PARIS: Parisians yearning for haute cuisine dining since the COVID-19 pandemic closed down restaurants have found an alternative: private chefs who serve up meals in customers' homes.
Fatiha El-Kaddaoui is a trained chef who takes bookings from private individuals, brings her ingredients to their home and uses their equipment to prepare and serve restaurant-quality dishes.
She was busy before the pandemic. But now, she said, she is having to turn away up to 30 bookings per month.
"There's very, very big demand," she said. "This demand exists because those people used to go to restaurants one, two, three times a week or even more."
Last Friday, El-Kaddaoui had been booked by Valerie Lacroix, 35, to prepare a lunch for her and her mother.
Working in Lacroix's kitchen, the chef prepared a foie gras entree, followed by a sea bream ceviche, then a dish of gambas and scallops.
"We obviously want to go out, see our friends and family, and spend time with them, but we can't," said Lacroix. "This is recreating that shared moment at home."
Restaurateurs and chefs around the world have come up with creative ways to carry on working through a pandemic that has devastated their industry. Some make high-quality meals for delivery, while others offer cooking classes on social media.
French people spend more time than those of any other developed nation eating or drinking, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, so restaurant closures hit them particularly hard.
Some customers have flouted COVID-19 restrictions. Police caught more than 110 people dining at a clandestine restaurant in Paris earlier this month.
A French TV station broadcast what it said was hidden-camera footage of lockdown-busting private soirees at exclusive venues. Police mounted an investigation.
El-Kaddaoui said she operated within the rules by not catering to gatherings of more than six people, and not working after the 7:00 p.m. curfew.
But her service is not within the reach of every Parisian: a lunch for two comes in at 170 euros (US$205.16) per person.
(US$1 = 0.8286 euros)
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Mike Collett-White)