cranberry chocolate chip and candied pecan varieties

One of the things we think is important for personal chefs, as a way to cement client relationships, is to offer a gift of gratitude during the holidays. We clearly consider preparing food a gift of love and what better way to show our clients how we feel about them than to offer them a special treat? This could be baked goods, preserves, pickles, limoncello–whatever happens to be your specialty.

If you’re looking for something that’s a holiday favorite, how about baking biscotti? Now, this isn’t a gluten-free treat, but for those chefs whose clients don’t have special needs, these two recipes are going to make them very happy. And they’re pretty easy to make.

I learned how to make these twice-baked cookies from a San Diego baker, Amber Smith, who owns a business called Darling Gourmet Biscotti. A former occupational therapist with a passion for baking and pastries. She lived in Europe, based in London, and says she spent a disproportionate amount of time in bakeries and cafes.

“It tells you so much about where people are at in different countries,” she told me.

Feeling restless professionally, Smith wanted to spend more time in the kitchen. She didn’t necessarily want to open a bakery, but at some point while baking biscotti, she says she had her aha moment. The recipe she’d been perfecting–a lighter, airier, updated biscotti–wasn’t being done in the States, at least nowhere she’d been.

So, she launched Darling Gourmet Biscotti. And, yes, the cookies she bakes are truly lighter and airer than traditional biscotti with wonderful flavors that change with the seasons.

There is certainly an art to making the biscotti. While the ingredients can all go in your stand mixer for blending, shaping is critical so that the cookies retain a consistent size. Like the mandelbread I grew up with, the dough must have the right feel to it. Unlike mandelbread, a recipe which never changed in my lifetime, Smith has to balance creating new flavor combinations with the alchemy of making dough. Add liquid like Grand Marnier or a flavored extract and you have to adjust the amount flour. Every action has a reaction. That’s why she spends so much time refining her ideas.

The basic idea is to measure and add ingredients into a bowl to blend. On the day I got my lesson for two of her flavors: Vanilla Orange Biscotti with Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier-Infused Cranberries and Nutmeg Biscotti with Toasted Pecans we started by combining the ingredients in her red Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Then we divided the dough in half, manipulating each piece into a long log that we then flattened into a rectangle.

forming logs2

They go into the oven for the first baking. Once, they’ve cooled just enough the pieces are sliced into individual cookies and go back into the oven for a second baking (Smith says you could enjoy the cookies just fine after the first baking, but it’s the second that gives them a firmer biscotti texture). Cool. Eat.

cranberry chocolate first bake1

That’s it. What a client gift you’ll have!

Vanilla Orange Biscotti with Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier-Infused Cranberries
From Amber Smith

Makes 35 cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or any orange liqueur
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chunks or semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the dried cranberries into smaller pieces and put into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the Grand Marnier and warm in the microwave on high for 45 seconds, remove and stir, then let cool. Rehydrating the dried fruit will keep it from dying out too much during baking.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and extracts and continue to mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, adding the orange zest and mix until well blended. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed until fully combined.

Add the chocolate and rehydrated cranberries. The combination of the liqueur and cranberries will form a syrup. Be sure to scrape it all into the dough for maximum flavor. Mix on low just until fully incorporated into the dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into two, 16- to 18-inch loaves on one of the prepared sheet pans. Flatten the logs until the are about 2 1/2 inches wide and a half inch thick. Be sure to leave at least four inches in between the loaves to allow for spreading.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the loaves turn a warm brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Turn oven temperature down to 300℉.

Slice cookies 1-inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on both sheet pans with at least one inch between each cookie to allow for air circulation and adequate cooking. Bake for an additional 25 minutes and remove from oven.

Note: Bake one sheet a time (unless using a convection oven) to ensure even baking.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks to maintain the crisp and light texture.



Nutmeg Biscotti with Toasted Pecans
From Amber Smith

Makes 35 cookies

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
*1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and extracts and continue to mix on medium speed until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed until fully combined.

Roughly chop the toasted pecans and add them to the dough. Mix on slow just until fully mixed in.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into two, 16- to 18-inch loaves on one of the prepared sheet pans. Flatten the logs until the are about 2 1/2 inches wide and a half inch thick. Be sure to leave at least four inches in between the loaves to allow for spreading.

pecan nutmeg shaped
Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the loaves turn a medium brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Turn oven temperature down to 325℉.

Slice cookies 1-inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on both sheet pans with at least one inch between each cookie to allow for air circulation and adequate cooking. Bake for an additional 20 minutes and remove from oven.

Note: Bake one sheet a time (unless using a convection oven) to ensure even baking.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks to maintain the crisp and light texture.

*A simple and fantastic variation is to use candied pecans or caramelized hazelnuts!


Do you bake or make other culinary gifts for clients? What’s been a client favorite?

