Interview: Rachelle Boucher
Rachelle has a lot on her plate.
In fact, she always has.
As the Chef and Culinary Events Manager at the Miele Experience Center in San Francisco, she sells high-end appliances such as the combi-steam oven, ranges, dishwasher, and induction cooktops while she teaches cooking and demonstration classes, develops recipes, and invites other chefs to do events. Even though she has been a corporate chef for over twenty years, Rachelle has also been a sandwich maker, prep chef, line chef, cooking class instructor, an artist, and most notably, a private chef for George Lucas and other celebrities.
She started working at a deli in Philadelphia and performed many tasks. Then she moved to New York, then to California, and worked at Charthouse Restaurant, both in the kitchen and waitressing. She realized she enjoyed working in the kitchen more, so she decided to become a chef.
That was when Judith Ets-Hopkins, the founder of Home Chef recruited Rachelle to work at their showroom in Corte Madra.
"I did sales, cooking demonstrations, classes and that was a great experience, "Rachelle reflects back on her experience. "I don’t have a culinary degree, so I had to be a bit more creative than those who have one."
At Home Chef, Rachelle and her co-workers audited each other’s classes. They developed training programs, brought in experts in the field.
"Meanwhile, I was working as a private chef and catering, so I was cooking a lot, building my skill, but not working at restaurants anymore," Rachelle recalls.
One day, one of her class participants asked her to go on an interview for a private chef.
"There is a family in Marin County who is looking for a full-time private chef," she told Rachelle. Rachelle did not know which family she was interviewing for.
"The way I found out was the woman told me where to go for the interview, and everybody knew where the family lived. So it was a very weird moment. I am from a small town and Star Wars changed everything," Rachelle recalls her experience. "I had to be very 'quiet.' Luckily, there was no Internet, so I could not go on Facebook and tell my friends that I am going to an interview at George Lucas' home. If I did, I would not have been hired!"
Although she lacked a culinary degree and Michelin Star restaurant experience on her resume, George Lucas hired her to be his family's private chef. Asked why he hired her, Rachelle says, "I was trusted by someone, a friend of theirs. She saw something in me that she thought was a good match. Also, I did not come in with a stiff chef coat. I looked very professional but very comfortable with my skin. Though it was the biggest opportunity in my life, I was comfortable with his kids. I think it was them who got me the job."
While working for the Lucas family, Rachelle also worked for other homes and learned some valuable lessons as a private chef.
"People now want more restaurant experience at home. One client with a heavy accent said to make the buffet look like Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. We made too much food as she insisted and it was over the top. " Rachelle recalls. "But, George did not want a restaurant experience. He is known for his simple taste."
Rachelle thinks it's not just cooking skills that make a private chef great. "You have to know the family and be able to read them, keep your ego out and understand the people, what’s important to them. Stay out of their private business."
Rachelle must have done her job 'right' because George Lucas surprised her by showing up with his family at her wedding in a venue in a redwood forest years after she stooped working for the family.
"I did not tell anyone. Nobody knew," Rachelle says. "I never expected them to come because (Francis Ford) Coppola also invited them to an event on the same day. We thought they would go there only, but they ended up coming to ours as well. It was really special and it shows how much they cared. Everyone was quite shocked, and the wedding, which was already, really cool (great food, great location) kind of went off the charts at that point. George loved the live sushi bar we had in the forest! " Rachelle says.
After leaving Lucas' home, Rachelle decided to become a corporate chef, using the experience she gained at Home Chef.
"I did retail sales, kitchen management, and teaching. People came to take the class, and they could see kitchen tools used in action. So, I really enjoyed cooking and working with the products." Rachelle used the same "sales" skill she learned through waitressing. "I got to know how to promote and sell with authentic messages," she says.
The other important aspect of selling, according to Rachelle, is how you feel about the product. "You have to be humble and learn what is important to each guest. You always have to do a little bit of selling, explaining the food. If you can sell a product you believe in, that’s great."
So, what's cooking for Rachelle now and next?
"At The Miele U.S.A. headquarters in Princeton New Jersey, I had a chance to work with the corporate team and develop programs and recipes. That is an area I have lots of experience with. I can take my chef skills and San Francisco perspective to the brand. We are also doing some cutting-edge events in our center, such as a “Fried Chicken Party and LinkedIn Event” with global influencer Sting Nguyen. I am working on leveraging my growing personal brand on social media and in real life. I am doing a lot of culinary experiences for private homes and for architects, designers, and, yes, still working with some world-class legendary celebrities! Who, you ask? That, for now, remains a secret!”
Join chefs Rachelle Boucher as she supports Kaz Matsune for their Family Sushi Class in June.
Connect with Rachelle on Instagram at @flavoragent and on LinkedIn.