Social media is great. We love it and are avid users. I spend a lot of time creating and curating content for our accounts and are tickled that we’ve seen our following grow.
But Facebook and Twitter in particular are no substitute for the intimacy–and privacy–you get on our APPCA forums. Here is a place where you can speak freely without worry that you’re going to get flamed or spammed by strangers. It’s a place where you can interact with colleagues on a range of issues that are deeply important to you.
Our forums are divided into a variety of categories, including Private Discussion, Virtual Water Cooler, Recipes for Succe$$, Sources and Resources, Special Diets, Tips and Techniques, Marketing, Techie Stuff, and Serving Senior Clients. If you have a special issue, there’s a forum to address it. You can add attachments to your post and create tags. And it serves as a terrific archive of resources.
But–and this is a big but–it only works if our members participate. So, here are six reasons you should make a habit of visiting and posting on the forums.
- You can get important questions about your business answered by your peers. Are you concerned about pricing or packaging? Has a client hit you with an issue that you don’t know how to respond to? Are you leaning toward moving your business from your clients’ kitchens to a commercial kitchen? Do you need to come up with a special menu for a client’s medical condition? Are you unsure how to figure out portions for a catering event? Are you going to teach a kids cooking class for the first time and need advice? You pose a question and your personal chef colleagues are bound to have feedback for you.
- You can network and really get to know colleagues in your area you may not have met or colleagues in cities across the country. We all know how beneficial networking is in general, but, for example, here it’s not uncommon for our members to reach out to others in their service area with referrals.
- You can totally brag on yourself to those who will appreciate your success. Did you just get a TV gig or an award? Did you score a great new client or catering gig? Are you bursting because one of your clients wrote the most flattering letter of recommendation? You have a built-in audience of support on the forums.
- You can get a heads up on potentially fraudulent “clients.” We hate to talk about scams but there’s an underbelly of unscrupulous people (think Nigerian princes) who approach unsuspecting personal chefs with a too-good-to-be-true proposition. Experienced personal chefs have received these missives (typically someone overseas who is coming into town and wants to hire you as a personal chef but the money exchange is suspect) and can give you the low down on whether what you’ve received is legit or you’re being played. You want to tap into that on the forums.
- You can brainstorm marketing ideas and ways to get new clients. It can open new avenues you may not have previously considered and you can get help (or give it) to nail down the specifics.
- You can bitch and moan over whatever is bothering you in the company of sympathetic colleagues. You’ve had a bad day. A client gave you a hard time for no good reason. Your kid and your mom are both sick and you’re wiped out. Whatever it is, you have the attentive ear of your peers and can get virtual hugs when you need them the most.
- You can be the expert. All of you who have been at this awhile can share your expertise with those who are newer to the career. Or if you come to being a personal chef from an arena where you have useful expertise in marketing or finances or media, you can provide expertise to colleagues who need a hand.
We know how incredibly busy you are. Sometimes it feels like getting on the computer at the end of a long day is just one more task than you have the time or energy for. But using the APPCA forums is an investment in your career and a benefit we want you to take advantage of so that the hive mind can create more success for you and everyone else who is a part of our APPCA family. If you haven’t given it a try, get on and introduce yourself. If it’s been awhile since you’ve participated, Candy and I urge you to return. Let’s talk!
Have you signed up for the our Personal Chef Forums? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, what’s been the biggest help you’ve received from participating?
Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.
And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!
These days it’s no longer uncommon to look beyond the animal to plants for sources of protein—plants like grains and legumes. You know: rice and beans.
We’ve long heard that the rice and beans combo makes for the perfect protein. And, yes, it is a great combo, so long as they’re in balance. Since rice is so much less expensive than beans, when cost is a factor rice tends to dominate the pair and then it’s not nearly as nutritious. And, of course, not all rice is equal. As you know, white rice is far less healthy a choice than brown rice.
If you’re looking to plant-based sources of protein to complement or replace animal proteins, remember that what we need to stay healthy are the nine essential amino acids that make up what is called a “complete protein.” These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that our bodies use to manufacture essentials like muscle tissue, blood cells, hair, and nails among others. Will plant-based proteins offer this? No. Not entirely. But, the good news is that you can combine these “incomplete proteins” with other proteins in meals to create a complete protein. The exceptions? Quinoa (actually a seed not a grain), buckwheat, and hempseed are considered complete proteins.
Generally beans tend to have more protein per serving than grains. I’ve always enjoyed them but I learned some cool ways to prepare them from Chef Vince Schofield. Schofield pointed out some of the ways beans can be enjoyed. Who doesn’t love pork and beans—the saltiness of the pork and the earthiness of the beans “are just fantastic,” he said. Bean purees—think hummus, for example, with garbanzo beans—are the perfect mixture of creaminess and fat. You don’t have to be limited to garbanzos, though. Try making flavorful purees with Great Northern, navy, or cannellini beans—or black beans. Or riff on the mixture and turn them into soups. And then there are red beans, which in Chinese cuisine are often used for desserts.
