On Oct. 19 one of the most prestigious moments of my culinary career took place when–with the smack of a spatula–I was inducted into the Disciples of Escoffier. At a magnificent gala at the InterContinental The Clement on Cannery Row in Monterey (which I actually also co-emceed along with Disciple and Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Mary Chamberlin), nine of us were brought into this premier international gastronomic society, established in France, which honors the memory of Auguste Escoffier, the father of modern French cuisine. The society’s mission is to promote and preserve his work, and promote culinary education and apprenticeships encouraging young people to discover the desire and motivation to work as professional chefs.
Proceeds from the gala, hosted by The American Institute of Wine & Food and Les Dames d’Escoffier Monterey chapter are slated to provide a full culinary scholarship to a Northern California student to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. My friend Michel Escoffier, Auguste Escoffier’s great-grandson, oversaw the induction.
And, in fact, I received my Red Disciples of Escoffier chef sash from him, as Mary looked on.
So, what kind of company was I in? The other inductees included:
- Executive chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se
- Chief Pierre Bain of Fandangos
- Executive Chef Nathan Beriau of the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco
- Wine Producer and Owner Bill Stahl of River Ranch Vineyards
- Chef Tene Shake, President of the American Culinary Federation
- Executive Chef Robert Mancuso of the Bohemian Club
- Chef John Pisto, Restaurateur and host of “Monterey’s Cookin’ Pisto Style”
- Executive Chef Ben Diaz of Rosa Mexicano
Additionally, Chef Cal Stamenov of Bernardus Lodge & Spa, and a Disciple of Escoffier, was honored. And, Mary presented a donation to chef Paul Lee from the Drummond Culinary Academy at Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, a Salinas nonprofit that works with at-risk youth, teaching them the skills to work in our local culinary and hospitality industry. Dennis and I donated a full live seminar experience, a year’s personal mentoring, and a full year membership in APPCA to a graduate of the Drummond Culinary Academy.
As wonderful as the event was–and it was special–my take aways from being inducted into such a high-profile and exclusive culinary society are two-fold. Personally, it was a humbling, enlivening, and deeply meaningful experience. Only the cream of the culinary industry is ever considered or invited to participate in this society that protects and practices the legacy, philosophy, and culinary skill of Auguste Escoffier. I simply didn’t see it coming, especially since traditionally they haven’t inducted women. So, it was enlivening from the standpoint that I am one of the few women–and the only one in this group–inducted into the society to date. And, of course, it was meaningful as a public recognition of a lifelong career that has focused on establishing a different kind of career for chefs.
That, in turn, makes this an honor that reflects on the worthiness of our organization and the success of our members. It’s a clear validation of the personal chef career path. It’s validation that the level of skill and commitment to professionalism held by personal and private chefs is as real as it is for executive chefs in the commercial kitchens of the finest restaurants and hotels and private clubs throughout the world. The Disciples of Escoffier recognize this–and recognize the value of our organization as a means of building, promoting, and protecting this career path. In being honored with this induction into this great society, APPCA and its members have also been honored.
Now I can’t duplicate the breathtaking champagne toast by saber from that evening, but I raise a virtual glass to all of you, our APPCA members, who have also dedicated your lives to a career that seeks to bring joy, health, and well-being to clients through the food we create for them. Whenever you have a moment when life is just too crazy or you’re feeling frustrated–and we all have them–you can fend off that negativity by telling yourself that you are doing good work and that your path has been acknowledged by the best in your industry as being special and worthy of the highest honor.
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.
I swear I’m seeing winter squash everywhere these days–not just at the market, but even at random places like Target. Everyone’s selling them–and not just the traditional Charlie Brown Halloween pumpkin but all sorts of interesting varieties like big Fairytale and Cinderellas, Sweet Dumplings and Tiger Stripes, L’il Tigers, and Blues. I’m sure you have your favorites in your region, but if there’s an opportunity to experiment with varieties you haven’t tried, give it a go.
Winter squash are a marvelously deceptive vegetable. They look so hard and tough and impenetrable, but cook up to some of the sweetest and tenderest of edibles. I love the variety of clothing they wear–soothing cream, sexy blue, bright orange, rocking stripes, dappled sprays of color. But it’s only skin deep. Peel any of these hard squash and you get a glorious orange flesh that surrounds what may be the best part of all–the seeds.
The flavors of a freshly cooked pumpkin are so beyond what you get with the canned version that it’s worth the effort to peel and clean them for everything from pies and muffins to stews and soups. I love roasting pumpkin with other vegetables for a thick mellow soup. And, I enjoy chopping them up and adding the pieces to sweet and savory ingredients for a one-dish baked meal.
No doubt most of you use a traditional casserole dish or perhaps a high-quality enameled cast-iron pot to make a large one-dish meal. I love those, too, but I’m going to invite you to try something very traditional but perhaps new to you: cooking in clay pots.
If you are a cookbook junkie you’re probably familiar with longtime food writer and teacher Paula Wolfert. Her expertise is Mediterranean cooking and she wrote a book a few years ago called Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking that won over many fans, including our friend Caron Golden, who has since been collecting clay pots of all kinds and experimenting.
