Starting up your own personal chef business? Need a refresher on proven marketing strategies or business best practices? The APPCA can help! We’re holding our next Personal Chef Seminar in San Diego the weekend of May 21 and 22. Led by executive director and personal chef Candy Wallace in her home central San Diego, this intimate seminar gives you a thorough and hands-on grounding in everything you need to know to jumpstart or rev up your business. You’ll have plenty of time to dig deep, ask questions, and develop relationships with other personal chefs across the country who are on the same path. It’s an enjoyable, intensive dive into the best practices of being a personal chef. By the end of the weekend, you’ll have all the information necessary to complete your specific business plan, and have a targeted marketing plan and support network to guide you going forward.
We’ve been holding these seminars for more than 20 years, so we know they’re effective. Our proven teaching technique and gold-standard training materials have been assisting and supporting more than 11,000 working personal chefs across North America.
Here’s a comment from one of our members who attended the seminar:
“Just wanted to let you know that i attended the SAN DIEGO two day live seminar this past weekend. i cannot begin to tell you how supportive, informative, professional Candy Wallace is. And what a joyful persona! We had a wonderful two days together of going through the curriculum; questions/answers; practicalities; computer training; and, great lunches on top of all that. She really cares about what she does and wants to pass on the knowledge (good and bad) that she has gained over the years. I had been looking at different organizations for the last few years and I’m thrilled that I chose the APPCA. I feel it will make all the difference in the ultimate success of my business.”
Here’s what happens over the course of the weekend seminar:
Saturday – Full Day – Nov 14, 2015
8:30 – 9:00
9:00 – 12:30
“Business Plan & Regulations” & “Finances”
12:30 – 1:30
1:30 – 3:00
“How To Market Your New Business”
3:00 – 3:30
3:30 – 5:30
“How To Market Your New Business – Through Advertising, Press Releases, and Media Exposure”
Sunday – Nov 15, 2015
8:00 – 9:00
9:00 – 11:30
“A Day in the Life of a Personal Chef”
12:30 – 1:30
“Intro to Personal Chef Office”
plus Tips & Tricks for Search Engine Marketing with APPCA’S Webmaster
1:30 – 2:00
Q&A – Wrap Up (until ALL questions are answered.)
Continental breakfast and lunch both days also hosted by APPCA.
By the end of the seminar you’ll have answers to specific questions, such as “What level of service do I intend to offer and to whom?” How do I find clients and what do I do with them once I find them?” “How do I structure my business?” and “How do I track and store administrative and client information without being overwhelmed by paperwork and business details?”
Chef Candy Wallace will guide you through these issues to help you find your path. With years of experience and real-life anecdotes, she’ll give you critical insights that will help you plot out your future. You’ll leave with a package of invaluable materials you’ll constantly reference as you dig further into your business, plus a signed Certificate of Completion for the APPCA two-day seminar. Not only is this suitable for framing, but it also applies to specific education points toward certification through the ACF/APPCA certification partnership. In fact, this APPCA training program and materials are the source material for the written certification exam offered through the ACF/APPCA certification partnership.
This one weekend in San Diego is your fastest and most effective path to success. You’ll leave with confidence in and excitement about your future, new friends and colleagues, and a boatload of knowledge that will help you launch your new career.
To learn more and register, go to our APPCA website. For more detailed information regarding the seminar location and local hotel availability, please phone 800-644-8389 or email email@example.com
Are you ready to take the leap into your new career as a personal chef? Do have have all the tools and knowledge you need to be a success?
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.
Jim Huff is a longtime personal chef in New York City as well as a longtime APPCA member. Several years ago the International Studies Committee of the Forest Hills, New York Women’s Club invited him to give a talk on the influences of different international and ethnic cuisines on typical American comfort foods, given the availability now of diverse ingredients in local food stores. Along with his speech, he provided food for their monthly Tea.
“We had a savory table, a sweet table and a table for me to promote my business with recipes and other printed materials about my services,” Jim recalled.
It was the first “official” talk he had given that was related to his business. Over the years he’s conducted seminars and training sessions in the retail industry so he had some background in public speaking. And he’s also helped APPCA executive director Candy Wallace with APPCA seminars.
“In my presentation I challenged the group to start thinking about “melding” ingredients from other cultures into their own comfort zones. I gave several ideas on how I might accomplish the melding and peaked their interest when I told them a few examples that they would soon be tasting with their Tea,” he wrote in his blog.
“While they were enjoying their tea and my tastings I manned a separate table where I provided them with information about my business and a few recipes. It went very well and so many of the members said it was the best Tea yet. I gave out lots of counter cards, business cards and recipes and lots of advice. I spoke to several possible clients for gift certificates, dinner parties, and regular service. It was a very successful event! What a great way to connect with the community!”
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, APPCA member and personal chef Leslie Guria of Fresh from Your Kitchen Personal Chef Service in Chicago has some suggestions for getting started. Before she launched her current business she used to book public speaking engagement for her marketing clients. Here are some tips you can use:
- Book with an organization of prospects or influencers, but offer to speak on something other than being a personal chef. Your audience wants to learn something, not be sold. For example, speak to a moms group on cooking for a month, getting kids to eat, sneaking in veggies. It could be a hands on event.
- I used to introduce myself via telephone and follow up via email. That may be different now because of social media. Its easy to find organizations with calendars and meeting planner contacts online.
- Always be prepared with a flexible list of topics and something professional looking, a speaker kit that tells who you are, what you do, why you should speak to their group, etc. It should include your bio, a list of topics with a brief outline or paragraph, references, and a photo from your website. If you set up a speaker kit on your website, it’s easy to send the link. If I were booking for a client, I’d make sure they had articles or blogs post dedicated to their topics to show credibility. Provide references if possible.
