Every December Candy and I put together posts designed to help you address the big looming change in the calendar and get a fresh start on the new year. Some people want to build their business, some want to expand services. Others want to identify new ways to help their clients—perhaps bringing health or nutrition expertise to a specific range of people or simply deciding they want to be more efficient and rent commercial kitchen space for prep. And some chefs are looking to find more life/work balance for themselves.

Whatever your new ideas are for 2018, we want to help. We can start with the basics, getting you more focused with business plans that will help guide you through the year as well as a checklist for prepping for what’s coming. We can help you figure out marketing, if that’s an issue. We can provide you with inspiration from fellow members if you’re interested in specializing in a specific type of client or healthcare issue.

You get the idea. Since we’ve written about all these over the years I thought I’d put together a round up of these posts for you that are just as fresh and relevant now as when they were first written.

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.

Marketing:

Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.

Specializing:

Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

These are just some of the many posts we’ve written over the years to help you go further in your business and meet your life and professional goals. We have search capability so if you’re looking for more information, put it in the search engine and see what else comes up.

And if you have any questions or concerns about running your personal chef business, give Candy a call or shoot her an email. She loves to hear from you!

What have you got planned for 2018? Anything we can help you with?

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!

 

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One  of the things we have tried to reinforce for personal chefs as a way to increase business is raising your profile in your community. Now this can happen in a variety of ways–public speaking, chef demos, and teaching cooking classes, for example. But it can also take the form of media participation. If you’re doing something unusual, like helping an organization raise money you could send out a press release to local newspaper editors. You could also send out releases based on your professional expertise, such as a personal chef’s tips for how to manage holiday cooking. These could lead to stories written about you or inclusion in a larger piece. Just being out in the community could lead to media attention you weren’t even anticipating. Or you could strive to get a regular column in a local publication or website or contribute to a blog (like this one).

Three of our members have gotten some media love recently, and we thought we’d share each with you as inspiration for what you can do in your community–and to give them some blog love!

Heike Ashcroft

Heike Ashcroft runs Just for You Personal Chef from Boston’s South Shore. She was featured in Wicked Local Hanover in November. The story highlighted her personal training license and background in nutrition, how she runs her business, and even interviewed one of her clients, Catherine Hummel and her husband Andrew Danieli of Marshfield, who have been utilizing Ashcroft as their personal chef for a year and a half.

“’Heike is unbelievable in her caring, her creativity and professionalism…we have gained our life back,’ said Hummel.

“Hummel said the couple is saving about 15-16 hours a week by not having to cook themselves, and creating more quality time with each other.

“’It is absolutely the best decision we have ever made,’ said Hummel. ‘It saved our health, our energy… even saved our relationship.’”

Heike isn’t really sure how the local newspaper’s interest in her and her business came about. All the reporter could do was tell her she got the request to write the piece from her editor. But, Heike’s best guess is something you should keep in mind as you decide how to market your business:

“I catered for a local fundraising event in a town nearby; the fundraiser was advertised in the town’s paper and it mentioned me as the caterer,” Heike recounted. “A friend of mine actually sent me a photo of the ad and, funnily enough, two days later I received a request for the interview.”

Note to self: Accept fundraising catering gig. You never know what will come of it later in the form of publicity and business.

April Lee

April Lee is a long-time personal chef in Baltimore. She was included in a recent round up of food-related activities in The Baltimore Sun. The piece highlighted her business, Tastefully Yours Professional Chef Services by Chef April Lee, and focused on her in-home cooking classes.

“’When I teach people in their homes, they’re the ones who do the hands-on work, using whatever equipment they have,’” she says. “’During the lesson, I will make recommendations on how they can best use what they already own.’”

Like Heike, April still doesn’t know how the story came to be. “This is a local lifestyle magazine and they were doing an article about interesting things families could do together. I don’t know whether someone referred my name to them or whether they just googled me,” she said.

Carol Borchardt

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis, however, knows exactly how she got her gig with Community Table by Parade Magazine. Carol, who had written a regular column for her local newspaper until earlier this year when the paper had to make cuts, has also branched out with a successful blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. She has a huge social media presence that helps feed traffic to the site.

“Community Table by Parade Magazine invites people to apply to become paid contributors,” she explained. “That’s all I did!  They do like for people to have an active social media following such as 10,000 FB “likes.”  I’m only at about 7,800, however, they liked what they saw on my blog and saw my potential for growth so accepted me.”

Carol has been writing for Parade since last March. Recently, she wrote a round-up of Breakfast Casseroles from food bloggers, noting, “I can pretty much do anything food related.”

So, what’s the secret to getting this kind of attention?

April gives a lot of credit to having a robust and well maintained website. “I will say that it’s important to keep your website current and do what it takes so that your name/site comes up as one of the first few for your particular county/area … all that SEO stuff.”

