As one of five girls, Dini Klein was always huddling around with her sisters and mother in the kitchen. Her mother especially loved to cook, and Klein was always there by her side, offering a helping hand. Today, as one of the most established personal chefs in the Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut region, Klein’s Kosher grub is enjoyed by many in the area.
In her childhood, while Klein loved to be in the kitchen, she never had any inkling that she’d be making a career out of it. Still, she loved being in the kitchen. It was, to her, a “creative outlet.” One day, while trying to create a very involved and beautiful Martha Stewart cake, filled with a garden of crushed chocolate graham cracker dirt and marzipan fruits and vegetables, Klein realized that food is art.
Klein was always involved in the arts. She grew up playing piano, attending art classes and working on personal pottery projects. To her, having this additional outlet of creativity with something she loved would begin her journey into the culinary world.
But not immediately, anyway. Klein attended the Fashion Institute of Technology for college, assuming that with her creative chops, she would be going into fashion. It didn’t stick. When she graduated, she did not enjoy working in fashion at all.
As a career in food started to beckon her, Klein attended a summer program at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts in Brooklyn. The program was “perfect,” she said, both in terms of the commitment required in that it was only a summer and not a full-fledged program, giving her a taste of what a future career would look like, and in helping her refine her palate and food creations. When she wrapped up the program, she had hands-on training at the Prime Grill.
The Prime Grill training made Klein realize that “I didn’t want to work in the restaurant business.” She loved working with food every day and in different outlets, not seeking the monotony of the same dishes in a traditional setting. So she started her own food blog, now her company presence, at dinidelivers.com. She also began working with young adults living in the Upper West Side, where she also resided at the time, providing meals off a menu of her choosing for the busy working people living nearby who often came home from a weekend away from home with leftovers from Mom, such as cholent and potato kugel. With this, Klein realized there was a void to be filled and decided to hold her own “takeout” business, especially as demand rose after locals stumbled upon her recipes online.
Eventually, Klein decided that she wanted to shift her business toward the higher end, toward those with bigger families and people looking to host large Shabbat meals but who had no time to prepare meals. This caused her to evolve into becoming a personal chef, and today, five years later, she is still at it. Klein’s focus is on customization and personalization. When she started working as a personal chef, she would go to people’s homes and cook for them with their equipment and utensils, but now she cooks out of her own home and delivers throughout the tristate area.
The customization opened many creative outlets for her. “I don’t want to ever have a menu [again],” Klein said, referring to her former UWS operation. Now, she calls her business a fully “customized white-glove business.” For example, if someone wants to replicate a recipe from his great grandmother for Rosh Hashanah dinner, she can make that happen. She can create anything, from meals specifically for those with severe allergies to elaborate dishes like a chicken tagine. Healthy diets are a core focus of her business as well, and she serves the needs of many parents who wish to give their children healthy dinners for the entire week.
Klein often faces the question of Kashrut, as currently all of her clients keep kosher. If necessary, she will still cook at a client’s home for an additional fee beyond her standard fee, which covers her labor and groceries. She keeps a strictly kosher home but will engage the help of a Mashgiach if the situation requires it, and has engaged with one for busier periods, such as the chagim. Still, she says she has earned a reputation of trust within the community, and as a current active member of the Young Israel of New Rochelle, she does provide references to locals and other longtime clients.
To bolster her online footprint, Klein maintains a successful YouTube channel (bit.ly/dini-youtube) and an Instagram account of her culinary creations (instagram.com/dinidelivers). “I really want to show people what you can do with food and how to transform it,” she said in her introductory video. To date, she’s covered recipes such as Salmon Poppers, Lemony Potato Salad with Asparagus and Peas, Strawberry-Thyme Galette and Farm Fresh Turkey-Veggie Pizzas. Her YouTube channel also features personal stories, such as her insights on motherhood and sisterhood, and tutorials as well. Some recent video tutorials give knife cutting tips and instructions on how to cut a pineapple.
Locally, she’s been invited to host several cooking demonstrations, with the Young Israel of New Rochelle hosting her in its most recent Women’s League demo. While she does cater to families, she can do larger events such as a recent Bat Mitzvah when she did appetizers and desserts for nearly 100 people. She will coordinate Kashrut issues for larger-scale events where that question becomes more of a concern.
As an artist, Klein loves that her assignments are never the same. She has built strong bonds with her clients and calls many of them family. “[I become] so involved in their everyday life and a big part of what they’re doing,” she said. She loves working with clients to come up with the menu, giving parents the ability to still continue to be part of the process.
“It’s an art for me, something different, creative and new and it keeps me going,” Klein said.
For more information on Klein’s business, visit dinidelivers.com.
by Tamar Weinberg