Christmas in Provence, cooked by a private chef!

My family and I decided to spend Christmas 2013 in L’Avinia, A La Carte’s rental property near Uzès in Provence.

2011-04-05 13.06.55Clockwise: My wife Carole, myself, brother Leo, brother Mark, niece Nina and Mum.
2011-04-04 12.31.35Carole and Nina finishing a puzzle by the warmth of the log fire

This was our first Christmas in Provence so we weren’t sure what to expect, other than some welcome blue skies and sunshine (there are 300 sunny days per year in Provence, so that stats are favorable!).

Noel1000The town of Uzès was very lively and animated, including a traditional Christmas market, with stalls replete with local creations and produce.


2011-04-03 15.12.53On the 23rd December, the main square of Place aux Herbes was transformed into a huge play-area, with litterally dozens of games and puzzles made to appeal to both kids and their parents alike. Each game was fashioned by hand out of wood – it felt like stepping back a century in time – and the creativity and imagination apparent in the game designs was amazing!

For Christmas 2013 however, our true savior was a local Frenchman called Jérôme.

Jérôme Jolivet (Les Saveurs de Jérôme), is a private chef based in Uzès. I found Jérôme via a random Internet search, and I’m so glad I did. What a gem!

2011-04-05 12.59.02Previous years, Mum would often worry about what to prepare and cook for Christmas lunch (we do an English-style 25th Dec lunch rather than the French-style 24th Dec dinner), and then spend hours in the kitchen getting tired, stressed and missing time with family.

This time, Jérôme did all the planning, all the shopping, all the preparing, the cooking, the serving and even all the cleaning up afterwards! Always with enthusiasm and a warm smile.

The menu Jérôme prepared us:
– Quinoa au saumon fumé et mousse d’amandes.
– Suprême de Chapon, morilles et vin jaune. Accompagné de son flan de légumes aux girolles.
– Mini bûches traditionnelles.
 

2011-04-05 13.22.51What an explosion of taste! Everything was so subtly combined, skillfully cooked and beautifully presented. My family and I were absolutely delighted by Jérôme and his delicacies.

In addition to the finesse of the food, it felt special to have a private chef cooking for us at home and really added to the sense of occasion.

2011-04-05 13.24.09

The experience was surprisingly afforable too, so we will certainly be including Jérôme’s coordinates in our House Guidebook of local recommendations, so that our rental guests can enjoy the same quintessentially French experience.

Nina, my 9 year old niece, wasn’t so impressed.

usine2Nina definitely preferred the visit of the Uzès-based Haribo sweet factory and museum, which includes lots of free sweets and an obligatory passage through the museum shop in which one finds all sorts of rare and obscure Haribo sweets that are not usually sold in France. Mind you, the whole family rather enjoyed that visit – not just 9-year-old Nina!

Moving forwards, I wish you a very happy and healthy year new year. May 2014 be a Grande Année for you and your loved ones.

I’m curious: Have you ever tried having a private chef cook for you? If so, in what part of the world?

Do you like the idea? Would you be interested in having a private chef cook for you during your vacation?

Best wishes,
Alex

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Nancy Hemmig says:

    This sounds like a perfect holiday with family. Thank you for sharing

  2. Vicki says:

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing! Happy new year!

  3. Gail schwarz says:

    Great family photos and what a good idea to have Christmas dinner catered for by such a charming chef

  4. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed your account of your Christmas Stay in Provence. Yes, You were so lucky to get Jerome as the resident Chef. Happy 2014 (pat O Mahony, Cork, Ireland)

  5. Mindy H. says:

    We stayed in Uzes and loved it! It was wonderful to stay right in town with gorgeous views of the tower. We also loved being steps away from the square with all our needs met within walking distance, and feeling like we live there. I hope you will open an apartment right in town.

    In answer to your question about a personal chef, we would prefer a good local cook to a fancy chef. You get a feel for a typical meal of the region and maybe save a little money paying a good cook rather than a chef. We did this in Italy and loved it!