Carol would advise anyone who is looking for media attention to get active in their local food community–going to events, helping out at events. She said that’s where the local news media is going to be and it’s prime time to get noticed.

“The way I got the newspaper gig was to become more visible and I met a local food columnist who in turn worked with the newspaper to get me the gig,” she said.

And, when one gig goes away–like that local column did for Carol–consider it an opportunity to take up something else. For Carol the time she spent on the column instead went into developing her blog, which, in turn, led to the Parade gig.

Heike is making the most out of the local story on her. She’s put a link to the article on her Chef Heike Facebook page and her website. And, guess what–following the article’s publication, she received business inquiries and is in the process of following them up.

“I am thinking of re-publishing the link on FB at the beginning of the new year as people will get back into their daily routine after the holidays and may have renewed interest,” she added. “I am also hoping to have the budget next year to re-design my website for it be to more interactive so that I can easily post recipes; links to news articles; or write short blog entrees. I am learning step by step to market my business on social media, and for now try to balance my time between cooking and posting and keeping a presence on FB and Instagram.”

She’s working it! And it may lead to future articles–or writing for publications herself, like Carol.

The big takeaway? Be out there, talk up your business and your achievements, and take advantage of opportunities–or create them yourself.

Have you been featured in your local publication? How did it happen and what did you then do with it?

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!

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We’re just days away from December and if you haven’t already, you should be identifying your goals for 2018. What will you want to have accomplished by this time next year? What new skills do you want to have? How about your income and savings? How will you reach those goals?

We have some ideas that you can use literally or that may spark some thoughts that more directly appeal to you and meeting your goals.

  • Update your business plan. First things first–you need to know what you are aspiring to? Whether you wrote a business plan last year or five years ago, things change and you need to update your plan annually. Maybe this is the year you want to branch out from strictly being a personal chef to also teaching cooking classes or catering–or writing. Whatever it is, put it in writing so you’ll more readily commit to it.
  • Rev up your personal chef skills. We wrote about this earlier in the year and have five suggestions–ranging from cooking skills and social media to local networking and specialization.

  • Be a better marketer. Potential clients need to be able to find you. If you’ve been getting by on word of mouth, congratulations! But most of us have to have a plan. That can include engaging in social media, doing food demos, speaking at local business organizations, creating a dynamite website, volunteering with business groups, and putting out press releases. Start a food blog–get inspiration here! Launch your own YouTube channel. Here’s how some members have done it.

  • Improve your food photography skills. Food and photography go hand in hand. We are amazed at how few personal chefs put any effort into learning basic photography skills to show off their work. Look at the photos you post on Facebook and Instagram. Do they make you want to devour the dish or are they so dark and monochromatic that they are, well, too sad for words. Get some tips here.
  • Network!: Networking, like marketing, means getting yourself out there. Find an organization doing something you’re passionate about and join it. Don’t just be on Facebook; join a group and participate. Even better, form your own group–perhaps you specialize in cooking for a specific type of medical conditions. Others who focus on that condition would be interested as well–dietitians, counselors, physical trainers, etc. These are all potentially great contacts to have. And when you’re out in the world, face to face with community members, always carry your business card. Always! (even at the dog park or at the market)
  • Refresh your website: Does your website really show you off to the world? Is it easy to navigate? Are the photos enticing? Can the public even learn who you are? It’s always good to take a critical eye to your window to your business. In fact, even better, ask someone who will be straight with you to do that and give you feedback. Here are some things to keep in mind. Then make this the year you make yourself irresistible through your site.
  • Open yourself up to new possibilities: If you’re feeling stuck in December 2017, you need to have a sit down with yourself and consider what will make you happy. Maybe you want to teach or write. Maybe you want to focus on a specific type of client–those into fitness or a particular diet or medical condition. Maybe you want to partner with someone and spread the responsibilities. Maybe you’re starting to consider retirement options. This is the perfect time of year to work through changes you want to make and then take steps to accomplish them (back to the business plan above). You know what else you can do? Call Candy and talk through your dreams with her to get her advice.
  • Stage with a pro: If you’ve ever been a restaurant chef, you know about staging with chefs at other restaurants to learn new skills and open your eyes to new ways of doing things. So, let’s say you’ve been thinking about teaching cooking classes but haven’t the faintest idea of how to do it. Ask another chef who teaches if you could stage with her. Same with doing cooking demos, catering, or food videos. Don’t let not knowing how to do something you think you want to do keep you from learning how to do it. P.S. You may also discover it’s not your thing, but at least you checked it out and can move on.

One of the reasons Candy launched the personal chef profession was to create a way for people who love to cook for others to tailor their work life in a way that makes sense for them. If you’ve chosen this profession then the best way to ensure you’re still in it for all the right reasons is to take the time to reflect and plan–and expand or tweak your vision. Then take the steps to turn that vision into your reality. This is the time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be, and then stay the course or make the corrections that will get you to your goal.

