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Garbo’s Personal Chef Service

Healthy Meals for Busy People!

Specializing in Weekly Home Prepared Meals

KGO News Radio Interviews Chef Garbo

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KGO News Radio, a local San Francisco News talk radio station, recently interviewed me to learn more about a Personal Chef Service and how it works. Frequently the terms Personal and Private Chef are used interchangeably and KGO Radio wanted to know the difference.According to the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA) there is a distinction. In fact, the USPCA invented the Personal Chef Industry way back in the early 1990’s. Back then, the term Personal Chef was not a part of our vernacular, but today, with our busy lifestyles, hiring a Personal Chef makes life easier and healthier.


San Francisco Personal Chef Garbo Gets Press in Contra Costa Times

May 27, 2011


San Francisco Personal Chef Garbo Featured in Lamorinda Sun

Chef Garbo was recently written up by Contra Costa Times Reporter Ms. Lou Fancher. The article was entitled “Food that’s Strictly Personal Not Private… Orinda’s ‘Chef Garbo’ transitions from marketing career to making healthy meals for folks on the go”. Read all about it in the Contra Costa Times online.

San Francisco Personal Chef Garbo featured on Thumbtack May 7, 2011

Chef Garbo, a highly sought after Personal Chef in San Francisco, is now featured on Thumbtack. Support local business entrepreneurs at Thumbtack… a great resource for a multitude of services in San Francisco.  Read more about Garbo’s Personal Chef Service in SF on Thumbtack!

San Francisco Personal Chef Garbo –  European Food Tour –  Part I Florence

Article Part I Florence

Chef Garbo’s European Food Tour: Part 1 Florence

Full Story: Chef Garbo’s “European Food Tour: Part I Florence. Personal Chef Magazine: April/June 2010 – By Personal Chef Garbo

Chef Garbo Overlooking the River Arno

It’s Chef Garbo here reporting on a recent “Food Tour” of Florence and Paris with my good friend Renee Coker. This was my first holiday in years without family on a “girls get-away” and I can highly recommend Renee as an excellent traveling companion. During the first two days we experienced a few bumps in the road with jet-lag and all but we got through it quickly and had the time of our lives!

Florence is a wonderful blur of bright winter days, old streets, busy markets, stunning art and fabulous food. Arguably, Florence is the home of the greatest regional cooking in all of Italy. Florence is steeped in rich regional cuisine and is the birthplace of much of our classic Western cooking. Florentines pride themselves on their local cuisine and will be the first to say that it was Catherine de Medici in the 16th century who taught the French how to cook. As the story goes, when she married the Duke of Orleans she took her Tuscan team of Chefs with her. The Duke of Orleans later became King Henry II of France.

True or not, Florence is a gold mine when it comes to hungry travelers seeking great local food especially if one dines off the beaten path. And like most visitors to Florence, we did a lot of walking but my friend Renee, a savvy world traveler, recommended that we enjoy our richest meals at mid-day and eat lightly at night. With that in mind, we sought out a wonderful array of lunchtime spots. If you can find a restaurant that looks jammed with locals I guarantee you will be richly rewarded.

As is the case with most of Italy, it’s desirable to order dishes that are indigenous to the region as this ensures that you will be dining on the freshest ingredients available. Tuscan cuisine and Florentine in particular, has its roots in peasant traditions and continues that way today where the use of basic ingredients and simple cooking methods are the norm. The end result is wonderful.

Florence Beef 1

Bistecca All Fiorentina

Florence is famous for its Chianina beef (bistecca alla Fiorentina) which is considered the oldest breed of steer in the world dating back to the Etruscans. In the states this cut is more commonly known as the Porterhouse or the T-Bone but what makes the Florentine steak different is that it is cut from an area closer to the center of the steer so it includes the tenderloin section. One of my favorite meals in Florence was thinly sliced Chianina steak with shaved parmesan and toasted peppercorns served at the Cantinetta Antinori.  This family run establishment is located on the ground floor of the ancient Marquises Antinori family palace, designed by Giuliano da Maiano in 1461. The Antinori family is famous for their family owned wine empire and has been producing wine for 26 generations! The best part is that most ingredients in the restaurant come fresh from the Antinori farms near by.