I visited Schofield one day awhile ago and he prepared a very easy bean dish which showcases beans—in this shelling beans, which, fresh, cook much faster than dried beans. But, Schofield noted, any will work.
The inspiration for this dish, he said, come from humble beginnings and using what you have. Schofield paired the beans with animal proteins, but you don’t have to if you’d rather go vegetarian. Of course, the animal proteins take a back seat by providing flavor, not being the centerpiece. It’s a matter of giving them some TLC to transform beans into a hearty, comforting dish on a cold fall night.
This recipe literally took five minutes to prepare—but, you have to do some advance, if passive, prep with the beans. First, you must soak dried beans overnight. The following day, cover either the now-soaked dried beans or fresh beans in a pot with three times the volume of water to beans. Add one carrot, peeled and halved, one rib of celery and half an onion with the root attached so that it doesn’t fall apart in the water while cooking. Bring the water to a simmer—not a boil. Simmer the beans for 25 to 30 minutes if they’re shelling beans, an hour to an hour and a half if they’re dried. Remove from the heat and let cool. Only once they’re cooling then you can salt them. They won’t absorb the salt until then, said Schofield. At that point, you’re ready to make any bean recipe.
Beans and Harissa
From Vince Schofield
Harissa is a North African hot chili pepper paste that can include spices and herbs such as garlic, coriander, cumin, dried mint and caraway seeds. You can find prepared harissa at international markets. You can also serve this dish with mussels mixed in. If you want to do so, 3½ to 4 pounds of mussels will serve 4 to 6 people as a main dish. Schofield also says that if you don’t want to use meat in the recipe, add garlic and onion or any vegetable paste you enjoy to add more flavor.
Serves 4 to 6
- 3 tablespoons of brunoise mirepoix (two parts onion to one part celery and one part carrot, finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces lardo (cured pork fat) or bacon, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of harissa paste
- 1 pound beans (shelling or dried), prepped (see note)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced and charred — keep the juice to use as well (you can also use preserved lemon pieces)
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
To create the mirepoix, rinse, trim and peel the vegetables. Then dice them into 1/8-by-1/8-inch pieces. Sauté the mirepoix in the olive oil until tender. Add the lardo (or bacon) and sauté until crisp. Add the harissa and allow the paste to blossom in the oil (releasing all of its flavor). Then add the beans and chicken stock. Reduce to souplike consistency. Finish with parsley and lemon. Salt if needed.
Eat with crusty bread.
Note: If you’re using dried beans soak them in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. If they are fresh shelling beans this step is not necessary. The procedure will be the same as follows: Cover beans with three times the volume of water to beans. Add one carrot, peeled and halved, one rib of celery, and half on an onion with the root attached so that it does not fall apart in the water while cooking. Beans only accept salt when cooling, so salt at the end to your desired taste.
Are your clients fans of beans? What’s your favorite way to prepare beans for them?
Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.
And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!
Have you ever enjoyed Brittany butter, the sweet and slightly crunchy from sea salt butter that comes from cows in a region of France known for its butter production? It’s no neutral spread that functions as a quasi-lubricant for toast. It actually has flavor. Marvelous grassy flavor. After trying it years ago I realized that commodity butter wasn’t going to cut it for me any more.
These days it’s not impossible to find imports–even at your local Trader Joe’s–but why not try making your own butter for clients? A few months ago I poked around and found instructions for butter making–really easy ones (but not involving shaking a jar). I tried it and found I loved the results.
Of course, once you start… and so I had to try making cultured butter. Cultured butter has a tangy, more layered taste than regular butter. And it really comes alive when you take the time to culture it yourself. All that involves is adding the culture to the cream in a bowl and letting it sit at room temperature for from eight to 24 hours, covered. You can purchase the culture from cheese-making stores or you can simply add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt, which is what I did.
Now where regular butter takes little effort and a very short time to make, cultured butter requires little effort but many hours of waiting. Kind of like making bread, but without the kneading. But if you’re not in a hurry, this is makes an über version of butter that you’ll want to try.
As with all recipes with limited ingredients, the few used for making cultured butter have to be really really good. So, be sure to use organic unpasteurized heavy cream or whipping cream (even better if it’s from a local dairy), high quality yogurt, and, if you’re going to add salt, very good flaky sea salt.
To start you’ll mix together the cream and yogurt in a bowl, cover the bowl with a towel and leave it to sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Ideally room temperature is in the 70s. It should get thick like sour cream and a little bubbly. It should smell clean. If it smells funky, toss it and try again.
Once it reaches the right consistency, refrigerate it for an hour. You can leave it in longer if you don’t have time to make it immediately. I left mine in the fridge overnight, then took it out the next morning and left it for an hour to come back to room temperature before making the butter.
Now the way I make it is in the blender. And what I’ve learned by using my Vitamix is that you have to rein in your impulse to whip the cream on high. Instead, don’t even move the dial from the lowest speed. It’s fast enough to do the job of spurring the cream and yogurt mixture from thick to chunky.
