Julia Chebotar is the quintessential food lover and New York success story. As someone who grew up cooking alongside her grandmother in the kitchen, her passion for food, cooking, and entertaining were deeply ingrained at a young age. Who else do you know who was making sauerkraut and other fermented foods at age eight?? This girl was seriously ahead of the game. She parlayed this early love into running an East Village restaurant, getting her degree in Integrative Nutrition, and becoming a girl-boss private chef, which is what she does these days. We caught up with Julia to get a behind the scenes look at the life and times of a private chef in Manhattan.
Tell us a little bit about your background in the restaurant world, and how you became a private chef!
After graduating college, I took over and co-owned my family’s cafe in the East Village and successfully ran it for over seven years. I created all of the menus, tested new and innovative dishes, and would jump in on any kitchen station that needed my help. The experience taught me to be quick, clever, and to multitask in the kitchen! But eventually, the time came when I wanted to branch out on my own. I decided to enroll in the Integrative School of Nutrition, and became certified as a health coach. I started speaking to everyone I knew who had ties to the food world, picking their brains over coffee, Skype, Instagram, you name it, to soak up all of their experience and try to find my pathway to being a private chef as a fulltime career. These days, I am doing just that!
What’s being a private chef really like? Can you give us a “day in the life”?
Whole Foods and the Union Square Greenmarket are really my second home these days (you think I’m joking, but I’m not!). My day-to-day consists of creating curated menus that are unique to each of my clients. I calculate all of the calories and nutrition facts, and take into account any dietary needs and individual preferences. Once the menu is approved by my client, I go shopping! I lug around a Whole Foods cart and I go on the subway with all my knives in a protected knife carrier, but still love it 🙂 I prep weekly meals in my clients homes, then I individually package them with instructions for reheating and eating. For each client, I make anywhere from 5-7 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks on a weekly basis. It is definitely hard work, but I wake up happy each day and love doing what I’m doing. I can't wait to see where this adventure takes me next.
Where do you find inspiration for the dishes you cook for your clients?
So many places! Pinterest, Instagram, and my favorite blogs are go-to sources of inspiration. These are the blogs that I can’t get enough of these days -
With all the cooking you do for others, how are you able to carve out time to cook for yourself?
I’m not going to lie, it’s very hard! On my one day off from my clients, I batch and meal prep for myself for the week. It can be challenging to come home after a full day of cooking and find the motivation to cook a meal from scratch for myself! So meal prepping a salad, a couple of proteins, and fresh cut veggies to keep in my fridge helps me to stay on track with my own personal goals for the week ahead.
We’re dying to know - what’s in the fridge of a private chef?
My key ingredients that I must have at all times for any type of cooking are: Sriracha, chili paste, rice vinegar, tamari, olive oil, coconut oil, sauerkraut, arugula, kale, cherry tomatoes, kombucha, walnuts & almonds, nutritional yeast, and beets (I love beets!).
What are your go to spots in NYC for:
Coffee: A’braco in the East Village. It’s an amazing mom and pop (husband and wife) owned shop. He roasts the beans and she bakes all the pastries!
Breakfast: Russ & Daughters Cafe, all the way! I’m a true New York Jew when it comes to my bagel, white fish, and lox. I need my fix and that’s the only place that does it right!
Lunch: I am a big Sweetgreen on-the-go fan for lunch, or this new spot I just discovered in the west village called Shuka.
Dinner: I Sodi is an amazing italian spot! It’s hard to get a reservation, but worth the wait outside. They make the best fried artichokes outside of Rome. Or Ippudo, when you crave pork buns and ramen!
Drinks: Angel Share in the East Village will always have a soft spot in my heart. It’s a great little speakeasy. I also love Decibel Sake Bar - they have the best selection of sake, and paired with their dried skate wing it’s even better!
If you could invite 7 people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would that be?
Leo DiCaprio, Jenny & Jason Biggs, Coco Chanel, Bethenny Frankel, Andy Cohen, David Bowie, Drake, Beyonce