Austin Exum, a graduate from The Culinary School of Fort Worth, has started up a business as a private chef hosting private dinners in his hometown of Paris, Texas.

After graduating from The Culinary School of Fort Worth in June of 2020, Austin worked on figuring out his niche in the culinary industry. He worked for Stellini Trattoria, his extern site while at the school, for five months before deciding that the next step for him was to explore a different side of the culinary industry. He then took a job as a healthcare cook in a nursing and rehabilitation home.

“I viewed this position as a way to give back to the community who has given so much to us,” Austin said.

Despite his love for the kitchen and love for his job, Austin still felt like there was something missing from his cooking experience. He desired a more personal experience. That’s when the idea of private dinners came to him.

“The thing I love most about cooking is the personal relationships that you can gain with people from simply feeding them,” Austin said. “I sought after those personal experiences with people through food that the restaurant work didn’t give me, and I thought there was no better way to get that than to start doing private dinners.”

For Austin, the worst part about this revelation of what he wanted to do is that it came to him in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when there is a hyper-awareness of germs that this country has not experienced in over 100 years, the idea of asking people to let you into their home seemed nearly impossible.

“I didn’t know if people would be willing to have someone who’s not in their immediate family come to their home and cook for them, but since posting that I was going to accept bookings, I’ve had nothing but support and inquiries,” Austin said.

Once a customer has reached out and booked Austin for a dinner, it is important to Austin that he gets a feel for the customer and what he might like them to make. He said that he likes to talk to them and find out what they enjoy before making the menu.

Austin said that he likes to stay away from limiting himself to just one type of cuisine for a couple of different reasons. On one hand, he has realized that not everybody likes the same kind of food and “one cuisine doesn’t fit all.” And, on the other hand, an ever changing menu allows him to showcase his culinary skills and constantly challenge himself.

This type of flexibility is something that Austin said he learned while studying at The Culinary School of Fort Worth.

“The Culinary School of Fort Worth prepared me to be flexible with people, flexible with flavors, and to expand beyond the norms of food,” Austin said. “It prepared me in a way that I can now, for the most part, create anything that a customer or friend asks me to prepare based on the knowledge of cooking techniques that the school taught me.”

He also credits the school for teaching him both timing and patience and how they both have a great effect on what he cooks. This timing, patience, and flexibility have all helped Austin make a great impression not only on his customers but also the people that he has worked with, including former CSFTW chef-instructor Maddie Sharp.

“Austin will go far if he stays hungry,” Chef Sharp said. “He’s the type of student that you hope to teach – one that asks the tough questions and doesn’t give up after the first time if something goes wrong.”

If you would like to hire Austin for a private dinner, the cost for a three-course meal is between $35-$75 per person depending on the menu items. To contact Austin, please use Facebook, Instagram (@taste.ptx), austinexum23@gmail.com, or (903) 517-6362.

Written by James Creange.