What are your goals for 2018? Have you figured out how to make them a reality?

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!

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My grandparents carving the turkey–long before I was around!

It’s just days away from Thanksgiving and after Friday we’re all going to be anticipating the holidays–first Chanukah, which begins on the evening of December 12 this year, then, of course, Christmas and New Years.

Now as personal chefs, I have no doubt you could throw a dinner party with your eyes closed and hands tied behind your back. At least figuratively. But my expectation is you know what you’re doing. If not, however, (since throwing parties is different from cooking and then packaging meals) or if your clients are planning holiday dinner parties, I thought I’d share with you the expertise of someone who spent much of her adult life entertaining: my mom, Evie.

For as long as I can remember, she’s pretty much been the queen of dinner parties. My dad was in the museum “business” so curators, donors, artists and other colleagues were always coming over. Plus, my parents always loved to have friends and family at the house for meals. My mom is an astoundingly good cook, someone whose gift I continue to aspire to. Until recently, I regularly served as her sous chef, server and dish washer. I was told, “watch and learn.” At age 82, she doesn’t do any real entertaining any more but when she did, for weeks ahead of time she would be chopping, cooking and freezing. The day before a party, the table was set. The day of, only the last-minute cooking and reheating were involved. By the time the guests arrived, she was usually (fairly) rested, ready and able to enjoy the meal along with everyone else.

So, what’s her secret? Several years ago I sat down with her for lunch at a little Vietnamese restaurant  and asked her straight out what she thinks are the keys to a successful dinner party. Watch and learn–and share with clients to make their entertaining less stressful and more enjoyable:

  • Plan your your meal around one special dish and keep the rest simple so you can have a focal point. Most people think that’s the big protein — a leg of lamb, roasted chicken — but it can also be a very special, exotic side dish.
  • Don’t feel that you have to make every dish. Make some yourself and buy some that are prepared — like side dishes, desserts or appetizers. “Back when I was really entertaining a lot, there wasn’t much available so we had to do almost everything ourselves, but today you can go to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or specialty or ethnic markets and get some very good prepared foods,” she says. Or, ahem, they can ask you to do the cooking–or some of it.
  • When planning the dishes, try to make them stand out in color, texture and, of course, flavor. (I took this to heart. For a recent dinner I planned to serve roasted chicken and rice with dill and fava beans but I was stumped over the vegetable. Mom shook her head at the idea of asparagus or baby artichokes. “Color!,” she decreed. So, I headed over to a local produce wholesaler called Specialty Produce to pick up multi-colored organic mini carrots and red-and-green micro beet greens. The carrots were trimmed and steamed, then tossed in melted butter and honey, lemon juice, minced greens from a stalk of green garlic, and salt and pepper — and placed on a bed of the beet greens.)

  • Make what you can ahead of time and freeze it. That could be soup stock or homemade ice cream or even a pot roast.
  • Along the same lines, do your prep work in advance — chop herbs, marinate proteins, make your salad dressing. Then, the day of the dinner, much of what you have to do is just heating up and putting everything together.
  • Feel free to use short cuts. Make a pie using a prepared pie crust (I like the ones Trader Joe’s sells) or a tart with puff pastry dough. (I cheated twice here. I used puff pastry squares I found at a Hispanic market and I had a container in the freezer of lemon curd that I had made. All I needed to do was pre-bake the puff pastry squares, fill them with the lemon curd, slice the strawberries and melt a little dandelion preserves for the glaze. Easy.)

  • The day before the dinner party, write a detailed time chart of what needs to be done, step by step, so you know when to pre-heat the oven, when to take out meat from the refrigerator to come to room temperature, when to start heating soup, when to start the grill — whatever. Add time for getting yourself (and your family) ready, feeding the dog, vacuuming. Basically, you want everything in your day to be accounted for so that you don’t have a last-minute crisis and to make sure that your dishes are ready to serve at the right time. And — very important so that you won’t be exhausted by the time your guests arrive — with a detailed time chart you can pace yourself throughout the day with little tasks.
  • On the morning of the dinner party, set out your serving dishes and utensils, write their function on a post-it note, then tag it. That way, you don’t have to think about what goes where when your company arrives and you’re distracted.
  • Set the table the day before or early that morning. Pull out wine and water glasses and whatever you’ll need for aperitifs, clean them, and set up that space.
  • Clean up and put things away as you go along so you’re not facing piles of dirty dishes, utensils, and pots and pans after your guests have left.

And, most important, don’t worry so much about impressing your guests with your cooking and focus more on making them comfortable and happy. The more relaxed you are, the more fun everyone will have.

Evie making our traditional family chestnut stuffing many years ago at my brother’s house.

She’s right. She always is. I’m so grateful for all she’s taught me and am looking forward to her help on Wednesday prepping for Thanksgiving now that it’s my turn to host it.

What did your mom teach you about entertaining and what are you teaching your kids–and clients?

