Be a guest…
Enjoy hosting but tight on time? Not accustomed to cooking for a crowd? Hoping to keep your kitchen clean for company? Trying to keep the surprise party a surprise? No problem, send out the invites!
Whether it’s a special occasion or you’d just like to enjoy listening to your friends instead of listening for the kitchen timer, having me lovingly prepare food for your next gathering allows you to be a guest at your own party.
Enjoy a cocktail and a “taste test” treat before your guests arrive. Relish the freedom to greet your friends unharried. Savor the time for meaningful conversations. Relax at the end of the evening while we clean up, “as if it never happened.”
My specialty is…
Smaller, in-home events up to approximately 75 people, such as:
- Dinner parties
- House warming parties/open houses
- Cocktail parties and tea parties
- Bridal and baby showers, christening brunches
- Holiday gatherings and office parties
- Rehearsal dinners and day-after-wedding brunches
- Memorial Gatherings, Birthday, Anniversary and Retirement parties
- Family reunions and Graduation celebrations
The Big Four
The major areas to address in planning your gathering are food (always the priority!) beverages, service and rentals. Most clients prefer to handle flowers, other décor, music and any additional elements on their own but I can provide recommendations. For more elaborate gatherings, requiring full event-planning services, I can recommend experienced event planners who will make sure that all the extra details are handled with expert care!
Because I specialize in cooking for small, intimate catered affairs, nothing about your food is left to chance. Designing menus is one of my favorite parts of the process, giving me the opportunity to create a vibrant balance of colors, tastes and textures, so one course leads perfectly to the next. I seek out only the freshest, high quality ingredients and I meticulously oversee every detail of the menu, food preparation and presentation. Through the bounty of local farmers in central Virginia, I can offer menus specifically featuring organic, sustainably raised food, as locally sourced and seasonally focused as possible, priced according to the market.
Please note: Food from local farms and small artisanal purveyors are subject to availability. We’ll discuss your food preferences so each menu can be customized, with special attention given to specific health or dietary needs. We’ll also review any budgetary parameters before I prepare a detailed proposal, presented for your approval prior to your event. Food is priced much like at higher end restaurants, per person, by the course. Menus range from $15 for a simple lunch to $30 for cocktail food to $60 or more for a five course meal, all depending on your selections.
Clients provide their own alcohol; Chef Ellen can provide mixers and other nonalcoholic selections. Charlottesville area parties can have wine and beer delivered by Market Street Wine Shop. Chef Ellen can email them the menu and they can advise on a wine and beer selection to complement it, accommodating a variety of requested price ranges. For events in the Wintergreen area, it’s always special to include in your choices a selection of our local Nelson County beers, wines and ciders! Available from Ellen: Bar Set-ups: $3-5 per person (mixers, sodas, bottled waters and bar fruit) depending on selection. Sodas and Bottled Waters only: $2.50 per person Ice: $1.50 per person Non-Alcoholic Punch, Iced Teas, Lemonade or Specialty Mixers for featured cocktails $1.95 per person Coffee plus Half & Half and Sugars $2.25 per person
Catering to your needs- as much or as little help as you require, low-key to fully staffed. Food can simply be dropped off with detailed heating directions or staff can be arranged for to provide whatever level of service you would like.* In home catering requires a calm, trustworthy staff that are both child and pet friendly and respectful of your personal space and property. I expect the best from my staff and so can you!
Servers or Bartenders $38/hour each
Chefs: $50/hour each [$100.00 minimum per staff]
*When on-site service is requested, Chef Ellen reserves the right to determine the final number of staff based on style of service, menu, number of guests, logistics and other factors. Every attempt is made to have just the right amount such that each staff member stays busy and guests are taken care of to the level of service the host desires.
Once you have requested staff and they have confirmed their availability, I am unable to accept cancellations of their services. In order to reserve the date for your function, they will likely turn down other work since the most sought after servers are often reserved several weeks to months in advance.
Extended travel time: For distances over 45 miles one way, there will be a surcharge to cover part of the staff’s travel time and expense. This is rare, will vary based on the distance involved and will be detailed in advance (generally around $20 per staff member.) Functions requiring Chef Ellen on-site will have delivery fees waived; functions not requiring Ellen will be charged a delivery fee of $25-$95 depending on quantity of food and location.
Gratuities are optional but always appreciated for outstanding service.
For events requiring more than the basic coordination of food & beverage needs and service staff, I can provide a level of event coordination for $50/hour or you may contract directly with a full service event coordinator.
Most hosts prefer to provide a variety of their own serving pieces, dishware, etc. We can work out what you have available and would like to use, along with what may need to be rented.
Rental fees: 20% of rental charges added as a coordination fee. Partial coordination charged at $50 hour (Minimum of $25) 50 cup coffee makers are available from Ellen for $20.
Details & Fine Print
Guarantee, Contract, Deposit, Payment & Delivery
I will need your final “guaranteed minimum number” of guests generally one week in advance. This is the minimum number you will be charged for, however you may add to this number by up to 20% with 4-5 days’ notice. Note: You may choose to order some items for less than the total number of guests. Example: You are having 50 guests but can order Crudités and Dip for just 25. Some minimums apply to insure adequate quantities are on hand; I can advise you based on the total number of items ordered and the popularity of certain menu items.
The final agreed upon proposal acts as a contract, insuring that both parties are clear on what is expected. I may need a deposit to assist with purchasing and will let you know if that is the case. Payment is required on the day of the function unless mutually agreed upon arrangements are made in advance. Payment by check preferred. Credit card payment is available via Paypal with 3% service charge added. For functions requiring “delivery only” there will be a delivery fee based on volume of food and distance, generally $25-$95. For functions requiring Chef Ellen on site, this fee will be waived.
Afternoon Cocktail Reception (2-4 hours) Number of hors d’oeuvre pieces per guest: 5 – 10 | Suggest 3 to 5 different menu options.
Cost per guest $15.00 – $26.00
Pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres (1-1.5 hours) Number of pieces per guest: 3 – 7 | Suggest 2 to 4 different menu options.
Cost per guest $10.00 – $19.00
Hors d’oeuvres in lieu of dinner (4 -6 hours) Number of pieces per guest: 12 – 20 | Suggest 6 to 9 different menu options.
Cost per guest $25.00 – $60.00