BY JENNIFER LOVY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTOPHER IVEY
is 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and Debra
Kleiman Walter is one of the only customers
perusing the otherwise deserted aisles of Whole
Foods in Troy. Since she started her business as a
personal chef last summer, she's been to the grocery
store at least once a day. Sometimes she is there as
many as two or three times. So when her shopping list
on this trip includes items like eggplant, lemon, frozen
peas, beans and basmati, Walter navigates through the
aisles like a woman who knows exactly what she
wants. Her shopping excursion is complete in less
than 10 minutes.
Not even a half-hour later, Walter is unpacking gro-
ceries from her white Dodge Caravan and transporting
them into the kitchen of her Wednesday clients,
Sheryl and Seth Korelitz.
The Korelitz family of Huntington Woods is one of
Walter's regular clients who open their kitchen to a
personal chef on a weekly basis so that they can enjoy
a home-cooked meal without investing the time and
energy it takes to plan, shop and cook for it. A person-
al chef is especially advantageous for the Korelitzes
since they keep kosher and they are vegetarians with a
preference for organic foods.
By the time Walter leaves their home, the Korelitz
refrigerator is stocked with a number of main courses
and side dishes that will last the better part of a week.
During this visit, Walter prepares a tofu loaf with
Asian sauce; seitan a l'orange with udon noodles; tofu
eggless salad; Mediterranean salad with roasted egg-
plant, feta cheese and roasted red peppers; seitan
meatballs with gravy; banana muffins; raspberry cob-
bler bars; and steamed veggies with tofu sauce.
"Everyone spends money on different things," says
Sheryl Korelitz, the owner of Ruby's Balm, a West
• OCTOBER 2002 • STYLE AT THE JN
Bloomfield beauty boutique. "This is our splurge.
I couldn't stand not eating well and we were tired
of frozen veggie burgers and frozen peas."
In need of a "decent meal" and short on time
to cook for themselves and their daughters
Hannah, 7, and Zoe, 18 months, the Korelitz fami-
ly hired Walter to prepare some of their meals.
They knew of her reputation as a cook even
before she became a personal chef because Walter,
also a Huntington Woods resident, is known in
"the Woods" for her culinary expert-
ise. She previously worked at
Bonnie's Patisserie and Sweet
A graduate of the Culinary
Institute of America, Walter often
specializes in vegetarian cooking,
including macrobiotic cooking. The
macrobiotic view is that eating proper
varieties and proportions of foods
helps achieve balance and harmony.
Macrobiotics makes several diet rec-
ommendations, including no
processed, sugared, dyed, canned,
bottled, or otherwise adulterated food;
no foods produced using pesticides,
chemical fertilizers or preservatives;
no imported foods from a long dis-
tance; and no vegetables or fruits out
Much of Walter's cooking at the
Korelitz home is macrobiotic. Not all
of her clients eat macrobiotic or vege-
tarian, so Walter discusses menus with
her clients and varies her dishes to
meet their tastes. Walter's services cost $250 a
week plus the grocery bill. After a day's work in
the kitchen, depending on the dishes, this chef
typically leaves four main courses and six side
Walter, the mother of four, says one of the most
rewarding parts of her job is hearing clients rave
about a meal. "I don't get that from my children.
Instead I hear, 'we're having turkey for dinner,
Walter still cooks regularly for her own family
despite a growing client base, but she jokingly
tells her husband, Paul, that if her business con-
tinues to expand she is going to need her own