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

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Whenever APPCA founder and executive director Candy Wallace and I have planning meetings, I get the benefit of her being a superb chef. She always prepares a dynamite lunch for us that makes me feel utterly spoiled. When I stepped inside the house at our most recent meeting she didn’t even have to announce that lunch was almost ready. There was the sublime aroma of beef stewing in something wonderful. I couldn’t put my finger on just what it was but as soon as Candy told me it was pumpkin pie spice, I smiled and started salivating. This was going to be good.

She had a big pot of what could be called either stew or chile on the stove simmering, with warmed cornbread muffins and a vibrantly colored kale salad on the table. If you’ve been to one of her Personal Chef Seminars you’ve enjoyed a meal or two around this table, too.

So, what’s so special about this stew? First, of course, is the fragrant pumpkin pie spice that she blends with cumin, chili powder, and oregano. If you buy pumpkin pie spice and have been frustrated that it only seems to have that one use for one holiday, Candy demonstrates with this stew that that’s a very narrow view. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger all marry beautifully with meats–and this combo is all that pumpkin pie spice is. So, use it for braising, for stews, in marinades. And, use it with poultry and other winter squashes and vegetables, too. It will add an intriguing sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.


Second–and, of course, this is related to the pumpkin pie spice–Candy adds butternut squash cubes. So, you get the gentle sweetness and creamy texture of the cooked squash with the meat.

Finally, there’s the texture, not only from the cubes of beef tips and squash cubes, but also from the addition of ground beef and masa. It thickens the stew and gives it some heft–something welcome on a chilly afternoon or evening. (Now, as chefs you know that you can easily substitute beef for pork or even poultry to satisfy other tastes or just riff on the concept.) It’s a great dish to add to your client repertoire since it freezes beautifully.


Candy says this dish sounds crazy, but tastes heavenly. I’ve enjoyed it, so I know she’s right!


6-8 Servings

Measure and divide into 2 prep cups and set aside:

1 Tbsp ground cumin
1Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the stewpot:

Olive oil to brown
1 to 1 ½ lbs cubed beef tips
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped/seeded red bell pepper
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (small yellow can)
1 ½ lb ground beef
1 Tbsp masa
1 ½ cups beef stock
1 ½ cups red table wine
1 peeled, seeded, cubed butternut squash
2-3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 large cinnamon sticks
Salt & pepper to taste
Sear beef cubes in hot oil in stewpot over high heat and broadcast contents of 1 prep cup of spice mixture over top. Stir occasionally for approximately 5 minutes until beef is browned on all sides. Remove cubes and set aside. You will not be able to drain fat from pot once it combines with spice mixture which becomes paste like consistency. Reduce heat, add next 5 ingredients, stirring until softened, fragrant, and red in color, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Add ground beef and broadcast contents of prep cup spice mix #2 overtop. Stir occasionally until browned.
Stir in the remainder of ingredients and bring to a boil, reducing heat to low simmer till thickened by cornmeal and tenderizing squash and beef tips. Simmer approximately 45 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks.

Cooling and refrigerating the stew overnight makes it possible to skim the fat from the top of the dish and allow flavors to develop before heating, adjusting for necessary salt and pepper and serving.


Do you use pumpkin pie spice in novel ways? Inspire us with the dishes you’re making with it!

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

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So many personal chefs have clients with special dietary needs. It may be food allergies, pregnancy, weight loss, or athletic training. Or it could be heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or other medical conditions. We have always suggested that personal chefs work in partnership with nutritionists and dietitians to support a specific medical challenge. It’s a relationship that provides better care and service to the patient/client, and makes both the personal chef and nutritional advisor more valuable an asset. And, in turn, these relationships can also help the nutritionists, who may have clients who need meal support and would have a good referral for them. 

Linn Picture

Linn Steward, RDN, runs Gourmet Metrics in New York. She’s been active on our Facebook page and I’ve seen how passionate she is about healthful eating. So I asked her if she’d discuss this collaboration on à la minute. She’ll contribute a second piece soon on the nuts and bolts on how that collaboration would work from her perspective.  

Friendly collaboration between dietitian and personal chefs has long been a great partnership. Not only have personal chefs always been concerned with the health and well-being of their clients, many of them started out as nutritionists and dieticians, so they come with that commitment to wellness.This focus on healthy eating has intensified, as personal chefs well know. Clients today are more interested in eating healthier and are asking for more fresh foods, more grilled foods, and more vegetables. Chefs today are more interested in creating healthier menus and sourcing healthier ingredients. RDNs today are more food savvy and more appreciative that delicious is just as important as nutritious.So for those personal chefs who come into the profession with a culinary background but not a health care background—and are now finding that clients are coming to them with health issues, this is the time to find a nutrition partner who can help you go beyond the doctor’s suggested list of ingredients and help you develop meals that your clients will not just enjoy but will aid them on their journey to good health.



