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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by Chef Shane Russo – Owner/Chef of Russo’s Cooking PCS and author of Radical Surgery!

All grains, with the exception of rice, and the various grain meals, require prolonged cooking with gentle and continuous heat, in order to so disintegrate their tissues and change their starch into dextrine as to render them easy of digestion.

Even the so-called “steam-cooked” grains, advertised to be ready for use in five or ten minutes, require a much longer cooking to properly fit them for digestion.

These so-called quickly prepared grains are simply steamed before grinding, which has the effect to destroy any low organisms contained in the grain. They are then crushed and shredded. Bicarbonate of soda and lime is added to help dissolve the albuminoids, and sometimes diastase to aid the conversion of the starch into sugar; but there is nothing in this preparatory process that so alters the chemical nature of the grain as to make it possible to cook it ready for easy digestion in five or ten minutes.

An insufficiently cooked grain, although it may be palatable, is not in a condition to be readily acted upon by the digestive fluids, and is in consequence left undigested to act as a mechanical irritant.

Water is the liquid usually employed for cooking grains, but many of them are richer and finer flavored when milk is mixed with the water, one part to two of water. Especially is this true of rice, hominy, and farina. When water is used, soft water is preferable to hard. No salt is necessary, but if used at all, it is generally added to the water before stirring in the grain or meal. Another option is the use of chicken, vegetable, fish, or beef stock for a change in flavor.

The quantity of liquid required varies with the different grains, the manner in which they are milled, the method by which they are cooked, and the consistency desired for the cooked grain, more liquid being required for a porridge than for a mush.

All grains should be carefully looked over before being put to cook.

In the cooking of grains, the following points should be observed:

1. Measure both liquid and grain accurately with the same utensil, or with two of equal size.

2. Have the water boiling when the grain is introduced, but do not allow it to boil for a long time previous, until it is considerably evaporated, as that will change the proportion of water and grain sufficiently to alter the consistency of the mush when cooked. Introduce the grain slowly, so as not to stop the sinking to the bottom, and the whole becomes thickened.

3. Stir the grain continuously until it has set, but not at all afterward. Grains are much more appetizing if, while properly softened, they can still be made to retain their original form. Stirring renders the preparation pasty, and destroys its appearance.

In the preparation of all mushes with meal or flour, it is a good plan to make the material into a batter with a portion of the liquid retained from the quantity given, before introducing it into the boiling water. This prevents the tendency to cook in lumps, so frequent when dry meal is scattered into boiling liquid. Care must be taken, however, to add the moistened portion very slowly, stirring vigorously meantime, so that the boiling will not be checked. Use warm water for moistening. The other directions given for the whole or broken grains are applicable to the ground products.

Place the grain, when sufficiently cooked, in the refrigerator or in some place where it will cool quickly (as slow cooling might cause fermentation), to remain overnight.

West PA Chefs Members Volunteer at WQED for QED Cooks Marathon

Chefs work the phones for the QED Cooks: Soups and Stews Marathon on November 20, 2010 from 10am to 2pm on WQED.

The members of West PA Chefs understand the importance of spending time at home with your family and friends and a big part of that time is spent on eating. With the ever decreasing amount of time families find in their day to spend with each other, family meal time should still take center stage at home. Local cooking programming on WQED like QED Cooks is an important part of our community, offering useful information and recipes to busy families on how to keep meal time a family occasion and  the chapter members are excited to volunteer their time to helping WQED continue to offer this unique and informative programming.

Several members have also contributed recipes to the QED Cooks: Soups and Stews cookbook which will include a variety of recipes from viewers and chefs throughout the region. Be sure to support this type of programming being offered on our region’s PBS station by tuning in and pledging your support!

The West PA Chefs is comprised of several independently owned and operated Personal Chef Services located throughout the Western PA Region, including portions of the Northern Panhandle of WV and bordering counties in Eastern OH.

Each chef offers a variety of Customized Meal Solutions including freshly prepared meals which are packaged and ready to heat and eat as well as offering chef services for small dinner parties, interactive cooking parties and demonstrations! Several member chefs also provide larger catering services, cooking instruction, meal pick up and preparation from commercial kitchen space. Others also provide cooking instruction and demonstrations to area organizations and libraries geared to teach children and adults the importance of proper nutrition and eating habits and doing so while still remaining within the family food budget.

Each of the member chefs specializes in a variety of areas which can include, depending on the chef, organic foods, special diets such as gluten free, weight loss, heart healthy, family meals, locally grown and/or foods for patients of illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. All meals are fully customized to the needs and taste preferences of the client and each chef will work with each client to ensure that any and all dietary, nutritional and taste preferences are followed. Something that you won’t likely find when going out to eat.

