On-Demand Chefs are Taking Over the Culinary Scene

Local chefs such as Val Domingo are paving the way for a revolution in the up-scale dining experience.
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Chef Val Domingo of Food Fire+Knives with his sous chef preparing a private dinner called, “Fine Dining at Home.”/ Photo courtesy of Chef Val Domingo.

A private chef catering company, Food Fire + Knives, is revolutionizing the fine-dining experience. Spearheaded by Chef Michael Casciello, the business strives to help local chefs—like Val Domingo—that have lost their jobs due to the pandemic find their way to the kitchen again.

Fewer industries have been hit harder than the restaurant and food service industry. As the pandemic holds a steady presence in our day-to-day lives, things have not gotten much easier for restaurant owners and workers who have worked tirelessly to adapt to the new normal. Culinary innovations, such as Food Fire +Knives offer a breath of fresh air to those chefs who continue to feel the effects of the new industry hardships. For a city such as Savannah—home to a vibrant restaurant and culinary scene—a service like Food Fire + Knives helps to keep beloved chefs in work, as well as to bring those delicious dishes safely and directly to folks at home.

“We know that everyone is missing the restaurant fine dining experience and the quality of food that they can’t replicate at home,” says Michael Casciello, CEO and founder of Food Fire + Knives. “Our goal is to give the people what they want in a safe environment, that is why we have lowered the minimum number of people from six to as small as a party of two people.”

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Enjoy a beautiful, refined meal from the comfort of your home./Photo courtesy of Chef Val Domingo.

Both accessible and affordable, Food Fire + Knives has had the unique opportunity to provide a solution for both struggling chefs as well as customers who don’t want to miss out on a quality dining experience. Going to a restaurant during the pandemic raises many concerns. There is the added pressure of being exposed to the virus by the staff and fellow customers, as well as limited menu options for many places—all taking away from the restaurant dining experience people want. “About 98 percent of our customer base lies in tourism,” says Casciello. “Many of our customers want a private, in-home dining experience while also being able to distance themselves from crowds or other tourists.” Food Fire + Knives allows customers to relish in the opportunity to enjoy restaurant-quality food from the comfort of their own home.

Food Fire + Knives is creating an opportunity for local chefs to have consistent hours and place of work in tourism hotspots that have been impacted by the pandemic. They are working with local chefs that were laid off in the recent months from restaurants minimizing its staff.

One of many examples of how the company is supporting local chefs comes from Savannah, GA. “After the pandemic hit, I turned to Food Fire + Knives to pursue becoming a personal chef because it offered the stability and creativity to prepare meals,” said Chef Val Domingo, Food Fire + Knives chef. “Food Fire + Knives has allowed me to branch out as a chef into more than I ever thought was possible for my career.”

Chef Domingo has had a heavy hand in several Savannah mainstays, including opening Mansion on Forsyth Park in 2004 as the executive pastry chef and then as restaurant chef of 700 Drayton, serving as banquet chef of The DeSoto and was on the team that opened The Emporium at The Perry Lane Hotel. His Southern culinary pedigree extends to Charleston, SC (his hometown), where he worked with James Beard award-winning chef by the name of Jose Anciento at McCrady’s (way before Sean Brock and Michael Kramer). Chef Jose Anciento was one of the chefs that introduced actual truffles to Charleston and was instrumental in helping Charleston get noticed in the Southern French movement.

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Private Chefs come equipped with everything needed to create an amazing meal. No prep is required on the part of the client. Here, Chef Val Domingo prepares “Fine Dining at Home,” a five-course menu for a family that was celebrating two birthdays. First course: French onion soup; Second course: Caesar salad with prosciutto; Third course: seared sea scallops, pea and mint puree; Fourth course: grassfed ribeye, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, chimichurri, balsamic bacon roasted brussels sprouts; herb roasted rack of lamb, pea and mint risotto, red wine mustard jus; Fifth course: chocolate truffle cake, white chocolate anglaise, strawberries/Photo courtesy of Chef Val Domingo.

On the transition from top-tier kitchens to being a private chef, Chef Domingo describes, “In restaurant kitchens/hotels, there is so much responsibility because you’re overseeing many different areas from making sure orders are placed to insuring your culinary team is ready for service and in a solid state of mind, guests are constantly watching and observing—so as you can see, there’s a unique stress level and expectations from diners that comes with working in restaurants.” He explains, “As a private chef, that level of guest expectation is still there, but on a much more manageable scale, and without the long, stressful hours. In addition, as a private chef, you deal with the guests on a more direct, personal level, and I love that part of it. To be able to adjust menus and at some times, recreate a new menu for clients allows me to be even more creative.”

Some of the dishes that Chef Domingo prepares include: seared ahi tuna tostada, Southern oyster Rockefeller, Savannah hot chicken dip, Lowcountry paella, crab stuffed salmon and bourbon brined pork chop. He travels all over Savannah and Tybee Island and is frequently in Charleston, throughout the barrier islands including Hilton Head, Bluffton and the Golden Isles, and recently broke onto the scene in Jacksonville. In addition to his work with Food Fire + Knives, Chef Domingo can also be booked at chefvaldomingo.com. Preview his delicious dishes on Instagram @chefvaldomingo.

About Food Fire + Knives: From its home base of Charleston, Food Fire + Knives debuted as an accessible and affordable on-demand service that offers the ultimate private dining and entertainment experience. Food Fire + Knives connects local expert chefs with dining hosts to create a customized menu for a wide variety of cuisine, from Asian Fusion and French Nouvelle to Lowcountry and Modern American. The best part is, we bring everything including the food, equipment and cleaning supplies. Our culinary chefs will clean and leave without a trace. Food Fire + Knives and private chef experiences, visit their website www.foodfireknives.com.