So what are today’s options for friendly collaboration between the personal chef and the RDN?

The most important area to consider is the special needs community. Those are the folks with high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, allergies, or any other condition that requires medical supervision.
Not every client will have special needs, but for those who do, adherence and accuracy are really important if the person is under the care of a doctor. Those of you who already work with RDNs know we bring both tools and training to the table and are especially well qualified to help personal chefs verify that what they are cooking is really meeting the therapeutic need of their clients with as little loss of taste and flavor as possible given the set of restrictions.

Friendly collaboration has been effective in foodservice in the areas of sodium reduction, getting more fruits and vegetables on the plate, replacing refined grains with whole grains, and what is best described as strategic calorie design. Getting people to make healthier choices before they get sick is always the best way to eat healthier.


This proactive approach is well suited to personal chefs who cook for families or for certain epicurean clients. RDNs are well qualified to help chefs with healthy menu and recipe development and to recommend those small, realistic changes that can lead to significant impact. We can also help the personal chef separate food fashion buzz from healthy food facts.    

Another area for friendly collaboration is sports nutrition. Guys or gals who want to bulk up but don’t like to cook. Off-season athletes. Folks who have mastered the exercise component but still need to lose a couple of pounds. Definitely another possible area of mutually beneficial collaboration for both chef and RDN.


Friendly collaboration between personal chef and RDN is not in its infancy but it can be elevated as chefs learn more about nutrition and RDNs learn more about how to make the most out of great flavor. We both bring different skills and food philosophies to the kitchen but it’s precisely this synergy that can lead to innovative solutions.

It’s not necessary to ask people to choose between good health and great taste today. Both are possible and both can co-exist on the same plate.

Linn Steward is a registered dietician based in New York City, who operates Gourmet Metrics. She loves food, cooking, eating, and feeding people. About 20 years ago, however, she went back to school to study nutrition. She honed her professional skills doing clinical nutrition and wellness counseling, but her heart never left the kitchen. She is here to help chefs, cooks and eaters find a way to put nutritious and delicious on the same plate. Services include menu and ingredient review, recipe development, strategic calorie design, sodium reduction, allergen tags, and therapeutic diet audits. The way she sees things, if the folks don’t like the food, it doesn’t matter how nutritious it is. You can reach Linn at or her Facebook page.

Do you have clients with special health/nutrition needs? How challenging is it for you to develop appropriate recipes that you know for a fact are meeting these needs?

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

Photos courtesy of Linn Steward.

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CandyWallaceAPPCAheadshot (low rez)

Starting up your own personal chef business? In need of a business reboot? The APPCA can help! We’re holding our next Personal Chef Seminar in San Diego the weekend of November 14-15. Led by executive director and personal chef Candy Wallace in her home in the heart of the city, this intimate seminar gives you a thorough and hands-on grounding in everything you need to know to jumpstart or ramp up your business. You’ve got 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.

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

How do we know these seminars are effective? Well, we’ve been holding them for 20 years. This proven teaching technique and our gold-standard training materials have been assisting and supporting more than 11,000 working personal chefs across North America.

Here’s one attendee’s comment:

Thanks for a Wonderful Weekend!

Thank you so much for the informative and enjoyable weekend. I am grateful for the time spent covering my new career objectives and recommending strategies for achieving them. It was a pleasure meeting both of you and spending quality time in your home. I especially appreciate being part of a great organization that will keep me connected with others sharing the same career path. I plan to utilize the online networking resources that are available to me.

Your home is beautiful and so warm and welcoming. The meals were fabulous. I have already been in contact with Erin and we plan to stay in contact.

Once again, if you are ever in my area, I would love to welcome you into my home.

I wish you both the best.



Gourmet Creations by Claire

photo 2

Here’s what happens over the course of the weekend seminar:

Saturday – Full Day – Nov 14, 2015

8:30 – 9:00

Continental Breakfast—Introductions

9:00 – 12:30

“Business Plan & Regulations” & “Finances”

12:30 – 1:30

Lunch (Hosted)

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

Continental Breakfast—Q&A

9:00 – 11:30

“A Day in the Life of a Personal Chef”


Lunch (Hosted)

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.)

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 gently 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 APPCI training program and materials are the source material for the written certification exam offered through the ACF/APPCA certification partnership.

photo 1-1

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.

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 to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Pickled Beets as Holiday Gifts

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , October 26, 2015

pickled beets2

You know what’s going to happen once the stores clear the shelves of Halloween costumes and decorations. In come all the flotsam and jetsam of the holidays. If you’re starting to plan ahead for client or vendor gifts, think pickling and preserving. These two home arts are perfect to show off your culinary creativity and they represent nothing if not affection for the recipients. (They’re not a bad marketing tool for personal chefs either.)

