Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 24, 2016


Time passes so quickly–and 2017 will be here before you know it. Hopefully, you’ve been thinking ahead about the next year and any changes you want to implement.

Like price increases. Yeah, that. Have your costs gone up? Many of you have clients pay for food directly, but for those of you who don’t, you need to take a look at your bills and figure out where you are today compared to a year ago. The same goes for expenses like gas, insurance, equipment costs, labor–anything you’re paying for that’s business related. Do your calculations and then inform your clients by the end of this month of your price increase.

No, this isn’t easy, but Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, says the best way to do this is in a letter. Be graceful about it, thanking your clients for allowing you to serve them during 2016. Then announce any changes in service or pricing that will be effective January 1, 2017.

Dom Petrov Ossetra and Hackleback (r)1

You can also take advantage of this communication, she adds, by announcing any special service or foods you’ll be offering during the holidays. This can be a wonderful way to bring in some additional income–through catering holiday parties, cocktail parties, brunches, or receptions or offering special holiday treats. Do you make amazing cooking? Offer to make them for your clients. You can prep cookie dough or appetizers, or desserts and have them frozen and ready to bake off at the last minute. Just price everything out, including how you’ll package them, and include a price card with your letter.

Try to get events booked by the end of October for November and early November for December. The same for any extra baking or cooking you’ll do for clients. You may need to hire extra labor for events and extra cooking so you’ll need time to book that as well as any unscheduled kitchen time if you rent kitchen space.

Kale and sweet potatoes

Kale and sweet potatoes

This is also a good time to think about changes in the focus of the service you want to provide in 2017. Have you developed any new passions for a specific type of food or an interest in serving a specific demographic? This could be young families, older adults with medical conditions, or special diets in which you’ve developed an expertise? If so, add that to your letter. It’s a good way to market your services with people you’ve known and who value what you do. Alternately, it could be a way to gracefully segue from one client base to another.

Anticipating a new year also is a good time to take stock of your happiness quotient. We advocate the personal chef career as a lifestyle as well as professional option. Are you a parent of young children who wants to take more time with them? Are you interested in pursuing more education or travel? Are you reaching a point in your life in which you don’t want to work as many hours? Whatever it is, again, this is the time to chart your course for 2017 and use this letter to let your clients know if those changes will impact them.

As we hurtle towards year’s end, taking the time to focus on business and life basics and implementing changes to help you meet your goals is top priority. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to Candy for help!

What are the professional changes you’re considering for 2017? 

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The first of the food prognostications for 2017 has been published. Sterling-Rice Group has identified 10 of what they call Cutting-Edge Culinary Trends for 2017. Here they are:

  1. Wake + Cake: Dessert no longer is served only after dinner. They cite two studies to justify dessert for breakfast. The first is from Syracuse University, which says a daily dose of chocolate improves cognitive abilities, such as memory and abstract reasoning. Tel Aviv University found that eating dessert after breakfast could help people lose weight.
    Jennifer Zirkle cake1
  2. Dosha Dining: The mainstays of Indian culture are spreading to the States. They cite the spice turmeric as an example, noting that turmeric serves as a consumer conduit into the ancient practice of Ayurveda, a holistic science focused on physical and emotional balance. Consumers will learn more about their doshas, or natural constitutions, and gravitate toward foods and practices that provide balance, reduce inflammation, and improve energy and stamina. Among the things to look for are dosha bars–three flavors corresponding to the three doshas (pitta, vata, and kapha); turmeric tonic, available as tonic shots and tea, to restore balance; and dosha pops, candy made as a cureall from herbal tea.
  3. Plant Butchery: We’ve cited this trend on our Facebook page. As Sterling-Rice Group notes, a new breed of butcher shops is emerging that caters to both vegans and meat lovers. Not only will display cases feature cuts of meat and chicken, but also plant-based mock versions of chicken, ham, meatballs, steak, and charcuterie. These plant-based foods go beyond seitan and soybean, but also feature chickpeas, corn, peas, legumes, and fungi.

    "Faux" Reuben

    “Faux” Reuben

  4. Food Waste Frenzy: We’ve also talked about this. What was once considered trash (stems, skins, pulp) are not products to be utilized. Think watermelon rinds, riced cauliflower stems, chips and burgers from discarded juice pulp, and vegan leather made from pineapple leaves.

