About West PA Chefs

West PA Chefs is a group of Independently owned and operated Personal Chef Services providing Customized Meal Solutions to a variety of clients in Western PA and bordering counties in Eastern OH and the Northern Panhandle of WV.

The group meets at least 6 times per year to provide support, networking and continuing education opportunities to its member chefs and is open to all personal chefs in the region regardless of national association affiliation.

If you are interested in becoming a personal chef and would like more information on Personal Chef Training options, please visit the Culinary Business Academy website at CulinaryBusiness.com.

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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Yummy Fall “Recipe”

Chef Shaneby Chef Shane Russo; Executive Chef/Owner of Russo’s Cooking Personal Chef Service

Ok, so this isn’t so much a recipe as it is an alteration of an awesome Autumnal dessert: The Apple Pie! I was eating a store-bought no-sugar-added apple pie the other day and boy was it BLAND! Urg! I mean, B-L-A-N-D! I know I know, I should have made it myself and I will next time. But that isn’t the point here. The point is how do you take something store-bought and terrible and turn it into something you can tolerate? Here is what I did:

I took a sugar-free Caramel Syrup and put about 1tbs on top of the pie along with a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Then I popped it into the microwave for about 45 seconds to make it all warm and gooey.

Just this simple little addition turned the apple pie into an amazing treat. I can’t wait to try it on my own home-made recipe! MMMMMMM!!!

Mac and Cheese for a Chilly Day

by Chef Shane Russo; Executive Chef/Owner of Russo’s Cooking Personal Chef Service

Two things you should know about me:

  • I desire simplicity in my life
  • I am a Food Network JUNKIE

That being said, my favorite Food Network personality is Tyler Florence. I’ve tried many of his recipes and, while I usually alter them in some way, this Mac and Cheese is simple and freezes extremely well. I just grab one out of the freezer, pop it in my microwave while still wrapped in the plastic wrap for 2 minutes, and I’m good to go. I keep it in the wrap because it allows the Mac and cheese to steam a bit without drying out. Just take extreme caution when removing the plastic wrap because IT WILL BE HOT!!!

The original recipe link can be found at Food Network here.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 1/2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh thyme


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small saucepan heat the milk with the thyme sprigs and 2 garlic cloves. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to keep lumps from forming. Strain the solids out of the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Continue to whisk vigorously, and cook until the mixture is nice and smooth. Stir in the 4 cups of the cheese and continue to cook and stir to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and the parsley and fold that all in to coat the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Scrape into a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

While that bakes, heat a saute pan. Add the bacon, render the fat and cook until crispy. Add onion, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, scatter the bacon mixture over the mac and cheese. Use a big spoon to scoop out servings, making sure you get some of the smoking bacon mixture on each spoonful.

Personal Chef Notes: Allow to cool and cut into squares. Wrap each serving in plastic wrap and then again in foil to keep out the light.

Reheating Instructions: Remove foil and microwave for 2 minutes or until hot. Carefully remove plastic wrap and serve.


Stress Less!

by Chef Shane Russo, Executive Chef/Owner of Russo’s Cooking Personal Chef Service

I’ve had a rough couple of days. I could spend this entire blog listing the ways but I won’t. Instead, as I sat thinking about what I’ve eaten the last couple of days, I got to thinking: How does my stress level effect how I eat?

If you are like most people, you probably grab whatever is quick and ready when you feel stressed or pressed for time. Who can think of cooking when there is a deadline to meet at work? Just grab a 99 cent cheeseburger and go. Maybe you spent all night in the emergency room with your spouse. Pop a TV dinner in the microwave and be done with it. Quick and easy is what we do. The effects of stress on physical and mental health are bad enough:

Then add to that the effects of eating lots of processed foods:

Why would anyone knowingly do that to themselves? Maybe it is because they didn’t know there is another way to live. But there is: hire a Personal Chef!