Winter squash is the perfect ingredient for this style of cooking. All you need is a stoneware pot. Caron used this gorgeous silky brown 2 1/2-quart casserole made by San Diego potter Roberta Klein to make the dish below. Don’t worry about it cracking. As long as you don’t preheat the oven, but instead let the pot warm with the rising temperature, it should be fine. And, of course, make sure that the glaze is lead free.
Caron came up with a recipe for a one-pot winter squash dish based on ingredients she happened to have in her kitchen, other than the squash. You can find frozen giant Cuzco corn at Latin markets. Native to Peru, they’re filled with protein, and have a dense chewy texture, making them perfect for stews and soups because they keep their shape. But if you can’t find them, just add something else like garbanzo beans. Same with the sausage. In her one-dish meal she added a couple of spicy and sweet apricot chipotle pork sausages she bought from a local rancher. While its juices and meat added a lot of flavor and some nice heat, this dish would work just as well without meat for a vegetarian meal–or with other protein selections.
Serve this with a hearty grain like quinoa, wild rice, barley, farro, or kasha (buckwheat groats).
Clay Pot Winter Squash
2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces (save the squash seeds)
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups giant Cuzco corn (you can find frozen in Hispanic markets)
1 cup golden raisins or other dried fruit
2 large fresh sausages, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup olive oil or 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup pumpkin or butternut squash oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar, plus more to sprinkle on toward end of baking
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
1. Combine all the ingredients except the squash seeds and extra brown sugar and mix well. Add to 2 1/2-quart or larger stoneware pot and cover. Place the pot in the middle rack of the oven. Heat oven to 375. Bake.
2. Put squash seeds in a colander and rinse, separating the seeds from one another and the squash fibers. Let dry. Then toss with olive oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet or aluminum foil. Toast in the oven with the squash for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. Check the squash at about an hour and 15 minutes. If the squash isn’t completely cooked through, cover and cook another 15 minutes. When it is cooked through, sprinkle the mixture with brown sugar and let cook another 15 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and serve, sprinkling with toasted squash seeds to garnish.
Do you cook with clay pots? What’s your favorite, most unusual recipe?
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.
One of San Diego’s most talented chefs is Amy DiBiase, now executive chef at Tidal, the beautifully renovated restaurant overlooking the San Diego Bay at Paradise Point Resort & Spa. Our friend and food writer Caron Golden often spends time in the kitchen with San Diego chefs and she recently had kitchen time with Amy, who shared with her the technique for making ricotta gnudi. While this is a year-round dish, somehow it seems especially delightful as the weather takes on a chill, so we thought we’d share this recipe with you.
The gnudi are easy to make and pair with a variety of sauces. Here we’ll show you Amy’s pairing with lamb, eggplant, and zucchini, but really, you can top it with any sauce you’d use with pasta. We love that this dish is also low carb, meaning this could be a special treat for clients dealing with type 2 diabetes. Amy uses durum wheat flour to coat the gnudi, but if you have clients with gluten issues, you could probably substitute wheat flour with a gf flour without it suffering.
So, here are the basics. While gnudi feels like pasta it’s really is cheese coated in flour. Essentially you beat together the cheeses with a sparkle of fresh lime zest and salt and pepper, pipe it into a bed of ground durum and cover it up with more of the durum.
Let it rest, refrigerated, for 36 hours so it forms a shell that encases the cheeses. Rub off the excess durum and pop the gnudi into boiling water for about four minutes.
Then serve with your sauce. Bite into a gnudi and what bursts from the durum skin is a warm, creamy texture with a mild flavor from the trio of cheeses. You could easily add fresh herbs like chives, thyme, or a touch of rosemary or spices like nutmeg, cardamom, or sumac to create your own flavor profile.
On this day, Amy showed Caron her current menu sauce–roasted eggplant puree with zucchini, tomato, braised lamb, and black olives. While making the sauce, she warmed the already-prepared puree in a shallow bowl in the oven.
In a skillet, she sauteed the zucchini in olive oil. Then she added the shredded braised lamb shank and a hank of butter. Once the liquid had reduced and the gnudi were cooked she dropped them into the pan briefly with the halved tomatoes. Out came the bowl with the eggplant puree and over that went the gnudi with the sauce. Then she added fresh basil before garnishing the dish with the Moroccan black olive puree.
Ricotta gnudi is also the perfect dinner party dish. Make it ahead of time up to the point where you boil the gnudi. Then serve family style on a platter with a salad and perhaps big bowl of steamed clams or mussels, and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.
From Amy DiBiase
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces marscapone
4 ounces grated parmesan
zest of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag fine ground durum wheat flour (you can substitute all purpose flour)
*Note, the proportions of the cheeses are 1 part ricotta to 1/2 part marscapone to 1/4 part parmesan cheese. Amy says the easiest way to measure is to buy a 1 pound container of ricotta. Empty that into a bowl, then use the container to measure the marscapone and parmesan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients but the durum wheat flour until they just come together.
Spread a one-inch deep layer of flour into a casserole dish. Using a piping bag, pipe the gnudi straight onto the flour in the shape of a large Hershey’s kiss (don’t swirl like a Dairy Queen ice cream cone). You’ll probably need to use a clean finger to push the dough off the tip of the bag with each gnudi. Keep them about an inch apart.
When you’ve filled the dish with the gnudi, cover them completely with more durum flour. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 36 hours.
