You know how much I love a fabulous meal out on the town, but to me, there is nothing sexier than a man who can cook an intimate meal at home for me on Valentines Day. It says a lot about how much he cares since a lot more thought, planning and execution goes into preparing that sensual meal than just ripping out the plastic like he might do any other night of the year. Psssst, men – she doesn’t have to know I did the planning for you!

An intimate dinner for two at home shows how much you care

True, a high percentage of the world’s best chefs are men, but those that didn’t go to culinary school usually find the kitchen a scary place. That’s precisely why I started the support forum called the cyber living room – so you’d never be alone in the kitchen. You have access to me for advice, along with an entire community.

When premium member Simone (an accomplished chef herself) took ill, a group of is in the forum offered to coach her husband through the Personal Chef Approach™. She was apprehensive about broaching the subject, knowing full well he had never really cooked before, and might find it an overwhelming proposition.

Simone and James

In one of the most grandly romantic gestures ever – James decided to tackle his kitchen phobia, and is now rocking out dinner like a pro – taking those sickness and in health vows seriously. Simone’s verdict of his first meal, a slow-cooker version of the citrus chicken recipe? “He did it. He actually did it! It was yummy!”

But wait, it gets better. Not only did he find his culinary confidence, he wrote about his second stab at it, and had all of us in stitches laughing, including his wife.  Here it is in James own words – a glimpse into mastering the Personal Chef Approach™ from a beginners point of view:

An interesting night. Total time 3 hours, with some interesting diversions:

  • I enjoy losing weight. But climbing the step stool to get to the flour, my pants fell down. Fortunately, I got them up before Leila could start a rousing chorus of “Pants on the ground”.
  • The dog hacked up a hairball. Or a bug he ate. Or worse.
  • Nicolas had an emotional meltdown about not being able to go out with the dogs. After I made a few futile attempts to comfort him, Simone figured out he was hypoglycemic. I gave him a snack.
Leila, and Nicolas with dad
So, it was a learning experience. Since I’m on a Georges Escoffier/Mise en place kick, here are a few reflections on the evening based on the “Brigade de Cuisine” (and who didn’t wish they had a whole brigade cooking for them?)

Chef de Cuisine (Chef= chief, Cuisine=kitchen): That would be the darling wife. And this is HER kitchen. Do NOT expect a real chef to let a measly thing like pain, sickness, exhaustion et. al. to keep them from their kitchen for long. They WILL observe, They WILL tweak, they will question why you’re doing it THIS way when THAT way is more efficient, they will smile at your quaint adherence to the letter of the recipe. Keep your fragile ego in check, Aries boy. You’re not gonna get this down on the first night.

Apprenti: That would be me. Practical study and reading, but also practice, practice, practice. Again, I’m not going to get this all down in one night.

Plongeur and Marmiton: A “no dish left behind” policy would be very VERY useful. If it’s in the drainer or dishwasher clean, put it up. If it’s scrubbed, wash it. If it’s not scrubbed, scrub it. If it’s ANYWHERE but in the dish area, get it there. Time savings tonight? It probably would have saved about 15-20 minutes.

LegumierGreen beans should have cleaned and snapped these before leaving to pick up Nicolas. Then again, that would have denied him a good helping opportunity.

Garde Manger (store keeper): Yeah, didn’t realize how little paprika we had. Kinda important if you’re making paprika beef. I started noting anything I used up on the grocery list. Then any staples obviously missing from the fridge. But then again, it worked out ok, as I don’t think the kids would have liked a great deal more paprika. The kids like a low amount of strong flavor. Simone likes a moderate amount. I’m kind of an “AWWWW YEEAHHHH” guy.

Boucher: Meat was too tough for the kids. Either cut it up smaller, make a crock pot version, or even try ground beef.

Communard (“Yo dawg – we heard your cooks were hungry, so we found you a cook to cook for your cooks while they cook”): I associate this with a lot of the cooking I’ve been doing. Breakfast, lunch, heat up a micro meal. Keep the kids fed, snacked up, and calm. Think of some easy but substantial snack/appetizers if dinner runs a bit late. Too late? Heat them up something, save the meal you’re cooking for tomorrow.

Kitchen Boy: Okay, I have this bad habit of getting irritated when my son interrupts. “Can I help? I want to help. Why can’t I help?”. So what the heck: I handed him some green beans, showed him how to snap them. Note to self: find some other ways to get him involved that are age appropriate.

Sommelier: not part of Escoffier’s system, but if I had the presence of mind to hit the store for some paprika, It would have been nice to know a good wine to go along with the dish. Or IN the dish. That, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember now.

Jewels with Simone at Nile Rodger's book launch

Julie Anne, I want to thank you sooo much for helping us. This has been a lifesaver. And yes, feel free to write about us!”

Happy Valentines Day!

My pleasure James, and wishing you all well, especially Simone. I hope to see that radiant smile again soon (Simone and I met face to face at Nile Rodgers book launch)! Also, thank you so much to all of the members who offered their stellar support! Happy Valentines Day everyone. To sample the citrus chicken recipe James mastered first time in the kitchen, click here for the recipe of the week. To try your hand at the beef paprika and all my other recipes please join and/or upgrade now. What culinary treats will you be indulging your Valentine with?