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!

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It’s that time of year again! The food and demographics experts are weighing in on food trends we can expect in the coming year. Whole Foods is the first out of the gate. Why should you care?  As a personal chef creating menus for clients–both for family meals and catering events–you want to be on top of current and upcoming trends so you can start experimenting with ingredients and speaking to the interests of current and new clients. You want to be relevant. As for this particular list, Whole Foods is the shopping destination for so many of you–and your customers. If they have the pulse of the consumer, you want to know what that pulse is. We’ll mostly leave out their product marketing that follows each trend.

So, here we go with their Top 10:

1. Floral Flavors

Foragers and culinary stars have embraced edible petals for years, but floral inspiration is finally in full bloom. From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics. Look for flowers used like herbs in things like lavender lattés and rose-flavored everything. Bright pink hibiscus teas are a hot (and iced) part of the trend, while elderflower is the new MVP (most valuable petal) of cocktails and bubbly drinks.

Try the Trend: Jacobs Farm Organic Edible Flowers.

2. Super Powders

Powders are serious power players. Because they’re so easy to incorporate, they’ve found their way into lattés, smoothies, nutrition bars, soups and baked goods. For an energy boost or an alternative to coffee, powders like matchamaca root and cacao are showing up in mugs everywhere. Ground turmeric powder is still on the rise, the ever-popular spice used in Ayurvedic medicine. Smoothie fans are raising a glass to powders like spirulina, kale, herbs and roots for an oh-so-green vibrancy that needs no Instagram filter. Even protein powders have evolved beyond bodybuilders to pack in new nutrients like skin- and hair-enhancing collagen.

3. Functional Mushrooms

Shoppers are buzzing about functional mushrooms, which are traditionally used to support wellness as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Now, varieties like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane star in products across categories. Bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies and teas are leading the way. The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavors. Body care is hot on this mushroom trend too, so look for a new crop of soaps, hair care and more.

4. Feast from the Middle East

Middle Eastern culinary influences have made their way west for years, and 2018 will bring these tasty traditions into the mainstream. Things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top. Spices like harissa, cardamom and za’atar are hitting more menus, as well as dishes like shakshuka, grilled halloumi and lamb. Other trending Middle Eastern ingredients include pomegranate, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam and dried fruits.

Try the Trend: eggplant; bulk pistachios and dried fruit

5. Transparency 2.0

More is more when it comes to product labeling. Consumers want to know the real story behind their food, and how that item made its way from the source to the store. GMO transparency is top-of-mind, but shoppers seek out other details, too, such as Fair Trade certification, responsible production and animal welfare standards. At Whole Foods Market, this plays out in several ways, starting with these three happening in 2018: 1) In January 2018, all canned tuna in our stores will come from sustainable one-by-one catch methods; 2) In September 2018, labels will provide GMO transparency on all food items in stores; and 3) Dishes from Whole Foods Market food bars and venues are now labeled with calorie information. The FDA’s deadline for nutrition labeling is among the first regulatory steps for greater transparency, but expect consumers and brands to continue leading the way into a new era of product intel.

Try the Trend: Pole & Line canned albacore tuna traceable to the exact captain and vessel that caught the fish; 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rated fresh meat and poultry; sustainability certification or ratings on every type of wild-caught seafood in Whole Foods Market’s seafood department; Non-GMO Project Verified products; Fair Food certified tomatoes and strawberries.

6. High-Tech Goes Plant-Forward

Plant-based diets and dishes continue to dominate the food world, and now the tech industry has a seat at the table, too. By using science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins, these techniques are creating mind-bending alternatives like “bleeding” vegan burgers or sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes. These new production techniques are also bringing some new varieties of nut milks and yogurts made from pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts and pecans. Dairy-free indulgences like vegan frosting, brownies, ice cream, brioche and crème brûlée are getting so delicious, non-vegans won’t know the difference – or they might choose them anyway!

Try the Trend: Beyond Meat Burger; Ocean Hugger Foods Ahimi vegan tuna (available in NYC and LA Whole Foods Market stores); Ripple milks made from peas; Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan ToonaMALK cold-pressed nut milks

7. Puffed & Popped Snacks

Crunchy snacks are perennial favorites, but new technology is revolutionizing all things puffed, popped, dried and crisped. New extrusion methods (ways of processing and combining ingredients), have paved the way for popped cassava chips, puffed pasta bow ties, seaweed fava chips and puffed rice clusters. Good-old-fashioned chips also get an upgrade as part of the trend, with better-for-you bites like jicama, parsnip or Brussels sprout crisps.

