Vacation & Executive Retreat Chef

In November, 2012, I received an e-mail from a company executive in Illinois. He was planning an Executive Retreat in San Antonio and was looking for a chef to provide dinner Sunday through lunch Wednesday for himself and his colleagues at a rental home in the Hill Country. I submitted a proposal which was quickly accepted, and via e-mail over the next two months, we finalized a menu for the duration of their stay.

Executive Retreat Menu

Executive Retreat Menu

My business was still relatively young at this point, and this type of job was another “first” for me. I’m a firm believer in giving everything (safe) a try! “You never know till you try!” So, on the evening of January 13, 2013, I told my husband where I was going (something I always do, so he can send out a search party if I don’t come home), loaded up the car and drove off, guided by my GPS, to this vacation rental home in the Hill Country. When my GPS announced that I had arrived, I was extremely skeptical. I had pulled into this driveway and was parked in front of a dilapidated little shack. I thought I had been scammed. I had done due diligence by searching Linkedin and Google for my e-mail contact. I researched the company online and found his name on the company’s website directory. I knew that he was, in fact, a real executive at this company. I decided I’d get out of the car and take a peek around. I grabbed my knife roll and hopped out of the car. I walked toward this little shack thinking, “This could be the next Dexter plot.” Courageously armed with my knife roll, I followed the sidewalk to the side of this little shack and came to a beautiful pool area.  Looking up to my left, I saw a HUGE house up on the hill. HA! My GPS had taken me to the “pool house.” A few minutes later I was pulling up to a beautiful marble entry-way, knocking on the door, and entering into this funky, artsy rental home to greet my clients for the next few days and prepare them dinner.

Vacation Rental Home

Vacation Rental Home

Fast forward to January 28, 2014. I received this e-mail: “My name is — and I am travelling with 7 other women to San Antonio from Halifax Nova Scotia February 14th -22nd to celebrate a very special 50th Birthday. We have rented a private residence and plan on enjoying, golf, horseback riding, shopping and a couple nights on the town. However, for the big Birthday dinner we thought it would be nice to bring a Chef in and pamper us for the evening. The Birthday date is Thursday, February 19th. I was hoping you could provide your availability and range of prices for this type and size of function. Since we are in Texas, thought we should be definitely be eating the beef and food with a southwestern flair. Being one of the foodies in the group I was tasked in setting this up. To give you idea of the location we are staying here is the address is below. I can’t speak to how the kitchen is equipped but I am assuming pretty good.” When I saw the address, I realized that this was the same house I’d spent 5 days cooking in 2 years earlier! I sent off my proposal, got the job, and repeated the e-mail menu-planning process, with the addition of a phone conversation from Nova Scotia, and we set a menu.

50th Birthday Party Menu

50th Birthday Party Menu

Last night, my assistant Renee and I got in the car and drove off at sunset to the rental home. It was Renee’s first time heading up to that area of Hill Country. I decided to repeat the “shack” arrival for her, as I had told her this story on our drive to the home. The owners of the home have done some maintenance to the “pool house” and it no longer looks dilapidated. The women renting the house laughed when I told them my first arrival story, as they had the same experience upon their arrival. When they pulled up at the “house,” they were wondering how 8 of them were going to sleep in that tiny house, and they were thinking they’d been completely misled by the online rental pictures.

We had a wonderful dinner service last night. My business brings me such joy. It’s hard to describe the myriad of emotions I feel when guests are seated, food is delivered, and sounds of  “MMMMMMM” and “WOW, did you taste that?”  begin making their way to the kitchen from the dining room. My clients were completely pampered last night, enjoyed their cocktails without having to designate a driver, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and the food.

I didn’t have any murder-mystery-plot emotions as I slung my knife roll over my shoulder this time. 🙂 I’m going to be calling this rental property management company to speak with them about linking my business to theirs. Personal Chefs and Vacation Rentals are a perfect match!

Southwestern Baby Back Ribs

Southwestern Baby Back Ribs on the grill

vacation home dining room

Dining room in the rental house

chicken and ribs 2.19.15

Cilantro-Lime Chicken Breasts and Baby Back Pork Ribs

corn and salsas 2.19.15

Grilled Corn on the Cob & Homemade Salsas: Pico de Gallo, Texas Black-eyed Pea Caviar, and Papaya Guacamole

buffet 2.19.15

Dining room side-board buffet


Gluten-free Cheesecake (gingersnap crust) with Rum-Caramel Sauce and Australian Finishing Sea Salt



  • by Darlene, post on | Reply

    thats a great story! I’ve always wanted to do a vacation type service. Maybe on a yacht! Lol. Everything looked really delicious.

    • by lavishtolitebites, post on | Reply

      I watched part of that Bravo TV series, Below Deck. If I had entered into this job before I got married and had kids, I would have loved to have jumped on a yacht and cheffed. Every day I have, “You can’t make up these stories” experiences. I like it when I have staff with me and I can share the stories and laugh about them later.

      • by Dottie Shepherd, post on | Reply

        I remember you sharing the first experience when it happened. I am so happy you shared it again. I laughed just as much te second time around. Your guests will have their own story PLUS yours to share on their return to Nova Scotia. Can’t wait for your first book about the adventures of being a personal chef:)

        • by lavishtolitebites, post on | Reply

          I’m going to try to start blogging more stories. At least then I’ll have some memory triggers when it comes time to write the book! 🙂

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