Personally, I love making pickles–bread and butter, dill, onions, garlic. If it grows in the ground, it’s a candidate for pickling. But I have to admit I am no beet fan and not even pickling can help me there. However, my dad adores them and asked me to make them for him. And, of course I would never say no. So after doing some research I came up with a pickling recipe for beets that resulted in a snack he loves. If you’re looking for a colorful gift to make clients for the holidays–something that will really grab their attention–this is it.

Pickling gives you a great opportunity to be creative with different flavors. Now my dad has Alzheimer’s Disease and it seems to also be affecting his palate. He just likes the basics. I scoured cookbooks and online recipes for something with simple flavors–nothing fancy or exotic. Cloves and cinnamon? Out. Tarragon? Out. The more I read, the more variations on a theme I saw. I could boil them or roast them. Put them in the refrigerator to let the brine penetrate over days or use a hot water bath to sterilize and can them. So many options.

Well, here’s what I finally decided on. Roasting root vegetables is always a good thing, so I trimmed the stems (saving the beet greens for my mom and a neighbor to enjoy), then rubbed the beets in olive oil, and roasted them with large shallots.

I made a simple brine with white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, a couple of bay leaves, and yellow mustard seeds.

I washed a couple of quart jars in very hot soapy water, filled them with cut up beets and shallots and poured the boiled brine over them. After sealing the jars with the lids and screw rings, I put the jars in the fridge for a few days.

That’s it. The toughest part–aside from red-stained fingers and living with the aroma of roasted beets–was peeling the roasted beets. The skins don’t uniformly just slip off, unlike what many recipes will tell you. Keep a paring knife on hand to deal with the pieces of skin that simply won’t budge. And, by the way, the paper towel rubbing method wasn’t effective either.

Ultimately, it was no big deal. The beets got peeled and everything else was ridiculously easy. And Dad? He was a happy guy.

Pickled beets ingredients

Pickled Beets with Shallots
Yield: 2 quarts

For Roasting Beets
4 pounds red beets
3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
4 tablespoons kosher salt


Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Trim tops of beets to one inch. Save the greens for a saute, soup, or salad. Trim the root. Rub each beet and the shallots with olive oil and place in heavy duty aluminum foil. Cover with more foil and roast for 40 minutes or until the beets are easily pierced through. Remove from heat and let cool enough so you can handle them with your hands.


Remove the stem and skin. Cut into bite-size chunks. Arrange in a clean jar with the shallot pieces.

Mix together the brine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Strain the liquid as you pour it over the beets in each jar. Place the lid on each jar and tighten the screw rings. Refrigerate three to seven days before serving.

Pickled beets

Do you enjoy pickling? What are your favorite veggies to pickle? And what kinds of culinary gifts do you give clients and vendors?

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

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We thought we’d take a break, have some fun this week, and give you a behind-the-scenes look at how a group-written mystery came to be. And who doesn’t love a good mystery! If you do–and you also enjoy the mystique of chef culture–you’ll love this newly published literary romp by a quintet of five mystery authors, one of whom is San Diegan Taffy Cannon, whom I got to know after moderating a writer’s panel earlier this year. Beat Slay Love by Thalia Filbert (Thalia Press/$14.99) is a marvelously gruesome comic mystery that follows the serial murders of chefs across the country in ways that will never let you look at food preparation in the same way again.

Nebbishy food blogger Jason Bainbridge tag teams with FBI agent Kimberly Douglas to suss out who the unpredictable killer is. A disastrous filming of “Kitchen Turnaround” in New Jersey launches the story, which then heads to Montana for a taping of “Love Bites” that meets a grisly end. The murders continue in Maine at “Lobstavaganza,” followed by death at an Austin barbecue competition. You’ll also hit San Diego and New Orleans, and then land in New York at the celebrated Chelsea Market where a Food Network-like show is being taped and culminates in a gruesome discovery nonetheless written for laughs.

All the while you’ll be immersed in an out-there view of chef culture, replete with inflated egos, kinky sex, and cut-throat competitiveness. It’s a wild, witty, enjoyable ride that has a remarkably consistent voice, given how many cooks prepared this delicious broth. And these cooks—Cannon, Kate Flora, Lise McClendon, Katy Munger, and Gary Phillips—were clearly having a great time playing together in their literary kitchen.

“The idea came up in email discussions about three or four years ago, after we published an e-collection of short stories called Dead of Winter,” recalls Cannon. “I have no idea who first had the idea, but I was busy with other projects at that time. Also I didn’t see how it could possibly work, since we live in San Diego, LA, Montana, Maine, and North Carolina — and were working without an outline. The project began with a theme — somebody killing the celebrity chefs of television — and a vague notion of the killer. From there on it was a leap of faith.”

