As a child, Private Executive Chef Karen Marie Hadley was inspired by cooking homemade marinara sauce and German potato salad. Today her meals are haute cuisine, but her fundamental enthusiasm and desire to regale remain unchanged.
"My mother taught me how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch," she said. "The rest is history."
Hadley has gone from a single mother struggling to make ends meet, to a culinary school graduate and professional chef. According to daughter, Elena Galvan, 21, Hadley was creative even before culinary school.
"My mom used to come up with creative stuff when I was a little girl. We didn't have much money when I was growing up," she said, "so for my dinner she would serve a tomato stuffed with tuna salad, served on lettuce leaf."
"When Chef Karen started in 1987, she made a personal pledge to use only fresh ingredients in her products, an assurance she continues today."
In 1987, it was a batch of potato salad which she made for her father's 60th birthday that changed her life. "Daryl Sattui, an invited guest at the party, told me that everyone loved my potato salad," she said. "He asked me if I would be interested in making a hundred pounds a week for his deli at V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, serving an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 visitors a day on the weekends”. Chef Karen made a daunting 36,000 pounds of potato salad during her first nine years, and tourists from all over still come looking for the salad....even after all these years.
12 years later, in 1999, Chef Karen applied for and was immediately accepted into Napa Valley Culinary School in St. Helena in order to be to be educated in all aspects of the culinary field like food management, safety and sanitation, food and beverage cost control and marketing. After 14 “extremely intense” months followed by 800 hours of externship, Chef Robert Curry, then Executive Chef at Domain Chandon, stated “Karen is really passionate about her work. She has a great love for cooking and for food."
Chef Karen Hadley's passion is food — teaching about it, cooking it, creating menus — it's what she's enjoyed since childhood. Chef Karen works with individuals and organizations to create and execute meals serving from two to more than 300 people.
"I use all my own utensils, pans and platters. If staff is needed, I hire them. I come in, set up and do the event, no matter how large or small, then clean up and you don't even know I was there. I work with the client to develop the menu they want and there's no charge for consultation. I inquire about food allergies and ask if the meal has a theme. I'm able to purchase food products from wholesale vendors, rather than retail, and pass that savings on to my clients. I don't think there are many private chefs who pass on that savings."
Chef Karen Hadley finds time to give back to the community by volunteering at her alma mater, West Park Elementary School, teaching gourmet cooking to third graders. Her classes became so popular with the parents that she now offers them to everyone for a reasonable fee.
From planting your own herbs and vegetable garden to preparing Fabulous Gourmet Meals you’ve seen in magazines and at fancy restaurants, book Chef Karen TODAY and you can learn how to do it all too!
Chef Karen is also a member of the Napa Elks Lodge, the Napa Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau along with a ServSafe certificate for her knowledge of proper food handling.
"We all have to follow the passions in our life. My passion is people and making them happy. Food is an extremely positive way of doing that." ~ Chef Karen
"Cooking is my passion. I'm proud of my presentation and quality is the key. You can't end a day any better than when your clients are happy." ~ Chef Karen
Napa Valley's Leading Newspaper - The Napa Valley Register - has featured Private Executive Chef Karen M Hadley in many local articles including: