There is a trend emerging in our Salt Lake community, and a healthy one at that. We're a community more conscious about eating well and translating what enters our body into what controls our well-being. In a conscious effort to eat more responsibly, most of us cannot find enough time in the day to cook at home. Obviously, many of us love to host and entertain, but can't prepare a feast for our friends. Upon meeting Victoria Topham, these challenges find their answer. Victoria Topham, former owner of Piñon Market & Café, and recent founder and owner of Petite Feast, has introduced Utah to a new culinary service. Petite Feast is rooted in offering “private chef services” but dabbles in creating freshly prepared meals on-the-go, and providing unique cooking classes. Essentially, Victoria takes the stress out of cooking meals from scratch by creating one-of-a-kind everything. Hors d'oeuvres, entrees, and desserts, smack dab in the middle of your casa for you and your guests to savor. She caters to all dietary needs and creates a menu specific to your tastes. To learn a little more about this surreal service, we asked Victoria a few questions. If it still sounds too good to be true after you read, we took some photos to prove it...
You started out as a driver for Great Harvest Bread Company. Care to share a brief history? I started working for Great Harvest Bread Co. when I was in college. I began as the delivery driver delivering breads to a couple of local markets. I advanced to baking and then management of the bakery on the corner of 9th and 9th. In 1991, my husband and I moved to the east coast, where I was fortunate to be able to work with some incredible chefs and remarkable business owners. We returned to SLC in 1994 and I took a position with the newly-opened Log Haven restaurant as their pastry chef. In 1996, I was able to open Piñon Market & Café! It was a thrill for the next 17 years. I had my dream job –- it was exactly the kind of restaurant I wanted to have. I had the greatest employees, customers and purveyors. In 2011, after my mom passed away, I felt it was time to pass Piñon on to someone else. Not wanting to get completely out of the kitchen, I started Petite Feast, an in-home catering and meal preparation service. Side note: I met my husband while I was working at Great Harvest. The bakery was re-landscaped and Matt did much of the work, so it was a great job for me all the way around!
Describe your passion for the culinary arts in one word. Community
Petite Feast is your newest venture, and an exquisite one at that. What inspired you to start a business that dabbles in three different kinds of services [freshly prepared meals on-the-go, dinner parties, and cooking classes]? Petite Feast specializes in home meal preparation, small/private events, and cooking classes. I wanted to have a business where I could continue to cook and share my love of this craft with my clients, but also have time with husband, family and friends. I have really enjoyed spending time with my clients on a more one-on-one level. When I am cooking in a client’s home, I am able to connect with them in a different way than when they just came into my restaurant.
For those of us that are new to “private chef services,” will you explain how life-changing a service like this can be for those of us who are novices in the kitchen but love to entertain? I am thrilled to help my clients realize the perfect event that they are visualizing. The host and I can plan the event and then I can handle the shopping, cooking, service and clean up. Leaving them free to enjoy the party and relax. I am also happy to prepare part of a meal so that the host can prepare their own house specialties. As far as the ‘life changing’ thing goes…I think having Petite Feast prepare a week’s worth of dinners is the way to go. Many clients have hired me to prepare healthy, fresh, from-scratch meals so they do not have to eat fast food or ‘on the fly’ due to hectic schedules. Imagine coming home from a long day at work to a delicious meal that just needs to be heated and enjoyed -- that is life changing.
How does Petite Feast differ from other private chef services? I don’t offer a set menu. I want to talk to my clients and come up with menus that meet their culinary desires and specifications. I think the personal service and attention to detail that I offer are what set me apart from many other private chefs. I have one client that just asks for “Italian on Wednesday” or “Indian on Friday.” That’s a treat for me -- to be able to have my clients trust me to come up with foods that are tasty and new makes for a great day in the kitchen.
Your culinary education began in baking and pastries; how does the knowledge and skills you obtained as a pastry chef shape what you create now? Baking is a process. There is a lot of planning that goes into baking something. I really enjoy thinking through my recipes and planning how I will execute them. But I think once you have the skills down and understand how ingredients work together, there is a lot of room for creativity. I credit the skill and understanding of baking with being my foundation for cooking and in many ways my base running a successful restaurant.
You have called Salt Lake City home for quite awhile; what are you favorite parts of being a chef in this great city? I think Salt Lake City has a vibrant community of food lovers. We are a community that likes to eat. I have seen the growth of a passion for ‘all things food’ in Salt Lake that I had previously only seen on the east coast. It’s really exciting to be a part of that growth in some small way.