Meet Your Merchant: Cooking with the ingredients of life

Jenny Goldsmith
Special to the Sun
Jenny Goldsmith / Special to the SunHolly Verbeck is co-owner of Hey Chef!

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Imagine yourself hosting a family dinner or holiday party. Flavorful aromas permeate the kitchen, tables are elegantly arranged with no detail overlooked, music plays softly in the background.

Guests begin to filter in. The wine starts flowing and#8212; laughter and small-talk fill the air. Tasteful appetizers circulate the room as guests begin to settle in their seats. Each decadent course comes out with perfection, dessert leaves no one unsatisfied. The initial commotion and chatter slowly dwindles to quite conversations.

Satiated and overly gratified, your guests trickle out the door, expressing thanks and saying their good-byes one by one.

Now imagine you were able to enjoy every moment of your party from start to finish without lifting one finger in the kitchen, without soaking one dirty dish, without arranging one place setting.

Impossible to envision? Not to the founders of Hey Chef!.

Since 1997, Holly and Grog Verbeck, owners of Hey Chef!, have been providing premiere private chefs and professional domestic kitchen staff to North Tahoe residents and second homeowners who want to host intimate, special events without all the hassle.

and#8220;Sometimes the difference between a good party and a great party is an extra set of hands,and#8221; said Holly Verbeck during quiet afternoon at her home office in Truckee. and#8220;I truly believe in the product we offer and the solutions we provide for our clients.and#8221;

As the office administrator and#8212; or and#8220;organizational czarand#8221; as her husband Grog refers to her and#8212; Holly serves as the brains behind the operation. She handles every level of detail for each party, whether itand#8217;s simply providing a dishwasher to handle the mess or planning every component of the party from the menu to the linens.

and#8220;I like being behind the scenes, knowing everyone gets to do what they do best because Iand#8217;ve lined it up in such a way where everyone gets to be successful,and#8221; Holly said. and#8220;To have an event occur seamlessly from start to finish is what itand#8217;s all about.and#8221;

Of course, the small-business operation would not be possible or realized without her husband, professional chef of over 25 years, Grog Verbeck.

and#8220;We make a great team,and#8221; Grog said while pulling freshly-baked sunflower and flaxseed sourdough bread from the oven. and#8220;Every day is an adventure for us.and#8221;

The couple met in 1995 during a kayak expedition in Alaska and remained in close contact until Grog relocated to Truckee shortly after. While Grog looked to transfer his New York-based private chef career to the mountain town, Holly started to wrap things up with her job at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The new couple was poised for change and the concept of Hey Chef! began to unfold.

and#8220;As we met more and more private chefs, we saw an opportunity connect them with clientele, provide them with qualified service staff who would assist them, and to do the invoices and administrative work that most chefs are not trained to do,and#8221; Holly said.

As the population of Truckee continued to grow and expand, so did the Hey Chef! team as well as the Verbeck clan. With two children added to the mix, the family-owned business provided Holly the freedom to be a working-stay-at-home mom.

and#8220;I love what I do,and#8221; Holly said. and#8220;It has given me the opportunity to create lasting memories for people, but most importantly it provides the flexibility to be here for my family and work a schedule that I choose.and#8221;

While the initial few years of Hey Chef! experienced great successes, challenges began to arise in spreading the word about the service.

and#8220;We didnand#8217;t advertise for the first five years, it was not word of mouth but rather taste of mouth that brought us clientele,and#8221; Holly said. and#8220;The challenge of our small business now is to be more direct, determined and specific with our marketing and#8230; we have to be willing to take more risks and ride out the seasonality of running a small business in Truckee.and#8221;

Despite a few bumps in the road, the Verbecks are determined to keep the momentum behind Hey Chef! going strong and together, they continue to dream big. Their ultimate goal is to expand their culinary staffing service and high standards of professionalism to other resort towns across the United States while remaining Truckee residents.

and#8220;If you want to achieve your goals in life, after you finish your day you do one extra thing,and#8221; Holly said.

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