Personal-chef business simmering nicely
Chef Daamian Simmons suspects that food tastes better when you know who cooked it.
“It is like you have a connection with someone who is cooking for you,” the 31-year-old said.
He is putting that idea to the test with his new personal-chef business Daaleis.
“I just want to create an experience where people get to see who I am and what I do,” he said.
He came up with Daaleis during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am a sous chef at Coco Reef,” he said. “Right now I am working three days a week. During the pandemic, the hotel was closed for two to three months.”
Sitting at home he thought a lot about what he could do to make extra income. Since starting Daaleis back in July, he has had a steady stream of customers.
With all the social-distancing rules and worries about Covid-19, he has found many people prefer a small, intimate dinner party.
“I am still providing the same quality as the client would get in a high-end restaurant.”
He said cooking in a home setting is different from cooking for a hotel or restaurant.
“In a restaurant they provide the chefs with all the ingredients,” he said. “With this I have to source products myself.”
Mr Simmons said while he may get some speciality items from higher end grocery stores like Miles Market, most of the ingredients he uses are found at Lindo's or the MarketPlace.
“You have some really nice stuff in your average grocery store that you might not know about,” he said.
So far, he has cooked for gatherings as small as two people to as large as 15 people.
“I like to be interactive with people,” he said. “Working in a restaurant kitchen, most times we don't get to talk to the client. But if I am the one who takes the booking, I am talking to the client and explaining what they can get and working out the menu with them. By the day of the function it is like they know who you are.”
He is a perfectionist.
“Most times the night before an event I don't get too much sleep because I am so worried about how things might go, even though I know it is already done,” he said.
Some clients know what they want him to cook up front.
“And that's easy,” he said. “Then I just plug in the sides. But a lot of times they don't know what they want; they just know they want to eat something that tastes good. So I will work with them to create a menu.”
He does not really have a favourite style of cooking.
“I love our local products and ingredients, but I am also someone who likes an international flair as well,” he said. “I like Middle Eastern cooking, Thai cooking and authentic Italian. So I can't say I like a specific type of cooking, but I do love international flavours.”
But he does take special care with vegetarian and vegan cuisine. It's in high demand because most restaurants in Bermuda have only limited vegan or vegetarian entrées.
“Many places just offer a salad,” he said. “With this I want to go deeper. There are vegan restaurants all over the world.”
He studied the culinary arts at the Bermuda College and then spent 1½ years at the Art Institute in Charleston, South Carolina.
Then due to financial challenges, he had to return to Bermuda.
“I just wanted to help my mother out,” he said. “So from there I continued my studies at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Then I started to move about after that.”
Now he is looking at renting a commercial kitchen.
“With that I could do things on a larger scale,” he said. “I could tap into the catering side of things. Catering and private cheffing are two different things. With catering, everything is brought to you and set up, versus private cheffing where things are cooked in your home, in front of you.”
Mr Simmons said not everyone who hires him has a great kitchen or lots of space. Some clients have solved this problem by renting an Airbnb property for the evening.
“That makes things easier because then you have the kitchen space,” he said.
• For more information see him on Instagram or Facebook @daaleis or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org