Once you have some good sized chunks, stop. Let the mixture rest and separate. The liquid you get is buttermilk and it’s delicious. Don’t toss it but do drain it into a container and save it for baking muffins or making buttermilk dressing or however you like to use buttermilk.
Now you’re going to wash the butter to remove any remaining remnants of buttermilk since that will make it spoil faster. There are different ways to do it. You can squeeze it by hand. You could pull out the chunks of butter, place them in cheesecloth in a bowl and pour ice water over them and press the butter into the ice water so that the water turns cloudy–and repeat this several times until the water is clear. Or you can make life easier for yourself with a trick I learned from The Kitchn–add cold water to the butter chunks in the blender bowl and pulse a few times. Let the mixture sit until the water separates from the butter. It’ll be cloudy. Pour it out, being sure to use a slotted spoon or spatula to keep the butter in the bowl. Repeat a couple more times until the water is mostly clear. Move around those chunks at the bottom near the blades where water accumulates so you can drain it all out.
If you want to salt your butter, this is the time. Add just a scant quarter teaspoon of your sea salt to the blender bowl with the butter and pulse a few times to mix it in. Taste and make sure you have enough. If not, add just a bit more. Pulse again.
That’s it. Scoop the butter into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Alternately, you can shape it into a log, using plastic wrap and refrigerate it. It should be good for about three weeks in the fridge or up to three months in the freezer. If you want to make regular butter, there’s no waiting, simply pour a pint of the heavy cream into the blender bowl and follow the instructions above.
Adapted from The Kitchn
1 pint organic, unpasteurized heavy cream or whipping cream
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1. Whisk together the cream and yogurt in a bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let sit on the counter for 12 hours. Check to see if the mixture has thickened to a sour cream-like consistency and has formed bubbles on the top. If so, it’s ready. If not, give it some more time. When it’s ready, place it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour.
2. Bring the mixture to room temperature for an hour. This helps it separate into pieces faster. Then place in the bowl of a blender. At low speed, blend the cream-yogurt mixture for a minute or two until it it forms into chunks. That’s your butter.
3. Let the butter chunks separate from the liquid, which is buttermilk. At that point, pour off the buttermilk for another use.
4. Add enough cold water to the butter in the blender bowl just to cover. Now you’re washing the butter. Pulse three times. The water will be cloudy. Pour it off. Repeat two or more times until the water is relatively clear. Make sure you remove all the water.
5. Add salt now if you want. Pulse again a few times to make sure it’s well mixed. Taste to see if you need to add more salt.
6. Scoop out the butter and place it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate–or shape it into a log using plastic wrap and refrigerate. It should be good for a few weeks. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
Have you ever made butter? If not, why? What other commodity staples have you made from scratch that clients love?
Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.
And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!
You’ve met APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine. We’ve written about this Dallas-based personal chef before. She recently sent us a note about a client whose dietary needs posed real challenges to her skill set. But instead of turning them down, she turned it around, did a lot of research, and ended up having a learning experience that she says has made her a better chef. We thought you’d be interested in her dilemma and how she solved it–along with a couple of recipes she created for them.
I have started cooking for the most difficult client (menu-wise) that I have ever had in all the time I’ve been doing this. They are delightful people (thank heavens!) and enjoy everything I cook for them. Personally I think it’s as much about the service as it is the food with this client, but just my thought.
Here’s what they do not eat:
- No sugar
- No onions, beets, carrots, etc. – no root vegetables
- No pasta, potatoes, rice, wild rice, quinoa, farro, barley, or grains of any kind (but they eat about 1 to 1 1/2 pieces of bread a day) – no bread crumbs, panko, etc.
- No beans or lentils
- No mayonnaise or yogurt
- No honey, agave, etc.
- Very little cheese – some fresh mozzarella, ricotta, etc.
- Very little soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce
They will eat a little butter, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, artichokes, sour cream, olives, and miso. And a bit of salt. They’re not on the Paleo plan, or gluten-free, but just have consulted with a nutritionist and are going by those recommendations. This couple is probably in their 60’s and they look great, so I guess it’s working.
I did a cooking class for this couple’s children and spouses, and they started talking to me that night about cooking for them. I told them I needed to do some research before I could commit. I didn’t want to start cooking for people on such a special regimen unless I had at least a good handful of recipes in my “arsenal,” especially since it would be a once a week gig. And she told me they liked to eat beef (usually a steak) out, so for me to focus on ground turkey and chicken recipes, along with side dishes. Also some fish dishes, although they like to grill salmon. Thankfully it’s summer, so lots of great veggies abound now.
I started going through all my side dish recipes, chicken recipes and the few ground turkey recipes I have. Then I hit the Internet, combing through recipe after recipe, and communicating with the client to double-check on permissible ingredients. After three days (almost solid) of research, I was pretty proud of the fact that I had come up with about five pages of possible entrees and side dishes for them. My brain was fried, though! I also talked to a fellow personal chef here in town for whom I’ve worked with on some dinner parties, and who probably has more experience with special diets than I do. Even she was stumped!
