, much of what is marketed as Kobe beef really should be called Kobe-style or American Kobe or American Wagyu. Most American producers have cross bred the Wagyu with Angus or other breeds that can do better in the North American climate, so look for labeling that is open and clear about the provenance. Better to support a producer who is clear about what they are selling than to buy from a seller of questionable ethics trying to pass off their meat as raised in Japan.

One such honest seller is Oliver Ranch. We’ll have both audio podcasts and a video podcast soon with Carrie Oliver from Oliver Ranch in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can check out the tasting notes for their Wet-Aged Wagyu-Angus Cross Filet Mignon on their website. Note that they’re not selling it simply as “Kobe Beef”.

An any case, the main characteristic both American Wagyu producers and producers in Kobe are going for is the extreme marbling of fat. In Japan, the beef is graded on a scale of 1-12 to signify the degree and quality of intramuscular marbling. Those on the higher end of the scale look so pale pink as to be nearly white, there is so much tasty fat interspersed among the flesh.

It’s most likely that the Kobe style steaks CC has, or that you and I would find readily available, are on the 4-7 end of the Japanese scale, which would be just slightly better than “Prime”. Beef graded higher than that is likely to be too fatty for most Americans to enjoy in large quantities (and in Japan, these super high end cuts are used in small quantities for special dishes).

One of the ways that alot of restaurants serve Kobe Style beef lately is to slice it thin and sizzle it up on hot river stones. I’m betting that most of you don’t have river rocks laying around suitable for grilling on, but you can use the same idea and grill it.

The thing about Kobe Style beef is that in order to be enjoyed, you have to “activate it”. Just serving it rare, you won’t get the fat to start rendering, and it will just seem like a fatty cut of meat. You won’t get the tenderness that is so special about a Kobe. At the same time, you don’t want to simply melt the fat, or you will end up with a very expensive piece of normal steak, and lots of fat in the pan. The fat should remain sort of solid. Think fried ice cream or Baked Alaska. The outside should be hot and the inside just on the verge of melting, but not melted.

For a Filet Mignon cut, I would let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before cooking. You never want to have it cold, as this will exacerbate the fat not activating.

When you’re ready to grill, preheat your oven to 350 F and get a grill pan nice and hot on the stovetop without any oil in it. You don’t want it to smoke up the place before you start cooking, and it should take a few minutes at high heat to get going. Lightly sprinkle your steaks with kosher or sea salt. I also like to crack peppercorns with the back of a pan, and also sometimes some lightly ground coriander seeds. (Crush the coriander seeds, and roll around in a cloth towel for a bit to remove the husks)

Press the steaks into the pepper and coriander mixture, and then very lightly drizzle with olive oil. The best way to get any steaks brown is to also use some butter, so I put a pat of butter in the pan just 1 second before the steak. Any sooner and the hot pan will send the butter burning immediately. I drop the butter in and plop the steak right on top.

Since your pan is hot, you’ll immediately get some caramelization going, and you’ll start that amazing Kobe Fat softening. Don’t disturb it until you’ve got a nice brown crust on the bottom, 2-3 minutes, then turn over. Once they’re seared and brown on all sides, place in the preheated oven until you’ve reached desired doneness. For Kobe style, I’d say medium rare. Not bloody, since again, you’ll want that fat activated, and not medium, because that will overcook it and you’ll miss the whole point of this amazingly fatty meat.

Remove from the oven and let it rest under foil for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute, and the carryover cooking time to keep working that sweet kobe fat. Serve and enjoy!

(By the way, CC, I’m so jealous of you right now…)

-Chef Mark

No comment

ReMARKable Palate Nominated for Podcast Award!


I’m very honored that ReMARKable Palate has been nominated for a Podcast People’s Choice Award for the second year in a row!

Over 281,000 individuals nominated a total of 1,874 podcasts for 22 categories in the 2008 People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Out of those nominated, only 10 podcasts for each category make it to the actual voting round. With 22 categories, this means that of the 1,874 podcasts nominated, only 220 are eligible for this year’s 15 day voting period.

This award has a special process, you actually get to vote once each day during the 15 day voting period, from October 23rd through November 6th.

We are nominated with a number of shows that have HUGE and loyal followers, so we’ll ask you to be equally huge and loyal, and commit to voting once per day during the two week period.

And while you’re there, show some support for our friends nominated podcasts: Grammar Girl, Tips From the Top Floor, The Rest of Everest, Ramble Redhead, Chillcast with Anji Bee, as well as The Full Time Mom, Podcast Answer Man, and 4 other podcasts produced by our friends Cliff and Stephanie at GSPN. Congratulations!

No comment

Chef Luella Semmes “Cooking in the Moment” for Canvas LI

Spending a weekend morning at a local farmer’s market is a visit I always look forward to. It’s not just a chore to buy the week’s groceries, but it’s an ongoing learning experience and social connection with farmers, food vendors, avid cooks, and neighborhood families. Each week always brings some element of surprise, whether it’s finding a vegetable that I’ve never eaten before, sampling a variety of pickles, smelling different herbs, or exchanging recipes. It never fails. I come home with an overflowing bounty of vegetables, homemade baked-goods, and other ingredients that weren’t on my original shopping list. Maybe it was a certain variety of a vegetable I’ve never tried before, or it could have just looked so fresh and delicious sitting there on the farm stand. In any event, now I’ve cornered myself into figuring out what to do with these extra groceries.

