An Idea, A Notion, Some Inspiration, A Contest, and Dinner?

If I can’t use this blog to do something for others, then what is the point of having it?  That was the question, the notion that was in my head when I was having a beer and a burger with the irrepressibly funny LiLu and her boyfriend B.

I told them of a rough idea I had about offering my private chef service to a couple who couldn’t ordinarily afford to hire me.  Valentine’s Day weekend is a very busy and profitable period for me and I explained that I was feeling this desire to reserve that Friday night, 12 February, for some teacher, or social worker, or Hill Staffer, or really anyone who has a heart of gold but not the bank account to match.  I just didn’t know the best way to find that person.

B gave me the perfect idea: have people nominate someone besides themselves and then do it as a raffle.

And with that, the RR Valentines Personal Chef Raffle begins.

The Rules:

  • You cannot nominate yourself.
  • You can nominate as many people as you want.
  • Nominations can be made via a comment in this post, or by sending me an email (restaurantrefugee at gmail dot com.)
  • All nominees must reside in the DC metropolitan area.
  • Nominations must include your email, a brief description of why your nominee should be included (i.e. My friend John is a really terrific teacher who would never do this for himself but really deserves it.)  You should also feel free to be as verbose as you deem necessary to fully elucidate your reasoning.
  • Nominees should not be fully identified to protect their privacy.
  • Nominees do not need to be a couple in the romantic sense (i.e. if you have two good friends who are meritorious and they don’t have plans for Valentines Day.)
  • Due to other commitments, the date is largely inflexible, but some reasonable accommodations can be made.
  • You may nominate vegetarians – you may not nominate vegans.
  • I may reject any nominee if the reason for nomination trips my bullshit sensor or seems otherwise insufficient.
  • Each nominee will be assigned a number.  All numbers will be placed in a bowl and one will be pulled at random by a third party – someone with a webcam and a penchant for making videos (LiLu, thanks for volunteering) and will be posted on the web.
  • Nominations will be accepted until 26 January.  The drawing will take place within 48 hours of the close of the nominating process.

p.s. in case you’re wondering what type of dinners I prepare for my clients (and don’t have the inclination to sift through the archives to find them,) the following menus are my favorites of the past year:

A Summer Anniversary Dinner for Six:


  • Big Eye Tuna Tartar in corn tortilla cups
  • Caprese Salad Skewers drizzled with 10 year aged Balsamic
  • Mini Grilled Cheese: gorgonzola, prosciutto, and tomato on grilled baguette

Amuse Bouche: Sweet Corn Velute with olive oil poached lobster and Parmesan Beignet

First Course: Pork Cigars

Slow cooked pork and mascarpone cheese in a tissue paper potato shell with a spiced apple cream sauce and petite arugula and micro green salad

Soup Course: Shrimp Bisque

North Atlantic Prawns in a tomato based bisque with a six hour roux

Third Course: Beef and Potatoes

Braised Beef Short Ribs with a spinach and artichoke cassoulet, truffled French fries, and reduction of braising jus

Sweet Course: Apple Slapple Sweet

Cinnamon and sugar glazed apples in a deep fried spring roll with cognac & caramel sauce.

Cheese Course: Cheese and Accoutrements

Selection of Cowgirl Creamery Cheese with slivered almonds, wildberry compote, and truffled honey.

Cajun Themed Holiday Dinner for Ten:

Amuse Bouche: Shot of Guacamole Soup with essence of Black Forest Bacon


  • Cajun Sushi Roll with Andouille Sausage, Pimento Cheese and Anaheim Peppers
  • Blue Cheese Gourgeres
  • Shrimp and Jalapeño Hush Puppies

First Course

Seafood Gumbo Or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Entrée Course

Tagliatelle Pasta with Jambalaya style Sauce Or Red Snapper with Heirloom Tomato and Basil Sauce

Dessert Course

Mint Chocolate Mouse topped with frozen and crumbled Peppermint Patty Pieces

Fall Dinner for Four*

Salad of Asparagus “Linguini” with Wild Mushrooms, Pancetta and Poached Quail Egg

Pumpkin and Roasted Pine Nut Bisque with Garlic and Truffle Au Jus

Lamb Tenderloin Medallions with Lamb Shank Confit Spring Rolls and Spinach & Artichoke Cassoulet

Cheese Course: Cheese and Accoutrements

* they didn’t get an amuse bouche because it was this couple


23 Responses to An Idea, A Notion, Some Inspiration, A Contest, and Dinner?

  1. I LOVE this idea & adore you for doing it. I wish I lived out there & could nominate someone who deserves such an unexpected treat.