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  • February 13, 2012
    4:25 am

    Congratulations to James! Well done.

    I must say, my husband is limited in his culinary skills (some Mexican and Pasta dishes is as far as he will go), but he certainly tries and is not too bad at all.

    This Valentines Day we have both opted for a night out with our 3 year old daughter. Being 3 weeks away from giving birth to our second child, I am certainly not in the mood to cook a fabulous romantic dinner for two.
    Having cooked a feast on Xmas Day for 23 members of our immediate family while being heavily pregnant for the 2nd time, I am now officially drained.

    Looking forward to my surprise dinner with hubby and daughter indeed!

    • February 13, 2012
      10:52 am

      Oh Aussie Mum – we’d have him cooking up a storm in no time with a little support in the forum.

      I do have to say – in your situation I would prefer the night out on the town, because you won’t get many of those for a while once the baby comes. Mia must be so excited on both accounts!

  • February 13, 2012
    6:50 am

    What a great blog post!!! James had me cracking up royally, which was a laugh well-needed.

    I hope more and more men get a read of this and follow in James’ footsteps.

    You’re spoiling us all, James!!

    • February 13, 2012
      10:54 am

      I love having men join us in the forum and in the kitchen! I’m hoping to enlist my cousin to write a few blog posts too – he’s a stay at home dad, and a brilliant writer.

      • February 13, 2012
        10:57 am

        When I first launched the PCA™ I found that many of you adapted it in different ways than I use it professionally since you are in your own kitchens. I have a feeling men may help give me even more insight into what works with their lifestyle best before publishing my book. SO PLEASE DO SPEAK UP GUYS!

  • February 13, 2012
    9:19 am

    James rocks in the kitchen! Simone, I’m so happy you have a good guy to take care of you. Feel better and meanwhile hope the two of you spend some quality time in the kitchen making something special for Valentine’s. Maybe molten lava cakes a deux. :)

    • February 13, 2012
      10:58 am

      I know! James, can we clone you?

      • February 13, 2012
        11:21 pm

        2 of me? Dear lord, that’s frightening to contemplate.

  • February 13, 2012
    9:36 am

    What a great community you all are. We have felt so supported and loved! Who knew James would go from scrambled eggs to homecooked dinner so quickly?! Now to convince him to make those red velvet waffles tomorrow morning… ;) Thank you for this site, Jewels, the PCA approach, your friendship, and appreciating my husband’s sense of humor. His wit is the first thing that attracted him to me. Xoxo

  • February 13, 2012
    11:03 am

    Well spotted Simone! I think he should write comedy – he is wickedly funny, and the first man brave enough to speak out in our cyber living room – hope more follow in your shoes James!

    • February 13, 2012
      12:53 pm

      I was trying to say his sense of humor attracted me to HIM! I am not sure what he found attrative about me, but I do know I hooked him for good: with homemade oatmeal cookies on our first date (his favorite). :)

      • February 13, 2012
        12:56 pm

        Btw, you look stunningly elegant in that photo, Jewels!

      • February 14, 2012
        8:46 am

        The way to a man’s heart…

  • February 13, 2012
    11:34 pm

    The third night went…not as well. The kitchen wound up looking like a Marinara drive-by. I’m nearing my curfew, but I’ll write about it further in the Forum.

    I have completed a play during Script Frenzy month (April), but No one is ever going to see it. I’ve always wanted to participate in National Novel Writing month as well (NaNoWriMo).

    So maybe in May you’ll be “treated” to “Love’s Labours Lost – Because of Zombies”, and in December “Leopold Bloom: Vampire Hunter”.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got a week off from Pharmacy Tech classes – with the Inland Valley Symphony concert instead (Did I mention I play Violin and Viola in the midst of all this madness?)

    Thank you Jewels – this site and the PCA approach are a huge blessing in our lives.

  • February 14, 2012
    9:50 am

    Right on! James is blogged and preserved for all eternity. Funniest read ever! I have hope for my husband now… not that he’s about to do anything like cook but at least there is hope!

    Way to go James!Love the photos! Beautiful family and Julie Anne of course beautiful as always. BTW… heard about a bit of a mess… get acquainted with the kitchen wipes, dude LOL

  • February 14, 2012
    8:51 am

    Hahaha – I hear Simone was none to pleased with the new decor. Hope that won’t put you off – you should see the mega messes I’ve created in my day. Once the kids are a little older (I believe in slave labor) you can make it their chore to do the clean-up. Tatjana says she prefers my cooking so much that she would RATHER do the clean-up (as long as I do the cooking).

  • February 14, 2012
    6:38 pm

    Okay, I can come clean now – the first paragraph of this post was not about me – Tatjana’s boyfriend just swept her off her feet. I thought it was romantic when he asked me for her favorite recipes and swore me to secrecy – oh, young love! I do think men cooking is sexy though.

    • February 14, 2012
      9:09 pm

      Love it!!!!!

  • February 16, 2012
    8:12 am

    Tatjana’s boyfriend sounds like a keeper! Not too many would ask for the recipes and cook up a dinner like he did. Hope it all turned out well and the evening was something memories are made of and duly noted in a journal. I think reading this is the high point of the week. Hugs to you and Daisy.

  • February 24, 2012
    2:38 pm

    I love the heart at the end!