    Charred leek greens salt

    Charred leek greens salt

  5. Snackin’ Sardines: Consumers, said Sterling-Rice Group, continue to fish for protein-rich snacks. Recent interest in Basque cuisine and the rise of Portugal as the newest destination for culinary and global exploration will drive sardines to the forefront. High in omega-3s, protein, and umami flavor, sardines simply served on crusty toast with lemon, garlic, and aioli make for an uncomplicated yet elegant addition to any snacking situation.
  6. Noodle on This: Noodles! It’s not just for spaghetti. Asian noodle traditions are becoming American favorites as consumers seek more authentic experiences. So we have Thai pad see ew, Vietnamese pho, and fresh Japanese ramen. Chinese lamian, or hand-pulled noodles, adds another layer of both taste and visual showmanship. Customers slurp their share while watching a master noodle-smith knead, stretch, and swing dough into strands for soup.
  7. Mocktail Mixology: Have clients who don’t care for alcohol? A category of upscale mixologist-created mocktails are being shaken and stirred for those who don’t care to drink alcohol every time they dine. Alternatives to the old standby of club soda and lime feature fresh-pressed juices, flavored teas, sipping vinegars, and macerated and muddled herbs, spices, and fruits. From nonalcoholic happy hours to standalone mocktail menus, beverages are being positioned as unique experiences that can be enjoyed sans the hangover. (Our favorites? Aged sherry vinegar from Spain and homemade shrubs)

    Berry Shrub1a

    Berry shrub with seltzer

  8. Goat! Get It!: Goat is the next go-to protein, says Sterling-Rice Group. Goats have a high ratio of interstitial collagen (the stuff bone broth devotees are bonkers over). The meat is also low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Already 63 percent of the world is eating goat. It can be a great foundation for spicy and sour preparations, can be kosher and halal, and is sustainable to raise.
  9. Cook + Connect: The saying “sharing is caring” rings true with chefs, home cooks, and foodies alike who are taking advantage of the sharing economy, says Sterling-Rice Group. Smartphone apps like Eatwith and “Etsy for dinner” app Umi Kitchen connect eager eaters with communal dining experiences. And the fleet-farming movement allows others to farm your lawn in exchange for the opportunity to sell most of the produce.
  10. Migratory Meals: All over the world people are relocating, some by choice, others under duress. While host countries continue to face challenges associated with helping refugee populations, one area where these different groups are finding common ground is food, according to Sterling-Rice Group. By celebrating their unique cultural heritages and cuisines, refugee populations are beginning to carve out their own culinary connections with their new home countries. Look for menus that highlight cuisine with herbs and fresh flowers, orange blossoms, cardamom, fenugreek, sumac, pistachio, and pomegranates. Sounds familiar to those of us who live in San Diego, where multiple refugee populations have long settled and introduced older residents to new cuisines. Check out local markets to incorporate new-to-you ingredients into your dishes.

    Afghan sweet bread

    Afghan sweet bread

This is just the first of what will surely be many more prognostications for 2017’s culinary scene. We’ll keep you posted as we discover them.

What are some of the culinary trends you’re beginning to see in your region? Please share them with us below!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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!

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Blintz Casserole to Break the Fast

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 10, 2016


Tonight is Kol Nidre, the evening before the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur. Those of you with Jewish clients may know that the holiday requires fasting from sundown tonight to sundown tomorrow night. Traditionally it’s a way to concentrate the mind on praying for forgiveness for the sins committed the previous year and asking to be written in the Book of Life for the coming year.

At sundown, Jews then gather with family and friends to break the fast. The meal is usually a collection of fish and dairy dishes. In our family, lox and bagels intermixed with baked salmon, egg salad, chilled marinated vegetables, various dips served with raw veggies or bagel chips, noodle kugel, and blintzes.

My grandmother Tillie taught me how to make blintzes when I was a teenager and one of her specialties was this blintz casserole, which she would serve to break the fast. I’ve always loved this dish. It’s a little reminiscent of a soufflé. You make the blintzes–here with ricotta cheese–and then pack them into a single layer in a casserole dish. Over the blintzes you pour a rich sauce made with eggs, sour cream, a little sugar and vanilla, and orange juice. Thanks to the eggs, the sauce puffs up and browns around the blintzes, which have also cooked and form layers of crepe and cheese.

