Be Your Own Boss: Local woman starts up private chef business mid-pandemic

Early on in the pandemic, many businesses, including restaurants closed, to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. While everything seemed to stop, one local woman decided that was the time to start up her business, Social Table Experience.

“Even though you’re at home, you kind of feel like you’re somewhere else,” said Danielle Lavallee, head chef of Social Table Experience.

For this party of nine, the menu features a hand-crafted cocktail and a four-course meal, all prepared by a private chef at one of the guests’ homes in Rockland.

Lavallee was the head interior designer for a big developer in the Boston-area. But growing up in an Italian family, she always enjoyed cooking and entertaining. When the pandemic forced businesses to close and people stayed home, she knew it was the perfect time to start her passion project.

“I thought you know what, we’re so bored sitting at home with nothing to do, we couldn’t go anywhere at the time, so I thought you know what, I’m going to go do this thing, this idea that I have about bringing a restaurant to people in their home,” said Lavallee.

Danielle did a few test kitchens for family and friends, and then took her first client in August of 2020 for her new business “Social Table Experience.” Then a domino effect happened.

“That group posted about it on Instagram and then everybody that followed those people were like what are you doing, this looks so cool and then the next group started,” said Lavallee.

Danielle’s business was taking off as restaurants were closing to due to the pandemic. However, she was worried that as more restrictions were being lifted, more people would be returning to restaurants and her business would slow down. But it didn’t. It got busier.

“Your average, every day person, that wants to do something fun and different and it can be affordable,” said Lavallee about the opportunity to hire a private chef. “It might be a treat, but it’s still affordable for most people.”

For Danielle and her guests, it’s not just cooking a dinner. Danielle creates an ambiance: she brings the décor, flatware, and music.

Danielle books her dinners two months in advance, and at the beginning, she was nervous that this new venture wasn’t going to pay the bills.

“So there was this part of me that was like oh no, I have this cushy job and I have all these amazing benefits, am I really just going to blow up that situation that I worked so hard for just something that makes me so happy?” said Lavallee. “And it’s a little scary.”

But her leap of faith is paying off. By the end of the night, she has made new friendships. And the social interaction of the social table is what people are craving.

“It feels so good creating community and creating this moment for people, it’s rewarding for me to watch people be together, laugh, talk and just being themselves,” said Lavallee.

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