The soups and minestre (hearty soups) that keep you warm in the winter are well worth trying while in Florence. They too have peasant origins. At Cantinetta Antinori I enjoyed a delicious, simple and hearty purée of which really hit the spot especially since I was about to walk once more along the River Arno in the deep of winter!

Other Florentine specialties to look out for are crostini (a smaller variety of bruschetta topped with pâté or diced tomatoes), and pappardelle with wild boar sauce. I enjoyed these two dishes at Ristorante La Giostra. The proprietor of this establishment is quite a character with a left arm that is loaded with silver bangles! His cuisine attracts a wide array of celebrities because it is well known in Florence that La Giostra, which means “carousel” in Italian, is owned and run by Prince Dimitri Kunz d’Asburgo Lorena and his twin sons, all of whom are Hapsburg princes and the cuisine is authentically Tuscan with Austrian influences.

If you have a sweet tooth, try to get your hands on a slice of biscotti or a Florentine cookie which can be found at many of Florence’s pastry shops year round. I had the great pleasure of enjoying a cappuccino every morning at Café Gilli right across the street from the Savoy Hotel where we stayed. This elegant café has a pristine, turn-of-the-century interior complete with Murano glass chandeliers, frescoed ceilings, marble table tops and a sprawling terrace that over looks the Piazza Repubblica. Café Gilli has 250 years of history and continues today in the same tradition of pastry making methods that it has been using since 1733. Its fascination with locals and tourist alike make it an enduring destination café for both pastries and fine dining. I can tell you first hand that its coffee and pastries are excellent, which I greatly appreciated, especially on cold winter days. And of course there are gelato shops on every corner. Since I was traveling in January I passed on the gelato opportunity and chose to eat with my eyes and photographed all the beautiful window displays instead.

Now I’m dreaming of the next opportunity I’ll have to eat my way through Florence. In the meantime, I guess my abundant array of food photos will have to suffice!

That’s all I have to report for now. Stay tuned for Part II of this “Food Tour” series which will cover haute cuisine in the heart of Paris!

Garbo’s Stealth Dining Packages for Valentine’s Day

"Stealth Dining" for Small Dinner Parties

“Stealth Dining” for Small Dinner Parties

Full Story: Garbo’s “Stealth Dining” Packages for Small Dinner Parties Personal Chef Magazine: January/March 2010 – By Personal Chef Garbo

Gluten Free Valentine Cookies

Gluten Free Valentine Cookies

Every year, I like to promote my Valentine’s Day “stealth dining” dinner party package. Who doesn’t love to host a fabulous dinner party without all the fuss? The concept behind “stealth dining” is that as a Personal Chef I do all the prep work and my clients take all the credit!

In addition to offering a small dinner party service, the “stealth dining” package also makes a great Gift Certificate idea. A newsletter via Constant Contact is my preferred marketing method of communicating this service to my clients and prospects.

To help my clients pull off the Valentine’s dinner party seamlessly, a proposed menu plan is presented for their approval.  Then the dinner menu is prepared in their kitchen, in advance, on the day of the event so everything is fresh serve. My clients also receive a photo of each course that includes heating and plating instructions so everything will be beautifully presented.

Sample “Stealth Dining” Valentine’s Day Dinner Party Menu

Minted Shrimp and Pea Salad with Dijon Wine Dressing

Lamb Shank with Blackberry Wine Sauce on a Bed of Mashed Potatoes

Heart Shaped Valentine Cookies

Chocolate Martini

Lamb Shank with Black Berry Wine Sauce - Gluten Free

Lamb Shank with Black Berry Wine Sauce – Gluten Free

The favorite dish among my clients is by far and away the Minted Shrimp and Pea Salad with Dijon Wine Dressing. San Franciscans are a very discriminating bunch when it comes to a fine dining experience and the Minted Pea Salad is always a hit because it’s an unusual and elegant mix of flavors.

The bottom line in this challenging economy is to provide an affordable service. Chef Garbo’s “stealth dining” for Valentine’s Day is indeed a cost effective alternative as my clients get the fancy restaurant look, feel and taste without the fancy restaurant expense!

San Francisco Personal Chef Garbo: Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest

Garbo's Family Tradition:  Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest

Garbo’s Family Tradition: Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest

Full Story: Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest is Family Tradition – Personal Chef Magazine: October/December 2009 – By Personal Chef Garbo

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies

The Holiday Season is here and the warmest gift with the biggest impact has got to be the classic Holiday cookie tin filled with hand made Christmas cookies! The recipes you use may be sentimental favorites, dripping with icing and sprinkles, or more sophisticated, but whatever the cookie, a festive tin of freshly baked treats makes a tasty and thoughtful present, in keeping with the spirit of the season.