The creaminess and sweetness from the cheeses make for pure comfort food. You can make the blintzes and serve them on their own or as part of this casserole, both of which freeze beautifully. And while, yes, they’re the perfect break the fast food, they’re also just right for brunch–and you can also fill the blintzes with applesauce or berries or preserves (think blueberry or sour cherry, say) instead of cheese. Also, here I used ricotta because it’s easy to find. But hoop or farmer cheese are more traditional. Serve the casserole plain or with your favorite jams.

Tillie’s Blintz Casserole
Serves 12

3 eggs, beaten slightly
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

12 blintzes
6 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

To make the blintzes: Make the crepes by beating the 3 eggs slightly. Add the water and teaspoon of sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Crepe batter

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with canola oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and drop it into the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 7 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.


Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely–you won’t be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the filling, blend together the 2 eggs, ricotta, cinnamon, and sugar.

Forming blintz

Make the blintzes by placing 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center.

At this point, you now have blintzes and could just fry them in butter and enjoy them with sour cream or jam or applesauce.

For the casserole, preheat the over to 350˚ F. Place each blintz seam side down in a buttered casserole dish.

Mix together the eggs, sour cream, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla.

ready for the oven

Pour the melted butter over the blintzes, then pour the filling over the blintzes to cover. Bake at 350˚ F for an hour.


What are your clients’ favorite brunch dishes?

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No doubt you’re seeing an explosion of advertising from easy meal prep businesses and your eyes are rolling or perhaps you’re even panicking just a little. Well, Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, is going to talk you off the ledge– if you’re on it. Read why she is adamant that these businesses are no challenge to you:

Here we go again…Almost 10 years ago personal chefs were concerned with potential competition from the “Easy Prep” meal preparation locations such as Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, Dinner Studios, to name a few, popping up all over the U.S.

APPCA said, don’t worry; these franchised “assemble your own dinners” and take them back to your home don’t provide the level of customized meal service prepared from all fresh ingredients to the client’s taste, often in the safety of the client’s own kitchen. In fact, the easy prep meals were assembled from components that came right off the back of a big food service delivery truck and were more often than not pre-prepared components that contained fillers, stabilizers and preservatives, soups that were re-constituted, and sauces that came in cans. NOT the guarantee of all fresh ingredients supplied and shopped for daily by personal chefs and prepared from scratch for their client’s enjoyment.

The easy prep fad came and went fairly quickly and the personal chef career path continued to grow and thrive. This year will mark the 24th year of the introduction of the personal chef career path in the culinary industry. APPCA is proud to have been responsible for its growth, validation as a legitimate culinary career path by the ACF, for having published the definitive textbook for the industry, and for having co-created professional certification for private and personal chefs through the third-party certification partnership with ACF. It has been an exciting time for personal chefs who had the courage to leave the traditional career choices and strike out on their own to build a culinary business of their own that allowed them to support their families and loved ones by cooking, but also allowed them to create a business of their own with the ability to control their own professional destiny.

Now we have several new players on the field and it will be interesting to see how they play out.

In the box_edited-1

The first new twist is similar to the easy prep premise, but differs in that the components for the recipes that are provided are delivered to the client’s doorstep. Some of these new delivery companies are Blue Apron, Fresh Direct, and Plated. The customer gets most of the ingredients, but still has to prep and prepare each meal using the supplied recipe; the only difference between this business and your customer’s everyday life is simple; they don’t have to shop at the grocery store for ingredients.

I am trying to see the big advantage to the customer since this delivery system actually doesn’t altogether eliminate the need to go to the market. They expect them to have some basics–and they still need to shop for other items, like toilet paper, dog food, laundry soap, milk, yogurt, bottled water, ice cream, and wine on a regular basis, so where is the benefit?

ingredients spread out

Unlike the service provided by a personal chef, the “easy prep but delivered to your door” services do NOT customize recipes to the customer’s wants and needs, and the customer must still prep, assemble, and clean up after each dish is prepared at the end of a busy and often stressful workday. Adding to the stress, sometimes the recipes don’t work. Where is the benefit?

