Creating creative cuisine has been a passion of mine for such a long time. Much of my over two decades of experience has come from working in fine dining restaurants in Martinez, Walnut Creek, and Oakland. I first studied under a Louisiana-born chef at what was La Beau’s Bar and Grill in Martinez. He taught me the ins and outs of crafting true creole cooking. From there, I was hired on to work for Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Walnut Creek. I guess fate stepped in because just as I was to begin in Walnut Creek, the Oakland location of Scott’s restaurant lost their chef and I was pulled in as a replacement. It was there that I met my beautiful wife, Theresa, who has been by my side ever since.
Theresa was a new waitress at Scott’s and I became enchanted with her as she served the sumptuous dishes I was putting up, while effortlessly catering to her customers’ every need. Our first official date was at Horatio’s at the San Leandro marina. I ordered oysters and champagne for us to share. Theresa says that’s when she knew I might be a keeper. We have remained that same dynamic team since that time in 1994, me working my magic in the kitchen and Theresa dazzling clients with the presentation of the food. Although Theresa has taken on other successful pursuits and became a mother to our two beautiful children, Olivia and Devon, together we launched our Personal Chef Dennis Addison business in 2015. She coordinates everything a client desires for their special occasion and I make their dreams come to life. She then is there to present the food and serve, ensuring a successful party for all. It really is a dream to work in unison, bringing happiness and contentment to others.
One of our first personal chef jobs was a cooking demonstration in honor of a friend’s birthday. We taught every guest in attendance how to make a good gumbo. From there, word of mouth spread and soon we were booking major catering jobs. The Discovery Bay Yacht Club was between chefs at one point and reached out to us to do an event for 160 people. I created a menu of beef bourguignon and pan-seared chicken breast. It went swimmingly, but our niche really is an intimate setting of 25 people or less. It was hard to juggle working at a busy restaurant and as a personal chef. I am now able to focus solely on my business since Scott’s Restaurant is temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Due to the quarantine, people still want ways to celebrate occasions in a safe manner and in restricted numbers. Requests for cooking at anniversary and birthday parties have been wildly popular. For a recent party of six celebrating an anniversary, we presented a menu of wild mushroom risotto, bruschetta with goat cheese, stuffed portobello mushrooms, and filet mignon. For a ten-person birthday party coming up, the theme is “Tastes from Around the World.” They sent a list of countries they want represented, and we came up with dishes like Gambas al Ajillo, Filet Mignon skewers, red Thai chile noodles, and lamb toast points. We will present them with little flags for each country on the dishes.
People invite us into their home with open arms, ready for a unique and exciting experience. In an unfamiliar setting, we must be quick to adapt to cooking in a different kitchen each time. We also need to be prepared to thrill; for example, we were doing a five-year-old’s birthday party combined with an anniversary party, and all the five-year-old was hoping for was to see a chef walk in with a big chef’s hat!
Another party asked me to recreate the experience of dining at the famed French Laundry. I went over their eclectic menu and did my own variation on it, presenting a menu made up of a special soup accented with cucumber pearls and seared sea scallops with wild mushroom velouté.
We’ve been fortunate to work in our area for local celebrities, such as Becky Bloomfield, owner of Brentwood’s Co.Co. County Wine Company. Becky spoils her wine release party attendees with lavish food and wine pairings. We typically cater for about 35 to 70 people during those events. Becky shared her thoughts in this review, “Chef Dennis has great experience in the food and beverage world and has an exquisite palette to pair tastings with wine with an element of surprise in each bite. He is forward thinking, a definite foodie, and is very creative. The events I’ve done with Chef Dennis and Theresa have been unbelievable and are still talked about to this day.”
Speaking of celebrities, in August we received a call from a production assistant working on a show that is on the Travel Channel. Her name was Jasmine Wasserman and she was representing Painless Television, the production crew that films for the TV show The Dead Files. Her crew was to begin filming in Discovery Bay for a week and they needed on-site meals catered. She informed us that our company had been hand-picked out of the multitude of caterers and chefs in our area, based on our stellar Yelp reviews! I forged ahead with creating a healthy and tasty meal plan for 100 meals total, spanning five days. I offered two choices per day and whipped up creations that could be served at room temperature, per their request.
Ari Waller, the assistant in charge of catering pick up, gave us this review, “This was the third time filming with this crew and this time around we knew we couldn’t go into any restaurant. We really wanted delicacies like you’d find in a fine-dining establishment. Dennis and Theresa were always dressed to impress and delivered the food to our car, timely and with care. Production is always on a tight schedule, so having the meals ready at pickup time was majorly important. Their food was simply the best! I would definitely utilize them again.”
We were really excited to be part of a Hollywood production team filming in our area. There’s no word on what the show was about, one thing that isn’t a mystery though is how well the crew ate. Looking forward, my intention is to possibly branch out into doing a personal chef franchise. Right now, I am happy to sink my teeth into creating menus for specialty parties like wine pairings, themed parties, and vegetarian and vegan dinners. It is always rewarding to help people celebrate their special occasion with an elegant flair and, as we like to say, “Entertain with Style.” Once it is safe to do so, I will be back to offering cooking classes to the younger generation. With homeschooling on the rise, teaching children to cook can be a fantastic enrichment course that helps them to learn knife and cutting board safety and healthful eating options, like how to prepare homemade fettucine alfredo instead of the frozen version. Who knows, investing in your child’s cooking skills early on could leave you with your very own personal chef living under your roof!
Photos by Melissa Van Ruiten