The Culinistas, a chef-placement company owned by Amagansett resident Jill Donenfeld and her business partner, Tiana Tenet, are preparing for a busy season ahead. With services available in New York City, the Hamptons, Los Angeles and Washington DC, they match vetted private chefs with households for weekly meal preps, gatherings and a variety of other culinary customer needs.
“The Culinistas remains the only in-home chef services business that works in an intimate, tailor-made way while having the infrastructure to help hundreds of chefs do this kind of work simultaneously” explains Donenfeld. “There is a complex technical aspect to what we do as well as the high-touch client and chef relationships.”
Donenfeld previously worked as a personal chef, and has a background in both front and back of the house at restaurants. That experience helped inform the kind of company she and Tenet created, which has a library of over 600 recipes offered in their chef services.
“We have a unique culinary product in that the point of creating a dish is not to make it the same every time, but to make it the way each specific client likes it. More sauce, more cheese, less basil, zucchini coins or planks or julienned threads, etc.,” says Donenfeld, who also has written a few cookbooks. “A key to The Culinistas cooking is using lots of vegetables, following a 1:1 ratio.”
That little bit of extra veg comes through beautifully in The Culinistas recipe for green lasagna — in this case, equal parts pasta sheets to zucchini planks, layered with basil oil, English peas, lemon zest and ricotta.
“Make sure all pasta sheets are covered with oil so the pasta doesn’t dry out,” she advises, suggesting a sparkling, dry-style Prosecco or a light Pét-Nat to accompany the meal, “or stay on the basil theme with a basil martini.”
Perfect for spring entertaining, this will feed a nice-sized group of guests, shared and passed right from the pan, drizzled with extra basil oil, peas and tiny basil leaves.
“I always like to add a little bit of garnish of the ingredients that are within the dish so that everyone knows what they’re getting,” says Donenfeld. “The through line has always been a focus on the holistic experience of sitting down to the table and noticing the aspects that make that nourishing.”
- 1 lb lasagna sheets
- 1 1/2 cups peas
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, packed, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp allspice, ground
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp za'atar, plus more for garnish
- 2 1/2 cups ricotta
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 zucchini, thinly sliced