Here are some of the things I have come up with:
- Zucchini Lasagna: Made with slices of zucchini for the noodles, ground turkey, fresh herbs, tomato sauce and paste, and a little fresh mozzarella
- Stuffed Bell Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables
- Marinated chicken: They like to grill so I’ve found some good recipes using garlic, olive oil, fresh citrus juices, and some that are “rubs” to put on the chicken. I also suggested chicken thighs, as they can be more flavorful. I have some more Asian-oriented marinades as well, since Asian food tends to be more healthy (sometimes) and uses things like fresh ginger, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Sriracha, etc.
- Baked Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks with Lemon
- Baked Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Caramelized Onions
- Roasted Multi-Color Cherry Tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic
- Baked Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Cumin and Mint
- Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Turkey Lettuce Wraps with ground turkey, spices & Sriracha, wrapped in lettuce leaves to eat
- Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken: a whole chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper
- Trout in Foil with Jalapeños and Lemon: A big hit!
- Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
- Steamed Green Beans with Toasted Pecans
- Cucumber, Onion and Fresh Dill Summer Salad
For fish, I prepare it and they like to bake it off, so I do fish in foil, and fish in parchment paper. They were eating tilapia (which, I’m sorry, is “starter fish” to me) so I made them some snapper and halibut and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world! Parchment is great because you can layer aromatics like fennel, lemongrass, etc. and just use a bit of olive oil and lemon with maybe something like capers and you can’t go wrong.
When a recipe calls for onions, I use green onions. I double-check the recipe to see if green onions would be a good substitute and in most cases I can use them, but have to use a lot to make up for the quantity of what would be ½ cup of chopped onion, as an example.
That’s just a few ideas. I also thought about roasting plain chicken breasts or thighs but making flavorful sauces to go on top of them. I have an “Aji Verde” sauce with cilantro, jalapeño, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, cumin and sour cream that is really good. And using ingredients like fresh lemon juice/sliced lemons, mustard (Dijon and regular), miso and similar type things helps flavor up chicken.
The best part of all this is that it has truly made me a better chef. Most of the recipes I have made for them are new to me, but I can tell pretty much whether or not it will be at least somewhat tasty. All that research I did is really good to have and may help me in the future. I am sure there are some APPCA chefs who might think this is a piece of cake but it was really a “let’s raise the bar” moment for me. Guess a lot of my clients have been more “comfort food” oriented, and even the healthy eaters weren’t this strict.
I am more confident each time I cook for them and they are terrific about feedback. They have liked pretty much everything I have cooked and I’m not even halfway through my five-page list yet!
Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables
4 green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded, and chopped
1 pound dark meat ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In skillet over medium heat, cook turkey, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until turkey
is evenly browned. Set aside.
Heat oil in same skillet and cook onion, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, and chopped pepper tops until tender. Add drained canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add spinach and cook until spinach is sufficiently wilted. Stuff green peppers with skillet mixture.
Put peppers in oven and cook approximately 40 min.
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, finely ground
3/4 teaspoon salt (DIVIDED USE)
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grind nuts in food chopper. Mix nuts in pie plate with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If chicken breasts are large, pound to thin them.
Dredge chicken breasts in egg mixture, then pistachio nuts. Press nuts firmly into chicken with hands. Place chicken breasts on plate or tray and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer (helps “set up” the nut mixture to adhere to chicken better).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and cook chicken breasts, 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken from
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté diced onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Sauté onions until browned.
Place chicken in baking dish, top with sauteed onion, and bake 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 160 degrees and juices run clear.
Have you been faced with client dietary requests that knocked you out of your comfort zone? What did you do? Say no or figure it out?
Like many of you, my parents were terrific cooks. For as long as I can remember, they both enjoyed the creativity of the kitchen and from an early age taught my sister, brother, and me jewels of recipes from our family and culture as well as day-to-day contemporary dishes. Some families ski, others go camping. Ours cooked. My mom in particular has long collected cookbooks about cuisines around the world and has been adventurous in both her cooking and baking and her grocery shopping. It’s just part of her DNA. She’s reined it in now and my dad can no longer cook, due to his progressing Alzheimer’s, but Mom can still surprise me with a terrific dish that’s new in her repertoire.
This lemon chicken is one of them. I first had it at their house several months ago. I’m not a white meat chicken fan so I wasn’t looking forward to eating it. But, whoa, I loved it. The chicken was tender and moist, with some crunch from breading in panko. Lemon and chicken is a perfect pairing and the citrus here is delightfully tangy, complemented by a fragrant herbs. My mom served it recently with grilled asparagus and roasted baby potatoes, but I’d be sure to have some kind of rice or grains to sop up the juices.
The premise for this lemon chicken is simple. You take chicken tenders (or skinless, boneless chicken thighs–or even fish or boneless pork ribs) and dip them in egg, then panko (both well seasoned, of course) and sauté till brown. Place them in a single layer in oiled pyrex or other baking dishes (for this amount, you’ll need two). Pour the chicken broth mixed with lemon juice over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake.
