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Costigan native becomes California's 'Phantom Chef'

A Costigan Native Becomes California's Phantom Chef

A Costigan native who was once kicked out of her Gourmet Cooking class at Old Town High School has started her own business as a "personal chef" in Northern California.

"If the teacher could see me now!" laughs Randa Boyer.

As "The Phantom Chef," Boyer prepares meals in the people's homes for people who lack the time or expertise to do it themselves, leaving behind a week's worth of entreÚs sealed in the freezer.

Her venture has drawn interest for local news outlets in the area of Vacaville, California (30 minutes outside Sacramento).

The 1988 OTHS graduate (in those days known as Randa Cote) admits to throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, which irritated the teacher and got her and another classmate sent outside to talk to the principal, who at the time was Boyer's uncle, Don Sturgeon.

She still insists, however, that her method is an effective way to determine that noodles are done.

She should know. Boyer became an expert flight chef in the U. S. Air Force, feeding foreign and domestic dignitaries officials on long flights ("there were no peanut carts on these planes," she notes).

She described her most memorable flight as follows: "We flew then Congressman Bill Richardson (NM) to Sudan to negotiate the release of three Red Cross relief workers whose plane was hijacked. I was able to see the video of the talks, and it was pretty amazing, considering that there were people in the trees above with guns pointed at the negotiators.

She continued, "the hostages were very excited to eat Thankgiving style meal I prepared for them. They had been eating pumpkin and goat meat the entire time."

Boyer became an such expert flight chef that a four-star general asked her to become his personal chef after eating one of her meals." "Having narrowly avoided via a "crew swap" being on the historic and fatal flight that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, Boyer, who lost three very good friends in the crash, found her enthusiam for flying to be dwindling. She accepted the general's offer.

Besides, she jokes, you "can't turn down a four-star!"

Boyer did all the general's personal shopping and meal preparations. "Also included were cheffing for all the distinguished visitors that came to visit," she said. "Ambassadors, foreign four-star generals and their wives, Congressman, Senators, and all those in-between."

Honorable discharged this past May, Boyer was ready to begin civilian life with her husband, Rob, and their children, Jett (2) and Harleigh (7 months). She didn't have to wait long to find an occupation. Ron read in a magazine about the relatively new and rapidly growing profession of personal cheffing. The couple figured such a venture would be a perfect way for Randa to make good use of her expertise.

"My services include an in-depth client assessment, which entails finding out if the client has any food allergies, special dietary requirements, or likes and dislikes of certain foods," she said.

The Phantom Chef uses her own equipment to prepare the meals in the client's home and vanishes, leaving no trace of her presence.

No mess. Not even a single spaghetti noodle on the ceiling.

"I come up with a specialized menu for their approval and a suggested cook date. On that date, I shop for the freshest ingredients available, go to the client's home, prep, cook, and package the meals family style or in an individual serving size, the label and leave the meals in the freezer or refrigerator with the clear heating and handling instructions.

"You come home to a refrigerator full of healthy, delicious home-cooked meals to be eaten at your leisure," Boyer guarantees.

All of this for a fee that ranges, depending on the grocery bill and serving size, from $200 to $300 for the standard package of five meals (very reasonable price by California standards, Boyer points out).

One might think there wouldn't be a market for "personal chefs" with all the delivery and take-out services available, but Boyer says most of her clients have particular dietary needs or desires that the local pizza joint or Chinese restaurant can't meet.

Many are simply health-conscious, but lack the time or knowledge to prepare balanced meals themselves, she says.

Asked if she plans to bring her talents to Maine anytime soon, Boyer admits that she misses her hometown and her family, including her sister, Tonya, and her brother, John Costigan (whom she credits with basically raising her), but her husband and children are rooted in Vacaville, at least for the foreseeable future.

She noted that anyone in the Old Town-Orono area who might be interested in hiring a personal chef could contact Karylyn Bayerdorffer of "The Maine Ingredient" at 997-2976.

She invites those seeking more information about her profession to visit the American Personal Chef Association website, .

By Chuck McKay
The Penobscot Times, July 12, 2001

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