Chef Val Yeager has brought a new venture to Pine-Strawberry — gourmet meals at home, ready for you to heat and eat.
As the Pine Time Chef, Yeager’s goal is to work with clients to create a menu, typically four to five meals for one to four people. She does all the shopping and meal prep, leaving clients with fresh, healthy gourmet meals that you simply heat when ready to eat.
I recently joined her at a local Airbnb rental and watched her prep four meals for two people. While she sliced, diced, boiled, baked, grilled and created colorful combinations of delicious smells, we talked about her craft, and watched a late March snow come in.
Native to Arizona, Yeager said she always enjoyed cooking.
“My dad loved to cook, I was inspired by him. I’ve always loved to eat and loved to cook,” she said.
After selling men’s suits at the Men’s Wearhouse as a manger for four years, Yeager decided on some introductory courses in cooking in 2008.
“I’m just going to take some beginner courses to see if I really want to do this,” she said. She found a hobby that became a passion. Yeager continued her schooling with Le Cordon Bleu and got an associate degree.
A newly educated chef, she spent five years on the Island of Lania, Hawaii, at a five-star resort.
“That was my best time cooking. That’s where I gained my insight on how this can be done,” she said. At that job she worked every station a cook/chef can and met multiple celebrities.
Moving over to a health facility in Hana, Hawaii, Yeager was exposed to fresh vegetables straight from the garden, beef butchered fresh and seafood caught daily.
“I was also living off the grid at that time, I was learning to work directly off the farm,” she said. She found the freshness of the food inspiring. She also brought the skills she gained here to the business she has today.
“I did meal prep for the elderly and the proceeds funded the health clinic,” she said.
Southwest, Hawaiian and a Mediterranean influence all find their way into Yeager’s food.
“I love spices,” she said. “Basically, your spices bring the flavor a dish. I make my own tandoori spice,” she said.
Yeager takes a mix of eight spices and toasts them together allowing the individual oils to release and combine. And she says cumin is her favorite spice as it brings out flavor in so many foods.
The native Arizonan found her way home and moved to Pine about four years ago and found inspiration via an older neighbor.
Her neighbor took a fall and lives alone. Not wanting to move to the Valley, she just needed a little help as she healed, said Yeager.
Chef Yeager fixed a menu with her she would enjoy, did the shopping and the meal prep allowing this neighbor to have a hot meal without the labor.
In operation for the last three months, Yeager has also created a surprise romantic dinner for a wife from a husband. Prepared, cooked and served to the table.
“They were gone all day,” Yeager said. When they came home, he kept her out on the porch until Yeager arrived to the table on the porch with dinner for two.
As the meals become complete, I am delighted to discover I could take several home and taste test.
The tandoori salmon was rich; I felt elegant dining on wild caught salmon. Lemon-dill basmati rice, cucumber and a coriander raita sauce just added to the fine dining feel of decadence.
Huli huli chicken and Hawaiian mac salad and slaw was homey, yummy and a whimsical twist on a pretty standard fair. Very light in flavor, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Roasted butternut squash with chickpea and couscous, sounds exotic but its colorful and satisfying. A vegetarian dish, Yeager says these require the most prep time as it takes some effort to create a complete protein in a vegetarian meal.
Beef kabobs with a Moroccan spice, “ras el hanout” and lentil salad. Felt traditional, flavorful and fresh. Not heavy on the spice, it was a surprise favorite because I love the veggie beef mix on a kabob stick.
Yeager arrived about 11:30 a.m. and at about 2:30 p.m. was done, meals completed and kitchen cleaned. This she tells me is the average.
Some clients stay with her and chat, others leave her to her own devices, Yeager said.
The cost is a $200, which covers the chef fee plus the cost of groceries; this menu was about $80 in groceries. Of course, depending on ingredients and the number of people, the costs can fluctuate.
If you wanted a picnic on the Rim, “I would work to figure out the logistics to get that done,” she said.
She can meal prep for folks coming to stay at an Airbnb, so that upon arrival they have food in the fridge with instructions on heating that take 2 to 15 minutes.
She can work with the retired population who are reticence to go to the grocery store and would like help with the preparation.
She can cook for your dinner party.
An up coming event is an end-of-life celebration for 30 people, Yeager said. They want the intimacy of staying home, and they would like some of his favorite meals, she told me.
Her business can be as unique as your requests.