8. Tacos Come Out of Their Shell

There’s no slowing down the craze for all things Latin American, but the taco trend has a life of its own. This street-food star is no longer limited to a tortilla, or to savory recipes: Tacos are showing up for breakfast, and trendy restaurants across the country have dessert variations. Most of all, tacos are shedding their shell for new kinds of wrappers and fillings too – think seaweed wrappers with poke filling. Classic tacos aren’t going anywhere, but greater attention to ingredients is upping their game. One end of the spectrum is hyper-authentic cooking with things like heirloom corn tortillas or classic barbacoa. And thanks to brands like Siete, there are grain-free options for paleo fans too. Taco ‘bout options!

9. Root-to-Stem

Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable, including the stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. Recipes like pickled watermelon rinds, beet-green pesto or broccoli-stem slaw have introduced consumers to new flavors and textures from old favorites.

Try the Trend: Produce butcher at Whole Foods Market Bryant Park; root-to-stem salad bar items, featuring Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and celery seasonal varieties

10. Say Cheers to the Other Bubbly

LaCroix may have paved the way, but now there’s an entire booming category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention. Just don’t call them “soda.” These drinks are a far cry from their sugary predecessors. Flavored sparkling waters like plant-derived options from Sap! (made with maple and birch) and sparkling cold brew from Stumptown will are shaking up a fizzy fix. Shoppers are also toasting mocktail must-haves like Topo Chico and Whole Foods MarketTMLime Mint Elderflower Italian Sparkling Mineral Water. Cheers to the other kind of bubbly!

Try the Trend: Waterloo Sparkling WaterSap! maple and birch sparkling waters and seltzers; Stumptown Sparkling Cold Brew (in Original, Honey Lemon and Ginger Citrus); Alta Palla Sparkling Waters; Whole Foods MarketTM Italian Sparkling Mineral Waters (in Citrus Blend, Lemon, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon Raspberry, Grapefruit and Lime Mint Elderflower flavors), 365 Everyday Value® Canned Sparkling Water (Pure, Lime, Lemon, Orange and Grapefruit flavors).

This year’s predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s experts and industry leaders who source items and lead trends across the retailer’s cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments, and spot trends for the retailer’s more than 470 stores. Shoppers can try the trends in their local Whole Foods Market stores or on Amazon.com.

What food trends are you noticing or are you clients sharing with you? Any of these something you’ll try?

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!

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If you don’t know food writer, recipe developer, and owner of Nourish Evolution, a subscription-based real food community and online menu planner, you really should. And here’s the perfect opportunity; she just published a memoir called Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love. I can’t recall recommending a book in this space, but I think as chefs you’ll enjoy and appreciate her journey and certainly be taken by both her writing and her recipes.

Yes, recipes. Nourished, while not a cookbook, ends every chapter with an irresistible recipe–from Crab Ravioli in Saffron Lemon-Butter Sauce and Grilled Pork en Adobada with Cebollitas to a simple Zucchini Frittata and Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Lobster, and Caramelized Corn. What it is is a memoir of a woman who took the long road to find happiness and her place in the world, much of which has revolved around food and cooking. Traveling with her (and there is a lot of travel) through 20 years of her life journey was mouth watering, yes, but also an immersion into a life perhaps more adventurous than any of ours, but filled with the same sorrows and joys, discoveries of the spirit and heart, and ultimately a coming to as much peace and solace as anyone can be rewarded with in a life well lived.

Raised in Connecticut, Huber launches the book in 1991 in Corfu, Greece, where as a college student on break she falls in love with Alexi, whom she describes as a “tall, dark Greek man with mischievous eyes.” Huber digs into Corfu with loving descriptions of the food she discovered–the smokey fish roe dip, luscious lemony scented chicken, and the fluffy mass of boiled potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic and green-yellow olive oil that is skordalia (recipe included). She fully intends to marry Alexi but returns to the States for a cousin’s wedding and to finish school. The ambitious American college student, winning awards for her writing, ultimately breaks off the engagement and so begins a new chapter in her life, what she calls a “voraciousness for experience” that sent her to live in Manhattan–and then to Christianity. Not long after she meets Christopher, who would become the love of her life and partner in her travels and soul searching.

Nourished wends its way through Huber’s adventures and travails. She suffers from unresolved health issues, challenges in her marriage, challenges in the travels she and Christopher (and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Talisker–yeah, there’s that we also have in common) take trying to find their place in the world. It takes them from New York to San Francisco, where she launches her food writing and recipe testing career, to Costa Rica, making the 8,000-mile journey in their “gringo mobile” Rex, their Ford Explorer. They spend time in Italy and ultimately, they make their way to California’s wine country, where they endure a long, torturous process of foreign adoption and then the joys and angst of parenthood.

Throughout Huber’s travels, both geographical and emotional, is always food. She and Christopher cook their way through Anne Willan’s Look and Cook: Asian Cooking. They discover a rich, tangy asado de boda stew in Zacatecas, a dried beef machaca in a Chihuahua truck stop, and in Cuernavaca she learns how to make sautéed zucchini flowers stuffed into poblano chiles that are then wrapped in puff pastry topped by a creamy cilantro sauce and pomegranate seeds.

