First the back-story of how I met my cook/butler. It was early days after Hurricane Sandy; only the village center in our town of Lincroft, NJ had electricity. Dunkin Donuts had hot coffee and it was the most popular spot around. The parking lot was loaded with trucks bearing logos of every tree service for miles around. Lots and lots of trees were down, including those on my front lawn. Power lines were hanging from branches and on the ground. People had survival on their minds, as most homes nearby were still without heat and lights, to say nothing of TV, the Internet and land phone lines. I set out to get some coffee and sweets to cheer us up, driving the half mile very carefully.
This improbable story started with a smile, a nod and a question. This slightly worn-looking man was next to me at the counter of Dunkin Donuts. He said “Hello.” I met his eyes and said “Hi” back. The stranger, emboldened by my smile asked a question. “Is there anything you would like done? “
Whatever he might have meant, an answer just popped out of my mouth, “I would like a personal chef.” I hadn’t even realized I had that thought in my head. The man’s face lit up and he replied, “I am a personal chef, and a butler.”
You’ve just got to love it! You put the most insane things out there and the universe answers in its own dandy way. Afterwards, when we got to laugh about it, I found out his question was referring to tree removal. Did I want tree work done? Later he revealed his background, formerly working for an English lady in NYC for twenty years as her butler and chef. He was unemployed since she died, living on a family farm in Monmouth County.
For my part, this longing for a personal chef was not a whim. I had been thinking about this, imagining food cooked at home by a professional. Wholesome, non-fattening tasty food; probably cheaper than the meals we ate out most nights of the week. Food placed on my table without my shopping or cooking when I came home tired from work. Wouldn’t my husband love it too? I imagined pounds melting off both of us while we experienced eye-popping luscious-tasting platters on our table.
Something primal and spontaneous within me blurted out at that moment: What do I want? Why, of course, it was a personal chef! Anyone could chop down my tree. I wanted a chef.
So after he cut down my trees the next day we made a date for him to prepare dinner in my home for my husband’s birthday three weeks later. It was marvelous. He set the table with flowers and candles, though the lights were back on. He cooked a gourmet meal in my kitchen and served us as if we were a Duke and Duchess. He cleaned up everything while we had brandy afterwards in the living room. It was only that once, but it was all I imagined.
Dr. Geraldine Velasquez is a member of the Ollie Writers Group. She is Professor Emerita of Art and Design and recently presented “Look at me” an art appreciation lecture at Olli.