When you’re ready to serve them, put a pot of water on to boil. Add salt to the water. Uncover the gnudi and remove them from the durum flour. Gently brush off excess flour. When the water comes to the boil, add the gnudi. They should boil no longer than 4 minutes (cook too long and they’ll fall apart). The key is that they’ll begin to rise to the top of the pot.
Drain the gnudi and add to your sauce. Garnish and serve.
What’s your favorite fall dish to prepare for 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 don’t forget to tune in to Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act this Wednesday and Oct. 22 from 7:30 to 8 a.m. EST/PST. I’ll be on the show to talk about women in the culinary industry and how they can achieve an industry-recognized culinary certificate online through our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy.
Well, this is a treat! I’ll be appearing on Lifetime TV’s award-winning show The Balancing Act on Oct. 15 and 22. The segment I’m on will be geared toward educating women on the culinary industry and pastry arts, as well as inform them as to how they can achieve an industry-recognized culinary certificate online from APPCA’s partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy. In fact, I’ll be joined by an Escoffier graduate and new APPCA member Christa Ruvolo. She’ll discuss her journey through the program and how it gave her the opportunity to manage the dining facility at a large Marriott property in Orlando. And, she’ll prepare a couple of dishes on the show.
So, how did this come about? Well, as a member of the August Escoffier Schools’ International Advisory Committee, I’ve been a proponent of online education for years. I truly believe that affordable education should be available to all who are interested and committed to learning. I support the efforts of and programs developed by the Auguste Escoffier Schools to deliver realistic, affordable culinary training. When students successfully complete the program, they receive an industry-accepted professional certificate that enables them to pursue a career in the culinary industry.
This meshes perfectly with The Balancing Act, which is geared toward bringing busy, on-the-go women positive solutions and cutting-edge ideas to help balance their busy lives. On the show, host Julie Moran interviewed Christa and me about how woman who are seeking realistic, attainable careers that will afford them the opportunity to support themselves and their families–as well as fulfill their spiritual and emotional goals–can go into the culinary industry. Let’s face it, traditional culinary education can be both time consuming and expensive. We explain how the Escoffier online training is not just affordable, but allows students to complete the program on their personal time schedule so that they can move forward in months, not years.
Christa personifies this track. This is a second career for her. She’ll tell you herself how well the online training program worked for her–and she’s going to prepare some delicious dishes that showcase her culinary skill set. And we both were charmed by the very gracious Julie Moran, who was warm and encouraging on set. She and the production staff and crew made both Christa and me very comfortable and ready to share our information and anecdotes. It was wonderful to see Christa, who was a bit nervous about the interview, light up once the cameras were on. Now I understand the term ‘broadcast charisma!’ Christa has it and I got to watch her star shine!
Be sure to watch–and pass it on to your friends. The show airs from 7:30 to 8 a.m. on Oct. 15 and 22 on Lifetime.
Look up professional organizations in the Encyclopedia of Associations and you’ll have to go through quite a long list–some 23,000 national and international organizations. If you have a job or a business, it’s likely there’s a professional society or trade association you can join.
But why? You pay an annual membership fee and what does it give you? Most experts agree on six basics:
- Industry information and professional development opportunities
- Networking opportunities
- Professional credibility
- Job listings
- Industry best practices
Not all organizations offer everything, of course. You have to read up on the organization you’re considering and learn what they offer and if that’s meaningful for your goals. And, you should try to talk to those who are already members to learn about their experience with the group.
At the risk of sounding self-serving, as one of those groups, we’ve worked with thousands of members over the years. As the profession of personal chef has grown and evolved, we like to think our perspective has evolved with it (not to mention what we offer). And while it feels like everything you need to know about your profession is available to track down online–that joining a professional association is irrelevant these days–in fact, we feel that it’s more important than ever. All of us are searching for community, whether it’s via Facebook or what we used to call chat rooms (remember AOL?). All of us are looking for critical business information–how to deal with clients, how to add a new service, what are the latest trends. Having a group of people to call on who are part of a community, who are familiar with the issues you’re going through, and who can help you grow in your profession is invaluable. So is access to information. The question is, though, is the group you’re considering going to be the right fit?
We thought we’d help you figure out this path with some questions for you to ask yourself that should help you decide.
1. What do you wish to accomplish by joining a professional association?
We know that membership in a national or international trade association can give stability and credibility to a new business and elevate the professional impression of that business through the strength and reputation of the association. There’s also strength in numbers. A solid membership base means more opportunities to locate and interact with peers who can contribute to your success. At a basic level it shows you have a certain level of expertise. At a deeper level it also gives you connections to tap into.
2. What type of benefits and support are you looking for?
Some people join an organization just to put it on their resume or website. It gives that immediate credibility we’ve already cited. But others appreciate a specific list of benefits. These could be access to an online knowledge base, materials like business forms that help with better managing the business, the opportunity to attend continuing education conferences or webinars, support groups via online forums, business visibility through a website or mobile app, professional coaching, access to professional insurance, software systems, website construction, links to industry information sites… The list can go on and on. You need to evaluate what’s most important to you.
3. What are your expectations of the group?
You have to dig deep for this one–especially since this is one of those things that tends to depend on how much you’re willing to participate. Most association members will say that the more they put into a group by using its resources, participating in events, and interacting with other members the deep their level of satisfaction and the more positive the impact on their businesses and careers.
