YOU can get an esteemed restaurant chef to whip up a meal for you at home. But be prepared to fork out between $80 and $500 per head for food costs and other miscellaneous fees.
While it is not uncommon for restaurant chefs to cook in people's homes for groups of between 10 and 30 people, this service - which has been around for at least 10 years - is growing in demand.
Executive chef Jimmy Chok, 37, of The Academy Bistro in the Supreme Court, has been offering chef-for-hire services since 2001 and says his bookings have increased by 30 per cent recently.
Over the last two months, he's been cooking at people's homes almost every weekend.
This increase may be due to a changing trend in the way Singaporeans entertain, say 10 restaurants that offer such services.
'Previously, entertaining used to be about inviting guests to expensive or fashionable restaurants. But the prestige of having an executive chef cooking in your home, especially on a busy Saturday night, surpasses that,' says Philippe Pau, 44, catering manager of the Les Amis group.
And restaurants are more than happy to meet this growing need. They say the chef-for-hire service has a profit margin that is 10 to 20 per cent more than that of a restaurant's regular business.
'Cooking in private homes incurs lower fixed costs given the absence of rental fees, so the returns are better,' says group executive chef Robin Ho, 35, of the Marmalade group of restaurants.
Benjamin Seck, 34, owner-chef of Peranakan restaurant True Blue Cuisine in Katong, adds that cooking in private homes helps him build up personal relationships with customers and the name of his restaurant.
That said, the logistics involved is tedious.
Anderson Ho, 43, executive chef of modern European restaurant Le Papillon in Maxwell Road, says some modest home kitchens may lack the cooking equipment available in restaurant kitchens.
So he sometimes has to bring to the venue everything from pots and pans to crockery and wine glasses on top of all the necessary ingredients.
Still, this hasn't deterred him from planning to expand this arm of his business from the current 5 per cent to 15 per cent.
However, with chefs leaving their kitchens to cook more frequently in private homes, restaurant customers are wondering if they are being short-changed.
'If I'm making a trip to a restaurant because of the chef's reputation, I'd want to eat food cooked by him,' says housing agent Tan Wee Min, 34.
Echoing the sentiment, art gallery owner Gee Michaud, who is in her 50s, says it is important that executive chefs remain committed to their restaurant business and responsible to their customers.
Chia Boon Pin, a food connoisseur in his 50s who is chief operating officer of Far East Organization's retail business, says it's tempting to think that food will taste better if it's personally cooked by the executive chef.
'But good food really only comes out of a well-run restaurant where the standard of food remains consistent regardless of whether the executive chef is around or not,' he says.
Francis Poulose, 39, general manager of Peter Knipp Holdings, which organises the annual World Gourmet Summit here, adds that it's not unusual for executive chefs to be absent from their restaurants.
'Celebrity chefs like Charlie Trotter in Chicago and Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney spend a fair amount of time travelling overseas on invites to international culinary events.
'As along as chefs control the frequency of their private house calls, it'll be a win-win situation for both guests at home and in the restaurant.'