The other new kid in town is something described as “Uber for private chefs”…

OK, I’m curious, so I asked the person who called to say they would be supplying clients for all of our chefs in the new future, what Uber for private chefs was, and was he certain he meant private chefs?

It quickly became clear he did not know the difference between private and personal chefs, but he made it clear he didn’t care about knowing what that difference was.

His premise for the business is to supply an app like Uber where a hungry client could go to the app and order a chef to immediately appear on command on site to prepare a meal…

I asked if these “chefs” were really trained chefs, whether they had business licenses, general liability insurance, culinary training, those kinds of fun things, but he said he couldn’t tell me any of that because it was secret. OK…secret…got it.

Next, we have the Airbnb version of the business. This time, the customer is able, through an app, to locate an individual in any city who is willing and purportedly capable of cooking them a meal that the client would go and enjoy in the cook’s home…

Some of these folks, who turned out to be home cooks of varying degrees of skill, have been calling APPCA wanting to get liability insurance through us. Apparently, the start up folks are directing them to us and telling them they can just call and we will cover them. It breaks my heart to turn them away because many of them are truly earnest in their desire to cook for clients, but most of them have no sanitation training, no training at all, no business licenses, no inkling of local regulations and licensing requirements. Someone is going to get hurt or get sick. I could not glean any criteria they must meet to protect the clients that use their service.

I know the internet was supposed to simplify our lives, but this does not appear to be well thought out.

Not everything we do needs to be ordered up on an app, and if all of those fun Silicon Valley start up geniuses are going to continue to create business apps, I wish they would make certain that the business is well conceived, provides a genuine service to the potential customer, and is safe and legitimate.

I know the Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and easy prep instant delivery concept is exploding but the “right now” system isn’t automatically “right” for everyone. And, especially, when it comes to food preparation, the public needs to be careful about who is making their meals, what kinds of ingredients they’re using, how much–if any–expertise they have in meeting special needs diets, and, most important, how well trained they are in food safety.

laid back - business2

So, be very proud of the custom services you offer as personal chefs. You are trained, scratch cooks with
municipal business licenses, safe food handling certifications, and you are carrying $2 million in specific personal chef general liability insurance coverage. The service you provide regular clients is custom designed and palate specific to each client’s wants and needs, including meals specific to a client’s medical challenges. All of the meals are prepared from scratch using only the freshest and safest ingredients available in your locality. We can promise our clients a safe food source.

As personal chefs, you do the shopping for fresh provisions daily and prepare delicious custom designed meals either in the safety of the client’s kitchen or in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen.

Personal chefs truly provide convenience, delicious custom designed meals, and a degree of personal service and attention to the client’s preferences and desired level of culinary expertise seldom experienced outside the services of a full time private chef.

Let’s see how the new services on the block hold up or evolve…this should be fun to watch.

Personal Chefs ROCK!!!

Have clients been talking to you about these easy prep services? What are you telling them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Rainbow Swiss Chard, The Morning Star Ranch3

If you’re working with clients who have type 2 diabetes, hopefully you’ve consulted with nutritionists and learned what a well rounded diet is to keep them healthy and happy. All the experts say the best foods for T2 diabetics—the “free” foods—are the green foods. Lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and the like. This isn’t to say they shouldn’t eat carrots, squashes, beets, string beans, radishes, sweet potatoes, or other vegetables. They absolutely should eat a rainbow of vegetables to get all the nutritional benefits. But many—like carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes—have higher carb counts so they can’t enjoy a free for all with them.

But if you think vegetables, especially greens = salad, stir fry, steaming, or boiling but nothing more imaginative, you couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some alternatives to the same old, same old.