The direct tangible benefit to hiring your own chef will be the time saved in the actual meal preparation and the associated shopping while still enjoying palate specific meals at a surprisingly reasonable cost! Those who choose a chef to cook for a dinner party will no longer need to spend countless hours in the kitchen and will have more time to actually enjoy their party and the company of their guests while those choosing a chef to conduct a demo or interactive cooking party will have the fun of watching a cooking show on TV while being able to actually eat the results, all while spending time with friends and family!

The time and money saved as well as the health benefits of having preservative and additive free meals at your fingertips is incalculable!

Our members are also dedicated to providing services using as much locally grown products as are in season and available and several of the chefs volunteer their time and talent to area organizations, including the First Lady’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative (part of the Let’s Move! campaign) which pairs chefs with area schools to help improve the quality of school lunches as well as teach kids and adults the importance of cooking and eating healthier foods. Many of the member chefs were on hand at the launch of the Chefs Move to Schools campaign in June on the South Lawn of the White House along with chefs from around the country from organizations such as the ACF, IACP, USPCA and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

Earlier this year, the active members of the chapter, each all ready having passed a series of examinations with the US Personal Chef Association and having achieved the status of Professional Personal Chefs, who were not all ready certified took the first step in the process of becoming Certified Personal Chefs®. Each member took an extensive exam which included, among other things, knowledge of cooking methods, nutrition and food safety. Each of the chefs passed the exam and several have since completed the process by accumulating continuing education, experience and volunteer points and becoming Certified Personal Chefs®. Those attaining CPC status must re-certify every 5 years by submitting further continuing education, teaching, volunteer and experience points.

USPCA Members who attain the CPC designation are also eligible to become instructors with the Culinary Business Academy (CBA), teaching others how to successfully operate a personal chef business. We are happy to announce the Chef Tim Hering CPC, president of West PA Chefs, has been selected to instruct 3 Personal Chef Quick Start and 1 Personal Chef Dynamics courses being offered by the CBA in the Pittsburgh Area beginning in March of 2011.

West PA Chefs: USPCA Chapter of the Year 2010At the annual USPCA National Conference, held in Denver, CO this past July, the West PA Chefs took home the 2010 Excellence in Business award for USPCA Chapter of the Year. This achievement shows the commitment to providing the best services to their clients, their communities, each other and the personal chef industry.

Throughout the US and Canada USPCA personal chefs in a given area assemble and create a local chapter to help other chefs with community service, awareness campaigns and overall business development.  Each of the 35+ chapters runs as a stand alone organization with guidance from the USPCA.  Web sites, trade shows, community education programs and volunteer duties are all examined and evaluated to determine which chapter truly went above and beyond during the year.  “The Western PA Chapter had outstanding efforts in every category” stated USPCA President Chef Gail Kenagy.

“Our chapter is like a well oiled machine with each member dedicated to industry excellence with a sincere desire to insure each chef is operating at peak proficiency” stated Chef Tim Hering CPC, President of the Western PA Chapter. “From educational meetings designed to help each member give the best possible service to their individual clients, to combining resources to market our individual businesses, the USPCA, our chapter and our industry to reaching out within our community to help others, the members of our chapter have gone above and beyond what is expected of them and each member and their clients have been enriched because of these efforts.”

Judges for this annual competition consisted of professional members within the USPCA.

For more information on the West PA Chefs and to find a chef in your area, please visit westpachefs.com. For information on Personal Chef Training options at the Culinary Business Academy, visit CulinaryBusiness.com. To find a Personal Chef in the Western PA region or across the United States and Canada, visit Hire-A-Chef.

President’s note: Since the time this post was written, West PA Chefs members have decided to open the group to all personal chefs in the region and is no longer affiliated as a group with the USPCA. Individual member chefs may still belong to the USPCA but it is no longer a requirement for group membership and national association membership is the choice of the individual chef.

Healing Foods

Catherine's Personal Chef Service

Catherine's Personal Chef Service

My work with clients who have special diets as well as various health issues has lead me to do more research and coursework in Healing Foods. Recently one of my cancer patient clients was having much difficulty with nausea before eating (a common issue for cancer and chemo patients). In addition to her meals for the week, I prepared a pitcher of Cinnamon and Fresh Ginger Tea. Fresh ginger root is a fantastic natural remedy for nausea and cinnamon is an appetite stimulant. This tea really calmed the nausea and stimulated her desire to eat a bit.  If your stomach is having an off day, sipping this tea may be a calming remedy for you. If you haven’t tried fresh ginger definitely give it a try. It is not the same as dried ground ginger. Fresh ginger root can usually be found in the refrigerated produce section of your market.

Cinnamon and Fresh Ginger Tea

Makes 2 cups

2 cups of water
1 slice of ginger root about 1 inch long, ¼ inch thick
½ cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Take off of heat and remove ginger and cinnamon. Add a bit of your natural sweetener of choice if desired; honey, agave, stevia.

Enjoy the warm tea and feel better!

Chef Catherine, Certified Personal Chef®
Catherine’s Personal Chef Service
Special diets, custom meal preparations, dinner parties and more!

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!!!

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.