4. What are you willing to give back to increase the value of the organization?
Initially, your expectations will probably run to “what can they do for me?” But in all honesty, much of those benefits comes from other members who feel such a close connection with the organization and fellow members that they’re doing a lot of the giving. Do you need advice to clarify how to respond to an uncomfortable situation with a client? Certainly whoever is running the organization can respond, but it’s just as likely if you’re asking this on a forum that a fellow member will help–or two or three or more. Perhaps members in your community are teaching classes or mentoring colleagues. In time, one of those members could be you–if that’s important to you. And you know the old saying, the more you give, the more you receive.
We’ve had this experience with many of our members. Our forums are filled with people who are eager to ask questions and eager to offer help and advice. Our conferences are populated with members who offer to teach colleagues in their area of expertise. Many of these members have bonded over the years.
One business is A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef, whose chef/owners are Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson. The Lexington, Mass.-based duo is one of the longest-running personal chef businesses in the greater Boston area. They joined in May 1999 and, as Christine says, “Fifteen years later, when you look forward to renewing membership, that speaks volumes. We are home.”
Christine believes that even though she and Dennis aren’t “joiners” their APPCA membership has given them a wealth of support. “We’ve gotten business guidance in the form of education and support, peer support, access to special benefits like liability insurance, leaders who understand what we do and how it works.”
Christine and Dennis also have thrived on the opportunity APPCA has given them to share experiences so that “we can learn from each other. They’ve built a community to support its members–giving longtime members recognition and allowing them to help guide newer members. From minute one we were invited in to ask questions, compare notes, build the business, receive educational materials, get continuing education, keep up on business and food trends, and get to know colleagues.”
As an organization member, Christine advises people who are newly joining a professional group to make their presence known on forums, ask questions, and keep asking until you get the answer you need. “Get to know the people who do what you do! We’re an eclectic bunch but we really understand each other. Solitary business owners can be lonely. This is our office!”
Indeed, the pros call it networking–but with the right group, what you’re nurturing are long and warm friendships that are both professional and personal.
So, what is it you’re looking for? If by answering these questions you locate a professional trade association that meets your needs–and you join–you could be embarking on a life- and career-changing journey that gives you the opportunity constantly learn about your industry and how to improve your business. Even more, it will provide the means to meet, interact, support, and enjoy a whole new world of people who appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish and are looking for the same from you.
What are you looking for in a professional association? How can we best meet your needs?
This week marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays. On Wednesday evening at sundown, Jewish communities around the world will welcome Rosh Hashanah–the New Year (the Hebrew year 5775). Ten days later comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is also a day of fasting. That day ends with a celebratory meal that breaks the fast.
There’s hardly a Jewish holiday that doesn’t involve food–and foods specific to the holiday. Come Rosh Hashanah, celebrants will be sharing slices of apples to dip into bowls of honey to harken a sweet new year. Challahs, usually braided into a straight loaf for each Shabbat Friday night are still braided but shaped into a circle for the High Holidays. Most traditional Rosh Hashanah meals will include dishes like gefilte fish served with horseradish, chicken soup with matzo balls, roasted chicken or brisket, and perhaps an apple or honey cake for dessert. To break the fast at sundown of Yom Kippur, many Jewish families choose a buffet of light fare–usually dairy oriented–with noodle kugel or cheese blintzes; salads; bagels, lox, and cream cheese (as well as white fish and smoked cod) on a platter with sliced tomatoes, red onions, and capers; maybe some chopped liver, pickled herring, egg salad, and lots of mini rye and pumpernickel breads.
Personal chefs with Jewish clients may find themselves asked to prepare holidays meals for them and their families. So, for those who haven’t much experience with this type of food we thought we’d give you some resources for planning a meal and finding recipes–including your own APPCA colleagues–along with discussions here on our forums that offer recipes.
APPCA member Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Maryland grew up with traditional holiday fare. “We had matzoh ball soup, chopped liver (made with mayonnaise, not schmaltz–chicken fat–I come from a family of bad stomachs), and brisket in Lipton’s onion soup,” she says. “I’ve long given up on the powdered onion soup–too much salt!–and now make a brisket with coffee.”
Mrs. Ribakow’s Brisket
Courtesy of Shelbie Wassel
3 1/2 to 4 pounds brisket, first cut
2 medium onions cut into chunks
1 bunch celery, leafy tops only, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup black coffee
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket in the pan and sprinkle the top of the brisket lightly with more salt and pepper. Arrange onions and celery around and on top of the brisket. Drizzle with the ketchup. Roast meat, uncovered for 15 minutes to sear.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Add bay leaf and coffee, then cover tightly with foil. Continue cooking for approximately 2 1/2 hours longer. The meat should feel tender when fork is inserted in the thickest part.
Remove from oven and let cool before slicing. Refrigerate gravy and vegetables. Skim off fat.
To serve: Puree gravy and vegetables in a blender. Pour over sliced brisket. Cover with foil and heat through in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Add some kick to the dish by offering freshly grated horseradish on the side.
So, what would you serve with the brisket? Well, tzimis is a really traditional dish focused on roasted carrots and dried fruit. Do it right and each ingredient sparkles. Mess it up and you got a mushy mess. So, epicurious.com to the rescue with a contemporary tzimis recipe here. But you don’t have to go completely traditional. A great salad, a side of grains of some kind, and veggies all work great.