Warm Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Carol Borchardt’s Warm Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Roasting vegetables could become your best weapon to beat veggie boredom. Your client may wince at the thought of eating Brussels sprouts, for instance, but roasting them brings out a whole other set of caramelized flavors. You can do the same with baby artichoke hearts in the spring and summer—just strip off the outer leaves till the light green ones appear. Broccoli, string beans, and asparagus also benefit from roasting, as does cauliflower. In fact, you can make “steaks” with cauliflower. Cut the head into thick slices, rub with olive oil and herbs, and roast. Red bell peppers are terrific roasted, skinned, then marinated in olive oil, herbs, and salt for an appetizer. Try steaming, then marinating eggplant in olive oil and garlic for an appetizer.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

Soup can be a terrific way to eat greens. Add Swiss chard or kale to a mushroom barley soup or bowl of lentils. Or feature greens in its own soup. Don’t love the texture of broccoli? Want to change up asparagus? Chop it up and place it in a pot with low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock just to cover and a couple of chopped red potatoes. Add herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are softened. Then either put the mixture in a blender or use a stick blender to create your own low-cal, low-carb creamy soup.

In the heat of the summer make a chunky gazpacho soup. Nothing could be better for you nutritionally and it’s packed with the bright flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, chiles, cilantro, and garlic. Want some protein with it? Add roasted shrimp or fresh crab.

Use greens as wraps instead of bread. It works at In ‘N Out. It’ll work for you. Slice roasted chicken or turkey, add some marinated veggies or pickles, wrap in Romaine and you’ve got a crunchy “sandwich.”

One of my favorite dishes to teach to kids in the kitchen is zucchini pancakes. But what we always do is list off other vegetables you can make the focus of pancakes. How about spinach or other greens? Or carrots? Or broccoli? Or turnips? Or a combination of favorites? The key is to shred them so they’ll incorporate into a pancake.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

Are you clients missing potato chips? Try kale and Swiss chard chips. Here’s a way to mix your greens and get your crunch. Wash and thoroughly dry the greens. Then strip leaves from the tough ribs and roughly chop the leaves. Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees until crisp.

You know you can sub spaghetti squash or spiralize zucchini for pasta. But what about a substitute for rice or couscous? Cauliflower comes to the rescue. This is a neat trick I learned. Cut up the florets, putting aside the stems to snack on. Then put the florets into a food processor and pulse, pulse, pulse until the pieces look like little grains of rice. (Be careful that you don’t just run the food processor and it turns to mush.) You can use it raw, like a grain, tossed in a green salad. Or sauté the “cauliflower rice” in a little oil, then top it with tomato sauce for an extremely low-carb dish. You can freeze the raw “rice” to use later.

And don’t forget the smoothie. Most people assume smoothies are fruit based, but I like to mix it up with spinach and low-carb berries (frozen in the off season)—and a little banana. This is a perfect breakfast and for someone trying to make sure the day doesn’t go by without vegetables, you’ll know at minimum you packed in a couple of cups first thing in the morning.

How do you make sure your diabetic clients get enough greens? Share your favorite dishes!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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!

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CandyWallaceAPPCAheadshot (low rez)

For personal chefs just launching their businesses, money can be tight. If you’re in that position–or simply looking for a way to reduce costs–check out this post by APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace:

Looking to stretch your start-up budget?

Trade outs can help.

Need a logo design but don’t have the funds to hire a designer in your start-up budget?

Offer a trade out.

A trade out is a dollar-for-dollar even exchange of services. Trades have been around for centuries and are a way of providing equal value for both parties providing services.

When I started my business over 20 years ago I wanted advice on developing my reporting, accounting, and tax preparation systems so I could share them with other personal chef start up chefs who would be able to use those systems with confidence. I didn’t have a lot of cash at the time so I approached a tax accountant with an offer for a trade.

My offer was that I would provide personal chef services for three dinners per week during his busy tax preparation season (January through April 15) for him and his three colleagues for one year to match fees for bookkeeping/accounting, personal chef report forms, and tax preparation services. The accountant would pay for the food costs.

Both of us were well pleased with the agreement. It allowed me to receive services that would not otherwise be in my budget at the time.

Advertising was another one of those services where I felt a trade out would be effective and attractive to the trade out partner.

Weekly/monthly local publications are surprisingly well read by residents. These are usually dropped at the door of the residence, and stacked or racked in local coffee shops, grocery stores, car washes, and the local library branch. They do not usually have a food section, so I presented myself at the office of the publication in the area I wished to develop for my services and offered to provide a regular article or recipe featuring a seasonal local ingredient in exchange for a prominent mention of my business and contact information on each of my articles or recipes. The recipes always included the invitation to “Call or e-mail Chef Candy if you have questions about this recipe or ingredient.”