    Thank you, I wish that I was sufficiently flush to facilitate this idea all over.

  2. Oh my gosh, I am drooooooling. I don’t know anyone in the DC area to nominate, so I hereby nominate myself (and appoint myself the winner) of a fantasy meal based on your sample menus, to be imagined by me while I eat a powerbar.

    Thank you… and you are the official virtual winner.

  3. Christina says:

    This is such a great idea! The winners are going to be so lucky!

    Thank you, I am rather excited about it myself.

  4. Christina says:

    Could I contribute a few dollars towards the meal?

    I will send you an email to discuss. That is an incredibly generous offer.

  5. laloca says:

    RR – this is wonderful, and so you!

    i have one nomination:

    m&a, both active duty army and with a six-month-old daughter. between work, school (m’s getting her doctorate on top of the RN she already is), and baby, there’s no way they’ll be able to do anything that would approach one of your meals. and they’re lovely people.

    Thank you, and the nomination is received and happily accepted.

  6. kitty says:

    This is wonderful. Really. My heart goes out to you, and whoever ends up as the recipient is so, so lucky.

    Thank you, and I have feeling that I will get as much from this experience as anyone else.

  7. LiLu says:

    I hereby nominate my darling friends N and E, who have been married for… hmm, when was I at their wedding? 5 years now? YEESH. They’re both teachers in the District, absolutely hilarious, and will never come out to dinner with B and I anymore because they bought their own house near RFK stadium in SE and are struggling to make ends meet, never mind have fancy meals out. I know something like this would be an absolutely wonderful surprise for them.

    And, bonus? You would totally love them.

    Thank you, and the nomination is received and happily accepted.

  8. Grace says:

    This is a wonderful gift! I’ll think it through and email a few nominations soon.

    Thanks, and I look forward to receiving them.

  9. K says:

    I’m surprised at the elimination of vegans from the contest – is it just that you don’t cook vegan or something more personal?

    Mostly it’s that I would have to do too much work in research and prep in my busiest time of the year. That and the economies of scale would make it more expensive than if I have meals that share ingredients or even recipes with my other clients that weekend.

  10. I nominate LiLu and B! They are the funniest couple on the planet!

    Received and accepted.

  11. This is such a sweet idea! (Seriously… I may or may not be crying a little.) Now I just need to think of a truly deserving couple…

    Thank you, and you have a minute to think about it.

  12. Sean says:

    What a wonderful idea and a very generous gift!

    Thank you, I am really looking forward to it.

  13. imgonnabreakyourheart says:

    I’d like to nominate my friends S&B. S is a special ed teacher at a DC Charter school. B works for a non-profit that connects homeless people to city services. In short, B spends his days walking the streets of DC, rain or cold or heat, seeking out homeless and making connections with them. They are the most compassinate couple I know.

    If it can be for a party of 4, I’d like to include his sister L and her fiance T who are getting married in May. They have been common law married for many, many years, and have waited to make it legal until DC made it legal for EVERYONE to get married. So, May it is.

    Received, accepted, and congrats to all who will FINALLY be able to participate in that societal institution.

    This is really lovely, my dear friend, really lovely.

  14. Foggy Dew says:

    I’d like to nom my friends D&C. While they live together in the same house, which they share with their two kids, they rarely see each other. I got a text from D this morning (Thurs) saying he hadn’t seen his wife since Sunday. The reason for this is they’re both active duty Air Force doctors – he and ER doc and professor of medicine, she a pediatrician working on a fellowship in pediatric neurology – and work about 18 hours a day. I joked with him last week that he and the wife, although they’ve been married almost 10 years, are almost like newly weds because of how little time they’ve spent together between deployments and work. So if anyone deserves a good dinner, it’s D&C.

    Received, accepted, and I thank them for their service.

  15. Grace says:

    I finally decided who to nominate:

    Couple 1: M and A are a mid twenties couple who love life. They both work for non-profits and are engaged. They are two of the most positive and passionate people I have ever met. Both do a ton of work for gay rights and sex education along with a host of other important issues. I know they would love to have a meal like this and they are fun to be around so it’s a win-win.