And remember, you’re probably also serving matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish even before you hit the main event. Let’s talk matzoh balls first. These are Eastern European Jewish dumplings made with matzoh meal, eggs, water, and a little fat. The goal is for them to be light (floaters) as opposed to dense (sinkers)–although there are some who prefer sinkers.
APPCA member Linda Berns of CustomKosher,LLC. in Maryland has been making her gramma’s recipe for matzoh balls all her adult life. It’s oh so simple. And, as Linda explains, according to Jewish lore, matzoh balls are eaten at Rosh Hashanah because they remind us of the cycle of life and change of season ushered in by the new year.
Linda Berns’ Matzoh Balls
Yield: About 8 to 9 matzoh balls
1 cup Streits matzoh meal (be sure to use the Streits brand)
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Bring a large pot of water to the boil with a liberal 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. While the water is coming to the boil, set a bowl filled with water next to the stove. You’ll use the water to moisten your hands while forming the balls.
When the water come to the boil, crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat vigorously. Add approximately 1/8 teaspoon salt to eggs and continue to beat. When the eggs are well beaten, add the matzoh meal and continue to stir to combine with the eggs. Your mixture should be sticky to the touch and not shiny.
Dip a hand into the bowl of water to wet it, then scoop out enough matzoh mixture to form into a dumpling the size of a large golf ball. Drop gently into the boiling water. Repeat until you’ve used all of the matzoh mixture. If your batter becomes too dry, stir in another egg and a little more matzoh meal to avoid having hard matzoh balls.
Bring the water back up to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and let the matzoh balls simmer for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. You’ll see your matzoh balls float and puff to approximately twice their size. Take care to not let the water boil out of the pot or your matzoh balls will stick together and stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once the matzoh balls are done cooking, you can add them to the chicken soup. You can also make them in advance and keep them refrigerated, covered so they don’t dry out. Add them to the soup pot as you heat it up on the stove. When serving, place the matzoh ball(s) in the bowl first, then ladle out the soup.
Here are some websites where you can get more recipes for both matzoh balls and the chicken soup. Be sure to cook them first, then add to your chicken soup. P.S., You’ll see Passover mentioned a lot in recipe notes–matzoh balls and chicken soup are multi-holiday dishes.
As for the gefilte fish (also served on Passover), this is a dish filled with tradition. Like many Eastern European Jewish dishes it was a way to create a nutritious dish on a very limited budget. Back in the day, this dish was handmade with inexpensive white fish (often carp, mullet, or pike), ground and then mixed with onion, eggs, and matzoh meal–or other ingredients–and shaped into individual ovals. Then they’re poached, cooled, and served chilled with a side of ground horseradish. These days, most people simply buy jars of it and perhaps doctor it a bit by adding cooked, sliced carrots and onions. But our Shelbie makes her own and you can find her recipe here.
Can’t forget the challah (egg bread)! Here we send you off to one of the best teachers of classic Jewish cooking–Joan Nathan. Our Caron Golden has been making challahs since she was a child, but when she saw this video of Joan Nathan making this challah, she converted. Try it; you’ll like it.
In fact, for any of these dishes, simply Google the dish and Joan Nathan and you’ll get something splendid. Like her apple honey cake, which Caron made last year. You’ve got to try this!
Now for Yom Kippur. You don’t really need to do a lot of major cooking since you want a gentle meal to follow a day-long fast. Salads are good–including a good tuna and/or egg salad. Pick up some rye and pumpernickel breads at a Jewish bakery, along with some challah, to put out. If you want to make chopped liver to create a real old-timey table, here’s a terrific recipe from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), which is more modern than what your client’s bubbe (grandma) probably made. For chopped liver, you’ll want crackers or broken pieces of matzoh to serve with it.
A classic treat for Yom Kippur (although you can serve this anytime of the year–except Passover) is noodle kugel. This is a sweet, rich casserole made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. Some people like to add fruit–fresh, canned, or dried–to it and top it with everything from bread crumbs to ground up Corn Flakes. Caron recently published her family recipe on her blog San Diego Foodstuff, which is as traditional as it is simple to make–pure comfort food.
Another favorite is blintzes–crepes usually filled with a soft cheese like farmer cheese or ricotta, but also fruit–commonly cooked blueberries or apples. We send you back to Smitten Kitchen for these.
These dishes should get you started and will certainly make your clients happy as they ring in the new year!
What dishes do you make for the High Holidays? What is a client favorite?
About a year ago APPCA member and personal chef Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Baltimore got a call from a gentleman who asked her if she remembered him from one of her classes that he had attended with his wife. “I did remember them,” she says. “He was asking what I was planning on teaching the following semester and told me that my class had changed his life! He and his wife began cooking at home and had subsequently changed his diet for the better, and had become passionate about cooking! It was an activity he could share with his wife and it brought them closer. He has become one of my biggest fans! Wow! It makes me feel like a rock star!”
Need a reason to teach cooking classes? That pretty much sums it all up, don’t you think?
Okay, let’s stipulate up front that teaching is not for everyone–for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people and feel cooking for others by yourself in a kitchen is enough. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe the idea of showing others how to do what you have perfected is not your idea of a pleasurable experience. You all can move on.