For frequent visitors of farmer’s markets or CSA members, the availability of wonderful vegetables is continuous but individuals may find themselves ill-equipped with recipes for the “unknown.” Even if it’s not in the “unknown” category, it may be an ingredient that is not used frequently in one’s weekly diet. So instead of adding these vegetables to a mystery stew where it would briefly surface, why not try to highlight the flavor of the vegetable or herb by cooking it on its own or with very few condiments. Don’t feel like you have to create an elaborate concoction. Let the fresh goodness of the vegetable come out with few ingredients and use the cooking method to heighten the flavor.

Now that summer is winding down, bringing in the fall produce, here is just a list of common items that you might find at your local farm stand or CSA share. This selection seems to be a rarity on most tables because of its odd appearance, variety, or unique taste; but it’s very much part of the season’s harvest of the northeastern region. The idea is to become more familiar with the flavor and texture of these vegetables, then apply it to cooking techniques and recipes that you are familiar. You’ll find that an elaborate recipe is not a necessity.

 To view this article

 Chef Luella Semmes is the feature writer for Canvas Long Island.

No comment

USPCA Excellence in Business Awards

The USPCA would like to congratulate all of our Excellence in Business Award winners for all of their hard work and dedication to their business and to the personal chef industry. We would also like to thank the chefs that gave back to their local communities and helped their fellow personal chefs.

The 2008 Excellence in Business Award winners are:

Chef of the Year
Wendy Gauthier

Chapter of the Year
Rocky Mountain Chapter

Community Service for a Chapter
Greater Philadelphia Chapter

Individual Community Service
Rachael Perron

Marketer of the Year
Mark Tafoya

Website of the Year
Sally Cameron –

Best Recipe of the Year
Leah Peachey – Baked Crusted Haddock

Congratulations to NY Metro Chef member Mark Tafoya on winning Marketer of the Year for the 2nd time!

No comment

Interactive Cooking Classes are a Good Thing

We’ve already told you the many reasons to hire a personal chef and cooking lessons is one of these reasons. Interactive cooking classes have been growing in popularity. Hosting a hands-on cooking class as entertainment in your own home is a “good thing” for a bridal party according to Martha Stewart and her bloggers! See the blog at Martha Stewart Weddings

Interactive cooking classes in your own kitchen conducted by one of our trained chefs is perfect for any occasion and makes a great gift that is unique and very thoughtful!

Happy cooking,

Chef Lia Soscia, CPC

No comment

Chef Luella Semmes Featured in Long Island news

Dinner Dilemmas Solved by a Personal Chef

When I lived in Southern California as an analyst, I worked long days that started before the opening bell of the New York stock exchange (which translates into 6 a.m.). At the end of the day, as I stepped into my apartment door, the last thing I wanted to do was think about what I wanted to eat—or even worse, start cooking. So after going through a list of the main food groups in my head, it usually concluded with throwing a batch of pasta in boiling water and pouring on some tomato sauce from a jar. On better days maybe I would dig into the depths of my refrigerator to find leftover mushrooms and basil that weren’t scarred from old age. It’s a miracle that I was able to survive with this meal plan for quite some time.

After years of juggling a busy corporate schedule and evening dinner dilemmas, I eventually developed the passion to cook. I left my comfort zone and secure finance job in L.A. and moved to New York to attend the Institute of Culinary Education. After a few years of trying to figure out how to marry my enthusiasm for cooking and desire to work with my community, I stumbled onto an ad for the USPCA (U.S. Personal Chef Association), which taught me two valuable things: How I can provide excellent personal chef service and how to start and run a business. I opened Your Kitchen Companion Personal Chef Service ( and am working for people with varying backgrounds, including new mothers, retirees, working professionals, and families.

The entire article can be found in the following link:

No comment

James Beard Foundation announces 2008 James Beard Awards

Considered by many to be the “Oscars” of the food industry, the James Beard Awards were announced last night in a ceremony held at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall:

Joe Bastianich/Mario Batali
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, NYC

Grant Achatz
Alinea, Chicago

Gramercy Tavern, NYC
Owner: Danny Meyer


Central Michel Richard, Washington, DC
Chef/Owner: Michel Richard

Gavin Kaysen
Café Boulud, NYC


Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

Eleven Madison Park, NYC
Wine Director: John Ragan

Terry Theise
Terry Theise Estate Selections, Silver Spring, MD


Terra, St. Helena, CA
Owners: Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani


Craig Stoll
Delfina, San Franciso

Eric Ziebold
CityZen, Washington, DC

Adam Siegel
Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, Milwaukee

Carrie Nahabedian
Naha, Chicago

David Chang
Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Patrick Connolly
Radius, Boston

Holly Smith
Café Juanita, Kirkland, WA

Robert Stehling
Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC

Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO

(AL, AR, FL, LA, MS)
Michelle Bernstein
Michy’s, Miami

No comment