Personal Chef

About Chef Sandy Der

My interest in food and cooking began at an early age. Growing up Chinese meant you were never asked how you were, but… “Have you eaten yet?”
This may have had something to do with my fascination with food. Or, perhaps it was savoring my Grandmother’s homemade dumplings. Or, the weekly shopping trips to San Francisco Chinatown with my mother where there was something new to discover at every stop. Or, perhaps it was that every celebration was experienced with massive amounts of delicious foods.

The Science – AND – Art of Cuisine…

When it came time to go off to college, I landed at the University of California at Davis where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Food Science and Technology. Then off to the corporate food world – Carnation – where I helped develop new food products.

Between the academic studies and ‘industrial cooking’ years, I was well versed in the science of cooking, but yearned for a food experience that was less sterile, more visceral, more emotional, more immediate, more human, more like my childhood memories… so I traded my lab coat for a chef’s jacket and immersed myself in the art of cuisine.

I started out at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s City Restaurant in Los Angeles, chopping Romaine for salads. In less than a year I was running the day kitchen… “Oohh yea!, this is what I want to be when I grow up”.
After arriving in the Bay Area, I was fortunate to work with Wendy Brucker of Rivoli, in Berkeley and then Anne and David Gingrass at Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco.

Through these experiences, I was drawn to the art of cuisine like a steel paper clip to a 2 ton magnet.
When it comes to all things food, I’m passionate… well really, creating meals that arouse all the senses is a driving force seemingly infused in my DNA, and as natural to me as breathing. I match tastes and styles to individual palates in ways that both nourish and elevate the dining experience to a higher level.

I’m equally adept at comfort food as well as haute cuisine – but first and foremost, my love of food focuses on THE FOOD … the food that is local… the food that is in season… the food that is fresh… and creating meals that synergistically accentuate the essence of each ingredient rather than eclipsing the ingredients with heavy sauces or cooking the taste out of them. Meals that are uniquely tailored to the diners taste and lifestyle. Meals – “everyday meals” – that clients and friends confess they dream about.

Have You Ever Had One Of Those Moments
That Shocked You To A New Realization?

I was having my own dolce vita. Some how all the talk about the average American diet and the increasing health maladies was mostly background noise. But it was percolating.

Then one day I was walking through the neighborhood (College Avenue for those that know the area). Walking toward me was an overweight couple pushing a kid in a stroller. The kid’s hands were locked on a Big Gulp, straw in mouth.

Now to say that soda has no nutritional value would be an understatement. Hey, did you know that soda is the number one source of calories in the American diet? Yep, used to be white bread. Now it’s soda. And no wonder when you have a three year old drinking the stuff.

A couple days later I was walking around one of those membership discount food warehouse stores and suddenly realized… where’s the real food? So much of it was processed. Test tube food in pretty packaging.

I was shocked awake by the smell of burning deep fried french fries. And realized that most people really don’t eat well. That “average American” is a real person – a lot of them in fact. What to do about that?

After some research and investigation I enrolled in a 2 year, 700 instructional hours Nutrition Consultant program at Bauman College. The basis of the program is that we need to eat whole, nutritionally dense foods and a balanced diet to thrive. The kind of diet that was the norm 100 years ago. No magic potions. No miracle Hollywood diet.

The premise is basic. It’s simple… but not always easy in the world of fast food and heavily processed meals.

Having successfully completed the program, I’m now a Certified Nutrition Consultant. I incorporate nutritional wisdom in clients meals as well as my own. I’m available for nutritional guidance to work with you on the kinds of foods you should incorporate in your diet – and the kinds you should leave out – to maintain optimal health.

Fond memories of dinner every evening with three generations gathered together has inspired me to help others bring back the family table… “Have you eaten yet?”

There is nothing more satisfying in life than being able to share with others what you are passionate about. Tao de Kitchen is the means through which I share my love and passion for food that nourishes your body and soul and, brings balance and harmony to your table. I treasure the opportunity and privilege to share that passion with you.