However, if you’ve been toying with the idea of teaching cooking classes but weren’t sure of what is involved and need gentle encouragement from colleagues, we’ve got some tips for you to help you make that satisfying leap.
Our experience is that many personal chefs have developed multiple income streams which complement their personal chef services, one of which is teaching cooking or demo classes since we believe personal chefs are by their very nature teachers. After all, we teach our clients how to use our services effectively and efficiently. We also teach them how to make healthy choices and to pass that information on to their children so they can grow up to be healthy adults. We answer client’s questions about food sources, cooking techniques, and recipes regularly. So, to my mind it makes sense to teach officially and be paid to pass along that knowledge–or donate that expertise and support to a non-profit group that needs our skills and expertise to help people in need.
These classes or demonstrations can take place in the client’s home, at a local venue, a vocational cooking school, a community college, or a demonstration kitchen facility. The size, layout, and facilities will determine whether the class will be a demonstration or hands on.
Think about it, you could hold cooking class dinner parties or luncheon’s in a client’s home. You could do event demos at fairs or market openings–or market tours followed by a demo. You could hold classes in a community center, a farmers market, a rental kitchen–even your own kitchen. You can certainly teach adults, but you can also teach kids and teens–or families. One woman I know holds brunch cooking classes on her boat in the San Diego Bay.
Member April Lee of Tastefully Yours, also in Baltimore, has been teaching cooking classes for 30 years, starting with after-school cooking classes for kids with the county government. “I’ve taught everything from basic cooking skills to cuisine-based classes to customized classes dealing with special diets,” says April. “I’ve also taught classes dealing with party appetizers, holiday dinners, and theme dinners. I teach because I love sharing my passion for cooking with others and I don’t want people to think that cooking is mysterious or to be intimidated by it.”
April’s venues have ranged from using commercial kitchens in county-owned facilities to teaching in client homes or a commercial kitchen she rents. Marketing the classes for the county is done through the county’s course catalogs. For private classes, she says it tends to be word of mouth. “I taught a series of Asian cooking classes several years ago, starting with a tour of Asian markets and introducing students to various produce, sauces, and other ingredients. From that point on, word got out about my classes and I’ve had a steady following ever since. I’m currently developing a new set of fun classes and will market them to my personal chef clients as well as my students in about a month–just in time for people to buy gift certificates for the holidays.”
Beth Volpe of Savory Eats by Beth in L.A. is relatively new to the business but she’s been teaching grilling classes to adults and teens in client homes. “I actually love teaching because I love to share what I know and what I learn,” says. “I started the grilling class because a client I do dinner parties for wanted to learn to grill. I don’t market. They come to me through my website, referral, or Thumbtack [a site that lets you find professionals to handle various jobs].”
Beth charges an hourly rate with a minimum of two hours, plus the cost of food. If you’re teaching for a local government organization or community college, the rates are likely to already be established and are probably not very high. Shelbie, who has been teaching cooking classes for more than 20 years often teaches a class or two every semester at the local community college, which dictates the prices. But, she points out, each student pays her directly at each class for the cost of the groceries. She charges students of her private classes–dinner party classes, demos for women’s groups, etc.–based on the number of students, the menu, and the location. “A class of 12 could begin at $60 per person and go up,” she explains. “A private class for one could be $250.”
Shelbie uses Facebook to promote her group classes. The community college handles marketing for her cooking classes with them–although she also promotes them on Facebook. “I also keep a running email list of interested students and alert them to upcoming classes. Occasionally, I receive inquiries through my website from folks wanting private classes or dinner party classes and I keep a Word document handy that I can send them with some examples of classes I’ve taught in the past.”
Between us, we’ve come up with a handful of tips for aspiring cooking teachers:
- You must be 1000 percent organized. Know your recipes and ingredients. Know what to do if something goes wrong–because inevitably it will and you’ll have to prove to your students that there are fixes.
- You’ll always need more equipment than you think you do (i.e., sheet pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards) because you usually can’t stop to wash them while teaching.
- Keep your recipes and jargon uncomplicated. You probably don’t know what level of cooking experience your students have.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse so you are comfortable talking in front of people while performing tasks. Be sure you time yourself so the class is completed within the time allotted.
- Instead of providing printed recipes at the class, offer to send them to students later to keep them focused on what you’re doing.
- Prep ahead of time to keep things during class moving. Call on volunteers to help and pass things around the group to keep them involved.
- Have anecdotes relevant to what you’re cooking? Use them!
- Know how to charge so you make money. If you’re volunteering or working for a non-profit with limited funds, accept the gig with the knowledge that you’re doing it for personal reasons. Otherwise you want the highest WOTDF (walk out the door fee) you believe you can charge. We tell chefs not to leave their homes for less than $250 per cook date, so you need to figure out how that translates for cooking classes. Remember to factor in the cost of groceries, and cost of extra labor (such as an assistant to help you clean up as you’re demoing).
- If you’re on social media, use it tenaciously to market your classes, along with the rest of your business.
- Most important: bring high energy and enthusiasm! If you can’t be enthusiastic about teaching, don’t do it. If you’re enjoying yourself, your students will, too. They’ll care, they’ll hear, they’ll feel empowered to go home and try it themselves. Which is the whole point of this, right!