If you’re the sane type who dusts a sugar cookie with sprinkles and calls it a day, you can stop reading right now. If, on the other hand, you are a crazy person like me who decides that elaborately decorated cookies are an essential part of the holiday experience – the kind of baker who reserves an entire weekend for baking and decorating into the wee hours of the night with tweezers in hand, placing silver dragees on the snowflake cookie, then read on.

Gluten Free Stained Glass Red Star Christmas Cookie

Gluten Free Stained Glass Red Star Christmas Cookie

About 6 years ago I started a new tradition with my family. I create festive Christmas cookies to give as gifts because they’re such an artistic personal gesture and folks really admire them, especially my clients. More importantly, the cookies can be hung on the tree as ornaments. How fun is that? Each Christmas Eve after a sumptuous dinner of Beef Wellington and Garbo’s hand made Raviolis (passed down by my Grandfather) my family prepares the dining room table for the annual “Christmas Cookie Decorating Contest”. Because a very strong artistic streak runs through all of the Garbarinos, it’s truly a competitive event. The competition is to see who can create the most beautiful cookies before Santa’s arrival at midnight. My 10 year old niece, Remi, a fierce competitor, usually changes the rules as we go to ensure that she will be the winner. My 3 older brothers Paul, Tim & Thad, my Dad, my husband Karl, my sister Alexa and her  husband Tom and I join in the fun too. The clock stops at 11:30 p.m. sharp, and of course, Remi gets to choose the cookies to give to Santa along with her note and off to bed she goes.

The stand-out cookies last year were the “Stained Glass” & “Hand Painted” gluten-free sugar cookies. When I unveiled them, a resounding “Ooooooh look at those… how’d you do that?” was uttered by everyone. I have adapted my recipe from several wheat flour & rice flour based sugar cookie recipes and from numerous tests to create a fool-proof cookie that is tasty, sturdy, gluten-free and doesn’t spread in the baking process.

So the next time you want to bring your family together or wow your clients, whip up some crowd pleasing Stained-Glass Christmas cookies… that is, of course… if you make the time!

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Cookbook Signing

Celebrity Chef Cindy Pawlcyn & Personal Chef Garbo

Celebrity Chef Cindy Pawlcyn & Personal Chef Garbo


Full Story:  Demos, Wolf Ranges and Chefs…Oh My!  Personal Chef Magazine: July/September 2009 – By Personal Chef Garbo

Celebrity Chef Cindy Pawlcyn & Personal Chef Garbo

Celebrity Chef Cindy Pawlcyn & Personal Chef Garbo

San Francisco Bay Area

When my friend and fellow USPCA member Chef Elizabeth Bourget of “Gourmet to Go” asked me to do a Wolf demo I jumped at the opportunity. Elizabeth has been Wolf’s go-to person for 4 years now so I was grateful when she considered me for the job.  I’ve never done a cooking demo in my life!  But I said, “Yes… I can do that!”  Then she said “Oh, by the way, Celebrity Chef Cindy Pawlcyn will be there signing her new appetizer cookbook”.  GULP!  What have I agreed to? Then I thought, well, many of my clients have Wolf Ranges and I’m a huge fan of Cindy Pawlcyn.  To quote Pawlcyn’s Bio on Bravo TV “She is widely recognized as a pioneer of wine country cooking and one of the first proponents of the farm to table philosophy.  She has worked alongside the likes of James Beard and Julia Child and is the author of four widely acclaimed cookbooks – The Fog City Diner Cookbook, Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, Big Small Plates, and her newest, Cindy Pawlcyn’s Appetizers. Cindy is considered as one of the most influential and accomplished women chefs in America and she’s an inductee of the Who’s Who of American Cooking”.