The four other participants each wrote a section, says Cannon, and then in June 2014 she was given a chance to read it and sign on if she changed her mind. Well, she loved what they were doing and immediately joined in.

Taffy's Touch of Tarragon

Taffy’s Touch of Tarragon

“We would send the manuscript around in order and each person would add material,” Cannon says. “Sometimes it would be brand new, sometimes it would be inserted in what had gone before, and always it would introduce new material in some fashion. I continue to be proud (and astonished) that it all came together so well at the end.”

One author wrote the beginning and concluding chapters. The rest went through a couple of rounds and then everyone had the opportunity to edit the entire manuscript—and everyone had to agree that they were finished, which it was by August 2015. Then Cannon’s daughter, a professional proofreader, reviewed it. Cannon says it was a totally amicable process.

In case you missed the play on words, the title is a send up of course, on the bestseller Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Cannon says it went through a couple of revisions before they settled on the final title. When the collaborators started talking about using a pseudonym, Thalia seemed natural since they are all blog participants in the Thalia Press Author Coop. Filbert, she says, was close to Gilbert, “and also a little nutty.”

Even the cover design was a group effort, says Cannon. McClendon, one of the founders of Thalia Press designed the cover, with much group input. And Cannon wants to make sure that she also gets due credit for cooking the bacon on the cover.

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We regularly feature member chefs in this blog and when we do, we like to have photos of both them and their magnificent food. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have what we consider to be one of the most essential marketing tools for a food business. It made us think that it was time to remind our members that to grow their business there are certain basics they need to invest in–whether it requires time, money, or both. They won’t guarantee that you get new clients, but not having them certainly puts you at a disadvantage.

We asked members via Facebook what their most essential marketing tools were and we got three answers: car magnet, word of mouth, and a great website. We can’t speak to the effectiveness of a car magnet but certainly a good website is a must. As for word of mouth, well, there’s nothing better. But word of mouth is a result of good marketing and great delivery; it’s not something you can generate on your own.

So, here are the five marketing tools we think are essential for personal chefs to employ–and these are just the minimum.

A good photo of yourself and a variety of beautiful photos of your food. If a reporter or blogger gets in touch and wants to do a piece on you, unless they can send over their own photographer you have to have photos available that they can publish. If you’re teaching a cooking class or doing a demo at a store, they’ll want photos for promoting the event. The food photos have to be sharp, well lit, and well composed.

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes


Chef Carol Borchardt's Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Chef Carol Borchardt’s Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

You must have a photo or two of yourself that is also sharp and well lit and shows you off as a professional and who you are. And the photos must be large enough/have high enough resolution so they don’t look fuzzy when enlarged. Need a primer on shooting good photos? We have you covered in this guest post by APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food.




Shelbie Wassel

Business cards. Attractive, professional-looking business cards must be on you at all times when you’re out and about. Keep them in your wallet, keep them in the pocket of your chef jacket, keep a bunch in your car. Just keep them with you. They must include your name, your business’ name, contact information (including your website URL and Facebook page URL), what you do, and the region you serve. Don’t be shy about using both sides of the card.

A Facebook page. Let us rephrase this, an active Facebook page. We’re all about social media, but we recognize that time can be an issue. If you can, use Twitter, use Instagram, use LinkedIn. But above all, use Facebook and post regularly (at least a couple of times a week) because it’s both a more intimate and expansive way to let potential clients see what you’re doing and learn more about you. It’s an opportunity to reach out to others and show off your talents, brag about your work, and learn how you can help others. Join a group and network. And what do you need for a good Facebook page? See above. Good photos.

Brown Bag

Your chef’s coat. We’ve written about this before. Your chef’s coat tells the world who you are. Wear it into a market and people will ask what you do. Wear it on public transportation and it’ll generate conversation. In short, it’s a no brainer to wear it in public when appropriate–and, of course, keep the pocket filled with business cards to hand out to fellow customers or the butcher or fish monger or farmer.

Angela Rose

Natalie Lewis

A good website. Yes, we finally got there. But what does “good” mean? According to APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, it’s “Ease of use, key word driven on search engines, no ads, not mucking it up…all info transparent and straightforward….pricing, etc right on there…this may be an East Coast thing, but people don’t want the back and forth…we tend to move quickly and if info is vague, we move on to the next….”

For Carol Borchardt, it means thinking about who the customer is going to be.

