Lawrence Chau for metro Toronto
Name: Nicole Luciani
Occupation: Culinary Designer
She’s not as celebrated as Colin Cowie, Oprah Winfrey’s favourite event planner, nor is she as loud as television’s quick- cooking queen Rachael Ray, but Nicole Luciani has the art of designing intimate dinner parties in the comfort of your home, packed with style.
In a mere 15 minutes, Luciani was able to whip out an elegant Christmas-accented table setting for four right before my arrival to talk about her innovative career as the brainchild of Ella Cole Culinary Designs.
If you are of the breed that freaks when trying to figure out where the cutlery goes, or feigns lethargy when it comes to clearing dishes, it’s time to toast yourself and admit that, yes, you are a dysfunctional dinner host.
The 31-year-old will make you look like the consummate host, one who’s taken the time to come up with a stylishly themed night, complete with a full-course meal, music and matching décor.
“I’m all about simplicity and elegance,” says Luciani. “There are people who get all nervous and frantic when trying to string together a dinner party. They forget to have fun. I’m here to help them relax and enjoy their own party.”
With bookings twice a week, plus a new specialty client that’s hired Luciani to prepare nutritious, low- carb meals, business has afforded the culinary hostess the freedom and flexibility that evades many entrepreneurs.
“Each project only takes about six to 10 hours,” Luciani says referring to the time required to shop, prep and cook meals, and meet with clients — urban professional types, who relish the idea of entertaining guests at home rather than at a restaurant after a hectic day at the office.
It’s an idea that originally took off in New York and Los Angeles, says Luciani.
As revealed on her website, ellacole.com, menus are custom-tailored to the client’s palette and comprise a range of healthy starters, salads and mains, of which her specialty is a seared Chilean bass. Yes, there are desserts too.
The tab starts from around $70 a head. Service fee and alcohol are extra.
Two to eight guests are the norm for Luciani, who is able to call on part-time staff to help with larger engagements.
A business that’s blossomed thanks to word of mouth, and a job highlight that comprises a trip to Miami to host a dinner party has awed the Italian-Canadian, who, until the age of 26, was admittedly clueless about cooking.