    Couple 2: A and C are another mid twenties couple who love life. A loves beer and recently started a beer blog. They are engaged and have a fascinating inter-faith relationship that is filled with compassion and thoughtfulness. C does lots of work with the homeless and both majored in Peace Studies in college and are applying to divinity school.

    Couple 3: D and his partner. Ok this might get kicked out of the running because I’ve never met D’s partner but if he is anything like D he is an awesome person. These two love a nice meal and would appreciate this more than going out to a restaurant. I met D when he was playing the scarecrow in a local community theater production of The Wiz. He is a great actor/singer and has a heart of gold. He is always willing to help people out and is thoughtful and caring.

    Couple 4: B and E are so fun! B always has an interesting story to tell and E is creative and down to earth. B is a social worker and participates in community theater in her free time. They are married and have one of the most amazing and strong relationships I have ever seen. They are just truly happy to be alive and be together. Another very fun couple to spend time cooking for that would truly appreciate it.

    There you have it! Sounds like you have a good amount of entries. This is so sweet and can’t wait to hear how it goes. I’m sure whoever gets it is very deserving of your time and specialty.

    All of them are received (as separate entries) and accepted, thank you.

  16. […] another note, there is still time to nominate someone for the Valentine’s Contest Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sing it, Spidey!the feelings for todayReminiscing […]

  17. Kristin says:

    I nominate my friends P&S just because I love them that much. They got married in October and were kind enough to involve me in their nuptials as Maid of Honor. (I get it – I couldn’t have been more honored by the inclusion.) Smart, funny and perfect together, they are willing to work to make their relationships work – with each other, family and friends.

    If they don’t get it, I’d go with P&E, my favorite mixed-race, homosexual, would-be-married-if-it-were-legal couple (as they call themselves). They’ve made their house a home and regularly share it with me.

    And really, it doesn’t matter if neither of my couples win. I just wanted to write about them; I love these guys.

    Nomination received and accepted – thank you.

  18. shepdc says:

    I suppose nominating someone else reduces my chances of getting picked, but when imgonnabreakyourheart told me about this, I knew I needed to nominate a few people, too. So, without further ado:

    N&K are two friends that I teach with in a DC charter school. The math teacher and the literacy specialist… with a new baby that’s stolen their hearts and their ability to get sufficient sleep.

    B&H are my co-teachers, who are not a couple but love each other tons. They work 10-12 hour days, tirelessly chipping away at the achievement gap. They even work Sundays. They’re there right now. (Okay, maybe they’ve gone home by now – but they WERE there).

  19. […] How would you like a personal chef for special Valentines Day? Then submit a raffle entry by Tuesday. By DCBlogs’ editor, Restaurant Refugee, who is also a personal chef. […]

  20. Mari says:

    I nominate my friends N & BL, a couple with three kids, raising them in the city (District of Columbia y’all). I swear since they’ve had the first one, they haven’t had a meal together that didn’t involve a kids menu. BL is a fantastic cook and my wine guru, but the three little ones make the fantastic meals and good wine (no wine when you’re preggers) few. She needs a break.

    Received and accepted, thank you.

  21. Mese says:

    Let me tell you a little bit about Nicole

    She is a fighter- after years in foster care she decided to work in the child welfare field to make sure other children don’t have to struggle with no support from a loving, permanent family

    She is tried and true- when given the opportunity, Nicole has ditched vacation and forgone sleep to write, speak, teach, lead- anything to help spread the word on the reasons no child should go to bed in fear or without a home

    She is committed- friends and family have been welcomed into Nicole’s home as a refuge from hardship without anything expected in return, despite her no-profit salary

    Because she gives so much, I would love to see my friend receive something special.

    Received and accepted. Thank you.

  22. I would like to nominate the father in my daughter’s class who just lost his wife two weeks ago. This will be his first Valentine’s day alone. He has two small children, and I don’t know if you would want to do something just for him or a “family approach” to include his children. I just thought that anything to make the day something besides a day of loss would be worth the nomination.

    That post took my breath away – more like sucked the air out of my chest, actually – and it just did it again.

  23. […] I announced the Valentines Day Chef Contest, my ambition was to donate a bit of time and provide a memorable experience for someone who […]

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