Leon Aceves developed an appetite for serving early on. Growing up in Moorpark, California, he would help his grandmother cook on a regular basis.
“Our communication was through food,” Aceves says. “She only spoke Spanish, and I wasn’t bilingual, so a lot of our communication and time together was in the kitchen.”
Grandma’s little sous chef went on to become Chef Aceves, a California Culinary Academy graduate with 12 years of hospitality experience working for full service, lifestyle and luxury hotels. Today, he’s the proud owner and operator of Las Vegas’ branch of Chefs for Seniors (chefsforseniors.com/las-vegas), a personal chef service that operates more than 60 franchises around the country.
“Our service is far less transactional than a UPS-delivered or already-prepared meal. There’s no human element with that style, there’s no prep and [though] every dish is good, it’s mass produced,” Aceves says. “With Chefs for Seniors, it’s all about the client and our time together.”
The service sends certified chefs into seniors’ homes to prepare 10-12 meals based on balanced, lean protein diets or custom plans tailored to dietary needs. Menus span several pages, offering everything from diabetic-friendly breakfast stuffed peppers to low sodium salmon cakes.
“For some clients, it’s like a Benihana show,” Aceves says. “Friends in the kitchen, you know, cooking and talking and gossiping.” Others might phone their healthcare provider during his visit, or run some errands. But they always get what they need.
Chefs follow all COVID-19 safety protocols during the two-hour visits. They also bring their own cooking tools, do the grocery shopping and even clean up afterwards.
Aceves says such exchanges are meaningful, not only for the clients and their families but for him as well.
“If I could just check off a couple of the things and help out in the kitchen, that’s a relief for them,” he says. “It makes me feel good. When I leave their home and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got meals for the week,’ it’s a totally different feeling and sense of accomplishment than leaving work for the hotel.”
In a way, it’s almost like being back in grandma’s kitchen. “I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” Aceves says.
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