By Lila Baltman, GSN Contributor

Hiring a personal chef may sound like a lavish extravagance to some, but for Suzanne Muchin of Chicago, it’s proven to be the winning, key ingredient to her large family’s vacation success.

Whenever she and her husband, their five kids and their daughter-in-law travel to their Scottsdale vacation home, the daily highlight is sitting around their dining room table and enjoying gourmet meals prepared by Gilbert resident and private chef William Turner.

While other families in Scottsdale make dinner reservations, the Muchin family is very happy to dine in.

“I’m normally the cook in my home, but when we’re all in Arizona, I want to relax and take a break, too,” Muchin said. “Having chef Turner help me with the daily meal planning, food shopping and cooking is the much-needed break I need.

“We actually alternate with the cooking on a daily basis. One day he’ll cook us a beautiful, casual brunch and then I’m in charge of dinner that night. And the next day, I’ll take care of brunch and then he’ll come over and prepare us an amazing dinner. It’s become a great arrangement.”

Known for his warm and friendly demeanor, charming Southern accent, ever-present backward black baseball cap and black chef’s coat, Turner lives in Gilbert but cooks for clients in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.

All of his clients quickly discover he’s able to cook a wide variety of food styles and will gladly prepare any specific dishes. You name it and Turner will cook it.

The Muchins, for example, keep a kosher home, and Muchin said Turner quickly learned how to prepare and cook appropriate meals.

“He now makes a matzo ball soup that my kids adore and the kosher steaks that he grills on our backyard grill, my sons say are the best steaks they’ve ever had,” she said.

A self-proclaimed master of the grill and meat expert, Turner proudly said, “I’ll cook you the best steak you’ve ever had in your life.”

A native of South Carolina and trained as an executive banquet chef and lead chef for upscale restaurants and country clubs, Turner admits he prefers being a private chef and working in residential kitchens.

Turner is hired to cook for a wide variety of special occasions. Some may be formal dinner parties with plated, coursed meals. Other events might be casual like a backyard barbecue for golf buddies visiting Scottsdale.

Recently, Turner created a casual, poolside barbecue dinner at a private home for a bevy of bridesmaids at a bachelorette party who chose to do a “spa day” theme. Because the ladies were in a private home, the bridesmaids opted to dine in their bathing suits along with fluffy white bathrobes for dinner. Flip-flops were optional.

“My dinners are very wide-ranging in scope and price point and although I love bringing the formal Southern fine dining experience to Scottsdale homes, I also enjoy setting up casual, poolside barbecues where formalities and formal attire go right out the window,” Turner said.

“Fun is the focus of the night. My goal is to provide my clients with whatever type of dinner party they want. I’m extremely flexible. For example, if a client wants to incorporate a cooking lesson while I’m cooking and setting up for the event, I’m more than happy to do that. My clients love to watch me cook in their kitchen and I always welcome that.”

What really makes Turner happy is when he’s asked to cook for a milestone occasion at a private home. Those could be parties that are formal, or those celebrating a birthday, anniversary, engagement or graduation. Small wedding receptions and bridal or baby showers are frequent, too.

“Knowing I’m creating incredible meals and lasting memories for people in their own homes is very rewarding and meaningful to me,” Turner said.

His charge begins at $75 per person and goes up from there, depending on the menu and level of service. He’s also available for destination needs.

Turner said he also loves that dinner, brunch or luncheon parties do not have specific closing times. From start to finish, set-up to clean-up, Turner will do all the work and occasionally, when he needs the extra help, he has a highly qualified team of servers and bartenders ready at a moment’s notice.

“This is a people-pleasing business and you can’t be successful at it unless you love people,” Turner said. “For me, my first love is people, and food is the way I express that love in a tangible way.”

-Chef William Turner can be reached at chefwilliamturner.com.