The consistent response to this arrangement provided a large portion of my initial and ongoing client base and actually resulted in a feature article in the business section of the local daily newspaper that generated almost 400 inquiries for service or information about the personal chef business. The business editor’s wife read my column and prepared each recipe. It didn’t cost me a penny.

Trade outs are clean, specific agreements to exchange services dollar for dollar and can be put in writing and signed for protection of both parties.

I actually even traded out live copy radio advertising for my services which were provided for a morning drive DJ who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. He spoke about his personal chef, the delicious meals, and his weight loss progress on his show daily and the radio station paid for the food so we were matching advertising dollars to personal chef service dollars. Once again, the DJ lost weight and I gained local visibility and picked up clients.

Don’t be afraid to approach a vendor or service provider with the option to trade out. You don’t know what they might need, and the worst response you can receive is No, which we all know that is just a word.

Be creative.

What services could you use that you could turn into a trade out? 

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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photo 5

Come September and it’s soon time for the high holidays. This year, they fall late, with Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the Jewish New Year) falling on October 2 and Kol Nidre (the eve of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement) falling on October 11. Rosh Hashanah and breaking the fast of Yom Kippur call for traditional Jewish comfort food–and in my family that always includes a sweet noodle kugel–or lokshen kugel if you want to go all the way with the Yiddish.

Noodle kugel (there’s also potato kugel for Passover)–basically a noodle pudding or casserole–is dish usually made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and butter. Made well, it’s a sweet, fluffy, cheesy dish. When I was growing up, my grandparents would often show up at our house for Friday night dinner, almost always bearing three things–her Hawaiian chicken, a Pyrex dish bubbling with a warm kugel, and mandelbread (the Jewish version of biscotti) for dessert. Because kugel is such a cholesterol nightmare it’s no longer something I eat much of, but if I get half the chance I’m all over it. Plus, it holds up well as a leftover or frozen and reheated. For personal chefs with Jewish clients who call on you to make Jewish holiday foods, this is a must-have in your repertoire.

I’ve had many versions of noodle kugel over the years and tend to avoid it at most Jewish delis because at least our local ones in San Diego don’t do a great job with it. A lousy kugel is kind of flat and dense and unpleasantly chewy. Whether it includes raisins or other dried fruit, pineapple chunks, or peaches (as one friend prepared it), it should be a bite of rich creaminess under a crisp top. In looking at other recipes over the years I’ve found a key difference between my Nana’s and these others. Nana always separated the egg yolks from the whites and beat the whites until stiff. You can’t miss with that technique–even if you use cottage cheese (yet another ingredient option).

This recipe below is about as traditional as you can get. But you can change it up with extra ingredients you enjoy, like reconstituted dried or fresh or canned fruit, and different toppings. I added a little brown sugar to my most recent kugel and enjoyed the deeper flavor it created.

Nana’s Noodle Kugel
Yield: 12 servings, depending on how you slice it

1 pound dried wide egg noodles, cooked and well drained
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint sour cream
6 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat egg yolks with sugar and add to cooked noodles.

photo 3-1
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add butter, cream cheese, and sour cream to noodles. Gently fold in egg whites. Yes, it will be loose. Don’t worry. It will come together while cooking.

Pour mixture into buttered 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan. If you want you can make a topping with brown sugar, cinnamon, and granulated sugar (and/or breadcrumbs, crumbled graham crackers, streusel, or crushed cornflakes).

photo 4-1

Bake for about an hour until the center is set and the noodles are light brown on top. Let the kugel rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Kugel tray

What special dishes have your clients requested for the High Holidays? Do they ever give you family recipes to make?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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chicken nuggets2

Chicken Nuggets

Thank you, Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen in San Francisco, for your insights on cooking for clients with special needs:

Special diets are either a major pain in your patootie, or a lucrative niche market where you can shine as a personal or private chef. It’s up to you. The demand is there. How you meet that demand comes down to making an important choice: either fully embrace this ever-growing market or suffer your way through it, because it ain’t going away. I recommend the former. That’s what I did. Now, 10 years later, having built a good reputation in the Bay Area for being a chef that knows his way around food allergens, I’ve found the demand continues to grow and evolve.