I wondered how I was going to execute this “demo thing” anyway? I essentially signed up to prepare Cindy Pawlcyn’s recipes where she might sample her own creations. YIKES… The pressure was on and I had to perform. Surely the food styling skills I learned from the renowned Denise Vivaldo Food Fanatics class that I took with Gail Kenagy (now our President) would help me out. Plus, I’m competent at food photography. In order to simplify things and to showcase my talents as a Personal Chef, Elizabeth and I decided on the following menu plan:

Wolf Range Presents – Spring Fling Menu

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Best Ever Tapenade

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

Garbo’s Apple Galettes

Strawberries Dipped in Dark Chocolate & Nuts

Cindy Pawlcyn's Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

The weekend before the actual demo, I tested, styled and photographed Pawlcyn’s “Hard-Boiled Eggs with The Best Ever Tapenade” and “Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce”. Everything turned out better than expected and I was feeling very confident. I suffer from stage fright so it was very important for me to pre-visualize and test everything in advance. This included going to the Wolf facility to see how the stoves, ovens and counter tops were laid-out. I made placards using the food photos I had just taken and planned to use them in the food sample area. These help immensely so the consumer can see what they’re eating as a whole as the samples are sliced up into small pieces. Since people “eat with their eyes” the appetizer visuals only enhance the consumer experience both esthetically and emotionally.

Cindy Pawlcyn's Best Ever Hard Boiled Eggs with Olive Tapenade

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Best Ever Hard Boiled Eggs with Olive Tapenade

Demonstrating Wolf Ranges

I reminded myself that “demos” are like a cooking class and attendees are there to learn something new either about Cindy Pawlcyn, Wolf Ranges or me, the Personal Chef, who brings it all together. Using my sales background, I gingerly demonstrated how the Wolf built-in Convection oven bakes pastry and garlic together without transferring the flavors. This was a hit with the customers. Then Pawlcyn’s Lamb Meatballs were pan-fried, garnished and served. These too were a huge hit. Even Cindy thought they were great!  I breathed a sigh of relief and she and I exchanged stories about her secret ingredient “Piment d’Espelette” (chili peppers from the Basque country) and where it could be purchased in Napa. She even invited me up to her new restaurant “Go Fish” in St. Helena where she will personally give me a tour… Can’t wait!

The best part about doing a Wolf Demo is that I’m at liberty to talk up my Personal Chef business while I’m demonstrating the Wolf product line. The most frequently asked question was what features I liked best as a Chef cooking on Wolf Ranges. This was a perfect segue into my Personal Chef business and my experience on Wolf Appliances. The demo event was a win/win situation that produced excitement among the Wolf customers and my Personal Chef business. Most importantly, I received two very hot leads interested in my service!

And this, all in a day’s work… not a bad way to earn some extra cash and toot my own horn!

Chef Paul Prudhomme at Fancy Food Show 2009 – San Francisco

Fancy Food Show 2009

Fancy Food Show 2009

Full Story:  Winter Fancy Food Show –  Personal Chef Magazine: April/June 2009 – By Personal Chef Garbo

San Francisco Bay Area

A few members of the USPCA Local Bay Area Personal Chef Chapter attended the 34th Annual Winter Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to see what’s happening in the food world.  For any self respecting Foodie living in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly those that work in the food industry, it is a must to attend the Fancy Food Show to see “What’s New” & “What’s Hot”.  And that we did!

Chefs Dawn, Suzette, Gini, Garbo and Kara

Chefs Dawn, Suzette, Gini, Garbo and Kara

With 50+ years of history, the NASFT Fancy Food Shows are North America’s premier showcase for specialty foods and are only open to people in the industry (such as producers, retailers and chefs). The show had 1,500 exhibitors representing 50 countries, featuring 80,000 of the world’s finest foods, including natural and organic products, cheese, olive oil, spices, tea, chocolate and ethnic specialties.

We HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE…and it’s full of chocolate, flavored water, lots of tea and a whole slew of gluten-free products coming to the market. In these tough financial times both economist and trend-spotters are saying that budget oriented Americans will continue to indulge on fun things to eat, even while they scratch plans for ski holidays, new automobiles and the like. You can be sure the food purveyors we saw will be competing for your precious dollar in 2009.  And if the Winter Fancy Food Show is any indication of how we’ll be eating in the coming year, we’ll be consuming plenty of organic products made with super antioxidant ingredients!

At the last SF Winter Fancy Food Show we made the mistake of eating lunch beforehand. This year we came hungry as there is an overwhelming cacophony of flavors, smells and colors to digest. Instead of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we had breakfast in Tuscany! Yes, the international presence was formidable with their own community in the South Hall.  For starters we had Formaggio and Charcouterie in the Italian and French quarters. Leave it to the Italians to feature a huge flat screen TV with heated football games and screaming excited fans blaring on the airwaves. This in combination with the wine and cheese tastings made the Italian section a “destination” spot!

