Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: Dinner for 12, or a party of 150

Terese and Dio Esperas of A Healthy Kitchen caterers. “(Catering) is not just about the food. It’s also understanding how the whole evening is going to flow,” Terese said.
Terese and Dio Esperas of A Healthy Kitchen caterers. “(Catering) is not just about the food. It’s also understanding how the whole evening is going to flow,” Terese said. apierleoni@sacbee.com

Sacramento caterers Dio and Terese Esperas are ready for the holiday-party season. The husband-wife owners of A Healthy Kitchen specialize in planning and cooking dinners at private parties for 12 to 150 guests. They also host group cooking classes and demonstrations in private homes, and teach cooking at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

They’ve grown their business by word-of-mouth over 15 years. “Saturday we’re doing an elegant dinner for 12, and in December we’re catering an open house for 120,” Terese said.

Dio has a degree in hotel-and-restaurant management and has cooked professionally for 27 years. Terese, the education manager at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, grew up in the restaurant business.

Q: What’s on your menus?

A: (Dio:) We cook most cuisines – Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mediterranean, Cajun-Creole, Mexican.

(Terese:) We spend lot of time talking with our clients (because) we want the menu at their dinner party to be about them and represent something they love. But it’s not just about the food. It’s also understanding how the whole evening is going to flow.

Q: How do you divide the duties?

A: (Terese:) I do menu development with the clients, and make the salads, soups and desserts. Dio focuses on the appetizers and entrees.

Q: What’s so healthful about A Healthy Kitchen?

A: (Terese:) We source as many local, sustainable and organic products as possible. It might not always be low calorie or low sodium, but it will definitely reflect Sacramento’s farm-to-fork (movement).

Q: What kind of interaction goes on in a client’s kitchen?

A: (Dio:) I encourage people to come into the kitchen and ask questions as I cook, though there have been a couple of occasions with micromanagers. I got them involved by very nicely asking them, “How would you do this dish? Have you cooked it before?” Meanwhile, I kept doing what I know how to do.

Q: What about price range?

A: (Terese:) We tailor a menu to the particular client, so our price per person might start at $40 and go up to $200.

Q: Do you bring your own gear to the job?

A: (Dio:) It depends. Some clients have everything, some have nothing. One client wanted a “Lady and the Tramp”-themed dinner in her new home, with spaghetti and meatballs. She told us, “Everything will be hooked up in the kitchen when you get here.” I showed up and all the brand-new appliances were still wrapped in plastic. I had two hours until everybody showed up. I looked outside and saw a large gas-fueled grill, so I cooked everything on the barbecue. It took a little longer, but I pulled it off.

Q: Any other close calls?

A: (Terese:) The New York Knicks were in town and my (chef-mom) and I were making turkey burgers and french fries at (former Sacramento Kings forward) Chris Webber’s house in Granite Bay (for a post-game meal).

(Dio:) Terese called me at home at 10 that night and said, “The french fries are horrible, there’s no time to cook more and everybody’s going to be here in a half-hour.” So I drove to a McDonald’s and bought french fries. As I was handing off the bags to Terese, a convoy of Escalades came rolling up.

(Terese:) It was so stressful, but I (explained what had happened) and they understood. They were just happy to have the turkey burgers.

Q: After you get home from a gig, what’s your go-to meal?

A: (Dio:) Pasta sautéed in olive oil, with garlic and chili flakes.

(Terese:) We also like to mix together the cheeses we have on hand and make grilled cheese sandwiches on the panini press.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

Terese and Dio Esperas

Owners of A Healthy Kitchen catering company, ahealthykitchensac.com, 916-739-0659

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