While many readers may find her struggle with and solace in God and Christianity just as rewarding as her culinary evolution, that part was not as resonant with me since I’m a non-religious Jewish woman. But I could feel her pain and appreciate her quest for answers and hope. She’s that good a writer.

In fact, I loved her vivid descriptions of her cooking experiences. I could see in my mind’s eye what she saw. In Italy, taking a pasta-making lesson, Huber describes her instructor Francesca as “nearly as round as the ball of pasta dough sitting in front of her…” She goes on to describe making pasta sheets:

“She cut the giant ball into several smaller pieces and covered them with a dish towel. She dusted the worktable with the flour as if she were feeding pigeons, and picked up a giant rolling pin longer than a baseball bat. ‘Matarello,’ Francesca said.”

Nourished takes us with Huber over a 20-year span and ultimately it’s a joyful, yes, nourishing ride. Read the memoir for its grace and honest reflections of a life filled with bumps, questions, and ultimately love. Keep the book for the recipes that provide delicious markers for each period of her life.

Frijoles de Lia
from Lia Huber

Frijoles de olla are a traditional dish of brothy beans cooked in an earthenware pot (an olla) that are hearty enough to be a meal in and of themselves. The recipes I followed in Costa Rica—from Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless—followed a simple equation of beans, lard, an onion or garlic, and epazote. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more goodies that I’ve appended on over the years. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large poblano chiles, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
11/2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or fast  soaked in a pressure cooker)
Sea salt

In a large, heavy  bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium  high heat. Add the onion, poblano chiles, and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chile and sauté for 1 minute, until fra grant. Add the beans, a generous pinch of salt, and 6 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until there’s a mix of whole beans and creamy mashed beans.

Serves 10 to 12


Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Do you have a favorite food or chef memoir? Is there a food-related book you think the rest of us should take to our heart? Perhaps you’d like to share it on this blog.

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!

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We hope that you APPCA members were able to take advantage of the special 50 percent off deal we arranged with Fagor. Up until October 24, members in good standing could order Fagor portable induction cook tops and electric multi-use cookers (pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker all in one) at half price. (Thanks for organizing this, April Lee!)

Like the hugely popular Instant Pots, these electric multicookers can be a little intimidating until you get used to how they work. And while you may initially limit yourself to the obvious–stock, soup, beans, yogurt, you’ll want to broaden your mindset and learn about the many additional ways you can use these machines.

So, for all of us novice multicooker owners, I thought I’d offer up some essential resources to get you started. Bookmark them and return again and again because invariably yet another cool way to use these machines will come up. And perhaps you’ll think of some yourself. If so, please share!

  • Hip Pressure Cooking: Founder Laura Pazzaglia has written two books on pressure cooking and her site is filled with all sorts of great information. Beyond the many recipes, she writes pieces on nutritional information, best cuts of meats, machine reviews, even tips for how to open the machine effectively (it makes a difference). There are videos, forums, filling guidelines, and time charts.
  • Facebook Instant Pot Community Public Group: If you’re on Facebook, this is an invaluable group to join. Check out recipes, get cookbook recommendations, ask questions. You’ll be totally surprised by the dishes people make in the electric multicookers. Something go wrong? Troubleshoot it with members. While you’re on Facebook, also check out Instant Pot Recipes.
  • Pressure Cooking Today: Need to figure out how to get started with your multicooker or, specifically, Instant Pot? Here’s a great site to help. You can also get help with how to convert a recipe to pressure cook, which buttons to press, learn the difference between quick pressure and natural pressure release, and get a boatload of indexed recipes from breakfast to sides to dessert.
  • How to Use an Instant Pot: The New York Times has created this indispensable page, written by Melissa Clark (who has a new book out, Dinner in an Instant). Consider this your ABC primer. Clark breaks down every component of the multicooker and how you’d want to use it, as well as how to experiment with it. Just as important, she tells you what not to cook in this machine and why. Plus Clark offers some recipes from her new book.

  • Instant Pot Videos: Love a good YouTube cooking video? Then subscribe to Instant Pot on YouTube. You’ll find a wealth of recipes as well as equipment instruction that will get you up to speed. Learn how to make chicken stock, pork roast, unsoaked beans and grains, and chicken and pancetta risotto.
  • Instant Pot Recipes on Pinterest: Finally, the circus that is Pinterest can lead you to some interesting resources for using your multicooker. There are plenty of links to recipes, cheat sheets, cooking time lists, and mistakes to avoid.

While we’re at it, check out Fagor’s site for recipes to create using their (and perhaps your) multicooker.

Are you an Instant Pot or Fagor Multicooker user? Do you have a blog with recipes? Please share it here! And let us know if you have other great online resources we should know about.

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!