Without further ado, here are some of the Top Picks written by several chefs within our USPCA Bay Area Local Chapter highlighting what we think will indicate potential trends in the future…


La Dolce Vita “The Sweet Life”: This booth had plenty of classic biscotti cookies but what really caught my attention was their new product, not quite ready for prime time called, “Biscotti Munch”. It consisted of small bits of biscotti and almonds that were coated with white chocolate and trace amounts of dark chocolate thinly drizzled over the cookie crumble confection. It made me think of all the twice baked Biscotti disasters I created when I first experimented with my Italian friend’s family recipe. Before my eyes I beheld the solution; a delicious concoction that made a crumbled up mess of broken cookies look gorgeous. If ever again I fowl up a Biscotti recipe, this is how I plan to redeem it for a delectable taste treat!  Check it out La Dolce Vita Biscotti

Pierucci Cheese Dairy, Corse, France: I had the distinct pleasure of tasting a Provencal herb encrusted goat cheese that was so creamy, subtle and velvety smooth that it melted in my mouth.  The Provencal herb crust was breathtaking!  Unfortunately, the folks at the booth only spoke French so in my broken French style I managed to communicate that I needed to get to their website to learn more about the history and order their product.  If you can read French check it out!  Fromage-Pierucci

Asian Food Etc.: The Chapter members met up with Barb Lance, a fellow USPCA Personal Chef located in Loveland, CO.  Barb and her daughter were working at the Asian Meals booth and demonstrating their product repertoire. ASIA etc. is a marketing company specializing in sourcing producers and manufacturers of food products in Asia and introducing them in the U.S. marketplace. Their clients include Costco, Eatzi’s, Food Emporium, Kroger, Marriott, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Walt Disney World, Whole Foods Markets, and many others.  Check it out Aasia-Etc.

Chef Paul Prudhomme with Chef Kara and Garbo

Chef Paul Prudhomme:

Whilst wandering from booth to booth, Chef Kara Lee Falcon and I stumbled upon the famed Chef Paul Prudhomme signing his cook books fast and furiously. Naturally, I saw a photo “opp” for this article and seized the moment.  How appropriate and timely that we converged on this booth as our National Conference will be in his home state of Louisiana! More importantly, we discussed the possibility of having tours at his “Magic Seasoning Blends” facility as a field trip offering to the attendees at the USPCA National Conference in New Orleans. Chef Paul Prudhomme.

Ayala’s Herbal Water: Imagine tasting an herb garden in a bottle! This company infuses organically grown herbs into purified water.  What a refreshing delight. The flavor “flight” I tasted was in this order; Lemongrass Mint Vanilla, Ginger Lemon Peel, Lavender Mint Lemongrass Thyme, Cinnamon Orange Peel, Cloves Cardamom Cinnamon and Jasmine Vanilla.  I prepare many ethnic dishes for my clients that range from North African to Thai and I think this water will make the perfect paring!  Check it out: Ayala’s Herbal Water .

T’best Aloe Vera Juice: Aloe drinks were every where this year but most notable to my palate was Korean brand name T’best.  Theirs featured lots of aloe pulp in the beverage. The flavors sampled were aloe, guava and mango. This aloe-infused juice contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and has no sweeteners. Just pure organic naturally sweet aloe juice which was delightful and refreshing. Check our their website at

Tea forté:

Tea Forte

Tea Forte

One can’t be sure if Tea forté is a play on words for “tea for two” but if you drink enough of their new Cocktail Infusions with Vodka you will be seeing things in two or feeling “two sheets to the wind” in short order!  By far my best pick of the show!  Their booth was a visual stand out in the crowd as it was colorful and beautifully designed as are their product offerings. The”Tea forté Cocktail Infusion” was launched at this show and the tea infused alcohol tasting were very popular with the crowds. I consider myself fairly accomplished in the mixology realm and this is one product I will certainly add to my repertoire! The flavors include; Lavender Citrus, Lemongrass Mint, and Silkroad Chai. Imagine infusing the lavender citrus into Martinis, Cosmopolitans or your own inspired creations. Yum! Check it out: Tea Forte.  That’s it from Chef Garbo here.  Read on to see what my fellow Chefs had to say about the show!


