A career where food is love and an art

Elle setting down the terrine filled with traditional Haitian soup at an elegantly set table.
Photos by Tequila Minsky
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Elle Phillipe had many jobs as an office manager after she emigrated from Haiti, more than two decades ago.

When she saw a sign “cooking class” in the window of the Greenwich Village bistro Tartine, Elle Phillipe went in and registered. “I remember, the first class was veal,” Elle says of the three-hour, every Thursday from 5:00-8:00 p.m., cooking classes Elle took for a year that ultimately changed the direction of her life.

Since she was eight-years-old, she remembers visiting her grandparents in Leogane, Haiti where they grew food. She always was attracted to food. The classes propelled her onto her current path.

“It was so much fun, all of us from all walks of life, in the kitchen pealing potatoes and talking,” she reminisces.

Three years later, Elle studied at the French Culinary Institute, receiving a certificate, and began to cater parties at the Australian Consulate. Two years later, continuing to work as an office manager by day, she went to the New School at night earning a certificate in catering and food laws.

Now, after 12 years of working as a personal chef, she is segueing into a business of event catering and personal dining at your place or in her “apartment bistro.”

“I love entertaining, I don’t just want to cook, I want to set the stage,” she says of her vision. “You sit, you stay for hours and enjoy the creative meal I prepare for you.”

What this means is that clients pick from a menu considering their taste and budget. Elle will set an elegant table, prepare and serve the meal in her Upper East Side apartment or your home. Her specialties are French, Italian, American and Haitian cuisine.

A sample Haitian cuisine-personal dining menu includes in-season farmers market salad with fresh goat cheese and roasted beets –“so versatile,” she says, green pea puree (sauce pois) and white rice, vegetables with conch (legumes), and roasted chicken. Dessert is beignet (fritter) with English cream and raspberry sauce garnish.

Higher price menus include different vegetables, entrées, amount of courses, and desserts. “Everything is fresh, I never open a can!” she boasts. “My philosophy is keep it fresh, keep it real, and keep it simple.”

One of her catering clients is the Lycee Francais de New York where her varied buffet menu fed 200 people. It takes four days, employing three helpers, to work on this scale.

In her “apartment bistro,” Elle recently prepared a birthday dinner for a Haitian celebrity singer and 12 of her friends. “I feel like a queen!” said the guest of honor, gushing, “I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

“I’m working on my website, now,” she says, but people can email me at [email protected] and we can discuss dining and entertaining needs.

Through the years and with a boundless curiosity, Elle has taken master classes with highly regarded chefs.

Come fall, Elle will begin teaching her own cooking classes. “Show up with enthusiasm, a smile, and open to learn” are the requirements for her six-session series that will take place on Saturdays between 10:00-2:00 p.m. The class will then eat what they prepare. “We will also work on menu development,” she says.

After the class series and from the menu they’ve created, the class puts together a dinner party, each person inviting one guest. Elle says, “They have to be able to prepare the meal on a prescribed (about $25) per person budget.”

With her chef services, Elle’s philosophy is, “I want people to enjoy food. It gives me joy.” And, it’s obvious that her classes will include the same passionate approach to dining with great attention to fine details that make eating food touched from her hands an unforgettable experience.”

In her chef whites, Elle Phillipe discusses the finer points of eating well.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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