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Knife of the Party

A personal chef that brings more than just food to the dinner party
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The staff of Moonshine Ink took a special lunch break one afternoon in late March, a lunch featuring not only food but a culinary show courtesy of Flare Chef Nathan Alder. Alder arranged to give us a personal demonstration of what his Flare Chef business entails, and what better way to get to know a chef who boasts tricks like juggling cleavers and throwing fire than to watch him work?

Originally from Arizona, Alder has been cooking professionally for the past 18 years and has worked in restaurants all over the western states, from Phoenix to Glacier National Park to Las Vegas, which is where he first tried out his Flare Chef routine seven years ago. Working in exhibition-style restaurants and experimenting with his own cooking pizzazz, like learning how to juggle knives and dicing an apple in mid-air, inspired Alder to turn these skills into his entertainer-meets-caterer-meets-personal-chef business. After spending several winters here, he moved to Tahoe fulltime in 2009, and revived his Flare Chef business in 2012.

The Flare Chef served a simple and light lunch to the Moonshine crew, and talked us through the whole process. He brought everything he needed, even the cutting board on a keyboard stand he designed, creating the perfect height for his speedy chopping and utensil tricks, and burners for his cast iron skillets; and he took it all when he left, including the dirty dishes.

“This is an Italian dish but with a Southwestern flare ... I like using the flavors and influences from growing up in Arizona in my cooking,” Alder said as he prepared the vegetarian dish of the day: homemade roasted red pepper polenta and grilled eggplant napoleon, drizzled with a gorgonzola cream sauce. In between grilling polenta squares and eggplant, whisking cream sauce, sautéing spinach, and carving the leftover eggplant into a smiling whale, Alder answered questions like how he made the polenta squares, and met our demands for knife juggling and fire-throwing, using flash cotton to create a burst of flame. The end result was a fresh, flavorful, and satisfying lunch that balanced healthy and savory (hello, gorgonzola cream sauce!), and was made right in front of our eyes.

Alder offers services that range from dropping off dishes that only need reheating to developing a custom menu and serving food with spatula-flips and knife tricks, and anything in between. “I would prefer to be in front of guests, adding a layer of entertainment to the event,” he said. “A lot of this is education; guests can ask questions and it’s an interactive cooking experience.” Alder says that his malleable business model makes him an affordable, delicious, healthy, and fun option for special events, parties, and even for strict personal chef duties. And he loves sharing his techniques with his clients, too. “When people say ‘I’m terrified of cutting a pepper,’ I can teach them how to cut a pepper, or anything,” Alder said as he julienned a red pepper in seconds. “I’ll do hands-on lessons [like] how to make the four mother sauces [like tomato and béchamel], or how to make your own pizza dough.” He’s also cooked for people in unique places, like an anniversary dinner right on a West Shore beach. “I made a rib eye dinner right on the lake,” he said. “It was the couple’s spot and that’s exactly what I am able to do … a lot more than the standard.”

Summer around the corner means Alder is revving up his Flare Chef business, both for private parties and for outdoor events like Truckee Thursdays and farmers markets, where he’ll continue his tradition of serving stir-fry bowls made with produce sourced right from the farmers market itself.

To learn more about Flare Chef and to book an event, visit flarechef.com.

~ Do you like your food with some flare? Let us know below.

 
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Soul Kitchen dishes out one-of-a-kind recipes from Tahoe locals. Read about Tahoe Truckee’s local food culture, get a roundup review of local venues, catch a new recipe, and find out what's in season.

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September 14, 2017