You can still do quick and easy while maintaining a healthy level of living. Why compound the negative effects of stress with high-fat, low-nutrition, processed foods when you can eat home-cooked, heart-healthy meals prepared with the freshest ingredients? Personal Chefs make it easy for you to grab a meal and go by preparing your meals in advance and freezing them until you need them.

So, the next you grab that greasy taco or fried chicken sandwich and feel like crap later, remember that you COULD have had Chicken in Lemon-Wine Sauce heated up in minutes but tasting like it was just prepared! Or another one of the hundreds of recipes that the Personal Chefs have at their disposal.

Can You Afford NOT To?


Completely sober!

by Chef Shane Russo Russo’s Cooking Personal Chef Service

The first question I get from people when I tell them I am a Personal Chef is “What is that?” After explaining what it is a I do the reaction is almost always the same: “That is a great idea! I wish I could afford something like that!” The truth of the matter is that hiring a Personal Chef is far more affordable than you think.

When thinking about affordability you need to consider the cost of everything. So I’m going to break down what is actually incorporated into the cost of hiring your own Personal Chef:

  • Menu Planning: Average time spent – 1 hour/week. One of the biggest reasons Americans go out to eat as much as we do is the simple fact that we do not plan ahead. Figuring out WHAT to make doesn’t take a ton of time but it is one of those things no one wants to do.
  • Clipping Coupons: Average time spent – 2 hours/week. Let’s say you are one of those people that takes the time every week to plan out your meals. The best way to get the most out of your dollar is to find the best deals. This includes looking through all the ads every week and that time adds up.
  • Grocery Shopping: Average time spent – 2.5 hours/week. You may not think that you spend this much time in a grocery store but most people actually spend more. First there is the time driving to and from the store itself. Then there is the time spent locating the items. Finally, and probably the worst part, is standing in the long line at the check out. Yes, they have self check outs now but how many times have you gone up to one of those, thinking you were going to be out in no time, just to find yourself waiting behind a person that made that blasted light blink for a customer service person! That is just one trip. How many trips to the store do you make each week?
  • Restaurant Time/Costs: Average time spent – 4 hours/week. If you decide to go out to a restaurant instead of cooking at home you then run into a whole new set of issues. If you go during the week then you may not encounter the wait. But if, like most people, you choose to go on the weekends then this wait is often even longer than the 30 minute average. That is just the time spent waiting for a table. Then you get the crap-shoot of servers. Will he be having a good day? You are limited by the selections on the menu and just try to make a substitution and see how happy they are. In Youngstown, your average dinner check is going to be in the $25-45 range (tax and drinks included) for 2 people and more if you add on appetizers and desserts. Even more if you have kids. Then there is the tip. Not to mention the drive to and from the restaurant.
  • Food Preparation: Average time spent – 7 hours/week. Just on dinner. That is like working an extra day at your regular job! Don’t think it takes that long? Think about the prep work that goes on before your food ever touches an oven or saute pan. Cleaning, chopping, trimming meats. These things add up.
  • Packaging Left-Overs: Average time spent – 30 minutes/week. Most people make more than they can eat at one sitting. You have to save it for later and this too takes time. Did you forget to label it? Good luck remembering what that unidentified piece of meat is in the back of the refrigerator!
  • Clean Up: Average time spent – 3 hours/week. So now, after you’ve prepped, cooked, and eaten, you get to clean the pots and pans and stove. Does it ever end?

Other costs not included above are things like the gas it takes to drive to and from the stores and restaurants. The math above equals an average of 20 hours per week in time saved by hiring a Personal Chef! That is 20 hours per week you could be spending doing some thing you actually WANT to do! Your mileage may vary but even 10 hours per week would be a welcome relief to most of us.

So, now that you know everything that goes into the pricing of a Personal Chef service, the question really becomes: Can you afford not to have one?

Russo’s Cooking Personal Chef Service

Presidents note: If you are interested in finding out just how affordable a personal chef can be, please fill out this survey! You’d be surprised at where those hidden food dollars are being spent that can be saved by hiring a personal chef!