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If you’re starting to plan holiday dinner parties for clients, consider the Peruvian ceviche. These are distinctively different from Mexican ceviches in terms of the ingredients. Chef Emmanuel Piqueras, who runs the kitchen of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in San Diego and was born and raised in Lima, explained to me that Peru is a true melting pot of cultures–from Chinese to Japanese to Italian. And the ceviches certainly reflect that, as do many other dishes he makes, like the stir fry “Lomo Saltado,” a stir fried tenderloin with tomatoes, green onions, and red onions, melded in a sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic, reflecting Peru’s Cantonese influence.

Piqueras has spent his life in kitchens–first under the tutelage of his grandfather’s cook, Jesus, who he says taught him to touch ingredients and make rice. “She was my mentor,” he said. “I always watched her.”

His other grandfather, an ex-Marine, took Piqueras fishing as a child and by age eight he was making ceviche. A career cooking, however, was not what his successful parents had in mind for him. (His mom was the first female mayor of Lima.) Trying to live up to their high expectations, he went to university and studied marketing, but his heart wasn’t in it. At age 22, he went to work as an apprentice to chef Don Cucho La Rosa at his Lima restaurant, Pantagruel before attending Le Cordon Bleu and moving to Spain to train with Chef Juan Mari Arzak in San Sebastian. Piqueras returned to Lima but the bad economy sent him off to the U.S., where he opened Andina in Portland, Mixtura in Seattle, Limon in San Francisco, and Panca in New York City’s West Village. In that time, he also became the host and co-producer of Sabor y Fusion, a popular Peruvian cooking show.

Fascinating career trajectory, huh?

Piqueras’ ceviches are very simple to make, with basic prep of the seafood and vegetables taking up the time in the kitchen, followed by mixing the sauces and then tossing the prepped ingredients together and plating. These are wonderful dishes to enjoy year-round, and pack a visual punch that’s perfect for holiday dinner parties for clients.

Ceviche Nikkei
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1.5 pounds of ahi tuna yellow fin, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup of fresh squeeze lime juice
4 ounces of Nikkei sauce*
1 ounce of Persian cucumber sliced
1 avocado cut into squares
4 ounces shredded Daikon root for garnish
Kosher salt

Method
In a cold bowl mix the ahi tuna squares, the Persian cucumber, pinch of salt, the Nikkei sauce and the lime juice. Mix carefully.
In a white china bowl serve the ceviche mix, garnish with avocado squares and topped with the shredded daikon root.

*Nikkei sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of tamarind purée, 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, 1 clove of garlic, 1 table spoon of organic brown sugar, 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of Rocoto purée (available online).

Martini De Tigre Ceviche
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
12 ounces of California Halibut, diced
6 ounces of Portuguese octopus, cooked and diced
4 ounces of calamari rings, cooked
12 each shrimp, cooked and peeled
12 half sea scallops
1/2 cup of Ají amarillo sauce*
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons of cilantro, chiffonade
1 small chopped onion
1 habanero, seeded and chopped
Cilantro micro greens for garnish
Kosher salt

Method
In a cold bowl mix the fresh fish, the octopus, the calamari, the half scallops and the shrimp.

Add the salt to taste, the Ají Amarillo sauce, the chopped onion, habanero to taste and the cilantro. Mix well.


To finish the Ceviche add the lime juice, mix well and add the ice cubes, mix well again and serve in a cold Martini Glass, garnish with cilantro micro greens.

*Ají Amarillo Sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of ají amarillo paste with 1 stick of celery and  1 clove of garlic with 2 ounces of canola oil for salad.

Are you starting to prepare holiday dinner party menus for clients? What on your menu?

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!

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The UCSD Multiple Sclerosis Expo was held in San Diego on Sunday, October 8 on the Medical School Campus of University of California San Diego (UCSD).

The Expo was designed and offered in support of individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis, caregivers, physicians, and all interested parties. A program developed and offered by Dr. Revere Kinkel, Clinical Director and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program, offered speakers on “An Integrated Medicine Approach to Living with Multiple Sclerosis” as well as a Keynote Speaker topic, “Medical Cannabis for Chronic Neurological Diseases.” Exhibitors offered information and demonstrations of programs and equipment in support of MS patients needs.

A menu of anti-inflammatory, plant-based and MS program-specific foods was offered by Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, a duo of talented and well-known San Diego chefs, Mary Platis and Chef Mia Saling, as well as a team of talented volunteers. The chefs offered culinary coaching for MS patients and caregivers as well as demos, information sources and healthy plant-based anti-inflammatory recipes. The demos included how to peel fresh turmeric and fresh ginger with a teaspoon, how to break down a watermelon into triangles, and an olive oil tasting.

“It was a beautiful, supportive, enlivening day spent answering questions, assisting in designing menu plans for patients, coaching, answering questions and just enjoying being helpful,” Candy said. She was there with plenty of food samples to show patients and caregivers support of their eating fresh food rather than prepared HMR’s or worse yet, frozen gunk from the cases in the grocery store, and provided info and examples of how food prepared from a fresh local source can have a terrific impact on their wellbeing.

