If you’ve ever thought about hosting a big dinner party with a little extra help, consider hiring a personal chef—in fact, that process has never been easier. We talked with local chef Orlando Castro about his business, The Global Chef, and asked him for his tips and tricks for hiring and collaborating with a personal chef as you put together your own delicious gathering.
Castro, who grew up in Costa Rica and is now based in the east metro, says his Latin roots influence his cooking big time. It’s also inspired him to explore flavors from all around the world—hence the name of his business, The Global Chef. His love for tasting new flavors and cooking for others began when he was young, since he has vivid memories of watching his mom cook meals while he tested them and learned from her. “I loved to do it. I was always the one tasting her food growing up,” Castro says.
Ever since, he’s been working in the restaurant industry, both in Costa Rica and in the United States. Before making his official move to the U.S., Castro spent eight months cooking in Washington, D.C. and after, returned home to Costa Rica. He moved to Minnesota in 2009 and began working in the kitchen at the now-closed Green Room in Stillwater. Finally, in 2013, he decided to launch The Global Chef, which he says allows him to thoughtfully prepare unique dishes inspired by the amazing world we live in. Castro’s food is able to take clients around the globe (including to places that might be on their specific want-to-travel lists) without leaving the dining room.
“What I prefer to offer is a tour of the world through my food, so people can pick different items from different parts of the world and try it all in one night in a five- to six-course meal,” Castro says.
When he begins working with a client, Castro makes it as simple as possible. He offers a free consultation, which includes visiting the client’s home to discuss a menu and any possible allergy or diet restrictions. He also offers plate rentals for table settings that require more than a client’s typical dishes. Most clients turn to Castro for dinner parties, friendly get-togethers with smaller groups, romantic dinners for couples, business dinners and wedding rehearsal dinners. Castro does all of the grocery shopping for the planned menu, and on the day of the event, he arrives at the kitchen ready to start cooking. Everything is freshly made from scratch—and we mean everything, including pasta and bread. He serves each course, followed by a detailed description of the ingredients and their global influences. At the end of the event, he cleans the kitchen and leaves things exactly the way he found them.
“What I like to do is make people try food from all over the world. I organize my food by continent so people can choose one country and I can make dishes from one country, or they can pick a region, like Asia, and I cook different items from Asia,” Castro says.
Castro often returns to his Costa Rican roots and uses flavors that were present in his childhood food. Many of his recipes include these traditional Latin American flavors, like lime, cilantro, different kinds of peppers, seafood and tropical fruits like pineapple.
Shrimp & fish ceviche
“I cook [cuisine from] a lot of different cultures but for some reason people ask for Latin American food the most,” Castro says. He knows clients recognize his background and area of expertise. One of his specialties is ceviche, a Latin American dish made from fresh raw fish and citrus juices, with seasonings like salt, peppers and cilantro. Castro loves to play with ceviche, though, and infuse it with flavors from other regions of the world. “I am playing around all the time,” he says. “I am a person that does not cook with recipes. I am a freestyler with my cooking. I respect the basis of ethnic foods with my own twist.”
Castro regularly works with local clients, including Judy Gallagher, who recently hired Castro for a formal dinner party as part of a weekend she spent with her girlfriends. Not only was she blown away by his cooking skills and his commitment to exceeding party expectations, but she enjoyed how easy and fun the process was. “Orlando is extremely pleasant to work with. He has a delightful personality and it is evident he enjoys what he does," Gallagher says.
She loved the collaboration, and says Castro welcomed her ideas and input, to help ensure the party was exactly what she wanted. Working with a personal chef allowed her to enjoy her time with her friends, talking and sipping wine on the patio, while their meal was being prepared. “He called us in for dinner and served us individually plated courses and explained every dish,” Gallagher says.
For that gathering, Castro prepared a culinary tour of four countries, which included Italy, Thailand, Spain and Peru. Their tour began with a roasted beet salad with arugula, pistachios, goat cheese, pecorino Romano cheese and balsamic dressing. From Thailand, they tasted Tom Kha Gai chicken and stuffed avocado. Next, they “traveled” to Spain to enjoy paella, and ended the meal in Peru with Lomo Saltado (sirloin with fries, onion and a variety of peppers).
“The food was delicious. Every plate—we enjoyed it all,” Gallagher says.
Asian tuna tartare
Incredibly, Castro stays busy with his “day job” outside of catering. He’s a physical therapist and has owned his studio, Brick Alley Studio of Massage and Bodywork, for nine years. The balance of two businesses—bodywork and cooking—comes naturally to him. In fact, The Global Chef offers buffet catering for larger events like weddings and graduation parties, in addition to in-home personal chef services. “The same thing I have for individual serving works for catering. All of the flavors are there. I promote global food in my catering services,” Castro says.
He offers in-home cooking classes for clients who want to be able to make delicious home-cooked meals on their own. Castro talks with clients ahead of time to choose a menu or dish, and arrives at their kitchen ready to teach.
He also cooks for some clients’ families on a monthly, biweekly or weekly basis, to help them stock delicious and healthy meals, even when they might not have the time or desire to do the cooking themselves.