And, the beauty of this dish–besides the flavor–is that it freezes wonderfully. So you can make a big batch at once for clients to package into individual meals.
Evie’s Lemon Chicken
Yield: 5 to 6 servings
To get really crispy chicken, use cast iron skillets and don’t crowd the chicken pieces. Be sure to have paper towels ready on plates to place the cooked chicken to drain. If you don’t want to use white meat chicken, this will work just as well with skinless, boneless thighs, boneless pork ribs, and even fish.
20 ounces chicken broth
Zest of 2 lemons
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 pounds boneless chicken tenders (about 15 tenders)
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To make the sauce, mix together chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside.
3. Mix together eggs, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Set aside.
4. Mix together panko, cheese, and herbs. Set aside.
5. Trim fat from the chicken. Dunk each piece in the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko mixture. Place in a single layer on a plate until ready to sauté.
6. Heat two cast iron skillets and add about a quarter inch of olive oil to cover the bottom. Add the chicken but don’t overcrowd. Sauté until brown on the bottom, then turn. When the chicken is browned on both sides remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Continue with the rest of the chicken until all have cooked.
7. Brush baking dishes with oil. Place the chicken in a single layer in oiled baking dishes. Pour chicken broth mixture over the chicken, halfway up the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with the juices.
What favorite family recipes do you cook for your clients? What family recipes have they given you to cook?
If you’re new to being a personal chef or looking for ways to bring in new clients to your long-time personal chef business, it’s time to get out in front of the public. That’s not as daunting an idea as it may sound. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of venues you may not have even considered as potential promotional opportunities. Some of our members are doing these already. We think you should consider these five–and hope that they’ll spark even more ideas for presenting yourself to your community.
- Urban infill new planned communities: Here you have busy people looking for resources for living in their new homes. Why not approach the community manager or marketing manager (with some freshly made eats, your business card, and menu list)? Give the person your pitch for helping new/potential residents learn how to grocery shop, menu plan, and cook ahead for themselves? Yes, that’s the service you want to sell, but a friend of mine refers to it as the butterscotch pudding theory of marketing. That luscious pudding is so good you want the recipe to make it at home–until you learn that candy thermometers and double boilers are involved. Then you just want to enjoy it at the restaurant. As a personal chef, it doesn’t hurt to explain how involved the shopping, menu planning, and cooking are so that new residents want to hire you to do it for them. Alternatively, make a pitch to the marketing manager to do monthly omelet breakfasts for residents. They pay for the food, of course, plus a small fee. One of our members, Sacha Quernheim of Red Zucchini Personal Chef Business has been doing this in her St. Louis community for a couple of years. You can read her tips here.
- Service clubs: First, you should join clubs you feel an affinity for so you can network and give back to the community. Offer to do a cooking demo or provide light eats for a meeting or event. But be sure to bring your marketing materials with you–the business cards and fliers that have all your current info (including social media accounts) on them.
- Bridal shows: Check your local convention center website or city magazine to learn when the bridal shows are in town. Nab a booth and bring edibles to hand out, along with your marketing materials. Not only are these opportunities to sell your personal chef services, but you can also get catering jobs for bridal showers and even weddings–and down the line, baby showers. In fact, check out maternity trade shows, too. After all, who needs a personal chef more than an expectant and then new mom!
- Wellness conferences and health fairs: If your personal chef business is oriented toward health and wellness, including special diets for special needs clients, you should have a booth at a conference or health fair that brings in people interested in those diets. It’s a ready-made audience. Depending on the costs, you could team up with other personal chefs in the area to split the costs and table time. And don’t just hang out at your booth. Go visit other vendors to network and hand out your marketing materials.
- Avocational classes: If you live in an area where there are kitchenware retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, or mom and pop shops, find out how you can do cooking demos. Talk to a manager about putting in an application, just like Dallas-based member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine did at Williams-Sonoma. She’s been doing demos for awhile now. And this smart lady even had a friend come in and snap photos and take a video. You can read about her experience with chef demos here. As she said, “I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.”
Chefs, as business owners you always have to be marketing yourself. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall or are lacking inspiration, look around your community for opportunities. Follow the lead of Sacha and Anne and find venues that are either untapped or totally suit your personality and goals. Then go for it!
Have you found a great venue for marketing your business in your community? Inspire us with your story!
As some of you may know, I have Type 2 diabetes. This morning I enjoyed what has become a typical hot weather breakfast: a quarter cup of granola (15 grams of carbs) mixed with a half cup of nonfat yogurt (eight grams of carbs, plus protein), and a half cup of fresh blueberries (10 grams of carbs, plus fiber). That’s a total of 33 grams of carbs, less if you take into account the glycemic index, which measures how food with carbohydrates raises blood sugar. Blueberries, for instance, have a low glycemic count, thanks to its fiber, so it actually would give a net carb count of eight or nine grams. Add a teaspoon of honey and a bit of low-fat milk to my coffee and I top out at around 45 grams of carbs total for breakfast.
