What does it take to make it in Hollywood? The answer -- confidence, a pretty face, persistence and a good hand in the kitchen!
Stuart O’Keeffe, 28, has all of the above, but most of all it’s his ability in the kitchen that has him cooking for Hollywood’s glamorous and being one of the stars of the Food Network’s Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.
O’Keeffe, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, moved to Los Angeles when he was 24.
Before that he spent two years working in a hotel in Napa Valley wine country gaining “the experience of a lifetime.”
“It was just lovely to start off there,” O’Keeffe told the Irish Voice over a cappuccino in an LA cafe recently.
“Starting off in Napa Valley was certainly a great introduction to this country,” he said through a bright smile.
O’Keeffe’s passion for cooking flared up every time he went to visit his aunt’s home in Nenagh.
“We would go to my aunt’s house at the weekends, and I would spend hours with her in the kitchen making tarts, Guinness cake, breads,” O’Keeffe explained.
“I would help her a lot of the time prepare food for the dinners and I really enjoyed it.”
At 16, as his schooling days were coming to a close, O’Keeffe was forced to choose which type of career he wished to pursue through attending college.
“God, that was hard at 16. It’s really hard to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life at such a young age,” he recalled.
Although several options were made available to him, O’Keeffe followed his gut and spent the next four years of his life in culinary arts school at the Dublin Institute of Technology earning a degree that would take him half way across the world to a place he had only ever seen on television.
But before he was destined to move across the Atlantic Ocean, O’Keeffe spent some time in Bordeaux, France earning the necessary skills to carry him through the world of gastronomy.
Although some chef’s can only dream about working in a country that treats food with much love and respect, the experience for O’Keeffe was bitter sweet.
“Although I learned a lot I cried most nights while there,” O’Keeffe said looking back.
“You have to be tough skinned and I don’t even have a temper so it wasn’t working for me.”
After weeks of misery, it finally struck O’Keeffe that he hated working in restaurant/hotel kitchens. He decided there and then that if he was going to make it in the culinary world, he was going to do it his way and no other.
Finally, while working his way through hotels back in Dublin to pay the bills, an offer came to move to California. O’Keeffe snapped it up.
“I worked in a very high end country club in Napa Valley and I loved every minute of it,” O’Keeffe shared as he noticed a gaggle of girls at a nearby table eyeing him up.
O’Keeffe’s handsome looks no doubt help with his career.
The Tipperary man finally traded in wine country for the glitz and glamour of LA and moved there in 2004.
He began, almost immediately, working his way around Hollywood hosting dinner parties for up to 10 people at time, and soon word was on the LA streets that there was a cute, talented Irish kid in town who could cook a mean meal.
“As soon as I moved here I knew this was the place for me,” he said.
O’Keeffe began working as a private chef for some of L.A.’s rich and famous, including cooking for actress Sharon Stone and the host of 'What Not to Wear,' Clinton Kelly.
“It’s all about who you know in this town and the need to network and get known in these circles,” he added.
O’Keeffe’s handsome looks and Irish sparkle landed him the job as spokesperson for Tupperware, a job that takes him across the country promoting the product.
“This is my second year with Tupperware,” said O’Keeffe.
“They were looking for a chef and they found me. I’ve been kept busy with them shooting videos, doing voice overs, product demonstrations and traveling.”
After becoming accustomed to public speaking and appearing in front of a television camera, it’s no surprise that O’Keeffe’s next step was to appear on a reality television show.
He landed the role of himself on 'Private Chefs of Beverly Hills' after producers of the show heard he was Irish.
“I guess it was a great angle to have an Irish chef because the rest of the cast is American,” said O’Keeffe.
Filming for the reality show took over three months.
“We had such great fun making the show,” smiles O’Keeffe.
The reality show follows O’Keeffe and five other private chefs from Beverly Hills as they cater for over the top lavish parties, including a Botox get-together, a doggie spa day and accompanying young millionaires on a pampering camping trip.
“You’ll have to watch the show to see the craziness. It was such a pleasure to make,” he says.
Since the show’s airing -- it’s currently on the Food Network on Friday nights at 10 p.m. -- O’Keeffe has received several other offers to cook for bigwigs in Hollywood.
One of the offers has come from Kris Jenner, mother of the Kardashian sisters and star of the reality show 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians.'
“When I met her she said, ‘Let’s get you on the show and get you to come in and do the dinner and have a bit of fun,’” said O’Keeffe.
While waiting for his next big break -- which is just around the corner no doubt - O’Keeffe continues to cook up a storm for Hollywood’s elite.
“I cook food anywhere from five to 350 people,” he said.
“I love my life in LA and hopefully someday soon I’ll get my own show, maybe even on the Food Network and make my Irish mammy proud of me.”
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