The market has become way more sophisticated in the myriad of allergen-friendly products and solutions being offered than when this whole “trend” started (do food trends actually last an entire decade?). As a personal chef you’ll find there’s still plenty of room for pioneering. But we don’t have to venture out alone into unknown and sometimes dangerous territory anymore. We now have strong allies including many great chefs who have done much of the experimenting along the way; failing, succeeding, and discovering new and better ways to offer truly delicious alternatives. No more hippie hockey pucks!

If you still feel the need to roll your eyes whenever a client asks for strictly Paleo, or allium-free, or everything raw, please read on. You might still want to roll your baby-blues, but you might see something different. If you have already embraced special diets as part of your journey as a PC, as challenging as it can be at times, then you might appreciate some of the basic insights I have gained.

Persian Lamb and Pumpkin Stew

Persian Lamb and Pumpkin Stew

The YES List
What you can eat is way more nourishing than what you can’t. Sounds simplistic, I know, but if a client’s focus is on what she CAN’T have, then feelings of being deprived and all of the emotional baggage that goes along with that (punishment, scarcity, loss… your poison) grow even stronger. It’s hard to win as a chef in that kind of atmosphere. I found early on that by building what I call a YES list (those ingredients that are allowed/safe to use) and designing recipes from those ingredients only, not only did my clients feel better, but I could shift my focus from navigating the mine field of all of the no-no ingredients to looking only for those ingredients that work. No more guessing. You know that phenomenon where you decide to buy a blue car and all you see are blue cars for the next few weeks? That same mindset sets in when you—and your client—choose to pay attention to only those items on the YES list. Suddenly a world of food possibilities opens up. Because for a restricted diet variety is key, the YES list gave me the opportunity to get really good at knowing my way around flavor profiles, especially ethnic. Speaking of which…

Flavor is King
A restricted diet means flavor is of the utmost importance. What your client CAN eat needs to be really tasty. What gives food its flavor is nutrients. The more nutrients the better an ingredient tastes. Good nutrients come from good soil and good growing techniques. Over-farmed soil or over-processed foods contain very few nutrients, hence a bland flavor. Therefore, making sure the ingredients you choose are the most nutrient dense you can find is essential. I have discovered that by choosing great ingredients, half the battle is won. It also means I don’t have to have complicated recipes. Cooking becomes simple, my labor is reduced, which means my margin increases.

Chilled Squash Soup

Chilled Squash Soup

Flavor profiles. All of my cooking classes, and I’ve done over 40 of them, are geared towards the Allergenista. My main filter is always no gluten, dairy, soy, shellfish, or peanuts—the five most pernicious allergens. In my first few classes I asked myself, “if diets are restricted, how can I enhance the flavors of what CAN be eaten?” I covered three fundamental areas: spices, herbs, and condiments: three worlds of mostly safe ingredients with the possibility of an infinite amount of flavors. Knowing your way around your spice cabinet, the herb garden, and how to turn simple recipes into flavor-enrichening sauces gives you the ability to provide flavors from around the world. Here are some simple examples of what I mean by ethnic flavor profiles:

  • Caribbean: Annato, Chile, Coconut, Ginger, Coriander
  • Chinese: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Chile, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal, Licorice/Anise, Sesame, Sichuan Pepper, Star Anise, Vanilla
  • Eastern European: Caraway, Dill, Parsley
  • French: Lavender, Tarragon, Rosemary, Marjoram, Sage, Lemon Peel, Parsley

Ten years ago, when I was approached by a nutritionist and long-time friend to start cooking for her clients (she told me that when she gives them their elimination diet they are like deer in the headlights), I quickly saw it as learning a new language. The appeal of providing people with the experience of enjoying familiar foods while using only safe ingredients was great. Discovering new ways to have the look, mouth feel, and aroma be as close to the original as possible was exhilarating. For example, I use organic instant mashed potatoes as a thickener for sauces as opposed to guar gum or tapioca or turn soaked and blended raw cashews into cheesecake or ricotta for lasagna.