“The customer/client of a personal chef is most likely going to be affluent, sophisticated, well-traveled and educated. I cringe every time I see typos on a PC website in addition to incorrect capitalization/lower case usage,” she says. “A website in late 2015-2016 needs to look clean, modern and flow well. Even the colors and fonts have to say 2016! Many of our clients probably have their own business websites, so they know what works, what doesn’t work and what looks good. Music is nice when you’re serving a dinner for two, however, music on a website can be a dead giveaway and startling if someone is doing a little web surfing to find a personal chef while at work. Websites also need to be “mobile-friendly,” as the vast majority of people no longer sit down at a computer to search for something–they do it on their phone or tablet. Google now penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly. My site is not “mobile-friendly” at this point and I’m not worried about it because I stay busy. If a new PC can not afford to have a website professionally built, there are simple platforms such as WordPress or SquareSpace to put together a nice-looking website.”

A Thought for Food

We actually have even more basic requirements–because, surprisingly, they are often missing. They include your name, where you are located geographically, what services you provide, a simple way to contact you, and the mention that you are an APPCA member and inclusion of the logo (to give you credibility). You are asking people to invite you into their home. They must know who you are and have confidence that you are legit.

These five marketing tools are the building blocks for getting attention and getting hired. Do a great job and at that point, you gain good word of mouth from clients. And get featured in media. And asked to do cooking classes or demos. And all the other things that make up your own aspirations. It’s all about being the quintessential professional who takes pride in his/her skills and accomplishments.

What are your essential marketing tools? How are you promoting yourself and your business?

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

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Omelet pic the Laurel

Sacha Quernheim is a personal chef and APPCA member in St. Louis. She runs Red Zucchini Personal Chef Service, which is an umbrella for, yes, regular home clients–but also cooking classes and, get this, omelet breakfasts at luxury apartment buildings.

Sacha has operated Red Zucchini since 2012. For 17 years she had worked at law firms but over the years had been teaching kids cooking classes, starting with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. When she was let go from her law firm job in 2013, she did what many members do who love to cook but don’t know which avenue to take. She went online. Initially she was trying to get into incubator kitchens, but she didn’t know if she wanted to do just cooking classes. As she searched she found APPCA online.

“I thought this would be perfect,” she recalls. “I didn’t know if I wanted to work for someone again or have my own business. So I did the training and it worked out great.”

Sacha began adding clients–she currently has four monthly clients and three every other week. And she started teaching adult cooking classes. Then in Christmas of 2013, she was approached by an insurance company to do an omelet breakfast for their holiday party.


“It was for about 30 people. I did some research online to figure out how to do it and it went great,” she says. “Then I got the idea to start contacting luxury apartment complexes in the downtown area to see if I could do an omelet breakfast for residents–mostly for marketing purposes. Most do a monthly breakfast anyway. They pay for all the food plus a small fee. I’m up front about my interest in marketing to clients.”

It took awhile for it to click. Sacha tried to get in touch with one of the most well known in the city for a year  and couldn’t get anyone to get back to her. But she persisted and fortunately got a person at the front desk to give her the manager’s name. This time she got a response. “You have to be persistent if you want clients,” Sacha says. And now most invite her back month after month.


Recently she prepared a rooftop breakfast for 100 people and donated her services to Pedal the Cause, a popular fundraiser in St. Louis for bike riders raising money for cancer research.

How does the omelet breakfast work?

Omelet Toppings

Usually, says Sacha, she has an omelet station, with choices including ham, bacon, peppers, and mushrooms. She also serves something sweet to accompany the omelets, like her sweet lime fruit salad, chocolate-covered strawberries, or chocolate-covered pretzels with chili and cinnamon sprinkle. The onsite manager will provide drinks, like coffee and juice, mimosas, and bloody Mary’s. She confers with the manager about who is responsible for supplying plates, napkins, utensils, and cups. Sometimes, they have them, Sacha says, but you need to confirm that. And, she says, don’t forget to bring business cards or other marketing materials that guests can take with them. Remember, this is a combination revenue stream and marketing opportunity.


Sacha found that the best way to organize the event is to shop, drop off the food, and prep the day before, then come in early in the morning on the day of the event to get set up. She’ll even crack and mix the eggs in pitchers, then cover them in plastic wrap the day before since they’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for the next day and it saves a lot of time the morning of the event. She notes that most have kitchens available but she’s done them without a kitchen–and she always brings induction burners so she can prepare the omelets while facing guests.


Sacha is working on getting more breakfast omelet clients in other luxury buildings and other companies–although she points out that companies tend to be resistant because they get solicited a lot.

She’s also teaching classes once or twice a month at her premier luxury building client. These buildings like to engage with residents and have events for them, so Sacha’s classes fit that niche.

