Crafting Culinary Dreams

By Allie Spletter

Family can so often influence so many aspects of our lives, including what we ultimately choose to do with our lives, and Chef Chris Elsaesser’s family is the very foundation on which his love for creating incredible food was built upon. He comes from a long lineage of culinary minds, including his grandfather, who immigrated from Germany and eventually opened a catering business, and his father, who owned a restaurant. The food and restaurant industry are all Chef Elsaesser has ever known as he grew up waiting tables and eventually took over his father’s restaurant. It was there that developed a love and skillset for the back-of-house aspect of restaurants while putting himself through culinary school, but also where he gained confidence in his abilities to curate and grow a successful menu. 

 Chef Elsaesser’s experience precedes his work as a former executive chef and now private chef, having built a decorated career working for some of the world’s largest hotel brands. After culinary school, his career as a chef began at the Hyatt Dallas Reunion tower, where he served in various capacities and departments before moving to the Hyatt DFW to serve as chef de cuisine overseeing the culinary operations for a three-meal restaurant, fine-dining steak house, and in-room dining for over 800 guest rooms. From there, he went on to the Hilton Southlake Townsquare as a banquet chef and was then promoted to executive chef, where he oversaw the hotel’s total culinary operations before eventually becoming a private chef. As a private chef, Chef Elsaesser utilizes his gathered experience and industry knowledge to create carefully curated culinary experiences like 4-course dinners and catered events that guests will be talking about long after the party is over. 
Creating exciting, unique, and inventive menus that “wow” large groups is no small feat, to say the least. In looking back on his time working as an executive chef for one of the largest hotel brands in the world, Chef Elsaesser is most proud of the client satisfaction and the quality of the product he and his team were able to achieve. 
 “I am proud of being able to serve so many people at one time for a banquet and have them completely satisfied. At the Hilton in Southlake, I was able to garner a number-one ranking for an entire year for ‘Quality and Presentation of Catering’ based on our guest surveys. This was out of 296 full-service Hilton hotels in North and South America. It was very much a battle with us and the Hilton Cancun Resort, it was really neat to know that little Southlake Hilton could beat a Cancun resort for the quality of food and beverage.”

In perfecting his craft and serving others over the years in both large groups and smaller, intimate settings, Elsaesser says he’s most enjoyed being able to create unique menus from the ground up for groups big or small. “At the Hilton, we were able to build custom menus for those large groups – we had groups like Galderma and other large pharmaceutical companies and were able to cook for Laura Bush and her charity. I guess you could say, working in that scope of being able to create custom menus for catering really hasn’t changed as of now being a private chef,” he explains.
 When it comes to his success as a chef, he contends that his area of expertise lies in elaborate catering menus and events for larger groups with innovative action stations. “I then can transition to multi-course plated dinners with optional wine pairing for more intimate gatherings,” he explains. “I love creating food from scratch, including desserts. It’s job satisfaction when I create a menu that I’ve done (or haven’t done) for the client who sees the value in a custom dining experience. I love taking old classics and modifying them with an upscale and modern twist, like my International Mac/Cheese Station.” 
Though it’s easy for us to picture cranky chefs barking orders down the line in a bustling kitchen, that’s now how Chef Elsaesser’s kitchen is run. Much of his culinary influence comes from French chef, restauranteur, and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier. He explains, “I am a huge fan of French Cuisine, and Escoffier created our modern-day brigade system where everyone is responsible for their job and their function. I believe that there is no good chef without a good team, and that team’s got to be managed the best it can. Then, the head chef is like a conductor of a symphony when the final plating comes together harmoniously.” 
 Admittedly, chefs are so different in the kitchen, so it’s always important to understand what they bring to the table (pun intended?). Of his cooking style and approach, Chef Elsaesser most wants clients to understand that technique and the flavor-building process are at the center of everything he does. 
“I am a ‘slow chef.’ Time-consuming food preparation techniques like sous vide, smoking, braising, and poaching will give the ingredients time to get to know each other and become a symphony of flavor that will showcase its superior taste over haste,” he explains.
After a night of hosting business clients, close friends, a holiday party, or an intimate gathering, Elsaesser simply wants his clients and their guests to be happy. “I want my client to look good in front of their guests. Additionally…as a Private Chef, I know I’m not the cheapest, and I want my client/s to see why they paid more due to my extensive training and my menus of scratch-prepared dishes that reflect a much better taste.” 
When asked if he had advice for young aspiring chefs, Elsaesser said very simply, “Don’t get an ego just because you’re the boss.” He continued, “You should learn every station in the kitchen and, most importantly, know how hard your dishwasher and cleaning crew work for you. Always make it a point to thank your staff every day before you go home for the day. Praise your staff in public and critique them in private. It really is as simple as that. Give them the confidence as well. I can remember as a cook thinking, ‘Will he like this?’ ‘Will she like this?’ or whoever it was I was working for. You have to affirm your staff and let them know when they’re doing a great job.”
 In working with and serving clients in and around Frisco, Elsaesser believes and values that  Frisco residents have a sophisticated palate that appreciates unique fine dining. “They are more willing to see value in a personal culinary experience that their guests are sure to talk about long after the event is over,” he admits. “Also, I love the thriving businesses that are putting Frisco on the map. It creates a unique community with people coming to Texas from New York and California.”

Given that Thanksgiving and the holiday season are upon us and many of us will host family and friends in our homes, Chef Elsaesser says that preparation is key to a stress-free (ok, maybe not stress-free, but less stressful!) well-planned meal that allows you to enjoy hosting and spend more time with guests and family. In planning to host, he advises, “Create a production schedule for prepping your feast. Writing it all down will keep you focused.” 
 In being able to take time to prepare beforehand, some dishes can be started and/or made early and heated before serving, which saves time as well. “Then you kind of work in order – turkey’s the last day, but you can always season that the day before, and your vegetables should be on the last day, but they can be cut and trimmed the day before and ready. For example, you can even make your mashed potatoes ahead and put them in an oven-safe dish that can be heated in the oven later in the day. Most importantly, this allows you to spend some time with your family and friends on Thanksgiving instead of your guests watching you slave away in the kitchen, trying to pull it all together at the last minute,” he explains. 
To inquire about Chef Elsaesser’s services or to book your next private event or catering event, call 817.691.3127 or email thechefchristopher@gmail.com for menus and pricing.
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