And, remember, APPCA members are here for each other. We have lots of great conversations about teaching classes and other business-related issues on our forums. Feel free to log in and ask away–or offer your own input to others. I often chime in as well.
Do you aspire to teach cooking classes? What is your pressing question? Do you teach? Give us a tip or two based on your experience!
Many of us in the business are comfortable cooking with grape leaves (think dolmas) and any number of herbs. But are perilla leaves in your wheelhouse? These broad, serrated aromatic leaves are a part of the mint family, native to the mountainous regions of Asia. Somehow, they found themselves in Northwest Arkansas, where APPCA member Kathy Dederich of Chef Please! Ltd. is based.
Kathy and her husband relocated to Bella Vista, Arkansas from Chicago. She brags that the region was listed as one of the top places to retire in the U.S. as well as one of the country’s safest cities. Just south is Walmart’s headquarters. Nearby is Tyson Foods and JB Hunt. The area has now reached a population of half a million and Kathy is proud that their food culture has evolved to the point that four local chefs have cooked at the James Beard House. One was a semifinalist.
Kathy has been cooking since she was a kid. Later, married and working at the family printing company, she enrolled in The Cooking & Hospitality school known as CHIC and later acquired by Le Cordon Bleu. She earned her degree with presidential honors and while still at the printing company first started cooking professionally for a friend from cooking school who was the in-house catering manager for a downtown law firm. The friend needed help serving outside catering clients, including Roger Ebert and, her all-time favorite, Ray Charles. The light bulb went off by then and Kathy has been a personal chef since 2007, when she joined APPCA and landed her first weekly client, a woman with Alzheimer’s Disease whose children wanted to keep her in her home. She was with them for over three years until moving to Arkansas.
Since then, she’s been thinking about how to incorporate some of the area’s indigenous ingredients into her dishes. Perilla leaves were an immediate go to.
“Perilla leaves grow wild in the area,” she notes. “Usually I make Korean sesame leaves, which includes garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, sesame seeds, ground red pepper, and a bit of sugar. I use them as a carrier for rice. Some people eat it with meat.”
But it occurred to Kathy that they would be a terrific candidate for pesto. Instead of using pine nuts, she uses black walnuts–also native to the area–as well as local goat cheese in lieu of Parmesan.
“The result is quite nice,” she says. “There is a lot of oil in the walnuts so not as much olive oil is needed. The perilla leaves are not nearly as strong as most mint, so it’s not overpowering.
Interestingly, Kathy uses the pesto primarily with rice instead of pasta because, she explains, Arkansas is one of the top rice producers in the country. She also includes sun-dried tomatoes from her garden, using–what else–the Arkansas traveler variety. Enjoy this as a side dish with chicken.
Kathy has generously given us her recipe for all of us to enjoy:
Perilla Leaf Pesto
From Kathy Dederich
2 cups perilla leaves
1 cup black walnuts, toasted
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces goat cheese
Salt to taste
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
What’s your favorite recipe that incorporates local ingredients?
Periodically members on our forum will ask about how to manage summer lulls or clients who seem to disappear on them—or at least act noncommittal about upcoming cooking sessions.
What I like to come back to in all these situations is the importance of making a working plan that leads to dedicated long-term clients. And that means having a solid Client Service Agreement—one that confirms the level of service being ordered, the frequency of cook dates, pricing, the type of containers requested, and client/chef agreements regarding deposits, cancellation of cook dates, use of the kitchen, pets, children, access to the home—basically whatever comes into play in the performance of your personal chef services.
Your clients turn to you for professionalism. And, it’s up to you to provide that—not just in the kitchen but as a businessperson. You also owe it to yourself. Not a seasoned businessperson? That, of course, is where we have always come in. APPCA is here to help and guide you as you establish your business. We’ve got all the education and even the forms (including the Client Service Agreement) you need to get started.
One of the basics we emphasize is that even the most talented cooks must develop solid customer service and communications skills if they are to run a successful personal chef business since effective interaction with each client is the backbone to their enjoyment of both your service and your food. You must establish what the client wants to accomplish by using a personal chef. What they like to eat. How they like to eat. If they have allergies, sensitivities, or tastes or textures they simply don’t enjoy. This is a given, right?
But you also need to know how often they want your service and make sure they commit to that on a quarterly basis. Finding that frequency sweet spot enables them to enjoy your delicious, healthy, palate-specific meals in a timeframe that supports their well-being and enjoyment, rather than putting pressure in their lives by providing too much food, too often—or not enough. Committing to it gives them security in knowing you’ll be there for them and gives you the security that you need to plan your time and know what income is coming in.
So, as part of that client assessment we always talk about you should incorporate the Client Service Agreement and schedule regular cook dates on a quarterly basis. How many of you have had a client call on a Monday evening to see if you’re free to cook for them the next morning? That’s pressure you don’t need—especially if you’re already committed and have to say no. Even if you’re not busy all of a sudden you’ve got to pull together food and equipment for a last-minute cook date.
Now what if you go ahead and sign up clients for quarterly service and they have to cancel a cook date? As hard as we try to avoid this, cancellations will always occur. Perhaps your client has to go out of town. Perhaps they’re ill.
In a way, you must train your clients how to work with you in a way that makes sense for running your business.