While the entire show was pure culinary heaven, the booth that stood out for me was the Tea forté booth.  I happen to be a huge fan and consumer of Tea forté tea bags. These tea bags not only produce quality tea in a variety of flavors, but they also look fantastic on a beverage table display.  I was ecstatic to learn that Tea forté unveiled their new Cocktail Infuser “bags” at the show.  They are silken, pyramid shaped bags that look identical to their tea counterparts.  However, these special blends of natural teas, fresh herbs and spices infuse directly into alcohol. The cocktail infusers come in Lavender Citrus, Lemongrass Mint, and Silkroad Chai.  Many variations of exotic cocktails can be made from these three infusers, but I was able to sample the Lavender Pear Martini, Chai White Russian and the Wild Mint Mojito.  As a Personal Chef, I love to provide small and unique dinner parties with a “wow” factor. These infusers are a great product to bring to my clients and they can be found online at Tea Forte. Like Chef Dawn, I was also impressed with the Albert Uster Imports as their products are also a beautiful and unique way to present food in a party atmosphere.  The highlight of my day was meeting Chef Paul Prudhomme and managing to get a photo with him and fellow Personal Chefs Dawn and Gini.  He was very welcoming and happy to hear we will be joining him in New Orleans during our USPCA conference this year.


Before I became a Personal Chef, my family used to dread being with me when I went in a fabric store because I could spend hours in one!  Now, it’s kitchen and specialty food stores.  For me, the Fancy Food Show could easily be renamed “Chefs in Wonderland”!  Being an avowed “chocoholic”, my favorite booths were the ones with chocolate samples…and there were many!  One of my favorites was “Figamajigs”  a healthy and delicious way to enjoy chocolate”.  I have a huge mission fig tree in my backyard, and every year I get so frustrated when the squirrels take one bite out of the figs and then throw them on the ground!  So, to enjoy a chocolate covered fig bar was pure enjoyment!


The Cubelite portable studio system was very impressive to both me and Chef Garbo.  As a Personal Chef I create many beautiful appetizers for my catering business. The challenge is taking a good photo of my food that really captures the beauty and presentation of my craft so they can be used in my website and marketing brochures.  I’ve learned that taking a good professional looking photograph is not just a case of point and shoot. Controlling the light is critical and there’s nothing worse than the telltale “flash” of a digital camera that makes food arrangements look so flat and unappealing. The Cubelite is an ingenious solution to this problem as it delivers well balanced and soft lighting that will bring my food shots to life whereas bad lighting will destroy them. The Cubelite is made of very lightweight fabric that is coiled up in a small carrying case and springs into a square shaped white cube box when opened. It comes with tripods, 2 lights, seamless white background paper and 2 reflector pads. The best part is its portability and ease of use.  All you need is a small table and you’re ready to go!  For more detailed information check their website at Cubelite. Also of note was Mr. Bacon Salt who was roaming the tradeshow floor touting up the wonders of their bacon flavored products. J&D’s, produces smoked bacon salt and Baconnaise, and whose slogan is, “Everything should taste like bacon,” handed out samples of bacon-flavored lip gloss.  See their website BaconSalt.  for details.

Alice Waters’ Slow Food Nation Festival – San Francisco 2008

Slow Food Nation Article

Slow Food Nation Article

Full Story:  Can Slow Food Be Sustainable in a Fast Food Nation: Personal Chef Magazine:  January/March 2009 – By Personal Chef Garbo

Chefs Dawn & Garbo at Slow Food Nation

San Francisco Bay Area

On Labor Day Weekend, Personal Chef  Garbo based in San Francisco and Dawn Buchholz attended the Slow Food Nation ’08 in San Francisco.  The tagline… “Come to the Table” certainly resonated with us and to the tables we came at the Tasting Pavilions at Fort Mason.

But first, one should know that in the Bay Area, it is common knowledge that food and politics go together like heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil. Because of this, Slow Food USA and the famed Alice Waters picked San Francisco to showcase the first-ever Slow Food Nation event.  It was an ambitious four-day political food festival and the organizers have a master plan in mind.  They’re hoping to change the food policies in this country one belly at a time, by promoting products that are produced with eco-friendly farming and fair labor practices.  In short, “good, clean and fair” is Slow Food Nation’s operative mantra.   It remains to be seen how well this agenda will be received in the rest of the country but for us, it was all about the food in the land of Foodies!

