Epicurean Girl will cook for you when you can’t | TheUnion.com
Dave Moller

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Epicurean Girl will cook for you when you can’t

Wendy Wernigg says you don’t need to be Oprah to justify a personal chef like herself.

“Actually, Oprah has a private chef,” she said recently while cooking pork stew with prunes and apricots. “A personal chef doesn’t bring the same costs.”

Prices vary with family size and the amount of meals she cooks, but for about $250 to $300 a week, Wernigg buys the groceries, comes into your home, prepares meals to be put in recyclable containers and cleans up.

“Except for the smell of cooking and a well-stocked refrigerator when you come home, you would never know I was there,” said Wernigg, 38, of Nevada City.

Single dad Sarito Whatley was Wernigg’s first client about 18 months ago. His path to her started when he was talking to his financial planner.

“I had a lot of eating out expenses,” Whatley said. “I’m widowed with a 13-year-old daughter, and by the end of the working day, it was hard to get motivated to cook.”

The planner suggested a personal chef and a friend told Whatley that Wernigg was a great cook. She was raising her children and not thinking about opening a business, but when Whatley asked, she thought she would give it a go. That started the Epicurean Girl.

“She comes in on Monday and fixes me five meals, three fresh and two frozen,” Whatley said. “It’s good food, it tastes good and it’s a better choice of ingredients than eating out.”

Whatley wanted organic food and that’s what he gets for $250 a week. For his deal, each meal is for three people and the Monday dinner is even larger, meaning leftovers through the week.

As Wernigg’s business began to grow, Sherry Everett turned to her for help. A physical problem was causing Everett to strongly restrict her diet and meal preparation was taking an inordinate amount of time.

“My diet requirements did not fit what she normally prepares,” Everett said. “But she was happy to accommodate what I was wanting and work with me.”

Now Everett leaves comments for Wernigg about what she likes, dislikes or can’t have again because it flared her condition.

“It’s freed me to spend more time doing what I want to do and not worry about my diet,” Everett said. “I still cook for myself, but I like to do it more now.”

Food has always been huge in Wernigg’s life. She still has the recipe card from her first dish, “Good-flower Soup,” made from flower petals when she was 7.

She took her love of cooking and food to her early work on organic farms in the Santa Cruz area. There, she came up with recipes for the various vegetables the farms produced.

After she took Whatley’s offer, “It really took off. It’s exciting to be contributing to the family income again. With little kids, it’s great part-time work.”

Since starting the business, Wernigg has become a graduate of the Culinary Business Academy and is a member of the United States Personal Chef Association.

When called, Wernigg goes into a potential client’s home and interviews the family members for their preferences. Once established, she draws up menus.

One night clients might have cider-roasted pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes. Another night it might be balsamic chicken with wild mushrooms and rice pilaf.

Although she likes to cook ethnic and gourmet food, “I also like basic stuff like stews, roasted chicken, soups and homemade biscuits. People like the really homey, comfort food at this time of year.”

They like it so much, “I’m relatively well-booked,” Wernigg said. “I love food and I love cooking and I really provide a service for people.”

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4231.