To avoid financial catastrophe, or at least inconvenience, establish in advance your rules for cancellations and put them in writing in your Client Service Agreement. Perhaps you have a rule that if you have a standing date and the client cancels 24 hours or less before the date, they must pay for groceries already purchased and some portion of your time. Whatever your rules are, put them in writing and explain them to your client at the time you meet to sign the agreement. This prevents misunderstandings between client and chef, and enables you both to want to continue to work together.
We like the idea of a quarterly commitment because it’s a good amount of time for clients to make a commitment and for you to have that commitment. It also sends a couple of important messages to your client. The first is that you are operating a professional service and guaranteeing your services for a set period of time. The second is that you are a busy professional and that unless they make that commitment, you may be booked when they want your services at the last minute.
It allows you to build a schedule that gives you control over your time and allows you to earn regular income. You can fill in open times to schedule appointments or meetings, take on alternative gigs like events, demos, marketing or promotional appearances—or enjoy family time. As the quarter draws to a close, be sure you talk to your client about the upcoming quarter and find out what their plans are. Are they interested in continuing your culinary relationship? Again, get that commitment in writing.
Having a confirmed quarterly schedules means you are the driver of your circumstances. It allows you to plan and grow your business—to market yourself to bring in more clients if you need them or recruit help if you’re jammed full of business. You’ll find that you’re much less stressed when you take control of your business. And, you’re likely to make more money more efficiently. That’s one of the best definitions of success!
Have you been scheduling for success? Tell us how you’ve had that conversation with clients and the terms you’ve established.
For the home cook, leftovers can mean another meal or two. But how about if you’re a personal chef and you have bits of treasure from dishes you’ve made? You don’t want them to go to waste. And they could probably lend themselves to some stunning new dishes.
Food that’s been safely handled, prepared properly, and stored correctly is simply good food. Most personal chef clients find their custom-designed meal support programs keep leftovers to a minimum but if you find yourself in a leftover-heavy position–as the chef or the client–you might find some of these tips helpful.
Let’s look at the easy stuff first–ingredient leftovers. If you have unused herbs or proteins–such as chicken, beef, sausage, fish or other seafood–or grilled vegetables, you can certainly use them in an omelet or frittata, or as a filling for ravioli or wontons, or in soups or salads. Quesadillas and tacos are also great ways to use extra fresh ingredients. Leftover pasta can also go in a frittata–or soup. Got mashed potatoes? Make mini shepherd’s pies or use it to top a casserole.
Prepped but unused onions, tomatoes, peppers, lemons, watermelon, or anything else coming from the garden can enhance and complement any number of dishes. The watermelon pieces that were part of dessert the night before can be tossed with sliced heirloom tomatoes, pieces of feta cheese, olives, and arugula for a sweet and savory salad.
Our colleague Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food and her new blog, A Cookbook Obsession, recently wrote about turning vast amounts of leftover grilled sweet corn into smoky sweet corn puree, which she paired with seared scallops. After heating some butter and a little bacon fat from cooking up four slices of bacon, she sauteed chopped scallions, then added the corn kernels, cream cheese, and half and half. Then she added cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper before pureeing half the mixture. Pieces of cooked bacon and chives are added to the mixture and served with seared scallops.
Risotto is another one of those leftover dishes that never tastes quite the same warmed up the next day. So, how about making risotto pancakes with sauteed mushrooms and onions and strong meltable cheese, like gruyere? Add a binder, like a beaten egg, then form a ball just a bit larger than a golf ball with the risotto. Flatten it into a oval in the palm of your hand. Make an indentation in the middle and add the mushrooms and cheese. Then close it up over the filling. Repeat until you’ve used up the risotto. Saute the pancakes in butter or olive oil on both sides until crisp and serve.
Making pies and have leftover dough? Roll it out and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, then get out the cookie cutters. You’ve got cookies to bake.
There are numerous web resources for you to get ideas as well.
- Food52: Experts and home cooks contribute to this site. Here’s a blog post on creating refreshing summer rolls with leftover fish, plus links to 10 other recipes for leftover fish.
- Foodinese: Leftover stir fried veggies can be soggy and unappealing after their initial debut on the table. Here’s a video on turning them into dumplings.
- Epicurious: Got leftover grilled salmon? Flake it, Make a sandwich on ciabatta, per this recipe.
- Food Republic: Wow, they must think you never finish a meal. Here are 15 recipes for using up what’s in the fridge.
- Bakepedia: Are you a baker with leftover ganache or buttercream? Even dessert leftovers can get a new life with these ideas.
- Tasting Table: Now we’re getting hard core. These “leftovers” are more like the trimmed off stuff you’d ordinarily toss, like stems, leaves, pods, and peels–even baguette ends. But they’re fantastic in all sorts of dishes. Here’s how to use them.
- The Kitchn: Turn dinner leftovers into lunch. If it reheats well (or is good cold), easy to eat at your desk or the lunch cafeteria, and is easy to transport, you’ve got a delicious lunch. Here are 10 leftover ideas.
Any meal in which there are leftovers is simply another opportunity to make the most of your tasty, beautifully prepared ingredients–whether it’s reheating or reinventing.
What are your favorite leftover ingredients? Have you developed a repertoire of dishes based on leftovers?
Don’t forget to sign up for our September Personal Chef Seminar Weekend!