- If the organization will allow it, send a media release as appropriate to announce the event. Include your web address and all contact info.
APPCA member Kelly Yorke of A House Call Chef in Evergreen, Colorado not only does public speaking, she appears on TV doing live cooking segments on network television. Kelly says she has to market constantly. “And it’s not just about being a chef and honing our craft. It’s about being sales people and marketing people. Public speaking is helpful to bring various aspects of media aware of our business,” she says.
Kelly has been a personal chef for about 12 years. Prior to that she was a corporate chef–basically she’s had a culinary career for about 30 years. She says that the public speaking has developed to market her TV cooking show series, personal chef business, and brand she’s developing in therapeutic cuisine with her sister, a physician who practices integrative medicine.
Kelly suggests starting by offering to do cooking demos in your local grocery store, which can market your talks on their website and social media. But, she says, you have to be an expert in something before you can go out and speak.
“It involves a lot of learning and experience,” she says. “If you’re a personal chef, you have to have done it and learned those hard lessons about what works for you, your customer, your local area before you can talk about it.”
Are you concerned about that first foray of talking to a group of strangers? Kelly says to relax and just do it.
“Know you’ll get better at it. You won’t be as good at it in the beginning. You have to practice and do it in smaller, local groups without getting paid to hone your craft.”
Like Leslie, she says you don’t want to overtly sell your services. People impressed with your knowledge and skills will want to work with you. So impress them with that in an area you are expert in–lifestyle changes, food for healthy living, disease-specific diets, whatever it is that you have a strong skill set.
How do you find the groups to speak to? Kelly says it’s all about networking.
“Talk to people in groups who have common expertise with what you work in. People you know in your community. People who you do sports activities with. Talk to them and find out what they do and if your interests overlap. Maybe they want to invite you to speak to their business. Be out there and talk to people. Yes, you can Google organizations, but face-to-face connections and interactions that you have are always better in gauging if people want to do business with you.”
For Jim Huff, networking was key in getting his Women’s Club gig. “A close friend, who has always promoted my business, including using my services, got me involved in donating my services for the annual silent auction,” he explains. “I donate my services for dinner for four; the winner pays for groceries. My friend introduced me explaining who I was and briefly spoke about my services, reminding them of my donations. Several of the attendees have either won the dinner service I donated or attended one as a guest! I have gained several repeat clients for dinner parties via this venue.”
Are you already doing public speaking? What are the lessons you’ve learned? How has it helped your business?
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!
Jews around the world will begin celebrating the eight days of Passover beginning Friday, April 22 at sundown. Traditionally, the first two nights are organized around the Seder, but you knew that.
And, you probably know that for these eight days Jews are forbidden from eating hametz, or leavened food. That’s why we eat matzo. It’s all wrapped up in the symbolism of the holiday, which commemorates the sudden liberation of the ancient Jews from Egyptian slavery. As children, we’re told of the story of the Jews fleeing Egypt with such haste that there was no time to bake bread that needed time to rise. So the flour and water cracker that is matzo became the staple then and ever since has been eaten every Passover. And, trust me, even though we’re talking two, maybe three ingredients (salt), every family has their favorite brand of matzo. Of course, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself.
Even with this dietary restriction, it’s amazing the dishes you can turn out. Matzo offers tremendous versatility and below I’ll share some ways you can use it for Jewish clients who want you to prepare kosher for Passover meals.
Soak sheets of it in hot water, drain the water, break it up and add some beaten eggs, then put in a frying pan with oil or butter and you have matzo brei. Now some people use a 1:1 ratio of matzo sheet to egg and enjoy something more akin to a matzo omelet. My family does a 2:1 matzo to egg ratio. I prefer this style which gives you beautiful crispy puffed out pieces of matzo that, depending on your particular style, can be served with applesauce, sugar or salt. I’m a salt girl myself but our family was split with Mom’s side also going for salt and Dad’s for the sweet stuff. (If you’re Jewish, no doubt you have the same sweet versus savory divide in your family at Hanukah over potato latkes.)
Matzo can also be the basis of a sweet, crunchy “brittle,” as in covering it with chocolate or butterscotch or caramel and nuts, baking briefly and then, when cool, breaking it into bite-size pieces. Google “matzo brittle” and you’ll find scads of recipes with any number of variations. In this case, the matzo essentially is just a delivery system for the sugar, chocolate and nuts. And not a bad one, actually.
And, for those who simply cannot live for a week without their favorite dishes, there are recipes for matzo lasagna, matzo spanikopita and matzo quesadillas. And, yes, even matzo pizza. Thanks, but I can do without for awhile. Of course, if you’re desperately seeking ideas for other things you can do with matzo, you have to watch this wonderful video.
Then there’s farfel, which is basically matzo that’s been broken up. Farfel can be used as a cereal substitute or to make sweets (it takes some imagination, but yes, there are recipes for desserts with farfel like this chocolate nut cluster), kugel (pudding) or stuffing. I know someone on Twitter who is using it to make granola with dried blueberries, apricots, sliced almond and pecans. She’s changing it up from this LA Times recipe.
And, finally, if you grind matzo you get matzo meal. And matzo meal itself is endlessly versatile. Use it as a bread crumb substitute or pretty much anything for which you’d use flour. You can buy it in a box or, if you’re feeling industrious, grind it yourself using a blender or food processor.
