Imagine coming home from work to find a delicious, gourmet meal in the oven, fresh flowers on the table, homemade sweets for dessert and the grocery shopping done for the weekend. Imagine no more! Let ChefCali and her team of kitchen wizards come into your home to prepare meals specifically designed for you and your family. More and more people are discovering the joys of having a Personal Chef. More time to spend with family, less time spent in the grocery store lines. Restaurant-quality meals made fresh with superior ingredients. Having a Personal Chef means more time for you and your priorities while still providing the ones you care about with the very best meals. Made fresh just for you. ChefCali works with each client on an individual basis to custom-design menus to give you the very best in personal attention.

Professional Awards & Certificates

Chef Cali was featured in the February 23, 2005 “Good Eating” section of the Chicago Tribune, “Personal Touch – A Chef Brings Her Passion for Cooking Into Other People’s Kitchens” by Kenn Ruby

Voted “Top 10 Recipes of 2005” for Butternut Squash Soup by the Chicago Tribune “This recipe rose to the top of our list,” Carol Mighton Haddix, Chicago Tribune Food Editor

“Chef du Jour” in the Daily Herald, January 4, 2006 “Chef and Mom Barely Has Time to Catch Her Breath” by Laura Bianchi

Chef Cali featured in “Hiring a Personal Chef,” Chicago Home Magazine, Fall 2006

Tip Top Bistro featured in the Dining guide of the “At Play” section of the Chicago Tribune, December 1, 2005, “Woodstock’s Tip Top Taps Bistro Cuisine” by Patrice Jones

Received critically acclaimed review from Michael Sneed (Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. ‘97) “Vice President Al Gore, wife Tipper and Mayor Daley and Maggie went nuts over the specially prepared meal by Cali Bergold …“

Frequently Asked Questions

Describe the biggest party you’ve been responsible for?

I’ve worked as an exclusive chef and caterer for many companies and private individuals including WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago. The Trinity Irish Dancers (an Irish dance troupe similar to “River Dance”) was being filmed for a television special. I catered three meals a day for three days for the entire cast and crew of 300 during the filming and Chef Cali received “rave reviews” for that event.

Do you have experience designing the look of a party and/or dealing with rental companies?

A party is a complete package. That means food, wine, decorations, floral, menus, gifts, music, entertainment … My private clients always give me such positive feedback on the entire look of parties and events I’ve worked on. I have an extensive private portfolio of vendors whom I work with – from florists and graphic designers, musicians, to set-designers – this special group of people have worked with me for years and know my high-level of dedication to each and every job, and the level of perfection I demand. I’m always thinking about the details and the extra special touches that “wow” the guests … I have a lot of experience working with rental companies (primarily because of my wedding catering) – being direct, communicating the needs and expectations is key when working with rental companies. For example, I do not take for granted that a red napkin is the red napkin my client has envisioned for their Chinese New Year party. It is my responsibility that the red napkins match the red lanterns hanging in the gazebo.

How quickly could you put together a dinner party for 8-10 guests?

With an empty kitchen, nothing but the equipment, it would take me two hours to shop and three hours to prep. I work very well under pressure. In fact, I thrive in this environment. I am a creative perfectionist who just loves the challenge. If my client told me they’d like to have an impromptu dinner party on a Friday night – if I knew by noon, we would have a fabulous party by 6 pm!

Would you cook food you are morally opposed to? Foie gras for example?

This is a wonderfully thought-provoking question for a chef! In short, my answer is “yes” – and again, this is based on my desire to please my client. I have no judgments or ego-based conditions for what I do for my clients. They are in charge, after all. My food philosophy is to use the best-quality ingredients while being mindful of its origins. I believe in sustainability, renewable resources – thinking green, organic, and local. I want to know where the food has come from, who made it, what’s in it, and is it the best possible item I can procure. Food can be “fast”, but it’s difficult for food to be really good if it’s fast, easy or pre-made. To make really good food, a chef needs to follow two basic principles (1) Good ingredients – there are no substitutes for natural, fresh, quality ingredients. They are a chef’s best friend. (2) If you can make it yourself, make it. This is at the heart and soul. I usually make all of my sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaises, pestos, salsas, soups, desserts, spice blends, from scratch – from natural ingredients. I love doing what I do and I can’t imagine this any other way. I strive to give my clients the very best. I am thoughtful about overfishing of certain species. I am against chemicals, preservatives and anything unnatural. I also want to support companies that give back to the community and are not hurting the environment. I support local farmers and I’m passionate about food that can go “from the field to the table.” I also, want to make my client happy – it’s a balancing act, but I know in the end, being mindful and respectful of food produces the best results.

Do you feel you learned more from culinary school, restaurant work, or experimenting by yourself?