Sacha has some tips for those just starting out and trying to figure out how to get clients:

  1. Market yourself. Do it every week even if you don’t need more clients.  This is essential.
  2. Phone calls are always better than email. People tend to ignore emails now. So I always call to follow up. I also send an email after the call if I get voicemail. But people are more apt to pick up the phone if you call rather than dealing with another email.
  3. Be persistent! I always follow up if I get voicemail or if I don’t get a response. I have been told by people that they are impressed by this. Some people will call or send an email and never follow up and they lose business this way. If I get voicemail or no response to an email I put a note on my calendar for a week to follow up again. I never pester people and keep calling over and over if they don’t answer but I do call once a week until they answer. If they tell me they are not interested that’s fine; I just need an answer.

What kinds of gigs fall under your personal chef umbrella? What are you trying to pursue to add to your repertoire and client list?

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

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I first met pastry chef Susanna Brandenburg about seven years ago at a Slow Food Urban San Diego event at the then new Tender Greens in Liberty Station, a restaurant you must visit if you come to San Diego. She was serving the most delightful mini root beer floats and guests were going bananas over them. Brandenburg, whose son Ryan was a chef there at the time, was hired to run the pastry operation and while Ryan has since moved on (and will soon be opening a new restaurant in the San Diego community of North Park), Brandenburg has stayed with Tender Greens as it’s expanded to more locations in the area. The desserts she makes and has trained her staff to make are like crack. From the most seemingly mundane chocolate chip cookies to her carrot cake, fig galettes, and lemon curd tarts, Brandenburg is constantly creating and revising recipes that bring customers to their knees in weak desire. The local, seasonal ethos of Tender Greens is aligned with her own philosophy about food.

“The fun of being here is being able to educate people on the seasons and how that influences what they’re eating during the year,” she says.

One item that’s not limited to the seasons, however, is her classic cinnamon roll. That strolls through the year unhampered by what fruits are available. Brandenburg has amped it up, first with the addition of mashed potatoes to the dough. “I’ve been making cinnamon rolls forever,” she says, “but about a year ago I started adding potatoes to them. I’d been making potato bread and it dawned on me that the potatoes make the bread softer and fluffier, so why not add that to the cinnamon rolls. It doesn’t change the flavor but it creates a much fluffier roll.”

She also decided to periodically add bacon, which she bakes in brown sugar until it’s just cooked. Crispy bacon doesn’t work; you want to retain the luscious fat flavor and have the texture meld, not compete with the soft dough.

Brandenburg invited me into the downtown Tender Greens kitchen to share the recipe with me. One thing I learned, which is great if you’re planning on serving these for a weekend brunch, is that you can make and shape the rolls in advance. Keep the trays of the rolls refrigerated, as well as the cream cheese frosting. Be sure that the frosting comes to room temperature before you use it so that it’s spreadable once the rolls come out of the oven.

Now, I know all of you personal chefs are cooking healthy, nutritious meals for clients. But many of you also cater and do special events, like brunches and breakfast–and, hey, you also have families. If you’re going to splurge, make it a fabulous splurge and treat your people to something beyond special. Now, the yield here is eight to 12, depending on how you cut the rolls. You could make even more, but smaller, rolls by shaping two balls instead of one and rolling the dough balls into smaller rectangles.

Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon
from Susanna Brandenburg of Tender Greens
Yield: 8-12

For Rolls:
4 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 cup milk
1 cup mashed potato
1/3 cup butter, cut up
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
8 slices bacon
1 cup plus 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened

For Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 pound (8 ounces) cream cheese
3.2 ounces butter, room temperature
3/4 pound (12 ounces) powdered sugar

Mix cream cheese and butter until very creamy. Slowly add the sugar and beat until smooth. You can add more sugar if the mixture is too thin. Refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before using so it’s spreadable.

Directions for Cinnamon Rolls:

1. Preheat oven to 325˚.
2. In a bowl put 1 1/2 cups flour and the yeast. Set aside.


3. In a saucepan, mix together the milk and mashed potato. Heat and stir the mixture with 1/3 cup butter, sugar, and salt just until warm (about 120˚) and the butter almost melts. Add to the flour and yeast mixture, along with the eggs. Beat for 30 seconds, scraping the sides. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Add as much as the remaining flour as you can by hand.


4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in any remaining flour. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until its smooth and elastic.
5. Shape into a ball and put in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.



6. While the dough is rising place the bacon slices on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle the bacon with 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t let it get too crispy or you’ll lose the flavor of the fat. Dice the bacon and set aside.
7.  Punch down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and let rest for 10 minutes.
8.  Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan.
9.  Make the filling by combining 1 cup of brown sugar and the cinnamon.


10. Roll the dough out to 18-by-12 inches. Spread 1/2 cup of butter onto the dough and then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the butter. Sprinkle the bacon pieces of the cinnamon mixture.


11. Roll up the dough and cut into the number of pieces you want. For large rolls, just cut eight pieces. For smaller, 10 or 12. Place them cut side up into the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.


12. Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ if you have a convection oven). Bake for 35 minutes. Cool slightly and frost with cream cheese frosting.



