AMANDA BLATTER SPEAKS ABOUT HER JOURNEY TO BECOMING A POMPADOUR PRIVATE CHEF
It’s quite possible you have never heard of a pompadour private chef. Don’t worry if you haven’t, because Amanda Blatter is taking us by the hand for a fascinating insight into the world in where she works.
You studied at the Zurich University of Arts. Gastronomy is also an art. How and why did you end up switching to the culinary arts?
In 2008 I had finished my Masters degree in Culture and Media sciences at the ZHdK. As a former singer, audio producer and language director, I needed a new theoretical input and this line of education was a link between two industries I was operating within. During and after my studies I was working catering and other small jobs in various kitchens throughout Zurich. I ended up writing my thesis on the “aesthetic processes of contemporary culinary stagings within the avant-garde star cuisine”. The audio industry as well as the culinary trade have the parallel in that they both require manual work in context and the final product is fleeting.
Currently you work as a pompadour private chef. For those that don’t know, what does pompadour mean?
Madame de Pompadour was an important female historical figure who has fascinated me since childhood. She had an amazing influence as a bourgeoise, on the court of Louis XV in political and spiritual matters.
So for me the name Pompadour stands for aesthetics, elegance, artistry and reflects the perfection of a simple kitchen, which creates simple, beautiful and also importantly, luxurious dishes.
Every beginning is tough. How was your start as a private chef?
I quickly realized that I didn’t want a position in a large or commercial kitchen, as I desired more direct contact with the customer. Through my network an expat family was recommended to me and I was able to complete my first year as a private chef with them. The biggest challenge at the start was getting to know my clients, not just their eating habits but also dealing with the different nutritional needs of groups of guests at relatively short notice. In the end I was incredibly lucky to work for a family that was not only generous but treated me with respect.
How wide-ranging are your different clients?
My strengths are geared towards expat families or couples. Due to my language skills and my experience travelling through many different countries, I am familiar with a lot of different cultures. This knowledge doesn’t just come through only in eating habits, but also helps in perceiving the cultural lifestyle and world-view of each individual client. Every once in a while I also cook for the Swiss middle class.
What is the biggest growing area in private cooking: Cooking at homes for clients and parties; cooking for those interested in learning, cooking for companies…?
Private chefs are assigned much of the time to the elite worldwide, and this type of position is open for the time-span allotted, with every activity that can be attached be it going to the markets together, a cooking course or specific event, cooking together with the client or even corporate level events which is also an exciting contrast.
In Spain there is a big trend of cooking for tourists in a homey atmosphere with a chef at homes. Do you see a market for that in Switzerland where there are definitely a lot of international tourists as well?
I think the approach is exciting. The biggest hurdle is probably going to be acquiring the customers who would like to experience the local cuisine and communicating with them. On top of that I see in Swiss gastronomy the problem on “no-shows” in regards to tourists and reservations. They simply don’t show up and don’t cancel beforehand since the daily routine of sudden discoveries and spontaneous trips overshadow predetermined plans. So you could have a private chef who has already done the shopping and is waiting for his guests, taking a hit for one no-show, and overall it might not be financially feasible. A platform that manages all the details, that links the chefs and customers would be the most efficient solution.
Since we are on the subject of Switzerland, which culinary trends/ new developments do you see coming out of there?
Switzerland is a prosperous country with a lot of culinary affinities so it is a natural melting pot for trends, which appear just as fast as they disappear. For me, trends on any level are absolutely uninteresting. One development that I personally like is the increasing awareness of the source or production condition of foods. Those who can afford food products cultivated in good and fair environments usually are also well-educated and don’t shy away from buying sustainably. You also have more and more the view on the reduction of food waste added to that. We see that in the meantime from large canteens or catering companies, thinking and being proactive in this way, which raises the awareness in the consumer.
What does modern Swiss cuisine mean to you?
I find the word “modern” in terms of the kitchen a bit inflationary and it suggests an “avant garde” tone, a bland picture with powdered “whatevers” and foams. As for contemporary Swiss cuisine, I see an awakening and revival of traditional Swiss dishes with an implementation of forgotten ingredients. A classic Zurich “geschnetzeltes”, a fleischvogel or a walliser cholera should not be tainted by new fads in my view.
You value very much transparent and seasonal product, mostly from vendors that you not only personally know but who themselves strive for high ethical and meaningful standards for their products. Do all of your clients also value that?
Most of my clients personally have very little experience with the food product scene since they are so busy with their profession. So the interest or value of what I am buying is rather small, but that is just fine, the main thing is that it tastes great. 🙂 And when my clients want strawberries in december they get that too… I am in no position to be dogmatic.
One time I had a client in Los Angeles, who insisted every Saturday morning on strolling through the farmers market with me, picking whatever foods that met his mood or fancy. He put his name and success on political and charitable projects and his interaction with food was an essential part of his world view.
Would you like to know more about the seasonal offers in the Zurich market? How to combine individual projects seamlessly? How to get the best out of a simple product?
Perhaps you would like to create a fabulous meal from your trip to the market with me? I look forward to hearing from you and to our walks through all the markets have to offer. Check out here.