Chef specializes in home cooking with an accent

by Lee Adams

Imagine if you could have your own personal French chef, complete with accent and all. He’d do all the shopping for you, come into your home and cook four to eight meals, serve you and any of your guests and then wash your dishes and clean your kitchen before leaving. Imagine he could make any meal you like, or you could choose one from a menu of over 450 choices. Imagine that the food was as good or better than eating in the finest restaurants in town and that it was more affordable than doing so.

Now that you’re salivating you can stop imagining. Chef Reto Biaggi is making it a reality. Yes, he’s a real French chef who grew up in the country after moving there from Switzerland at the age of six.

Biaggi wanted to be a chef at the age of 12, but his father didn’t think it was a good idea. So to discourage him his father put him on a six-year waiting list for the Hospitality Management School of Lausanne, Switzerland and sent him to a different kitchen every year, starting at age 14, to show him how hard and overbearing the trade would be. He worked in restaurants in Switzerland. Then in England. And then in France.

But his father’s plan backfired. Biaggi was encouraged.

After graduation from hospitality school Biaggi went on to work at the Plaza Athenée Hotel in Paris and the Bath Hotel in England.

So how does someone so sophisticated, so charming, so suave come to live in the hills and hollers of Greensboro? It was his wife Emmy, foreign and exotically charming herself, who lured him with love to become a North Carolina resident.

Emmy, born and raised in Greensboro, majored in French at UNC Chapel Hill and wanted to immerse herself in European culture. So she went to France and got a job working the desk of a hotel during the opening of EuroDisney in 1992. Reto worked at the same hotel as a project manager for EuroDisney. There they met and fell in love.

When her visa expired Emmy came home to Greensboro and Reto came with her. The two were married here in 1994 and then moved to Toronto where Emmy got a job as a commodities trader.

Upon having their first child the two moved back to Greensboro to be closer to family and to raise the child in a warmer climate. Reto worked on staff at the Green Valley Grill, then as restaurant manager for the Grandover Resort upon it’s opening, where he earned the restaurant a four-diamond rating.

He left the Grandover in 2004 with the idea of opening his own restaurant, but as he began to look at possibilities Biaggi had the idea of becoming a personal chef, something that had caught on in California around the mid-nineties. This concept involved, well, just what he does now: coming into people’s homes and cooking them fresh, gourmet meals right in their own kitchens. So instead of opening a restaurant he went back to work at the Green Valley Grill part-time while building his business.

It grew slowly at first, Biaggi says, but as word of mouth began to spread his work began to increase. Now he spends four or five days per week cooking in homes and caters events on the weekends.

A typical day for Biaggi might last 12 hours. He prepares the grocery list, does the shopping, gets to his client’s home, sets up, cooks four to eight meals and cleans up at the day’s end. The meals are then stored in the customer’s freezer with easy reheating instructions.

It’s perfect for today’s busy families, Biaggi says. Many families eat out too much and the already-prepared foods found at most grocery stores are bland and full of preservatives. Biaggi’s services provide custom-tailored meals whether for fun, health reasons or dietary concerns. And where a private chef would be too expensive for the average middle-class family, a personal chef can come in only when you want and when you can afford it. When meals are divided by cost, they are about the same as eating out.

In addition to preparing meals for freezing and serving guests at dinner Biaggi is also available for cooking romantic dinners for couples that prefer to have a date in rather than out. But watch out guys, Biaggi admits his French accent is very attractive to the ladies.

(Insert French accent here) ‘“Every time they try to make me talk more,’” Biaggi says. ‘“Women like it.’”

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