Confusing? Welcome to the world of Type 2 diabetes. Actually, confusing comes only at the beginning of the journey. Once you start tracking carbs it becomes pretty easy to figure out what and how much to eat at every meal. And as a personal chef with diabetic clients, you’ll get the hang of it quickly enough, too.
Carbs have developed a bad rap among the health-conscious public but it’s a vast overstatement to say they’re bad for you. Carbs are a source of energy thanks to the glucose that comes from sugars and starches they contain. Plus they can help reduce weight and prevent disease—assuming you choose the right kinds of carbs. Certainly a diet full of pretzels, pizza, beer, and pasta isn’t exactly healthful. But consider just how many foods that are good for you contain carbs—pretty much everything but meats and fats. So, we’re talking whole grains, fruits, beans, and legumes—food with fiber.
In a healthy person, the body breaks down the sugars and starches that make up carbs into glucose which goes into cells for energy. For people with Type 2 diabetes, glucose, or blood sugar, builds up in the blood instead of going into the cells, which over time can damage your heart, eyes, and kidneys. The challenge for people with Type 2 diabetes is figuring out how much to consume anytime we sit down to eat so our blood sugar levels don’t skyrocket. For example, fruit juice is pretty much out. Think about it. One medium orange contains 15 grams of carbohydrates and goes down to 12 net carbs thanks to the fiber in the orange. But one cup of orange juice contains 26 grams of carbs. You’re better off eating a whole orange and get the reduced carbs and increased fiber than swig a glass of juice.
There’s also a common assumption that people with Type 2 diabetes can’t eat sugar. But they’re stuck in the mindset of refined sugar and forget that sugar naturally occurs in foods like fruit and milk. So, with the best of intentions your client may be offered a big bowl of fruit in lieu of a slice of cake. But while the fruit is healthier, she must still need to limit the amount she can eat.
So, how do you help clients get carbs to work for them? Here are a few techniques I’ve learned that have helped me over the years:
- Go for high fiber. Instead of white rice, serve brown rice. Instead of conventional pasta serve whole wheat pasta. Scout out whole grain cereals. Serve whole wheat sourdough bread, which, thanks to the lactic acid that creates that tangy sour flavor, also makes it low glycemic. Prepare whole grain sides like farro, freekah, wheat berries, barley, buckwheat, and wild rice—turn them into salads with roasted vegetables. Use fresh cauliflower, pulsed in the food processor, to make faux rice.
- Limit portions. How do I know how much I can eat? I took a nutrition class at Kaiser Permanente after I was diagnosed. There I learned that 15 grams of carbs is one serving (regardless of the type of carb). According to the nutritionist, a woman trying to lose weight should have three servings of carbs per meal; a man should have four. To maintain weight, a woman should have four servings at each meal, plus one as a snack; for men it’s four to five. And for the very active, the number of servings goes to six per meal for women and five to six for men. With that, you just do the math with a carb-counting guide and reading nutrition labels on packaged foods. But typically a serving of carbohydrates would be a slice of whole grain bread, a third of a cup of cooked pasta or rice, three-quarters of a cup of cereal, a six-inch corn tortilla, or a half cup of corn, green peas, or beans.
- Shop small. It’s good to eat bananas, but look for very small ones because who wants to eat the leftover half the next day? Shop for small apples and peaches and tangerines. Does your client crave a baked potato? Search for small russets so he can have the satisfaction of eating a whole one without overdoing the carb count. Five ounces is 24 grams of carbs—enough to account for other vegetables and also have fruit for dessert. If you can’t find them (most markets usually go for giant size) bake a red or Yukon gold. Or bake a small sweet potato, which is rich in fiber.
Your client may miss his pizza and big bowls of pasta for awhile, but if you can create meals that are flavorful and have some of the qualities of what he used to indulge in, only in healthy portions, he will find that he loves the new way he consumes carbs–relishing the deep flavors and textures from whole grains or the joy of indulging in a small juicy nectarine or bowl of strawberries. And you’ll have fun testing your creativity, too, as your client enjoys better health and more energy!
Do you have a client with Type 2 Diabetes? What kinds of dishes are you creating that have addressed the carb issue?
Our Candy Wallace has been on a commencement speech roll. Earlier this spring she delivered a virtual graduation address to the students of the Escoffier Online International Academy. Then on June 17 she was the keynote speaker at the Art Institute of California in San Diego’s commencement.
It’s no surprise that the founder and executive director of APPCA would be asked to give graduating students–and not specifically the culinary students–just entering their new chosen profession words of wisdom and advice. After all, Candy has been a leader in the culinary industry for decades. She’s seen it all and done it all–and created a career path that has drawn hundreds upon hundreds of people looking for a way to better control and direct their lives and find success and happiness.
So, what did she tell these graduates, whose degrees ranged from fashion, web design, photography, and advertising to media arts and animation and culinary arts?
