“It was something I always wanted to do, but at the time, I couldn’t just leave my job. I needed the money,” Ruggiero recalled. “I took some chef courses here and there whenever I had the time, so when I was able to retire from the phone company, my wife encouraged me to pursue catering.”
That was in 2002. Now, Ruggiero is known throughout the Bay Area for his unique style of presenting meals with his Italian Chef For Hire service. Rather than preparing the food and dropping it off, Ruggiero comes to your home and makes the food on site, allowing you to relax and enjoy your guests instead of fretting about details in the kitchen.
Clients consult with Ruggiero about the menu and details of the event in advance, and when the big day arrives, he shows up and goes to work. He does all his own grocery shopping and brings his own cookware, so all you need to provide is the kitchen space.
When the dinner is done, Ruggiero presents the meal in decorative serving dishes, and the rest is up to you. Meals are served family style, so guests help themselves and pass dishes around the table like at any family dinner.
Ruggiero said he does everything he can to blend in as he’s working, but clients often ask him to join the celebration after the food has been served – an honor Ruggiero values.
“I love being a part of these events simply by cooking the meal, but when people ask me to join them – it’s such an amazing feeling that they want to share these moments with me.”
Over the years, Ruggiero has become friends with repeat clients and has come to know them so well that he often can plan the menu himself. His most popular dishes are chicken piccata and chicken parmesan, but his favorite dish is the New York style Italian sausage and peppers served with pasta.
Ruggiero’s service has been ideal for large family gatherings and social events, but as the economy has slowed, people aren’t throwing parties like they used to. That hasn’t stopped Ruggiero from sharing his food with the masses.
Last September, he found a commercial kitchen for rent where he could prepare dinners that could be frozen and baked later – so now clients don’t need a big occasion to enjoy Ruggiero’s cuisine.
Through his new service, “From My Kitchen To Yours,” Ruggiero offers a special menu each week through an electronic newsletter. After customers have e-mailed their orders, he prepares the dinners and then leaves the frozen meals at a specified pick-up location. His current pick-up station is at Loard’s Ice Cream in Brentwood, but other delivery options are available.
Since Ruggiero prepares all the food the morning of the pick-up date, he also offers a “fresh” dish that only needs re-heating and it’s ready to go for dinner that night. All meals come with detailed instructions, but Ruggiero said if you run into trouble, just give him a call.
Ruggiero typically offers five frozen dinners and two fresh dinners each week. Unlike the chef-for-hire service, which requires a party size of at least eight people, “From My Kitchen To Yours” is a way for Ruggiero to serve up individual and couple’s meals as well as larger dishes for up to eight people.
“Things are rough with the way the economy is going, but people are still going out to eat. They are still spending money,” Ruggiero said. “This is an alternative to going out to a restaurant. You get a lot food and you get to enjoy it in the comfort of your own home and spend time with your family, and that is what matters most.”
Ruggiero said his new service has also introduced his work to new clients, as his regulars forward his newsletter to friends, who go on to try the food and then hire him for their own gatherings.
To subscribe to Ruggiero’s newsletter, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The newsletter also includes updates about special events where Ruggiero showcases his cooking at local venues such as Loard’s and Brentwood Choice Farms.
For more information, visit www.yourchefforhire.com or call 925-323-0522.