LA JOLLA — If you knew you could call a professional chef for help when the souffle fell flat or if you couldn't tell a dice from a mince, you might be more adventurous in the kitchen.
Such professional backup apparently has put one young man in good stead in the romance department. He regularly calls a hot line set up by Jim Coleman, executive chef of the Sheraton Grande Torrey Pines Hotel.
"Once a week, we hear from a young single guy who apparently has an 'in' with the girls, and he apparently has a different one each week," Coleman said. "We're kind of his dinner planner, coming up with his dinner menu for his dates.
"We help him do veal dishes, seafood pasta, a Caesar salad; things that he can do and show off a little bit."
In fact, most callers to Coleman's hot line are male.
When you call (619) 450-4527, you hear "Chef's Hot Line," and one of the hotel's 10 chefs is on hand for simple advice or professional expertise. The advice is free; the amateur cook pays for the calls.
Coleman even helped a New York City caterer prepare a party for 40. "I thought maybe I should have gotten a cut of that deal," he said jestingly.
And then there was the woman who wanted a bad dinner done well:
"She wanted to fix something correctly, but something that the guests wouldn't like. They were her husband's friends and she didn't like them," Coleman said. "We picked liver. Not too many people think it's appetizing. She thought it was a good idea and we gave her a recipe."
Coleman brought his hot-line idea to this seaside resort north of San Diego when he relocated from Dallas. He installed a telephone line in the restaurant kitchen last year and encouraged customers to call in an effort to give the place a family feel.
But now that the hot line is becoming known, the calls come from all over--10 to 15 a day.
"Most of the calls are from out of state, so it doesn't necessarily bring people into the dining room, but it is a service; the different chefs rotate the calls depending on their specialty," hotel spokeswoman Mary Bishop said.
Most questions are about basic ingredients or about how to change recipes to reduce the amount of fat or cholesterol, Coleman said.
"A lot of people know the proper way of cooking meals," Coleman said, "but it takes us to reinforce it--that 'Yes, that's the right thing, you're on the right track.' "