Congratulations! After a lot of hard work, marketing, and great word of mouth you’ve got a full stable of clients to work for. Just as many cook dates as you want and need.

But don’t get too comfy. It’s inevitable that at some point one of those clients is going to have bad news for you. Could be they’re moving out of town. Could be their life circumstances–or finances–have changed. Or could be they just want to make a change. But now you’re down a client and some income.

What are you planning on doing to make up that void?

For some chefs, it might be good timing. They’re ready to slow down the business. For others, it might offer the time and incentive to expand their personal chef umbrella into other areas like teaching, catering, or writing.

But for everyone else there’s that matter of shopping for a new client–or two–to fill the new gap.

The first lesson is never stop marketing yourself. Even when you’re full up with clients. Even when you don’t see any threat to your business. Change always happens and you don’t want to be invisible to your potential client base when it does.

Here are some ideas from current personal chefs:

  • Be up front and ask clients for referrals: “I ask my other clients for referrals,” says Jennifer Grawburg. “I still ask everyone I meet, ‘if you know anyone who needs a private chef…'” adds Ray Lopez.
  • Be out there: “I have monthly on air cooking spots on our local news station. I also have cooking classes I do with the community. I’m always advertising even when I’m full,” Grawburg adds.
  • Be online: Lopez also does internet marketing.
  • Contribute to your community: Lopez donates to sick friends, and church functions. So does Grawburg. “I do a lot of charity promotions throughout the year too. I give to a few that are close to my heart and a few others that are bigger organizations with more attention.”

And consider these:

  • If you and your client are separating on good terms, don’t be shy about asking for referrals.
  • Identify who your ideal client is. A young family? A health and fitness aficionado? A professional couple? Someone who has a specific medical condition? With that knowledge, target those institutions and organizations where they would be. Get involved in an organization directed to helping a specific medical condition. Join a gym where you might find potential clients–or target gyms in your area and offer to hold a cooking demo. Be creative. There’s always an intriguing angle for you to come up with.
  • Do you have favorite reporters or food bloggers in your region? Think up some story ideas for them about food topics or holiday food topics and help that person out by offering these ideas and yourself as a source. In other words, get yourself some publicity!
  • Never leave home without your business card. You never know who you’re going to meet in the course of a day and if you’re open to chatting with those people you could find that they know someone who knows someone…

Finally, no matter the reason for the client separation, make sure it’s on good terms and that you don’t do or say anything that could burn bridges. They may come back!

When was the last time you lost a client? How did you rebound from that?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Homemade Yogurt

Filed under: Recipes,Special Diets,Special Ingredients , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 10, 2020

Imagine being a New Stone Age human, just starting to engage in food production back around 9,000 B.C. You have sheep and goats that you’ve discovered are tasty (Domesticated cows wouldn’t show up until about 4,000 B.C.). And, their wool keeps you warm. But what really made them appealing is their milk. It’s so nutritious!

Just one problem that many of your clients can relate to. People—not all, but enough—couldn’t digest it easily. Yep, there was lactose intolerance back in the very old days. But by fermenting the milk—as in creating yogurt and cheese—a lot of that lactose morphs into lactic acid, which is much more easily digested.

Today, of course, there are entire walls of supermarkets dedicated to yogurt. And, yeah, it’s so convenient to toss a bunch of containers into your cart. It’s a great, easily transportable snack, transforms into a beautiful sauce or dip, and, yes, is magical when flavored and frozen.

But you haven’t tasted the real deal until you’ve tasted homemade yogurt. That’s because it’s missing all those chemical additives that keeps the processed stuff more time to languish in your fridge. What you have with homemade yogurt is the milk—cow’s, sheep, or goat—along with some culture. That’s it.

The most important element in making yogurt is the quality of the milk. Sure, you can buy milk, even goat milk, at a market but read the labels and you’ll find they’ve been pasteurized to within an inch of their lives. Your task is to dive into relationships with farmers, Local Harvest, and natural health food stores to find out how you can access farm-fresh milk.

The cooking process is then straightforward. First make sure everything—from utensils to the cooking container—is spotlessly clean. You’ll pour the milk into a stainless steel pot and heat it to about 180 degrees, then cool it down to 115 degrees with an ice bath. The milk is then ready to receive the culture that will transform it. Use either a cup of unflavored yogurt or yogurt culture that you sprinkle on the milk. Stir it in well and then place the yogurt in a water bath. If you have an Instant Pot you can use the Yogurt setting. If not, you can use a clean, sanitized ice chest with water that’s 120 degrees. Cover the milk mixture tightly and let it sit in the chest or slow cooker for up to 24 hours. Then you’ll refrigerate the yogurt, aiming for 38 degrees. If the yogurt isn’t as thick as you’d like, turn it into Greek-style yogurt by hanging it in muslin over a bowl to drain the whey (which you should save and use).

At that point you can flavor it if you want and pour it into individual containers. But first taste it. It will taste like no yogurt you’ve ever had—fresh and tangy and clean. You’ll want to eat it all up or, if you have some will power, use it as an ingredient in a sauce.

Two issues to note: Again, make sure everything involved is scrupulously clean, but if for some reason your creation doesn’t smell like yogurt or cheese, don’t eat it. And don’t flavor it until it’s cooked (except the coconut yogurt, to which you can add agave or other sweetener and vanilla bean). Ford explained that the flavorings will deteriorate the yogurt faster than if it is plain.

Sheep, Cow, or Goat Yogurt
Yield: Depending on the species, yields will vary. Sheep and cow milk will yield between ¾ and 7/8 of a gallon. Goat milk will not have as high a yield. If you make Greek-style yogurt, yield will decrease about 50 percent.