Of course, if matzo meal is known for anything, it’s for being the basis of matzo balls, but during the week of Passover, once the Seder is history and I have to come up with ways to live without my daily bread, I often turn to matzo meal for cooking. Look on the panel of most boxes and you’ll find a recipe for pancakes, in which beaten egg whites play a prominent role to fluff them up. I also use matzo meal to bread and saute fish fillets or skinless, boneless chicken pieces for oven frying. I mix some with grated Parmesan cheese to top a baked tomato or roasted vegetables. And, even when it’s not Passover, I like to use it as the binder for zucchini pancakes (grate the zucchini and onion, wring out to get rid of the liquid, add a beaten egg, minced garlic, salt & pepper and matzo meal to bind it together, then fry in a little olive oil in a skillet).
Are these enough ideas to help you help your clients through the week?
Do you make Passover foods for clients? What are your/their favorite recipes?
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!
Sacha Quernheim is a personal chef and APPCA member in St. Louis. She runs Red Zucchini Personal Chef Service. We featured her in a post back in October. When we learned she teaches kids’ cooking classes we asked her to write a guest post for us to talk about how she does it. Sacha has some great tips plus a couple of recipes.
I held kids’ classes for about two years. It started out with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and grew over the two years. I started them because I noticed that a lot of my daughter’s friends did not know what fresh food was. I actually had one of my daughter’s friends ask me if a red sweet pepper was real because she had never had one!
I had about eight to 12 kids in a class at a time. We had classes every Monday night at my home. The way we would do them would be that I would come up with a menu that has a theme. For example I would do movie night and do popcorn w/chili and cinnamon and a few other menu items that go with that theme. I would have stations set up before the kids arrived with all the ingredients, and equipment to make the dishes. I wrote the recipes for the classes and had them ready for the kids. They would pair up into teams to make each dish. I would then go around and just help them and give them pointers. Some of the kids were in the class for the whole two years. Those kids would tell me that they were cooking at home with and for their parents. They weren’t afraid of cooking and they were trying new things.
I would always try to make the recipes with some techniques to teach them. For example, I would have them make something with basil so I could show them how to do a chiffonade. I also made sure that it was something healthy that maybe they don’t usually eat or cook at home. We did homemade ranch dressing with a fresh salad and just things that were very healthy, made from scratch and things they could do at home as well.
I had a child with autism in my classes as well. He actually loved the class! He really enjoyed cooking and sometimes he could not do it as fast as the others but he always tried his best. Also, as the classes progressed and got more involved, the other kids were more relaxed and didn’t need as much help from me so I was able to help him with his dishes and the other kids would help him as well. It really was a benefit for all of us to have him in our class and hopefully anyone that holds cooking classes would welcome anyone with disabilities because it really does enrich your life to work with sweet kids such as the little boy I had in my class with autism. Here are a few tips for running kids cooking classes based on what I learned and experienced:
1. Be prepared, I found that having all ingredients set out at each station and all equipment makes that little ones more at ease and makes the class go smoother.
2. It does not have to be perfect. The kids will learn and get the experience just by doing it. If the dish does not come out perfect it’s not a big deal. Also, if they don’t do a certain technique correctly no big deal either. I would always just let them know we really should have done it this way, show them in the recipe and remind them of how to read the recipe, but reassure them by saying it’s okay. We we still eat it!
3. Its going to get really messy! Kids are messy. They actually enjoy getting messy. So let them. They also take part in the cleaning process as well. They just want to have fun. And if it’s fun for them they will keep coming back and won’t be afraid to cook and try new healthy foods!
Here are two recipes that the kids loved and many of them told me they make it at home all the time:
Zucchini Mint Pasta
Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish
½ lb whole wheat pasta
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 zucchini, cut into medium cubes
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh basil
½ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup feta cheese, diced
Fill pot with water and salt. Bring to the boil. Add pasta and boil pasta until done. Drain and set aside.
In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red onion and zucchini. Sauté until zucchini starts to brown. Turn off heat. Zest whole lemon into skillet. Cut lemon in half and add the juice of the whole lemon. Turn heat back on and add pasta and warm through.
While the red onion and zucchini are sauteing, chiffonade mint and basil. Turn heat off the pan once the pasta is warmed through and add mint, basil, and both cheeses. Serve immediately.
Chocolate Drizzled Pretzels
1 package large rod pretzels
1 package chocolate chips, or white or caramel
Fill a saucepan with water half full. Put chips in metal bowl and place over pot of water to create a double boiler. Heat chips over water over medium heat stirring constantly until melted.
Place pretzels on parchment paper. Dip pretzels in melted chocolate and place back on parchment paper to harden. Put sprinkles on chocolate dipped pretzels before chocolate hardens.
You can also melt white or caramel chips and drizzle over pretzels to make design.
Do you teach kids cooking classes? What have you learned about doing it well?
And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!
Now that we’re officially in spring, it’s time to start thinking about preparing foods that are a little lighter than the heavy stews and soups we’ve been enjoying in cold weather. I recently met with a young chef, Teri McIllwain, who had spent years as the nutritional chef at the La Costa Resort in San Diego County and before that as a personal chef in San Diego. Yes, she got her start with APPCA. Just a few months ago, she left La Costa to take her nutrition chops up the road to another resort, Cape Rey Carlsbad.
I love Teri’s approach to ingredients: seasonal, local, and healthy. She buys from local farms–how many resorts let their chefs do that–and she makes seasonal connections that aren’t necessarily obvious. For instance, when she sees pea tendrils at the farm, she knows that halibut won’t be far behind (yes, fish is also seasonal) and that it’s time to change the menu for the resort’s restaurant, Chandler’s.
