Matters of Taste:

Wedding Formal

When Chef Nicholas Di Paolo is in the kitchen, Everyone is on Vacation!

The supper scenario can be daunting. There is more drama than drive, more demands than day, and yet, there is that overriding aim to eat well. We have good intentions, but the time it takes to plan, shop, prepare and yes, tidy up, crowds an already busy life. Do we grab take-out again or snag a ready meal? Those options are fine on occasion, but they won’t deliver a healthy lifestyle, despite Grub Hub’s willingness to drop it at our door.

Perhaps, the solution to the problem is a personal chef. They’re not just for the famous or fabulous; they’re niche operators that cater—literally—to our needs. Aside from basic planning, prepping and putting away, they can satisfy dietary and creative preferences. They can introduce new dishes like a fish curry stew or put a spin on an old favorite like smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese with ham and peas.

Having a reunion? You don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen; you want to spend it reminiscing around the table. Dinner party? Host it with a welcoming vibe without the hassle. Family getaway? Getaway from the stove and focus on having fun.

You might think you can’t afford it. Think again. Seating a large party at a restaurant is impossible while the expenses surrounding a meal out from parking to check stack up quickly. Consider the convenience and comfort of staying put and let the restaurant come to you where your personal chef does it all. Those, who enjoy cooking, can even learn a technique or two from a pro.

Chef Nicholas Di Paolo logs 30-plus years of experience, and now relishes the most rewarding part of his culinary journey in Northern Arizona, ensuring a client’s every desire is fulfilled. This ranges from family style events to exacting menus for tastings or formals.

“I was always gonna’ be a chef,” he says. “I was born and raised in Little Italy in the Bronx where people come from all over the tri-state area for the freshest products available. So all of my menu items are made from scratch with the best ingredients available—a standard in the neighborhood even today to bring you the best experience available. I’m not there, but I know how and where to find look, more importantly how to recognize it.”

His career began in the Bronx, and soon exploded when he began working at Raoul’s, a bustling bistro dating to the 70s with an utterly French menu. By 1997, Chef Nick made executive, but over time noticed an edgy turn in the industry. After the 2008 crash he moved to Las Vegas where he has family ties, but was unfulfilled on the Las Vegas strip despite running one it’s gems; the Foundation Room atop Mandalay Bay. Nick missed the harmony of the—front and back of house—when dedicated staff who previously had covered for one another turned cutthroat, like the kitchens of old.

“Chefs also produce chefs,” he says. “We’re partners in business—that’s old school.” But he admits, “People grow out of positions and move on, and that’s a credit to what they’ve learned from you. Today you can’t even make a 40hr week working 3 jobs. You can’t learn that way, and the chefs coming out of culinary schools lack the discipline and experience gained from cooking over a decade or so before earning their titles.”

Reading about the booming Sedona vacation rental business sparked an epiphany and a jump into entrepreneurship for Chef Nick. With the launch of a website, he embraced the world. Then, COVID hugged back—a challenge for the industry across the board.

“As long as a house had a kitchen, I could cook a meal,” he remembers growing his clientele year to year. “My clients are the best—always happy to see me. Everyone is on vacation and in a good mood. But restaurants aren’t taking the time to do things the right way and a lot of my clientele are eating where labor isn’t a factor for the very first time. So there’s also a Wow! factor for a lot first timers, or people used to your average caterer”.

His business is his name, Chef Nicholas Di Paolo, and his model is bringing the gourmet restaurant standard to your digs. Utilizing the highest quality ingredients, like Arizona beef, and it results in top fare for your table. A sample of a tantalizing five-course, French family meal offers: caramelized onion and mushroom tart with mixed greens, dressed with walnut oil and gorgonzola dulce; soupe de Pistou—minestrone with pesto; salade de carrots, julienned and marinated in sesame vinaigrette; Mediterranean seas bass with lemon vinaigrette, served with fennel potatoes and roasted, shaved Brussel sprouts and finishes with an apple tart, baked with caramel in puff pastry and served with fresh cream.

The menus are all-inclusive, so no tipping is required, priced at $135 per guest. Buffet, cocktail party and formal menus range in price according to numbers of items or guests. And his Formal Chef’s services are $250/Guest for a fine dining experience.

Chef Nick oversees every aspect of an event from backyard weddings & buffets to 5 guests sharing simple meal, staying humble to his mission. “You’re just feeding people,” he says. “Gosh, our mothers did that three times a day.”

Lastly, as a chef, one is always working when others are playing, so a happy attitude is key. “It’s easy to please people, who want to be pleased,” he confesses. “I love feeding people and watching others have a good time.”

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