IT'S BEEN a long day at the office putting out fires, attending meetings and dealing with all the crazy people who work with you. The last thing you want to do is come home and figure out what to make for dinner -- especially since you haven’t had time to go grocery shopping this week and the only thing in your cupboard is a fully sprouted potato and a can of beans.
Wouldn’t it be nice to open the door, trade in the suit for some sweats, and pull a fully-cooked gourmet meal out of the fridge? A healthy, made-to-order menu cooked by a professional chef?
Enter chef Dennis DeVere, 49, and his personal business Carpe Diem Cooking.
DeVere grew up in the Portland area, working as a sous chef at the Alexis Hotel before moving in 1989 to Kirkland, where he helped open the brand new , eventually landing the title of executive chef. Working the line in a restaurant, however, meant maintaining the opposite schedule of a normal person -- nights, weekends and holidays. With 17 years of professional experience under his chef whites, he was ready for a change.
DeVere, a member of the American Personal and Private Chef Association, doesn’t hesitate for a second when asked him if he misses restaurant work.
“No!” he says emphatically. “As a personal chef, I get to set my own schedule (sort of), work during the day, see friends and have the pleasure of working in some really nice kitchens. Plus, my name is on every single item and I get immediate feedback.”
He can accommodate various diet plans including the 20/20 diet, low-carb menus and even the picky eating habits of a tween. DeVere maintains that most clients are looking for a varied menu made with fresh, organic ingredients.
“Nearly every single client says that they want to lose weight,” he adds.
DeVere says that he doesn’t have a signature dish, but he is comfortable in a number of cuisines.
“I love Mexican food. At home I cook Mexican, Thai, Indian.”
Bold flavors spanning the globe dominate sample menus -- Lebanese beef kabobs, tamarind-honey chicken salad, kalbi ribs, cardamom curry chicken. No plain chicken and mashed potatoes -- unless a client specifically ordered it, of course.
Seafood is noticeably absent from DeVere’s menus since it doesn’t reheat well.
“I have never cooked clams or mussels. When I do cook fin fish, I always suggest that the client use the fish on the first day.”
Carpe Diem Cooking’s most popular service is the weekly "3x4," consisting of three different entrees with four servings of each. Since most of his clients happen to be locals, DeVere usually stops at and to pick up groceries on cooking day. DeVere happily fulfilled a client’s request that he shop at .
“One client even claims I save them money on their grocery bill -- probably because I’m not buying Cheetos on my way to the checkout counter,” says DeVere in his easy manner.
All the recipes have been tested before they are cooked for a client. DeVere and his wife often try them at home, where DeVere adjusts recipes, tweaking them until he likes them. When he’s not cooking for clients, DeVere is a recipe tester for the Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian, a Kirkland resident and host of Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian.
LIFE ISN'T cooking all the time for DeVere. In 1996, Dennis married local artist Rebecca () at in an impromptu wedding officiated by another chef.
“We were going to elope,” he says, but the couple decided they would rather invite friends to their favorite park.
In Rebecca, his “sweet little wife,” Dennis found a true partner. They love exploring their own backyard, camping and hiking. Rebecca captures the scenery as a plein aire painter and gives Dennis a run for his money as camp cook, inventing colorful titles for each dish.
A self-described “diner guy,” DeVere can often be found in a local greasy spoon when the couple is traveling. He looks around to see where the locals are eating, then follows his nose.
Next time you follow your nose and find yourself picking up a bag full of Burgermaster (DeVere’s favorite) on the way home, or boiling yet another pot of spaghetti, think about how nice it would be to pull out a container of north African chicken tagine with green olives and preserved lemon with a side of Moroccan couscous. Now to find a personal dish washer...
Carpe Diem Cooking provided the following recipe for readers:
Garlic and Chile Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chimichurri* Sauce
For the chicken breasts:
- Salt to taste
- 4 large garlic cloves
- ½ tsp red chile flakes
- 1 TB dried oregano
- 4 - 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ⅓ c olive oil
For the Chimichurri:
- ⅓ c olive oil
- ¼ c red-wine vinegar
- ¼ c minced red or white onion
- 2 TB minced red bell pepper
- 1 ½ tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 TB minced parsley, minced
- 2 TB cilantro leaves and a few stems, minced
- 1 fresh bay leaf (optional), finely minced
- Red chile flakes, to taste
- Bruise garlic cloves. Rub chicken with garlic cloves till the cloves are falling apart. Place remains of garlic cloves, ½ tsp red chile flakes, oregano and olive oil in a zippered plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake to combine the ingredients. Add the chicken breast to bag and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight.
- Prepare the chimichurri sauce by combining in a medium bowl: olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, bell pepper garlic, cumin, parsley, cilantro, bay leaf if using, and red chile flakes. Set aside at room temp until ready to use.
- Fire grill to medium heat; when hot, grill the chicken uncovered, 10-12 minutes on each side.
- Remove from the grill and drizzle with the chimichurri sauce, passing the remaining sauce at the table.
*Note: Chimichurri is a green sauce that is popular in Argentina. It is also used as a marinade.