Healthy meals are deeply important to her both at the restaurant and at home. She explained she regularly cooks up batches of whole grains and ancient grains at home to heat up for breakfast so she has energy for the day. And she shared a dish she loves to make–a variation of which will be on the menu, she added–that involves sauteing pancetta in a pan, then adding shredded yams that crispen up in a pancake. To that she adds green onions, feta, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
I spent some time with her recently and she showed me how to make a favorite dish: Farro Stir Fry. I think as chefs you’ll appreciate how versatile and easy it is to prepare. We have a recipe, of course, but this is sort of a movable feast. It’s a farro stir fry, but you could use any whole or ancient grain instead. Teri includes shrimp, but you could make it with chicken or tofu or some other protein–or no protein. Teri’s recipe calls for butternut squash, but she used delicata squash with me and plans to switch that out once summer squash is in season–perhaps roasting it ahead of time. And the greens are up to you. She used kale, but spinach, Swiss chard, or other greens–or a mix of them–will work just as well.
One last thing. Make sure you’ve prepped your ingredients before starting cooking. With the exception of the winter squash, this goes pretty quickly once you get started. But the results? Sublime!
Farro Stir Fry
From Teri McIllwain of Chandler’s Restaurant at Cape Rey Carlsbad
16 Baja prawns, peeled and deveined
1 TB olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
Salt and Pepper
In a large mixing bowl add combine shrimp, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Toss and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat add the olive oil, allow for oil to heat through and cover entire pan. Once hot add the shrimp to the pan, and evenly place shrimp to cover the pan. Cook shrimp without moving until shrimp begin to turn slightly pink and begin to tighten. Flip shrimp and continue to cook until pink and fragrant. Remove from the pan and hold to the side.
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, small diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup butternut squash, small diced
2 cups beech mushrooms
3 cups cooked pearled farro
½ – 1 cup chicken broth
1 green onion chopped
2 cups local green, chopped
2 TB gluten free soy sauce
Over Medium heat using the same pan, add olive oil and heat through. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and the squash until cooked through. Add the mushrooms, sauté until slightly cooked, 30 seconds, then add the farro. Stir-fry the farro until golden brown, then add the chicken stock until farro slightly covered. Simmer until most of the stock is absorbed, then fold in the greens and green onions.
½ Meyer lemon
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Plate stir fry and add shrimp, squeeze lemon on top, season and serve.
What new dishes are you developing for spring? How important is it for them to have interchangeable ingredients?
Among the many marketing tools you have available to incorporate into your personal chef marketing strategy is video–specifically YouTube. Food videos are huge. According to a 2014 story in BloombergBusiness, subscriptions to the 300 most-viewed food channels on YouTube more than tripled in 2013 over the previous year and views of videos on those channels jumped 59 percent, according to an analysis by Google.
And, let’s face it, the appetite, as it were for food videos, has only continued to grow. And it’s not just YouTube. If you’re on Facebook you can’t help but be blasted with food videos on your feed. As The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2015, “Indeed, if there’s a killer content category in these still early days of Facebook’s video platform, it’s food videos, say publishers and content creators.”
For APPCA member chef Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas, it took a conversation with another local personal chef who had been a graphic designer and is a wealth of information about “technie stuff” to inspire her. “Try as I might, it is so hard to keep up with all the stuff and understand it and how to use it,” Blankenship said. “But because of her suggestions, I got myself motivated to try and do some of what we discussed. She has only been in business two years so I know this is the type of thing that is helping her business. Things like creating an Instagram account (in the name of my business) and using it; updating my Facebook page as often as possible; doing a blog on my website; updating my keywords on my website; creating a Twitter account and using it; getting reviews on Yelp; doing a video, uploading it to YouTube (creating the YouTube account in the name of my PC business), and then imbedding that link in my website, etc.”
Blankenship has been doing cooking demos at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma and got a friend of hers to video of one of the demos, which is now posted on YouTube.
Now she’s working on how to do with at home that looks professional. She paid 99 cents for an app called CP Pro to help edit videos. Her goal is to create seasonal pieces on YouTube to link to her website.
There are a few ways you can go with video. One is to be in it yourself, chatting to your audience as you demonstrate how to make a dish. Here’s a great example of this from APPCA member Nicole Gaffney, who has created a fab YouTube channel called Coley Cooks:
Gaffney is engaging and enthusiastic about her subject. This video, less than a minute, is part of her quick tips series. She does others at around two minutes to demonstrate recipes.
“I guess the best piece of advice would be to just go for it!” she said. “Just make videos and put them up there and see what happens – that’s pretty much been my strategy. That, and don’t make them too long. No one has the attention span to sit through a 10-minute cooking video. And try to make them as entertaining as possible, because again, people have short attention spans.”
How long? “I think a minute or two is best,” Gaffney said.
Then there’s the question of a script and basic logistics.
“I usually just wing it but sometimes I write it out before recording,” Gaffney explained. “I record everything myself with a tripod, but it’s rather challenging, so if you can have someone else do it, I recommend going that route.”
Another technique is something that’s become pretty huge on Facebook–those videos of recipes that seem to create themselves, using display and titles to explain how the recipes come together. Tastemade, a video network, has perfected this style.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Tastemade edits videos specifically with Facebook’s unique qualities in mind. “For example,” it noted, “since Facebook videos autoplay without sound, Tastemade uses graphics to identify and walk people through recipes. They also shoot food at specific angles, taking into consideration how clips will look on mobile devices, where the majority of Facebook users peruse their news feeds. And they try and grab people’s attention early, knowing that Facebook videos play automatically.”
White on Rice Couple has also got this down beautifully–which makes sense since they’ve been known for years in the food industry for their sumptuous food photography.
So, what do you need in terms of equipment and tools? According to Entrepreneur, you need to have good lighting, a good camera, and good sound. They suggest spending some money on a Lavalier microphone, for instance. Then run the recording through a good noise-removal filter. A softbox lighting kit–or even some desk lamps–placed strategically will create depth and visual interest. Your camera can be whatever you have on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, or, if you’re really serious, a digital single-lens reflex camera, like a Nikon or Canon.
