Private chefs and owners of New York-based catering company The Golden Platter, Samantha Samuels and Phillenne Salmon are no strangers to zesty flavors. Whether mixing up cocktails packing some serious punch or drawing on their Jamaican roots to cook up a storm, they are singularly focused on providing a dining experience to remember. More importantly, Phillenne and Samantha want to make the private chef experience something more accessible to people from all walks of life, exposing them to new dishes, flavor profiles and textures. We sat down with Phillenne and Samantha to hear more about how they got their start, what keeps them motivated, and what inspires the mouth-watering dishes they create for their clients.
Where are you from originally?
Samantha: I’m originally from Highbridge in the Bronx
Phillenne: I’m originally from Toronto, Canada.
How do you two know each other?
We’re cousins. We’re of West Indian descent. Our family is originally from Jamaica. We’re the first generation born here in North America, so our food mainly represents how we were raised – whatever we have here in America and Canada, and the parts of our culture and food that our parents incorporated into our lives growing up.
When and how did you get your business started as private chefs and caterers?
We launched our business this past year. We got into it by cooking for our friends and family members, as well as people we met through our jobs, who wanted to have unique dining experiences in their homes.
Can you tell us more about your business and vision?
With our business having started off just with friends and relatives wanting to experience us hosting in their homes, we started The Golden Platter knowing that hiring a private chef is not normally a thing everyone can afford – it’s perceived as something that caters mostly to the rich and famous. Being that not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, we created The Golden Platter because just like the people around us, we work hard and felt we deserved to be served on a golden platter, so to speak. We want to be able to bring that experience to people like us – they deserve to have a fun time, at a reasonable cost, with awesome, personable chefs like ourselves, and of course with really good food.
What do you love about what you do?
Samantha: What I love about cooking and entertaining is the expression on people’s face when they first taste something that they’ve never tried before. I’m a bit of a “food bully” – I will force you to try something that you’ve never tried before. If you don’t like it, spit it out, you’ll never have to try it again, but at least you can say you tried it. That’s how my family is, and some of my friends, so now when I entertain and I serve them, say new appetizers or a fresh new cocktail, I watch for those expressions.
Phillenne: What I like the most about cooking is the satisfaction that anybody who I serve ends up having this trust in me, to feed their family and their loved ones, and coming back to me to nourish them. That makes me feel really good.
What’s the toughest part of getting established as private chefs and what helps overcome that?
Samantha: The hardest part of starting was trying to figure out what kind of food we should focus on, because our palettes are extensive and very much an extreme in a sense – we like a lot of flavors, and not everyone in our immediate circle gravitates towards the same things we do. We had to think hard about what we could create to pitch to people, and what we can do to separate ourselves from that – I like music and Phillene enjoys fashion, so we always try to think of how we can incorporate things that people can relate to along with their meal, since food is, after all, the international language of communication, love and understanding.
Overcoming that challenge was mostly about diving in head-first, and just showing up somewhere, or at an event and announcing we’re cooking, this is what we brought with us, and opening that door for us. At friends’ events, we’d always end up helping with cooking, serving or bartending – that’s what would get us our bookings for gigs, as well as referrals. People were often surprised to find out they could hire us, but that word of mouth was critical for us.
What’s your favorite thing about one another?
Phillenne: My favorite thing about Samantha is that she’s literally like a fairy unicorn – she’s over the top, bouncing around on this golden cloud, and she always reminds me to just have fun. That personality and that vibe is what I really love. Things get a little hectic and emotional, so what I like best about her is those traits.
Samantha: My favorite thing about Phillenne is her drive for wanting better, and her work ethic. A lot of people around us may talk a good game, but they don’t always act on it – Phillenne is so dedicated to her goal, that it’s clear nobody or anything can stop her. Having that around me motivates me to go harder and to work harder with her so we can achieve what we want, both for each other and our families as well as our business. She’s the peanut butter to my jelly.
What’s one tip you’d give someone who’s just starting their career as private chefs?
Phillenne: For someone who wants to start out a career as a private chef, I’d say go for it! If you don’t have substantial experience in a kitchen outside of your home, I’d advise to first get a gig at a restaurant, or a catering company, just to kind of understand the mise en place (French for “putting in place”), the order of the kitchen, critical things like that. It will help and bring a lot of organization into your life. It’s key to have some real in-house, hands-on restaurant or catering experience.
Samantha: Experience, experience, experience – it’s really all about that. We’d been working in restaurants for years before, since we were 16 or 17. Whether it is back-of-the-house or front-of-the-house work, it gives you so much clarity into how things work, allowing you to prepare for certain scenarios. A private chef is different from a restaurant, since you’re the chef and the server at once – so you need to know how to interact with clients, talk to them like a server would, how to respond to situations immediately – those seemingly tiny thing really matter on the operational side, and it makes such a huge difference.
What style food do you serve?
Caribbean fusion with an international influence.
What are some of your signature dishes?
Some of our favorites include our coconut caviar – a delightful hors d’oeuvres for classy events, our rum and water cocktail – we use Champagne instead of water, mixed with Jamaican rum and a few different secret flavorings. Callaloo spring rolls, herbs de Provence roasted chicken, and our Brie tartlets. Yesterday we made this Chinese five-spice and Guyanese curry chow mein with salmon. We tend to do what we like to call a “bitch up” – when we see ingredients and just envision what it’s going to become, and how we can turn it into something fabulous. We also dabble in baking, like our take on an authentic, traditional Jamaican rum cake, usually made during the holiday season, made with Jamaican white rum, red wine, and blended fruits soaked in rum before baking. It’s really rich and dense. It looks like chocolate but it’s this incredible cake. We also love everything coconut, since it’s so versatile.
Check out The Golden Platter Website