Meals on Haute Wheels

A private chef to the stars returns to the valley to cook up a new niche business

Lori Cohen-Sanford Restaurants 0 Comments


John Corsino, better known as Chef Giovanni, considers himself “the most affordable four-star chef” in the Coachella Valley.

Two years ago, the French-trained Corsino, who has prepared meals for such celebrity clients as Madonna and the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, launched a catering company called Freelance Gourmet.

“At first I had only a motorcycle and two saddlebags filled with food and supplies,” he says. “I’d have to make several trips for even the smallest dinner parties.”

Today, his service, complete with a fresh set of wheels, is cooking across the desert. Working as many intimate gatherings as formal events, Giovanni brings bespoke service to the kitchens of local gastronomes. Here, the gourmet discusses his kitchen philosophy and what lights his fire.


Aside from a history with famous clients, what sets you apart from other caterers?
Everything my sous chef, Samantha Sparks, and I make is fresh and from scratch — no food that’s prepped hours or days ahead of time and expires in transit. I don’t believe in treating clients like just another dollar amount.

And you donate 10 percent of proceeds to st. Jude’s children’s research hospital.
Yes, I have a soft spot for sick kids. I made an agreement with God to tithe 10 percent of my profits. Eerily, my phone would ring with a party booking after I made a donation. I think there is a lot of karma. 

Where do you source ingredients?
I hand select every piece of produce, cut of meat, and finest ingredients available. I’ve always envied the chefs of the bistros in New York and San Francisco who have the opportunity to barter for daily fish, produce, and meat early in the morning. My favorite shopping haunts include Sprouts, which is where I get 90 percent of my ingredients and has the best quality produce, and Trader Joe’s for its eclectic cheeses, dressings, and the best basil.

Your cooking style …
Mediterranean, with a basis in my French culinary training. I stay as close to classical recipes as possible. When I make my clients bruschetta, I cook it in the classic way they do in Italy, over charcoal, and then rubbed with fresh garlic. I tell them to close their eyes and imagine walking through the hills of Tuscany when they take a bite.

What’s the most complicated dish a client has asked you to prepare?
High-end desserts such as crème brûlée and triple chocolate divinity cakes, and Southern crab cakes made from scratch for a wedding with 80 guests.

What do you prepare when you’re home alone?
I am single, so I keep it simple. I like to make my own pizza with homemade dough. My favorite is a take on a Margherita pizza — fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and crumbled goat cheese on top.


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