I would add one more thing for those videos in which you’re not in the frames or narrating–good background music that enhances but doesn’t distract from the atmosphere you’re trying to create.
Entrepreneur also suggests editing with jump cuts, which is a technique that pulls together dozens or more little clips. This is a perfect style for food videos focused on recipes, since there are natural breaks between steps.
Speaking of which, you may need some video software to help you through the editing process. Instagram, Vine, and Twitter have apps that let you edit and upload footage. And you can, of course, upload video to Facebook. But if you want to do something more sophisticated, Social Media Examiner suggests tools like Adobe After Effects, an industry-leading tool that helps you create motion graphics that costs around $30 per month or free tools like PowToonand Camtasia to create video footage. You should also check out this article on Filmora for their top 10 on video editors.
Are you creating YouTube videos to promote your business? If so, please share the links to your videos and tell us how you’ve been creating them.
For me, corned beef is a special treat since I don’t eat much meat anymore. Year-round it’s the ultimate Jewish sandwich, sliced on corn rye and slathered with mustard, with some cole slaw on the side. But once a year corned beef, with cabbage and boiled potatoes, belongs to the Irish and is shared with all of us.
So, how did corned beef become corned beef? I went over to one of San Diego’s most prominent butcher shops, Iowa Meat Farms to speak with master meat cutter Richie Vought.
When Richie Vought was growing up, he used to visit his dad’s workplace, Stan Glenn’s meat palace in Chula Vista, a town near the Mexican border in San Diego County. Two memories stand out: the hot dogs that Glenn used to give away to kids and the line of wooden barrels in a corner of the walk-in cooler in the back, all holding large pieces of meat brining into corned beef.
Decades later, Vought, a second generation meat cutter (Dad was a meat cutter and Mom was a “butcherette” during World War II), works under Glenn at Iowa Meat Farms. And, those barrels? They’re no longer wood, instead your basic 32-gallon plastic trash cans, but inside is the beginning of a most delicious corned beef based on years of playing around with the brining recipe to replicate those flavors Vought remembers. Iowa Meat Farms and its sister shop, Siesel’s Meats, sell between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds of corned beef a year, mostly around St. Patrick’s Day but they do carry it year round.
Corned beef got its name because the beef was preserved with coarse grains–or corns–of salt, going back hundreds of years before refrigeration. The technique could also be applied to pork. Brining has since replaced salt cures, but the name remains. Now, is it truly an Irish dish when paired with cabbage? The website Irish Cultures and Customs provides research that they say shows that it’s about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs; beef was just too pricey and pork was the preferred meat, particularly bacon joints. But Irish immigrants to the U.S. found that beef was cheaper than in the mother country. So the newcomers treated the beef in the same way they did the bacon joints, soaking off the excess salt, and then boiling or braising the meat with cabbage.
At Iowa Meat Farms, the process begins with trimming the large brisket of excess fat and separating the two overlapping muscles–the round and the deckle, or point.
Then they prepare a salt brine that includes sodium nitrate, phosphate, pink salt, sugar, pickling spices, garlic, and water. In go the pieces of meat with the brine into those containers to brine for six weeks. This breaks down the muscle and lets the meat absorb the brine’s flavors.
Once the meat comes out of the brine it’s ready for cooking. Here’s what you do:
- Place the meat in a pot, with just enough water to cover. If you want, you can add a few fresh cloves a garlic, but that’s really it.
- Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender. Tender = inserting a fork into the meat and trying to lift it out. If the meat comes up with the fork, it’s still not ready. If it falls off immediately, it’s done. Vought tells me that it should take about three hours for a two-and-a-half-pound point and two hours for a five-pound piece of round.
- If you like to boil vegetables to accompany the corned beef, Iowa Meat Farms suggests that you cook the meat first and keep it warm in a low oven, covered with foil. Then layer the vegetables–potatoes, carrots, cabbage–into a pot with the potatoes on the bottom, covered by the carrots and then the cabbage. Then strain enough of the cooking liquid into the pot to cover the carrots. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook until tender–perhaps 30 to 45 minutes.
Alternatively, you can cook the meat in an oven, placing it in a covered roaster and adding enough boiling water to nearly cover the meat. Tightly cover the roaster and place in a 350-degree oven. It should take roughly the same amount of time to cook. This is a good method if you have a particularly large piece of meat.
Now for serving. The smooth round makes for wonderful sandwiches. I pulled out a couple of slices of rye bread, slathered them with deli mustard mixed with horseradish and had a delicious lunch. At the shop, the folks used the point for their sandwiches and they looked equally good.
Vought told me his favorite way of preparing corned beef for his family is to blend together French’s yellow mustard, a couple of teaspoons of horseradish, and honey. Then he smears it over the top of the cooked corned beef and runs it under the broiler for about three minutes. You pull it out just as it starts to bubble and glaze. Let it cool, then slice and serve with cabbage, boiled potatoes, and butter.
Are you preparing corned beef for clients on St. Patrick’s Day? What’s your favorite way to serve it?
Perhaps your personal chef business includes catering. And perhaps that includes cocktail parties or dinner parties in which cocktails are involved. If you have a garden or go to a farmers market for seasonal produce you can momentarily put down the plate and pick up a glass–martini, highball, margarita, whatever–and use some of that bounty to create locavore cocktails.
Yes, the hippest food-obsessed among us are adding “garden to glass” to their repertoire and looking at their gardens in a whole new light. And you don’t just need obvious herbs like mojito mint to get the job done. Nor is citrus your only choice. Start thinking rosemary and celery. Lemongrass and red bell peppers. Violet flowers and pears. Jalapeños and beets. If you can grow and eat it, chances are it’ll pair with at least one type of spirit.