  6. Mary says:

    Oh, to be able to afford to bring our family over to Provence for Christmas! My husband and I rented an apartment near the square in Uzes a few years ago and loved it, so it was nice to revisit .

  7. Sharron says:

    We have tried a private chef on several occasions to cook for our family and friends in Australia. Perfect for dinner parties takes the stress out of entertaining and frees your time up to spend with your loved ones.

  8. Marian says:

    We have hired a private chef to cook for dinner parties several times. It takes the stress out of entertaining and the food has always been beyond tasty.

  9. John Hartigan says:

    Private chefs at your own home are one thing (and we have tried it) but when on holidyas in another country it is wonderful to have someone do this for you – we had this experience some years back at a luxury resort on an island in Indonesia where we did not have our own cooking facilities – the chef brought his own barbecue and made a delicious local dinner. A friend has just returned from a family holiday in Thailand where the rental of a villa included a resident chef and he said that it was fantastic.

  10. Lyn says:

    I have never done this but it sounds wonderful.

  11. Yvonne Jagiello says:

    Thankyou for the lovely account of your special Christmas. We were lucky enough to spend all of September in France – including Provence. Should any of your readers visit our tiny little island “Tasmania” in Australia and be near Somerset or Burnie we have a fabulous local chef Peter Franks who offers the same service as Jerome. His main inspiration is Julia Child – and French Cooking. He often cooks for us in our home and it is a wonderful experience. He also sometimes operates as “Franques” from a local restaurant in Burnie. See his facebook page “Franks Catering”

    1. Peter Franks (Franks Catering) says:

      Thanks Yvonne for your wonderful recommendation. I love to offer guests a standard that takes full advantage of the renowned quality of food from our island, Tasmania. Like you mention, part of Australia, so a first world economy, yet an island with the most bountiful and highest quality seafood, meat, vegetables and fruit (especially berries, eh?). It truly is as good as it gets!

  12. Fred Walter says:

    Looks fun, great and beautiful!! What more would one want……
    Might do it soooon!!! Fred

  13. I did exactly what you did in planning a family trip to Ireland for 10 people a few years ago. From the US, I made arrangements over the internet for private chefs at the two places we stayed: the Nile Lodge House in Galway and the Silver Birch House in Glengarriff (both highly recommended). I also made arrangements for private minibuses with guides to take us on a few excursions, as well as a couple of private walking tours.

    Side note: when we stayed at one of the gorgeous A La Carte apartments in Marais over Christmas in 2010, we went on a walking tour with Meg Zimbeck who was about to start her “Paris by Mouth” blog. What a special tour she gave us of food shops in Paris, and we recently saw she garnered some much deserved attention in the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2013/07/31/dining/20130731-SHERPA.html?_r=0

    Back to Ireland – both the chefs, minibuses and walks worked out wonderfully well. If you’re staying at a beautiful home such as L’Avinia, it’s a treat to eat in and so much more enjoyable and relaxing. As you note, it’s surprisingly affordable when you’re talking about a group of 10. You get a much better result, and you’ve eliminated the stress of shepherding a large group to a restaurant every night or doing it yourself.

    Whenever we travel for an extended stay anywhere, I always investigate the availability of private chefs, but it’s always been a pretty difficult, hit-or-miss undertaking. I think sites like http://www.kitchensurfing.com/boston might be onto something.

  14. Maria Speerin says:

    We hired a private chef in our home for gatherings when we lived in Cobham, Surrey, England for a year. She was a young woman, who had just completed her culinary schooling with Cordon Bleu. She was magnificent and offered her services to English skiers holidaying in Switzerland. It was such a thrill to follow her on all her trips to the local markets for fresh ingredients and peace of mind when entertaining guests and family. Take the opportunity if you can when vacationing. Thank you for your article! Was just wondering where to spend our next Christmas! You have inspired me!
    M.Speerin

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