Ironically, with a name like Slow Food Nation, we realized that they weren’t kidding.  The Food Pavilion Halls were jammed with lines making for a very “slow” food sampling experience considering we only had 3 hours to work with.  Outside, we were tormented by the amazing aromas coming from the Pizza Pavilion but the lines were an endless sea of humanity so we opted for another plan of attack.  We headed inside towards the Elixir Pavilion where they were mixing up all kinds of vegetable cocktails.  We tried the cucumber mixed drinks which were remarkably delicate yet intense with cucumber essence making for a soothing light and airy martini experience.

Elixir Pavilion

Elixir Pavilion

Even the decoration of this pavilion was light and airy which consisted of hundreds of back-lit white parasols opened and suspended from the ceiling. We heard that the Bloody Marys were like biting into garden fresh tomatoes straight from the sun drenched vines but we didn’t get to experience that because guess why… the lines!  So onward we marched.  We made a move towards the Charcouterie Pavilion as the lines looked more negotiable.  The purveyors of this Pavilion had a method to the madness.  They wisely decided to pass out pate samples while we waited patiently in line to get our full charcouterie plate and have our “Slow Dough” tickets punched.  This paid off because we were back for more!  Their pate was rich and chunky, much like a pate you’d find in a small village in the French country side.  Only this was Bay Area pate which made for a truly local experience.  Chef Dawn’s friend Paul worked the Pavilion floor like a true warrior too. We learned that he doesn’t do lines. Instead, he marches straight to the front lines charming anyone who crosses his path with his jovial Southern drawl.  So in true battle form we divided and conquered.  While the Chefs waited in the bread and cheese line, Paul advanced towards the Wine Pavilion and in short order landed four different glasses of wine that we sampled and paired with our cheese plates.  What better way to kill two birds with one stone?  It was a fine strategy indeed! The last stop was the Beer Pavilion.  The beer here was served in beautiful, elegant cut glass Pilsners making for the finest beer tasting experience ever!    It was full bodied, rich with barley malt and had a minimal hoppy after taste… very delicious and to our liking.

All in all, this event is a milestone in terms of increasing awareness of “slow food” here in the Bay Area although a purist may wonder if everyone truly knows of its origins in Piedmont, Italy.  Slow Food Nation has their work cut out for them as this concept is certainly well embraced here but can they get the nation to buy into it?  Quite literally, “slow food” is an expensive proposition that espouses organic sustainable food produced by local farmers who are paid fairly.  And in keeping with the “good, clean and fair” mission, this idea may be hard to swallow for the folks in many parts of the country who are barely making ends meet especially in this down economy.   But in California, particularly the Bay Area, what starts here is often emulated throughout the country.  Only time will tell.

Winter Fancy Food Show 2007 – San Francisco

Fancy Food Show Article

Fancy Food Show Article

Full Story:  Two Chef’s Excellent Adventure at SFFancy Food Show- Personal Chef Magazine:  May/June 2007  —  By Personal Chef Garbo


San Francisco Bay Area

Personal Chef Garbo, based in the San Francisco Bay Area and Kara Lee Falcon devoted an entire weekend in January to the 32nd Winter Fancy Food Show at San Francisco’s Moscone Center to keep themselves abreast of the current gourmet food trends. There were over 1,000 exhibiting companies from 35 countries and 80,000 specialty food products represented. Their strategy was to get new ideas and product trends to further expand their recipe repertoire and gift offerings to their client base.  Most exhibitors are entrepreneurs who created their recipes themselves and started their own companies. The Fancy Food Show gives attendees the chance to learn about each product first-hand and do business directly with the decision makers onsite. Since 1955, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) has held the Fancy Food Show annually at different cities around the world.  They are well-funded, aggressively marketed, and highly regarded by attendees and exhibitors alike. Hundreds of specialty food retailers showcased their products including such items as seasonings, confections, gourmet chocolate, sweet and savory pastries, cured meats, oils, vinegars and much more!  The 9th Spring Fancy Food Show will be held in Chicago on May 6-8 2007.