I spoke to two of San Diego’s top mixologists to learn about how they go about garden-to-glass cocktail development.
Frankie Thaheld is Snake Oil Cocktail Company’s mixologist and has worked as a mixologist at George’s California Modern in La Jolla. His experience at George’s, with its emphasis on local, seasonal produce, has focused his perspective. “It’s more culinary based. I think from the food side and go backwards from food flavors,” he explains. “What spirit would go with strawberries or lemon verbena, for instance?”
At bar Polite Provisions, bartender Erick Castro likens produce/spirits pairings to food pairings—“but it’s more complex.” He’ll taste aged rum and seek out flavor notes like molasses, caramel, and brown sugar. With gin, he finds floral and herbaceous flavors and aromas. In fact, he says, “Taste everything—gum, iced tea, chocolate. Analyze everything you put in your mouth to train your taste buds. Even Coke. Think about it. You get notes of caramel, baking spice, and coffee.
“You want to break down the spirits to their flavor essence, then match them with herbs, spices, fruit, or vegetables,” he advises.
So, while he finds mint, basil, and summer fruit a natural with gin, he might also shake up conventions by pairing it with acidic lime juice. The bar’s Ocean Side cocktail shakes up London Dry Gin with fresh lime juice, organic mint, sea salt, and celery bitters. “It hits every part of your taste buds,” Castro asserts.
Thaheld, too, like to challenge taste buds. He’ll add grapefruit juice to a margarita to give it a bitter backbone, for instance. But, he reminds us, it’s all about balance. “You want to balance the mixture before adding the liquor.”
Castro encourages home and chef mixologists to think broadly to create unusual but satisfying drinks. Would you automatically pair Scotch with pineapple? Probably not. But, says Castro, “While it seems weird, it makes sense. We don’t think of Scotch as tropical or summery, but caramelize pineapple and it takes on the same smoky notes Scotch has. So it does make sense.”
There are at least two approaches you can take with your garden-to-glass cocktails. One is straightforward, combining various fresh ingredients to create a drink. The other is to infuse spirits with different garden-fresh flavors and blend with soda or continue on to mix a cocktail. Either way, you want to have a garden filled with potential cocktail candidates.
Castro is hoping to develop a garden for Polite Provisions and his ideal garden would include basil, mint, rosemary, sage, lemon verbena, lavender, and chiles.
Thaheld would add sage to the list. “It’s great for winter,” he says. And in would go bell peppers, onion, corn (muddling brings out the starch for an intriguing mouth feel), tomatoes, asparagus, celery, rhubarb, nopal verde.
“The vegetables can be pureed to add unique flavors,” he says. In fact, consider creating fruit and vegetable purees to add to cocktails–try persimmon, butternut squash, or pears, for example. Or add fresh fruits and vegetables like cucumbers or blackberries as they come into season.
Since alcohol is a natural flavor extractor, infusions can also be an easy way to develop new flavor profiles for the selected spirit. Thaheld suggests some of these candidates for infusing specific spirits:
- Gin: cinnamon, prune, lemongrass, rosemary, saffron, sage, cilantro
- Vodka: vanilla, wheatgrass, star anise, rosemary, jasmine, fennel
- Bourbon: oregano, clove, red bell pepper, chicory
- Rum: cayenne, violet flower, coffee
“You have to experiment with proportions and time,” he adds. “Mint will give off its essence more quickly while rosemary takes more time.”
“The American palate is changing,” he notes. “We’re shifting from crazy sweet cocktails to cocktails that have a wider range and include bitterness and sourness.”
And all those flavors can be found in your garden.
The Bad Lieutenant
From Polite Provisions
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounces Velvet Falernum*
1/2 ounces simple syrup
12 mint leaves
Pinch of fresh grated cinnamon
Combine ingredients. Muddle, shake, and strain on the rocks.
Garnish with a sprig of mint
*Note Velvet Falernum is a Barbadian liqueur typically used to flavor Caribbean cocktails. It’s made from an infusion of spices and lime juice into sugar cane syrup and rum and can be purchased at most specialty liquor stores.
From Frankie Thaheld of Snake Oil Cocktail Company
Makes 1 cocktail
1.25 ounces Rosemary-Infused Tanqueray 10 Gin*
.75 ounce Campari
1 ounce Carpano Antica Vermouth
1/4 segment Moro blood orange
Squeeze orange into mixing glass. Spear and set in chilled cocktail glass. Add liquors and shake with ice. Strain into glass.
*Rosemary-Infused Tanqueray 10 Gin
3, 10- to 12-inch fresh rosemary stalks
1, 750 ml bottle of Tanqueray 10 Gin
Knead rosemary with hands and place into the 750ml bottle of Tanqueray 10 gin. Recap bottle and spin a few times. Infuse for four days at room temperature. Strain out rosemary.
Are you catering events for which you are responsible for cocktails? What are your favorite drinks to prepare?
Growing up, I never thought much about root vegetables. All I knew was that I loved potatoes, carrots, and radishes. And I hated beets. Turnips were added to chicken soup. Parsnips went into tsimmis. It never went much beyond that.
Of course, today our root vegetable vocabulary is much expanded—as are the ways they’re prepared. We roast them, feature them in soups, shave them for salads, slice and fry them into chips, and even incorporate them into sweet dishes.
And yet, there’s a whole substrata of root vegetables that don’t fit so easily into our new food porn culture. If produce were entered in a beauty contest, these roots with their strange protrusions and sometimes hairy exteriors would be dismissed with the Miss Congeniality award. If they were there at all.
Celeriac (or celery root). Rutabagas. Salsify. Sunchokes. These gnarly underground vegetables get little respect among the general public. Yet, passionate home cooks and chefs value their versatility and enormous flavor. And, we shouldn’t forget that they are storehouses of all sorts of vitamins and minerals, have lots of fiber, and are low in fat.