She told them that the first thing they needed to do was make a plan. “Not having a plan is like throwing yourself off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down,” she said. “That’s not so good. You need a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls of cliff jumping.”
You start, Candy said, by defining where you want to go–in 10 years or next year. This plan is where you create a place for your dream to live.
Then, she noted, you have to figure out how to get there. “Know that you don’t know it all yet.” And she advised them to search out resources for learning more. And throughout, to stay humble and stay determined.
Find a mentor, she advised, someone who can help you, push you, encourage you, and be honest with you while you’re learning and growing.
Here some other sage nuggets of advice she gave these graduates:
- Commit to learning something new every day.
- Know that you can’t learn everything on the clock so you need to do it on your own time as well.
- Make mistakes. It can be frustrating and embarrassing but admit to them and learn from them. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
- Be patient with yourself and stay realistic.
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities and see challenges as opportunities in disguise.
- Be kind to the people you encounter along the way and give credit to those who help you.
- Learn about the world, especially through travel. Be adventurous and curious–and share your own culture.
- Participate in your community.
- Nurture the friendships you make over the years. Keep loved ones close to you.
- Honor your parents. They started you on this journey and have been your biggest cheerleaders.
And, finally, she told the graduates, “Stop along the way to enjoy your life. Press the party button!”
You can listen to the full eight-minute speech here:
What were the best words of advice you received when you launched your career? What do you wish someone had told you?
I don’t know about you, but with summer here, all I want is to munch on corn on the cob. Or scrape it off the cob and eat it raw in salads. I especially love the way gorgeous red corn kernels visually ignite grains or pasta or other vegetables.
I’ll slather cobs in softened butter and garlic, wrap them in foil and put them on the grill. Then roll them in Cotija cheese and sprinkle with Tajin or Tamarula sauce.
In my world, salsa suddenly needs corn. So does my gazpacho. I crave corn and scallion tamales from the farmers market. But, what I look forward to most of all is a visit to La Jolla’s George’s at the Cove for executive chef/partner Trey Foshee’s sweet and creamy Chino Corn Risotto with Chanterelles and Burrata, named for the Chino Farm, a very special farm in the Rancho Santa Fe area of San Diego. How special is it? Well, back in the day both Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck were ardent customers. Even the displays at the farm stand look like works of art–and the produce tastes as stunning as it looks.
I thought I’d share this recipe with you because it’s perfect for when you’re catering a must-impress dinner party. It’s the kind of dish you don’t just want to eat, you want to dive into the bowl and eat your way out.
Chino Corn Risotto with Chanterelles and Burrata
From Chef Trey Foshee of Georges at the Cove
Trey Foshee’s corn risotto celebrates the bounty of summer corn. It makes for a wonderful first course followed by grilled chicken or fish and lots of fresh summer vegetables. Be sure to use fresh corn, if possible on the day it was picked. Burrata, a fresh Italian cheese that combines mozzarella and cream, adds to the decadence of the dish.
Makes 6 appetizer-course servings.
2 Tbs. butter
¼ cup onion, minced
8 oz. Carnaroli rice
½ cup white wine
1 ¾ cups hot chicken stock
In a large sauce pot heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat, do not brown. Add the rice and start a timer for 18 minutes. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until they start to sizzle, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Add one quarter of the hot chicken stock, stir until absorbed and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir. Add another quarter and follow procedure above, then another quarter more. After 18 minutes add the last quarter, and season. At this point you can either continue on to the to serve section or, pour into a hotel pan and chill. Stir after about 15 minutes. You can hold it at this point for up to 24 hours.
2 cups very fresh corn kernels
1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
Combine in a small pot and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, pass through a fine mesh strainer, chill and reserve.
2 Tbs. butter
1 cup corn kernels
2 cups risotto base
1 cup corn puree
½ cup chicken stock, warm
1 cup chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl. butter
6 slices burrata
In a medium sauce pot heat one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat, add the corn kernels and cook until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the risotto base, corn puree, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium low heat, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, add the other tablespoon of butter and stir.
Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Add the chanterelles and sauté until cooked and lightly browned, add the butter and remove to a warm place.
Spoon the risotto in a shallow bowl, place a slice of burrata on top and spoon the chanterelles around.
What’s your favorite summer recipe to impress clients or friends? Let us know if you’d like to share it here.
Carol Borchardt is one of APPCA’s greatest success stories. She’s an in-demand personal chef, who dug deep and expanded her talents to include writing and food photography. In fact, she’s helped us with gorgeous photos for our Facebook page and upcoming new and improved website. Carol understands the value of smart marketing through photography and social media. And she’s melded both to launch the delightful food blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. I asked her to tell the story of how she got into blogging and how she’s turned it a strategic way to promote her business and even add new revenues.
We eat with our eyes first and everyone loves to look at beautiful images of mouthwatering food. I have always been fascinated with food photography and all that goes into producing those beautiful images. However, it wasn’t too long ago, whenever I attempted to photograph something, the result was nothing short of awful.
