Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dining Alternative & Chef Peter Ungár: Part 3

How can you get Chef Peter Ungár to prepare you such a fine dinner as the one I recently experienced?

If you are not lucky enough to get invited to one of his Chef's Table events, you can hire Peter to cook for you at your home through The Dining Alternative, which he considers to be his "private dining service." Peter differentiates this from traditional catering or a personal chef. What Peter's service entails is that he comes to your kitchen and cooks an entire meal there for you. He does not prepare any of the foods beforehand, like a caterer or personal chef would. Everything is prepared fresh before your eyes.

This service is generally intended to be to a special event, to have a high-end restaurant experience but within your own home for a group of your family and friends. Peter and his staff will do all of the work, from shopping to cooking, from serving to clean-up. You really have to do very little. They even have a sommelier available if you wish wine pairings. Plus, they have other extra services (such as flower arrangements and calligraphy seating cards), if desired, to enhance your event.

When you initially contact Peter, you can discuss the type of dinner you would like, and he can accomodate nearly any special dietary needs or requests. Together, you design the menu of your choice. Peter can supply wine or you could even have your own wine for the dinner. If you want to use your own wines, Peter can suggest dishes to pair with those wines. In general, Peter does multi-course dinners for 8-14 people, though he can do it for as many as 20 people. For larger groups, up to 50 people, he can prepare a hors d'oeuvre and cocktail reception.

Though I have not yet retained Peter for a dinner at my own home, I can attest to the quality of the food he prepares based on my Chef's Table experience. He is a very talented chef and his food was exquisite, similar to anything you would find at a fine restaurant.

I am sure this idea intrigues you but I know exactly the question you want to ask. How much does this cost? Obviously the cost will vary for each dinner dependent on the type of dinner you have, how many courses, the types of food, whether wine is included, etc. But, I can give you some idea for a comparison. I should also caveat this by stating that though the price might seem high at first, you need to examine the matter in its totality to see that it actually is very reasonably priced.

To duplicate the exact dinner I ate at the Chef's Table at your own home, it would have cost about $127 per person, without wine. This is how Peter would have broken down the cost of specific courses: Scallop Sashimi $19, Lobster Tortelloni $24, Fish/Foie/Truffles $36, Pork Belly $32, Pineapple Tatin $16. The amuse bouche, intermezzo, and mignardises would have been included in the price.

Though $127 per person seems expensive you must consider everything that is included in that price. You are basically hiring a team of servers and cooks to come into your home and prepare a multi-course dinner for you and your guests. Plus, consider the ingredients in the dishes I ate, from lobster to foie, from black truffles to pork belly. There are not cheap ingredients and your own dinner would not have to include so many luxury ingredients. Though Peter does always purchase the highest quality ingredients needed for the dishes he prepares.

There are no other hidden or extra fees though when you receive the contract price, the actual price can vary by 10%. This is because the market price of the ingredients that Peter uses wil vary, and Peter shops just before the date for the dinner to ensure freshness. But, you have a very good idea of the cost of your meal before you agree to anything.

One of the reasons why the price may be more reasonable than you initially think is the cost of wine. With the wine, you actually get a tremendous bargain that easily offsets the higher cost of the food. Peter only charges $10 per bottle above his cost, which is a wholesale price. So the wine will cost you far less than the exorbitant prices that restaurants charge.

Consider a bottle of wine that wholesales for $30 and which Peter charges you $40. It would normally retail around $50 but at a restaurant, the same bottle of wine would likely cost you at least $100, if not more. So, with Peter, you would have saved at least $60 off the cost of that wine at a restaurant. And if were dining with ten people, consider if you bought five bottles of that wine in restaurant, costing you at least $500. With Peter, those same bottles of wine would only cost you $200.

Now, if you had my Chef's Table five course dinner at a high-end restaurant, you would likely pay at least $75 and maybe up to a $100, dependent on the place. So while the food itself might be a bit less expensive at a restaurant, you will garner significant savings with the wine which will more than offset the increased cost of the food.

In the end, the price you would pay Peter for his dining service would be less than if you dined at a high-end restaurant, yet the food quality would be at least as good, if not better. The Dining Alternative is a service that would impress your family and friends. For your next special occasion, rather than dine out, why not call Peter and dine in. I know that I will be doing so in the near future.

Tomorrow, I'll post a few recipes from Peter....

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