From the time Chef Garbo and Kara walked into the Fancy Food Show, they were both in heaven as they were intoxicated by the fabulous aromas lofting through the air and surrounded by all the hustle and bustle of the 1000’s of vendors in attendance.  This show is indeed a foodie’s paradise!  Once the two Chefs started eating their way through the crowd they realized there was a lot of ground to cover.  Here are some tips to follow before the show:  1) Do your research before you attend by visiting the Fancy Food Show web site and reviewing the Exhibitors List.  2) Map out your plan of attack as there are hundreds of vendors to see. 3) Consider the products you use most and make a point to visit those vendors.  4) Make sure you inquire about wholesale price breaks because most of the exhibitors offer them to Chefs in the food service industry. For example, Chef Kara realized that she uses costly olive oils, flavored vinegars, mustards, jams, coffee and teas. She found that many vendors extended her the wholesale price. 5) Look for products that can cut your prep time in half, like mixes jams and puff pastries and other vessels for Hors D’oeuvres, cheeses, chocolate sauces and dessert topping for that little something special, maybe for a client gift. 6) Be sure to ask about shipping as some items must be shipped overnight. 7) Taste everything and enjoy!


The Chefs also attended a seminar entitled “Taking Your Products to The Marketplace” which focused on the logistics of sales and marketing efforts for a new business start up. The guest panelist included Terry Brown from Wing-Time, John McIntosh, of Wine Country Kitchens, Janis Dalessandro of d’Oni Enterprises and Nicho Ashley, of Oakville Grocery in Napa, CA.   Initially, one might think, what does the Retail/Wholesale Food industry and the Personal Chef Industry share in common?  The answer is marketing strategies.  The same marketing principals hold universally true across all industries with regard to landing and keeping valued customers.  The big take-away for Chefs Garbo and Kara was this…”Support Your Customers”  and the value of “Food Demos” to showcase and sell your food service.  The bottom line for success according to speaker Janis Dalessandro was keeping your customers happy.  She stressed that if a certain product line or food item is important to your customer… it’s important to you if you want to stay in business!


The top food trends and specialty items that might pop up in your favorite grocery store in the months to come include:

  • Teas, especially green tea. Flower blooming tea, organic tea, chai tea and tea infused chocolate
  • Super fruits with antioxidants, especially pomegranate, believed to enhance the immune system.
  • Infused Alcohols and Mixers (lemon myrtle vodka and not so sweet apple mixers)
  • Artisanal cheeses, especially goat cheese from all over the globe. The trend is to GO LOCAL!
  • Specialty salts and fleur de sel
  • Organic and Gluten Free products based upon consumer demand
  • Organic Soup, Noodle and Rice Mixes with “earth friendly” packaging
  • “Natural” and “Organic” beverages

The 2007 game plan for Chefs Kara and Garbo is to experiment with new flavor combinations, new products and new ingredients found at the Fancy Food Show and give their customers the latest and greatest in flavor trends.  According to Ron Tanner, Vice President of NASFT, beverages are in the forefront of innovation. Chefs Garbo and Kara noticed that the tradeshow floor was flooded with exotic fruit juices and water products.  One notable San Francisco based company named Hint, showcased their flavored water (fruit, cucumber and peppermint) with no sweeteners.  “Organic” and “Natural” will be the buzzwords of the year on the fruit juice and water front!

Chef Garbo & Annie Chun at Fancy Food Show

Chef Garbo & Annie Chun at Fancy Food Show

Ethnic specialty foods continue to be on the forefront too.  One of Chef Garbo’s favorite Asian brands for natural broths and sauces is Bay Area based Annie Chun’s Pictured left is Chef Garbo and Entrepreneur Annie Chun exchanging recipe ideas that will include Annie’s broth and noodle products.

Also pictured is Chef Kara savoring her favorite Tuna brand product, Tonnino,

Chef Kara at Tonnino Tuna Booth

Chef Kara at Tonnino Tuna Booth

Tonnino Tuna.  According to Chef Kara, tuna packed in oil is getting harder to find these days.   Chef Kara prefers oil infused tuna for its moistness and ability to absorb flavors better in her dishes.

The Fancy Food Show was indeed an excellent adventure for Chefs Garbo and Kara.  As they tasted their way across the tradeshow floor, they discovered that there is a huge and delicious world of specialty food out there that they can bring to their client’s tables!

All images copyright protected ©Claude Garbarino