Jack Kelly has an eye for luxury and a taste for five-star culinary masterpieces, with decades of placing talent in the hospitality and design industries. That’s why he and longtime friend Chef Jeff Purrazi founded JK Chef Collection, a service that matches talented and creative private chefs with clients. In our chat with Kelly, the expert serves up entertaining advice, reveals his favorite meals, dishes on the foodie faux pas that gets him fired up and much more.
What do you look for when hiring a private chef?
Of course talent and imagination. A chef must have empathy to really understand a client’s needs. Food represents so many things to so many people and a chef must have the ability to truly listen to what a client is looking for in the preparation of food for their family and friends. Lastly, a chef with a great smile and a sense of humor.
Describe the perfect culinary client?
A client that has an intelligently designed immaculate kitchen. Our chefs love opening a freezer door and finding everything neatly in place. It’s rare but a dream.
What is the biggest turn off when cooking for new clients?
Besides a BBQ grill without gas, it would be a table without fabric napkins, table runners or placemats. Our chefs have an emergency kit with 20 cloth napkins, votive candles, good kosher salt and olive oil. It’s a lifesaver.
What are your favorite meals?
Meals that are attached to a celebration. Everyone is in a great mood and the food just enhances the experience.
What is your favorite meal to prepare?
I really enjoy afternoon tea. Finger sandwiches, English scones with homemade jam. Homemade tarts and cookies. It’s so indulgent and everyone just loves it.
How do your chefs handle time management for a busy summer family in Connecticut for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night desserts?
Our chefs are normally up at 5 am for a quick morning shop to purchase fresh eggs and fruits and veggies from the local farm stand. They arrive at the residence at 6 am and start dreaming about the meal preparation. Coffee and freshly squeezed juice are ready at 7 am. We normally start taking breakfast requests at 8 am and prepare a large assortment of organic fresh-cut fruits with grain bread, dry cereals and organic local eggs.
The main food shop is normally at 9:30 am when all the vendors are open. Our chefs always cook in season and try and have special relationships with the local farmers and are truly inspired by what’s fresh.
A beautiful lunch buffet is served generally around 1 pm with a carb, protein, vegetable and a grain. I like a table that is abundant. We enjoy serving ice-cold vino, bubbly and Evian in a large silver bucket chock full of ice. Our chefs are noted for setting a beautiful table with colorful napkins and unique plates. I personally love going into clients’ cutting garden and making beautiful centerpieces for the table.
Cocktail hour normally starts at 6:30 pm. It’s traditional to serve just two small bites with a silver bowl filled with Brazilian nuts and a signature cocktail. One of our favorite requests is lemon parsley gougeres and fresh radishes with sea salt and butter before dinner.
Dinner at 7:30 pm is always a three-course meal, including dessert. We normally try to make this meal on the light side. Our chefs make a habit of buying fresh every day and try to get the majority of their daily food and ingredient list in the morning.
What are the biggest mistakes clients make in entertaining?
Forgetting to have fun! The chef is here to take away all the worries. Meals will be delicious and served on time. I tell clients all the time, “Your friends are not interviewing you.” It’s a time to celebrate life. Enjoy your family and friends and let the chef worry about the rest.