Plus, they tend to be pretty inexpensive.
Awhile back I talked to some San Diego chefs about these vegetables. Matt Gordon, chef/owner of two San Diego restaurants counts these ugly ducklings among his favorite ingredients to cook with and eat.
“I especially love celery root, parsnips, and sunchokes,” he said. “One thing they all have in common is a fairly high sugar content, making them easy to caramelize and make delicious. I like to simply slow roast them with garlic, olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper. They’re also great pureed into a sauce or fried into chips.”
Amy DiBiase of Tidal grew up with root vegetables in Maine and recalls her grandmother’s weekly New England boiled dinner that featured all sorts of root vegetables infused with the flavors of the ham they were cooked with.
“She also got me hooked on boiled parsnips and carrots mashed together with butter and salt,” says DiBiase, who attributes the neglect of strange looking root vegetables to “a fear of the unknown.”
Long, skinny salsify may be one of the more mysterious and most underutilized of the weird sisters of the underground. But chef Karrie Hills finds that it’s not only a great binding agent—thanks to all the starch it contains—but has a very distinctive, earthy flavor, not unlike a mushroom.
“It pairs well with something sweet like corn, and it holds up well to different poultry, smoked meats, and fish,” she pointed out. “When cooked it’s gelatinous—kind of like poi—and we’re not used to that in our cuisine, so pair it with something familiar to take on that flavor.”
Hills relishes turning vegetables like jicama into a confit. Or cooking them down in leftover bacon drippings and jamming them to pair with roasted meat. Or sautéing them with butter and herbs for a side dish.
Mashing these homely vegetables is a tasty way to diversify from plain mashed potatoes. Celery root—which has that distinctive acidic, tangy celery flavor—is a particularly good candidate for that. Gordon will boil chunks of it in milk after peeling and cubing it. When soft, he purees it with some of the milk to reduce the amount of added cream and butter mashed potatoes usually require. Then he adds that to his boiled potatoes to mash together.
“Look for a firm, not too dark large bulb,” he suggested. “They’re usually pretty dirty and hairy but you can tell how fresh they are by their firmness and if the skin’s a nice light beige.”
Another preparation hint comes from DiBiase, who was schooled to clean the outer ring of all root vegetables. Cut one in half and you’ll see that quarter-inch ring. Trim it away using a sharp knife.
“These root vegetables are one of the best things that happened to us in the culinary world,” raved Hills. “Plus, they have a great shelf life. They’re a great pantry item for the home because they hold up for some time.”
10 Things to Do with Weird Root Vegetables
- Boil them and add them to mashed potatoes.
- Peel, cut up, and roast in a pan with beef, lamb, or poultry so they absorb juices.
- Julienne celery root and fennel with apple and a little lemon juice and fresh herbs for a slaw.
- Thinly slice and fry sunchokes into chips.
- Boil with other flavorful vegetables like onions or leeks, garlic, and herbs, and puree into a soup or add to a stew.
- Reduce the amount of water when boiling and purée into a sauce.
- Grate and mix with onion, bread crumbs, egg, and garlic to make pancakes.
- Chop or grate peeled salsify and add to vegetables to enhance pureed soups.
- Pair rutabagas with fruit for in baking.
- Char root vegetables to bring out sweetness and bitterness and pair with other charred vegetables like corn in a dish.
Here are recipes from each of the chefs:
Celery Root Mashed Potatoes
from Matt Gordon
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cups cream mixture (see recipe below)
2 cups celery root puree (see recipe below)
- Steam potatoes until tender.
- Using potato ricer, rice potatoes in to large mixing bowl.
- Add salt, pepper, cream mixture, and celery root, and mix gently with wooden spoon until thoroughly combined but still fluffy.
- Taste and adjust butter or seasonings as necessary
Recipe for cream mixture
1 ½ cups cream
½ pound butter
- Place milk and butter in sauce pan on stove at low heat until the milk just simmers.
- Remove from heat and use as needed for mashed potato recipe.
Recipe for celery root puree
1 whole celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Enough milk to just cover the celery root in a sauce pan
- Boil until the celery root is tender.
- Puree with hand blender to a smooth paste.
- Cool and cover until ready to add to mashed potatoes.
Grilled Salsify Blue Corn Cakes with Truffle Cream
From Karrie Hills
Yield: 2 dozen dollar-size pancakes
For Grilled Vegetables
3 salsify, peeled
1 ear of corn, shucked
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For Truffle Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup blue corn meal
Pinch of salt
- Toss together salsify, corn, olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill till tender.
- Cut corn off the ear. Grate salsify. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer with a whip attachment, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then add truffle oil and salt. Mix lightly. Chill.
- To make pancakes, whisk milk and eggs with melted butter. Add flour, corn meal, and salt to combine. Fold in roasted corn and salsify.
- Add pancake batter to a pastry bag or large plastic storage bag, cutting half inch off the bottom.
- Heat a nonstick sauté pan on medium heat. Spray with non-stick spay. Squeeze small amounts of batter onto the hot pan. Flip after one minute, looking for a light color.
- Assemble corn cakes on a tray pass as appetizers, and garnish with the truffle cream.
Rutabaga and Ginger Soup with Brown Butter Froth
From Amy DiBiase
Yield: 3 quarts or 12 servings
3 large rutabaga
4 leeks, trimmed
4 ounces fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
4 ounces peeled garlic cloves
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ dozen sprigs of fresh thyme
Brown butter froth*
- Using a knife slice of each end and then trim the outer edge or ring of the rutabagas. Then slice into ¼-inch pieces.