Special diets and picky eaters are kissing cousins. As a PC you’re always going to have clients who are very particular about what they eat. Food is emotional. Which means it can feel impossible at times. It also means that food can be connective, fulfilling, and immensely satisfying. Cooking would be easy if it wasn’t for food being so emotional, but who wants that?

Lots of good people are on special diets. Will you be yet another cook who rolls your eyes, or will you be the hero of the day? Your choice.

Chef Tom has great examples of adapting recipes with traditional ingredients into recipes that are allergen-friendly. Click here for a free cookbook. Here’s a sample recipe:


Cucumbers Stuffed with Smoked Trout Pate

Smoked Trout Pate

by Chef Tom Herndon
Yield: 32 cucumber cups

This recipe, says Tom, meets his basic criteria of no gluten, dairy (milk—but he changed it to vegan mayo), soy, shellfish, or peanuts.

1/2 pound smoked trout, heads and skin removed, fillets carefully boned
1/4 cup very finely diced onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste
2 large English cucumbers (other options are Persian or Lemon cucumbers)

1. With clean hands, squeeze and mash the trout into a thick paste in a bowl.
2. Fold in remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning.
3. Spoon a teaspoon into a cucumber cup or serve as a dip with gluten-free crackers or crudites.

Are you beginning to take on clients with special dietary needs? How have you approached your learning curve?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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!

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Pudwill Berry Farms Honey Crisp Apples2

I’m often asked if the produce we buy always has to be organic. Let’s face it, organic usually costs more than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and we don’t all have a budget that can manage strictly organic.

A few years ago I interviewed Urvashi Rangan, project director of Consumer Reports’ The environmental health scientist believes that it’s a matter of prioritizing. This terrific site is an invaluable resource filled with interesting articles on food products related to health, safety, and other food-related news.

Rangan pointed out that berries, for instance, tend to have very high levels of pesticides. “So organic can get you a lot of value,” she said. “On the other hand if you’re weighing the difference between buying conventional or organic avocados, the thick skin and the fact that avocados may not require as many pesticides to produce means there’s not as great a health value in buying organic.”

She also noted that parents with young children should be aware that organic food in their children’s diet can make a significant different in lowering the amount of pesticide residue they consume. “They’re neurotoxins and when they build up in the body, even at low levels, for a child’s developing brain and neurosystem, reducing the amount of these agents is a much healthier way to go.”

All this, of course, gets back to the main issue. What fruits and vegetables pose the most challenges where pesticides are concerned and which ones are less problematic?

There are two websites consumers should pay attention to. The first is a list put out by the Environmental Working Group. This list ranks  fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The lower the number, the more pesticides. So, you have apples, celery, strawberry, peaches, and spinach in the top five. Asparagus, avocado, pineapples, sweet corn, and onions are at the bottom–meaning they have the fewest amount of pesticides. Less than one percent of sampled onions, for instance, were found to have any pesticide residue.

The EWG’s executive summary is the most direct, with a list of what to buy organic and what is lowest in pesticides. For a quick reference, this is quite useful. The group also has a mobile app for iOS and Android called Healthy Living.

Another group doing some fascinating work in this arena is the Pesticide Action Network. Here you’ll learn that 888 million pounds of pesticides are applied annually in the U.S., averaging three pounds per person. So, what’s on your food? Go to the site and select a product and click. A page will open listing how many pesticide residues are found on that product, what they are and the toxicity risks to humans and the environment. So, click on green beans, for instance, and you’ll find it has 44 pesticide residues–chemical names that are pretty unpronounceable. Some, like carbendazim, are suspected hormone disrupters. Others like diazinon, hit that along with bee toxins, developmental or reproductive toxins, and neurotoxins.

“We have found that folks are grateful to see which pesticides are linked to particular health threats–so the brain, DNA, child, and bee icons have been helpful points of orientation/interpretation,” explained Heather Pilatic, PAN’s spokeswoman. “In sum, pesticides are enormously variable in their toxicity. That’s why we cross-referenced the residue data with toxicological info”

PAN also has a What’s on My Food iOS app.

Altogether, these are a good start for personal chefs who are trying to serve purer food and want to better identify how what they buy will impact their clients’ bodies.

How concerned are you and your clients about whether their food is organic? Have you had to make decisions based on cost as to whether or not to buy organic ingredients?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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!

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 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!

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