What is your favorite breakfast/brunch splurge? Have you perfected something you want to share with your personal chef colleagues? Let us know so we can feature you on the blog!

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

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Lately, we’ve been discussing the option of renting a commercial kitchen to be able to grow your personal chef business. Last week, we focused on the pros and cons of renting space, as well as what to look for. Well, this week we have a completely different and wonderfully original approach to the “kitchen issue.” Welcome APPCA member Adreeanna Black of Bistro from Home in Idaho, who, in a guest post below, will introduce us  to her solution: her way cool commercial kitchen trailer.


Bistro at Home owner Chef Adreeanna Black (front) with general manager Alyssa Lucero in their commercial kitchen trailer

While trying to search for a commercial kitchen because business has been overwhelmingly busy and cooking for all my clients in one day is much easier then going to each home, I, too, ran into the same issue. We had two incubator kitchens in our city. One unfortunately shut down due to inactivity and the other was so costly I was hardly meeting my profit margins. I thought perhaps we could turn our garage into a commercial kitchen and just choke down the cost and time that would be needed to build it. I knew we needed a kitchen to maintain the business, but at what point does the expense out weigh the need?


While I  was crunching numbers and frantically trying to figure this all out, I was approached by a family friend to look into a food trailer. I was rather concerned with the idea and was convinced creating a commercial kitchen in the home was our only option. While I did not think I would have wanted anything mobile or want to deal with all the problems that may come with something like a kitchen trailer, we went ahead and looked at this other option.


Let me tell you, this was the best decision I have made in my entire life! We purchased this trailer which turned out to be almost fully equipped, extremely functional, and with two days work into fixing some plumbing and gas line issues, she was up and running and ready to be thrown into the personal chef grind. The very same week, last week, we had a catering job for 350 people. Even though the work load was much more then preparing meals for my clients, the overall experience was the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. This week meal planning and preparing has been such a difference in comparison to the previous months. Being able to prepare ahead of time, store, and assemble has been the biggest money saver. I am now a proud owner of a commercial kitchen trailer. The best part about having one of these is free advertisement! The kitchen is a licensed mobile commercial kitchen. 


You may be wondering what the cost of the trailer has been thus far. It is a 14-foot trailer with five sinks, diamond steel plated floors and back splash, a 24-inch flat top, a 30-inch sandwich station, a 20-pan dual door food warmer, 50-gallon fresh water reserve, 75-gallon gray water reserve, and ample storage space.  

Trailer: $13,750

Licensing: $150

Exterior improvements: $60

Interior- plumbing and gas line: $45

We will be needing a small range which is about $1700.

While the numbers may seem steep we’ve made $2318 off this week alone. 


If you weigh the costs, the trailer was a “small” fee to pay to be able to free up time and make money through convenience. I understand the need for a commercial kitchen and having something available to be able to keep up with your work load. Maybe something like this would be worth looking into. I can have the trailer parked anywhere. Because we do not use it for resale or retail and only for food production there are really no limitations–also another reason why I can hang a banner on the side. Plus, the previous owners of this trailer had bought it when it was a utility trailer. The cost of mobile commercial kitchens can be very expensive if bought through kitchen companies. Something that is custom built is usually cost effective and will be approved for state licensing if guidelines are followed for a “standard” commercial kitchen. 


Prior to becoming an APPCA member I worked in restaurants for years. So having the experience of working “the line” I know how tight yet functional a kitchen can be. This commercial kitchen trailer is no different except it’s way more functional in the aspects of mobility and convenience! Here in Sandpoint,  Idaho the market for personal chefs is untouched. Given the reputation and experience I’ve had with the local restaurants, word is getting out and a couple of fantastic sous chefs I’ve had the pleasure of working with are very interested in what I have going on. With that in mind we–my newly appointed general manager Alyssa Lucero and I–have decided that we can make this commercial kitchen trailer a benefit to our community. We’re creating a mobile incubator commercial kitchen. We’ve been able to team up with a lot of other community establishments and have big plans for the future. My biggest goal for this kitchen for the coming months is to be able to share the value and convenience with other personal chefs and collaborate with our local restaurants to do cooking classes and venues.

I truly feel that if personal chefs from all around only knew how simple and efficient this concept is, their profits and convenience would quadruple in a matter of a couple of months. Currently I work at a Starbucks part time (the benefits are great!), am attending Escoffier Online (Thanks, APPCA, for the great discount! ), am a mother of two boys, and am able to run my business (Bistro At Home) efficiently, effectively, and successfully! Having the convenience of a mobile commercial kitchen and being within my reach with hardly any overhead cost is so fantastic.


Are you considering renting space in a commercial or other kitchen? What do you think of this concept? What has your experience been?

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

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