As part of reaching out and getting to know people in my local food community to promote my personal chef business, I got to know one of the food columnists at our local daily newspaper. She asked me to help with a project, loved the recipes I submitted for it and subsequently asked me to do a biweekly food column containing a recipe and write-up for the newspaper. I had never done food writing before but thought it was pretty cool to be a personal chef and newspaper columnist. I would get paid and the newspaper would allow me to mention my personal chef business at the end of every column so I figured…why not.
As part of the arrangement, the newspaper was going to send a photographer out for each column. However, with my cooking schedule and where I live, scheduling cooking, styling and photographing the dish was nearly impossible. After two complicated sessions, I decided to take the photo myself. The photo was not very good, however it passed and the newspaper was happy to let me take all photos after that.
Suddenly, I was a food photographer too, which was pretty interesting because my knowledge of photography in general was quite limited.
Because of my new sideline gig as a biweekly columnist for the local newspaper, I wanted to learn more about food writing. I came across Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write For Food. Her book is a great resource for anyone interested in writing a cookbook, doing freelance food writing and, of course, food blogging, which is how I became intrigued with it. It intrigued me because I love to create new recipes and being able to share them with the world seemed so rewarding. However, my personal chef business kept me extremely busy so I wasn’t able to delve into the process.
Then, two years ago, I was sidelined from my personal chef business due to an injury. I tripped and fell in a client’s kitchen, fracturing my right kneecap. I couldn’t work or drive for six weeks. It was during this time I realized that someday my personal chef career could end for any number of reasons. Having already experienced severe office job burnout prior to becoming a personal chef, I knew there was no way I could ever go back to work in an office. I felt I needed to have something to fall back on that I was passionate about.
That’s when my “real” food blog was born. I say “real,” because I had a small blog section on my business website, but it got very little traffic. I knew absolutely nothing about how to promote it; I didn’t even have a Facebook account until a few months before my accident. My food photography had progressed to a point where FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com were accepting some of my photographs so I received traffic there. Because their editors carefully curate those sites, having photos accepted was very encouraging to me.
So, with tons of time on my hands during my recovery period, I decided if I were ever going to delve into food blogging, it was the time to do it.
Because a food blog is nothing without great photography, I first immersed myself into learning everything I possibly could to improve my photography through reading books, watching online video workshops and by studying great food photography.
I then researched how to start a food blog and looked at hundreds of food blogs.
I knew nothing about social media but knew I had to learn it in a hurry because it’s one of the main ways to promote a food blog. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, StumbleUpon, and Google+ were all mysteries to me so I had to start figuring them out.
I knew nothing about WordPress (a popular blogging platform), website design or search engine optimization (SEO). For my personal chef business website, I had always let pros at APPCA do it. This, however, I was determined to learn from the ground up, and it wasn’t long before I learned what the “white screen of death” was.
I also knew nothing about how to make money with a food blog—I just knew people did it because they published their income and traffic reports.
But, as with all journeys, they begin with the first step. My original food blog concept, which was based around my love for cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework cookbook recipes. (Branding experts advise having a clear, definable focus.) The concept worked for Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame, but it wasn’t going so well for me. Three graphic designers couldn’t come up with the right logo for me so I worked until midnight many nights trying to design one myself on professional software I knew nothing about.
After hitting numerous roadblocks, I decided to rebrand last summer and change my name to what it is now—From A Chef’s Kitchen. I knew I was doing the right thing when one of the first people I told about the change said, “Now THAT tells me who you are!” I tried a graphic designer one more time and my logo came together quickly and painlessly.
Fast forward to today and I’m having a ball. I absolutely love the process of recipe development, styling the dish and nailing a mouthwatering shot. I love being able to share my recipes and passion for food with the world. It’s very gratifying receiving comments from readers who made a recipe and it’s become their new family favorite.
Through social media and particularly Pinterest, my traffic is growing nicely. Many of my posts are written from my viewpoint as a personal chef. I’m also using my food blog to help promote APPCA and personal chefs in general with my monthly “Menus” posting.
I don’t plan on giving up my personal chef business any time soon, but ways I’m turning my blog into a secondary business is through:
- Ad revenue
- Affiliate marketing (commissions are earned by helping to sell other people’s products)
- Recipe development / sponsored posts for companies. So far, I’ve worked with Calphalon, Weight Watchers and Australis Barrmundi for compensation. However, companies such as Oxo and NordicWare send products for review and I’ve also been able to add some free cookbooks to my collection.
Many food bloggers develop a product to sell such as a self-published cookbook, other food-related book or meal plans. I would like to do that someday. I hope to start doing freelance food photography work and am looking into becoming a certified food stylist.
I’m still a little shy about putting myself out there with my recipes and photography but I’m growing more and more confident about it each day.
If you enjoy photography, writing and recipe development, I highly encourage you to look into food blogging. As a mentor of mine in the food blogosphere said, “Start, and then learn.” That’s what I did!
Have you been wanting to start a blog? What’s been holding you back? If you have one, please add your link in the comment section below and describe what you’re doing.