Ten years ago, Renee Faucher became seriously, mysteriously ill. It would be a full year until she received a Lyme disease diagnosis.
Among her many symptoms were digestive issues and abdominal pain. Among her recovery strategies: a gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar diet.
Today, Faucher is the Invisible Chef, a private and personal chef specializing in healthy food with an emphasis on vegetarian and seafood-based meals. Her catering and in-home customers enjoy everything from turkey-taco stuffed baked sweet potatoes (for the carnivores) to pistachio-sesame crusted flounder and chickpea quinoa “meatballs” (for pescatarians and vegetarians, respectively). She also maintains a bright, beautiful Instagram feed cataloging her creations.
“Invisible Chef was part of that journey ... of wanting to specialize in a certain way of cooking and helping other people who have similar issues. As it turns out, there are a lot of people who need to eat this way,” she says. “I’m attracted to that not only because of my own issues, but because I find it interesting and challenging. I like to figure out recipes—from an old family favorite to American standards to ethnic dishes that a client likes to eat—and fine-tune them so they comply with however it is that the client needs to eat, whether that’s dairy-free or gluten-free or vegan or paleo.”
None of this would have come to fruition had it not been for one question that changed Faucher’s life. She was a college student in need of a job, so she inquired at an Iowa City cafe. “Do you want to work in the front or the back?” she was asked. An introvert, Faucher replied: “the back.”
Cooking became her passion. Despite graduating with a degree in English, when she returned to the Twin Cities, she sought employment at Café Brenda to feed her interest in vegetarian cooking. She stayed there for seven years, then had her first experience as a private chef working for Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda.
“I kind of fell in love with that type of work: geared toward a client’s individual needs and preferences and tastes and working in the home,” she says.
It’s a challenge to keep things interesting, so Faucher incorporates Mediterranean, Indian, and Asian flavors into her edible repertoire. Other challenges? Privacy—especially when traveling with a client. Faucher admits she’s occasionally felt “on display” at their homes, and she has to balance getting the job done with being available and friendly.
“Any chef or anyone who works in the kitchen knows cooking is a lot of work—detail work and hard work," she says. "You have a list of things to do and a lot of times it feels like more than I can get done in a certain amount of time, but when you’re working in someone’s home, there’s that social element that you have to also keep track of."
Though she doesn’t have coworkers, per se, Faucher rarely feels lonely on the job. She cultivates friendships with people at her usual haunts like Whole Foods, Coastal Seafoods, the deli, or the farmers market.
And clients themselves can sometimes feel like kin. She currently works for a family, and on the days when everyone’s out of the house, she misses them. “I’m used to having them around now,” she says. “It’s fun.”