Some of the dishes offered were Watermelon Radish Tacos, Brussels Sprout Apple Raisin Slaw with Honey Mustard Dressing, Creamy Potato Leak Soup, Mediterranean Multi Bean Salad, Roasted Spiced Nuts and Lemon/Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.

Candy, Mary, and Mia not only served food, but were available to answer attendee questions about how to shop and cook for themselves in support of their–or their loved one’s–specific medical challenge.

Here are a couple of recipes from the dishes they served. Candy explained that the vinaigrette recipe accompanied a demonstration on how to use a microplane to zest citrus and how zested citrus and chopped fresh herbs can enhance dressings and sauces.

Basic Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, slat, pepper, and pinch of sugar.
  2. Slowly add the oil, whisking until emulsified, or shake the ingredients in a jar, or whirl them in a blender.

Variations

To make different types of vinaigrette:
Garlic: Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/2 clove, crushed
Balsamic: Substitute balsamic vinegar for the wine vinegar
Lemon Parmesan: Use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar and add 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Scallion: Add 3 chopped whole scallions (about 1/4 cup)
Herb: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, or tarragon
Blue Cheese: Add 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort

Roasted Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Union Square Spiced Nuts

Ingredients
2 ½ cups of assorted unsalted nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, etc.
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
½ cup dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Toss assorted nuts in a large brown to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chopped rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, dried cherries, and olive oil.
  4. Toss hot roasted nuts in the spiced olive oil mixture to coat nuts evenly, and serve warm.

Do you have an area of specialization when it comes to cooking for clients with health issues? How do you help spread useful culinary information?

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!

 P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re an APPCA member you can take advantage of our great 50 percent discount sale of selected Fagor appliances. We wrote about it here. The deadline is October 24! Hurry!
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APPCA’s MidAtlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC, held their annual fall meeting September 24 at the Olney, Maryland, home of Iva Barrerra-Oro. The nine attendees had a packed day, starting with a light breakfast and meet and greet, followed by basic old and new business issues to address.

Then came the meat of the gathering: first a Fagor Pressure Cooker Demo, conducted by April Lee. As you know from an earlier blog post, APPCA members are able to get a 50 percent discount on selected Fagor equipment until Oct. 24. So April did a demo on Fagor’s electric 8-quart multi-cooker.

She likes the model because it frees up a burner and at high pressure is more than adequate to quick cook a variety of foods. According to April, she uses the multi-cooker all the time for stews, stock, long braises, corned beef, and more. As she pointed out, using the pressure cooker allows her to start a dish and let it cook unattended while she takes care of other tasks. As part of her demo, April prepared a Thai Chicken Green Curry with Kobucha Squash and Eggplant. She shared the recipe, which follows below.

Following April’s demo, the group held a business round table that allowed the participants to discuss how they’ve faced business challenges or grown their business and get help on a major challenge they need to resolve. That was supposed to be followed by a SCORE presentation from this year’s chapter president Keith Steury that described the nonprofit agency that helps small business and explained its various offerings–from mentors to a library filled with business templates, articles and e-guides, and videos and podcasts. Due to time constraints, Keith is sending the information from the presentation to the participants to review on their own.

Following a potluck lunch, Bernard Henry gave a knife sharpening demo, during which he demonstrated using a wet stone, which he noted, is time consuming but gets the best result because it’s more gentle on the knife. He also explained how to use a manual sharpening machine and gave an overview of the best types of knives to buy.

Following Bernard’s demo, Keith did a wrap up of the day and the group came up with proposed dates and locations for a spring 2018 meeting before the event concluded at 3 p.m.

 

THAI GREEN CURRY CHICKEN w/KABOCHA SQUASH & EGGPLANT

(adapted by April Lee from Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
One (14-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cubed skin-on kabocha squash (about half of a small 4-pound squash, washed skin)
1 medium (12-ounce) eggplant, cubed (about 4 cups)
4 pounds chicken (I prefer boneless chicken thighs)
Kosher salt for seasoning chicken and veggies
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into large chunks and season with salt. Also season cubed eggplant and squash.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat (“brown” setting on Fagor multicooker) until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add curry paste and cook, stirring another 2 minutes. NOTE: You can actually just put all the ingredients in the pot and pressure cook on high for 13 minutes without browning first. Browning brings out a deeper flavor in the spices, but it’s not nec-essary.

3. Stir in coconut milk and fish sauce. Add half the squash and eggplant. Add chicken and top with the remaining squash and eggplant. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 13 minutes.

4. Release pressure, remove lid, and stir in chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Softened vegetables will thicken stew upon stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into serving bowls and garnish with a few whole Thai basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges on side.

Do you live in a part of the country that has several APPCA members? Contact us if you’d like to start up a chapter!

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!

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