- Trim off the green stalk and root end of the leeks. Slice thinly lengthwise and place in a bowl of water to let dirt fall to the bottom.
- Add canola oil to a heavy-bottom pot and heat on medium high. Add leeks and half the salt to sweat until soft. As they begin cooking, add the ginger and garlic. Then add the rutabaga pieces, thyme, and the rest of the salt.
- Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about half an hour.
- Turn off the heat and scoop the vegetables and broth into a blender a little at a time and puree. You can control the soup’s thickness by how much of the broth you add to the vegetables.
- Strain the pureed soup to remove excess fibers. Adjust seasonings. Top with Brown butter froth.
*Brown Butter Froth
½ pound butter
¾ cup hot water from tap
Fresh lemon juice
- Cut butter in half. Add one half to a saucepan with a handle and brown it until the melted butter is very dark and has a very nutty fragrance. While it’s browning cut the remaining butter into pieces.
- Very carefully remove the saucepan from the heat. Tip it away from you while adding the hot water. The butter/water mixture will spray so be careful.
- Put the saucepan back on the heat and add the rest of the butter. Use a stick blender to emulsify the mixture till frothy. Season with salt and squeeze in just a little lemon.
- Top the soup with spoonfuls of the froth. You can save the remaining mixture and add to soups or stews or sautéed vegetables.
Have favorite weird root veggies of your own? How do you prepare them?
Close to two years ago, Quinn Wilson, a San Diego chef I’ve known for several years, approached me with two concepts she was developing into a business. One was a master tonic that features freshly grated horseradish, fresh chiles, onions, ginger root, and garlic cloves. It’s meant to alleviate colds and viruses, along with assisting with a number of other health-related issues. Whether it does or not, it’s got an interesting flavor and the solids are wonderful for cooking. So, I featured it here, along with the recipe.
The other concept Quinn was working on was a bone broth that she turned into a business called Balanced and Bright. Now bone broth has become quite the trend. The claims are that this ancient remedy can assist in the repair of joints and bone tissue; improve hair, skin, and nails, thanks to the collagen released from the bones; alleviate acne, promote fertility, help in post-surgical healing, and provide symptom relief for autoimmune disorders. In fact, there is a long list of ways it’s suggested bone broth can be healthful.
I have no opinion on it one way or the other since I have no medical training. And, Quinn acknowledges that there is still no scientific evidence for how bone broth works or confirmation of its long-term benefits. What I do know is that it tastes delicious. And since I grew up with chicken soup–the Jewish penicillin–who am I to doubt the beneficial effects of broth, especially if it’s made with care and good ingredients.
Well, Quinn came at this at exactly the right time. An avid social media participant, publisher Sonoma Press discovered her on Instagram. They were looking for someone to write a book on bone broth and picked her. Quinn had five weeks to produce a manuscript and recipes. She met her deadline and the book, Bone Broth: 101 Essential Recipes & Age-Old Remedies to Heal Your Body, has just been published.
In the book Quinn has provided a thorough explanation of bone broth and its history. She also explains how to select bones–whether those of large animals or poultry, rabbits or game birds or fish. She addresses the various ingredients you’ll need to make her basic broths, cooking methods (pressure cooker, stove top, or slow cooker), and how to store it. She even explains techniques for effective clean up since it can be a messy process, complicated by fat.
The basic broths range from beef, chicken, duck, and lamb to pork, rabbit, wild game, fish, and shellfish. Her Master Tonic is included, as is a joint soother, pregnancy broth, cleaning broth, stomach soother, and thyroid support broth, among others.
I visited Quinn at her home and she first prepared a drink I had my doubts about, called The Cinnamon Roll. It’s made with a neutral broth–one that omits vegetables in favor of ginger and fennel–as well as cinnamon, coconut sugar (or honey or stevia), and pastured butter. A sweet broth? It didn’t sound promising. But I was won over. It was lovely, with a rich subtle flavor that was comforting.
In fact, Quinn adds neutral broth to all sorts of unusual applications–smoothies, hot chocolate, cocktails, pancakes, brownies, and other desserts. The savory recipes range from French Onion Soup, Ratatouille, Chicken or Rabbit Mole, and Poached Scallops to Braised Lamb, Pork Agrodolce, Posole, and this marvelous Autumnal Pork Stew below.
Quinn created the stew recipe on a whim, adding some very strange ingredients, like orange marmalade, brandy, and smoked sausage. But it works. She made it for me and I loved both the textures and the sweet slightly smoky flavor, made complex with citrus and spices. It’s rich, aromatic, and satisfying–especially on a chilly day or night.
Autumnal Pork Stew
From Bone Broth: 101 Essential Recipes & Age-Old Remedies to Heal Your Body by Quinn Farrar Wilson
Prep: 15 minutes
4 hours on high
8 hours on low
This autumnal stew gets better the longer it sits. For an extra flavorful stew, prepare it a day before serving.
1 teaspoon tallow (or some other cooking fat, coconut oil, etc.)
1 (1 ½ pound) pork shoulder, cubed
½ cup finely chopped smoked pork sausage
4 cups diced butternut squash
1 large white onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
½ fuji apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
3 ½ cups bone broth of your choice
¼ cup brandy
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
3 sage sprigs, tied into a bundle
1 ½ teaspoons Celtic sea salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1. In a large pan, heat the tallow over med high heat. Add the pork cubes and cook until well browned, stirring frequently. Transfer to a slow cooker using a slotted spoon.
2. Add the sausage to the pan and brown well. Transfer to the slow cooker.
3. Add the butternut squash, onion, fennel, apple, bone broth, brandy, orange marmalade and sage to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
4. Stir in the salt and apple cider vinegar. Serve.
Are clients requesting bone broth? What are your thoughts on its health properties?