Whilst we’ve eagerly anticipated the reopening of our favourite restaurants, bookings are hard to come by, and some of us are still trepidatious about returning to crowded public spaces. Furthermore, throughout the past year, we’ve come to love our homes and personal spaces and have broadened our views as to their capacity.
Enter the private dinner party and/or personal chef. Once limited by chef selection, geographical location, or perhaps requiring a certain level of commitment, the pandemic has put much of these restrictions aside and made entertaining at home more accessible. Clare Isaacs, creator of Meatopia and Wilderness Festival, identified a need – for both chefs and patrons – to be able to bring the magic of fine dining and a restaurant experience into the home.
In lieu of planning the festivals for which she’s become known, Clare instigated Sprout At Home to support chefs and restaurants that lockdown restrictions have hard hit by enabling them to continue to cook – in turn supporting each of us who might be desperately craving the restaurant experiences we’ve so sorely missed. ‘Sprout has been curating and producing food-led events and festivals for a decade. The close working relationship I’ve had with so many chefs over the years means that I can ensure the smooth running of these very bespoke private events,’ she says.
Clare’s roster of chefs includes James Lowe of Lyle’s, Selin Kiazim of Oklava, Damian Clisby of Petersham Nurseries, Nuno Mendes and more. Dinners can be booked throughout the UK for groups of 2-16 guests. Styles of the meals can include anything from vegan to live fire to Michelin-starred tasting menus to sharing feasts and can be enjoyed for either lunch or dinner. Unlike other services, wherein an acclaimed chef may develop a menu, with Sprout, the chefs themselves come to cook in your home.
Whilst available for a simple meal for two (weekly and ongoing options are available as well), Clare’s industry expertise and little black book of the hospitality industry enables planning of a truly exceptional gathering. Going beyond the meal itself, Sprout can oversee the entire event – curating and planning everything from staff to drinks to flowers and more. Of designing a memorable summer evening, Clare shared her ideas of which elements are necessary to make it absolutely perfect.
‘If it is a special occasion, I like to offer a drinks pairing with the menu and provide a sommelier or barman to make cocktails on arrival for all of the guests, then match each course with a different drink. For a recent event, this included: a Yellow Parrot, a cocktail consisting of absinthe, yellow Chartreuse and apricot liqueur; a beautifully clean biodynamic Chardonnay from Burgundy; a minerally, gentle red from Galicia; a dessert wine from the Rhone with a hint of menthol and spice; and a sparkling Perry, served with the final course – a goats cheese. It’s really fun to introduce all of these drinks as the food is served. If the guests are interested, we can arrange a tasting or cocktail-making session before dinner.’
To truly recreate the restaurant experience, additional staff is recommended as well. ‘I’d make sure to bring two staff members along with the chef, a sous chef to help in the kitchen and a waiter to serve. If we have a team of three, then the head chef can make time to introduce each dish at the table and chat with the guests throughout. Also, I’d bring a fantastic florist to dress the table and would provide linens too to complete the picture.’
We aren’t suggesting private dining or hiring a personal chef replaces the singular experience of dining in a restaurant; it’s simply a welcome addition to the roster of options and a great way to alleviate the cooking fatigue that has crept in amongst many of us over the past year. And regardless of where restrictions may lie, what travel guidelines will or will not allow, and social distancing may or may not permit, the magic of a summer dinner party in the garden is something that we can rely on.
For more info on We Are Sprout, or to make a booking for a private dinner, please contact your lifestyle manager.