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A Chef for Me, A Chef for You: Sit Down with The Culinistas

A full-service, in-home, private chef company that is sure to make your belly full and your heart warm.

Balancing a hectic work schedule? Running errands here, there, and everywhere? Trying to maintain the charming chaos of family & home? If you’re a New Yorker, you probably do not often have enough time to prepare nutritious and flavorful meals entirely from scratch. Instead of ordering in or taking sub-par shortcuts, you can now maintain an affordable, balanced diet through The Culinistas.

As an outgrowth of co-founder Jill Donenfield’s private chef placement agency, The Culinistas is a full-service, in-home, private chef company. The Culinistas do everything from weekly menu planning to grocery shopping to in-home cooking to cleaning (perhaps the best treat of all!). Combining a passionate love for food with business prowess, founders Jill and Tiana are spearheading the accessibility of private culinary services through their online interface and customer-based business model.

The Culinistas are sure to make your belly feel full and your heart feel warm. Join BWB as we explore their favorite tips for navigating New York City’s food hubs, as well as their daily routines and beauty regimens.

For starting your business…

We both come from family environments in which we value gathering around the table and enjoying meals together. We appreciate home-cooked, balanced meals, eaten together firsthand. 

How to be an effective leader…

JD: I think it is helpful to hire people you respect, for their curiosity and intelligence. Then, be receptive to employees’ needs, as well as your own. Teach self-possession and accept that every decision is a learning opportunity, regardless of the outcome. 

TT: The employees who work with us and trust us to steer the ship inspire me most. I’m so motivated by their intelligence and passion for our business, and they bring out the best version of myself. 

How to stay creative…

JD: Remember how little you know and how much there is to learn. 

TT: I try to surround myself around people who are constantly innovating and paving the way. It’s a good reminder that there are no limits.

For making a new dish…

JD: For me, I pull from everywhere – from living a robust, varied life, to reading different perspectives, to listening to people around me. Sometimes I think about an ingredient in a particular moment in which it made perfect sense – then I think about why it worked there, where else it could thrive, and where else it could be delightful. 

TT: It’s important that we develop a product that our clients need, so I am constantly analyzing data and assessing client feedback on our menus and recipes. I love when clients email us for a specific dish, and if we don’t have it, we will immediately develop it. 

Remember how little you know and how much there is to learn. 

What you love most…

JD: Village Vanguard, Integral Yoga, Greenwich House.

TT: Cafe Carlyle.

Favorite markets to buy fresh food…

We love the USQ Farmers Market, Chelsea Market, and Eataly.

JD: I love Life Thyme as well.

TT: And Birdbath Bakery for homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Go-to restaurants for lunch or dinner…

Lunch is at our test kitchen almost everyday! 

JD: I eat dinner at Waverly, Omen, Raouls, Knickerbocker, and il Cantinori

TT: All things Italian – Via Quadronno, Sant Ambroeus West Village, and date nights at Cipriani Soho

A romantic or glamorous night out…

JD: il Buco.

TT: Carbone (when they let me in!).

Morning routine…

JD: I time steeping green tea to making the bed every morning.

TT: It’s on repeat – workout, coffee, bath, turmeric-ginger shot.

Favorite café…

We love Everyman on 13th street — it’s our local!

Perfect day-to-night outfit…

JD: White Elderstateman sweater, white jeans, sandals.  

TT: Denim, white tee, and a fantastic pair of heels.

Nighttime ritual…

JD: I put on a bath robe. I meditate before bed. Everything else is up for grabs. 

TT: Another quick bath!

Must-have skincare products…

JD: I believe in Manuka honey.

TT: I recently swapped my foam cleanser for a cleansing oil and I’ll never go back. I also indulge in a charcoal mask every Sunday night.

Favorite makeup products…

TT: I stick to mascara and lip gloss, and typically avoid putting anything on my face unless I have a big night out. 

Favorite perfume…

JD: Coqui Coqui Tabaco

TT: Tom Ford Lost Cherry

Your breakfast…

We have fruit, nuts, White Moustache yogurt, Seed + Mill tahini, dates, and hard boiled eggs at our office.

TT: I make a smoothie at home every morning and enjoy it on the go. I try to pack as many healthy ingredients in there as possible because I never know where the rest of the day will take me. If I have spinach and omega-3 fatty acids by 10 a.m., I’m winning.

Favorite home-cooked meal…

JD: For myself, I make a lot of rice and fish or dashi broth with any vegetables I add, à la minute. This year, I’ve been making a lot of steamed clams and zucchini at home. 

TT: I love making pizza. I’ll pick up all my favorite fresh ingredients from Eataly, make a few pies, and open a great bottle of wine. 

Best recipe to impress your guests…

JD: Ceviche. People are very impressed, which is odd! It’s simple, can be made ahead, and impossible to mess up. 

TT: Tomato baked feta. Everyone loves it. Every time. Without a doubt!

Your guilty pleasure…

JD: Brioche from Claude’s Patisserie on West 4th Street. Onion rings at Waverly.  

TT: French fries and Puligny Montrachet at Fred’s.

Teresa Deely

Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.

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