From culinary school, I learned the “nuts and bolts” of managing and working in a restaurant. Schools teach the science of food, how things mix, and presentation too. From my restaurant experience, I learned how to work as a team, motivate as a leader, and get the job done while working under enormous pressure. But experimenting by myself, I probably learned the most by freeing my mind of culinary conventions to discover new things and to become a master in the art of food. All three of these environments are mutually exclusive and have equally contributed to make me the best chef I can be. But experimenting and also having my own culinary business, means I have lots of different environments to experiment with, which has been most beneficial to my development and expertise.

Would you change your own recipes to suit your customer’s taste?

Yes, because I have worked in the food service industry for 15 years and live by the old saying, “the customer is always right.” I am mature and professional and want to make my clients happy. I want them to enjoy what they are eating. Food is a very sensory experience, however, my clients love what they know and experience and I have no qualms about changing recipes. It’s my pleasure and my delight to make people happy and satisfied!

Are you able to time your food so that if guests are up to an hour late, nothing suffers?

Yes, because of my restaurant experience, I am very accustomed to servers running to the kitchen and saying the guests don’t want their entrees for another hour. During my private chef work, I’ve learned to be flexible and easy-going. The client may call for a one hour cocktail, which goes to two hours and the kitchen needs to be prepared to slow it down while maintaining temperature safety and integrity of the food. I’ve held dinners for 3 hours for a party of 20 because they were waiting for the guest of honor who was flying in from Europe. I’ve cooked an anniversary dinner for 16 guests on an outdoor gas grill when the power shut off because of an ice storm. I’m very flexible, easy going, and very confident in these situations to keep calm and have fun, while staying organized and knowing my ingredients and how to manage even in the most extreme crisis. It’s something you learn as a restaurateur, but more than this, I have a knack for handling these situations with command and ease.

How are you at pairing wine with meals? Putting a wine cellar together?

Great questions! The first restaurant I helped open was a bistro where the wine was just as important as the food (if not more). I am a big wine enthusiast who can pair wine and food well. Having tried many food and wine pairings, I would enjoy the opportunity to enlighten my client, and their guests, about the wines being served. It’s just as much fun as the food! And I would love the opportunity to help build a wine cellar! (Can we say “kid in a candy store?”)

Have you worked for any high profile clients?

I have cooked for Al and Tipper Gore, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mayor and Mrs. Daley of Chicago.

Rate Your Knowledge On The Following Cuisine (1=Novice   5=Expert):

          Italian 4  French 3     Spanish 4    Portuguese 3     Greek 4

          Californian 4    Scandinavian 3     Nouveau 4     Chinese 4

          Thai 4   Indian 3    Japanese 4

My culinary career started when I worked as the food and wine critic for the Chicago monthly magazine, Today’s Chicago Woman. I dined in Chicago’s best restaurants and became an insider in the Chicago food scene. After Today’s Chicago Woman, I started writing a monthly column for Travel My Way magazine – a high-end travel, food and leisure publication that was circulated as a supplement to the New York Times. Because of my 10+ years of teaching cooking classes, I have been exposed to a wide range of cuisines. Plus, I have traveled extensively in U.S. and Europe, eating and studying in such places as Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, Austria, and Napa Valley.

Rate Your Experience With Specialized Diets (1=Novice   5=Expert):

          Dairy Free 4     Low Fat 4     Diabetic 3     Vegetarian 4

          Cholesterol Free 3     Kosher 3     Vegan 4     Macrobiotic 3

          Blood Diet 2     Raw 4

During 2002-2004, I worked with a partner to open The Cooking School at Amelia’s – a cooking school in Crown Point, IN. Many of the classes I taught there were based on a low-sodium, low-fat, gluten-free cooking-style. In the summer of 2008 I catered a outdoor wedding for 150 people that was completely vegan.

Rate Your Performance Level In These Categories (1=Novice   5=Expert):

          Soups 4    Sauces 3     Hors d’oeuvres 4    Baking 3   Pastry 3

          Dessert 4    Butchery 3    Kid-Friendly 5

Rate Your Competence In The Following Areas (1=Novice   5=Expert):

          Budgeting 5     Provisioning 5    Costing 3*    Accounting 3*

          Organizing 5    Detailing 5    Cleaning 5

*Thankfully, my bookkeeper takes care of these things! And thankfully, I have expert helpers around me; resources and connections that rank ChefCali, Inc. as Level 5 in every category! Please call me to discuss your specific needs.

Education

Bradley University
1986-1990, Bachelor of Science, Journalism

Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago
1995, Restaurant Management 

List any languages, other than English, which you speak fluently: Spanish

Restaurant Management

Food & Health Safety

Controlling Costs in Food Service

People Management Skills

Food Service Purchasing

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