Ingredients
1 gallon fresh milk
Yogurt culture or a cup of yogurt

Tools
Stainless Steel Pot
Thermometer
Extra Fine Butter Muslin
Colander
40-quart Ice Chest, or a Slow Cooker, Ricer Cooker, or Instant Pot

Directions
Pour the milk into a large stainless steel pot on the stove and bring up to 175 to 180 degrees.

Once milk reaches the correct temperature, cool the milk down to 115 degrees by pouring it into a bowl and place that bowl into an ice bath.

When milk is cooled sprinkle culture on top of milk and let hydrate for a minute or two. If you use yogurt simply stir into the milk. Stir yogurt culture into the milk going both directions and bottom to top to make sure the culture is well mixed, otherwise your yield will go down and it can also result in a grainy texture.

In a clean and sanitized ice chest pour in 120-degree water for your water bath. It should be just enough so that the water line and milk lines are level. Not enough can cause yogurt not to fully develop, while too much will cause pot to float and possibly tip over. Cover the pot of milk tightly with lid or plastic wrap. You can also use individual, sanitized glass jars. Close the lid of the ice chest and let sit for 18-24 hours.

As an alternative you can pour the milk into a slow cooker, rice cooker or Instant Pot and set to low or yogurt setting for 12 hours.

Remove yogurt from ice chest/water bath or electric cooker and refrigerate until fully cooled and set.

Once yogurt is well chilled (38 degrees), you can create a thicker Greek-style yogurt by placing the yogurt in a fine butter muslin and colander and letting the whey drain into a bowl. The more you hang and drain the whey the sour/tart flavor will increase. Save the whey and use in smoothies, blend with fruit for frozen pops, or include in sauces.

Have you ever tried to make homemade yogurt? Did it live up to expectations?

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.

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Personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship

We always say that one of the benefits of being a personal chef is creating your own work parameters. Over the years we’ve had members who chose this profession after exhausting hours spent on restaurant kitchen lines.

Well, chefs over age 40 might want to consider cutting back their work days to three a week, based on the findings in a 2016 Australian study. They found that workers performed better if they were only on the job three days a week, noting that working for more than 25 hours a week resulted in fatigue and stress for most middle-aged participants.

The study, published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper series, asked 3,500 women and 3,000 men (aged 40 and over) to complete cognitive tests while their work habits were analyzed, according to HuffPost.

Data for the study was drawn from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, which is conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. It looks at people’s economic and subjective well-being, family structures, and employment. Those taking part were asked to read words aloud, to recite lists of numbers backwards and to match letters and numbers under time pressure.

Researchers found that cognitive performance improved as the working week increased up to 25 hours. After that, performance declined for both men and women. Study subjects who worked 55 hours a week demonstrated cognitive results worse than those who were retired or unemployed.

“Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognitive functions,” the report said.

Colin McKenzie, professor of economics at Keio University who took part in the research, said it would appear that working extremely long hours was more damaging than not working at all on brain function.

BBC News, however, interviewed Geraint Johnes, professor of economics at Lancaster University Management School, who said: “The research looks only at over-40s, and so cannot make the claim that over-40s are different from any other workers. What the authors find is that cognitive functioning improves up to the point at which workers work 25 hours a week and declines thereafter.”He added: “Actually, at first the decline is very marginal, and there is not much of an effect as working hours rise to 35 hours per week. Beyond 40 hours per week, the decline is much more rapid.”

Some APPCA chefs already have adopted this approach. “I managed my clients so that I had three-day work weeks except for one week each month-that was a four in a row week,” said Dallas-based Anne Blankenship. “Worked great for me.”

Tori Scaccia agrees. “Yes. Worked for me and paid Sous chef very well,” she said.

But that’s not how chef Christina Hamilton Snow sees it. “Not a reality for personal or private chefs,” she said.

Are you over 40? What do you think about this study’s results and recommendation?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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Many clients are eager, especially as part of New Year’s resolutions, to cut their carbs consumption. And yet they still crave a hearty, warming meal–like lasagna. Now, if you have clients who love eggplant–and all the great ingredients that eggplant complements–you can’t go wrong with this faux “lasagna.”

Eggplant is such a versatile vegetable. Fry them, bake them, roast them, marinate them… the list goes on and on. And you find them in so many cultures around the world, which adds even more to their versatility and the range of flavor profiles you can create.

Here’s a dish that features sliced, roasted eggplant; roasted, peeled red and yellow peppers; homemade tomato sauce, rich with spicy Italian chicken sausage and mushrooms; and lots of garlic mixed into the ricotta, Parmesan, egg mixture. Oh, and let’s not forget the panko mixed with grated Parmesan that tops it all off.

All of these ingredients are layered into a deep 9 by 9-inch ceramic baking dish and baked at high heat for about half an hour. It comes out of the oven brown and bubbling from the cheese. Cut into it and you have layers of sublime flavors all complementing each other. Your clients can pair it with a salad and serve it with a crisp white wine. And, you can freeze it before baking or freeze well wrapped baked slices.

Baked Eggplant and Bell Pepper in Ricotta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons for the baking dish and to drizzle on the casserole
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise, about ½ inch thick
3 bell peppers (any color but green, which is too bitter)
2 fresh spicy Italian chicken sausages
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups marinara sauce
15 ounces ricotta
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup reserved for topping
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup panko crumbs

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place eggplant slices on two half sheet baking pans and brush lightly on both sides with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes, turning slices over halfway. The eggplant slices should be golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, roast the peppers on your stove top or alongside the eggplant until all sides are blackened. Remove and place in a brown paper bag with the top rolled up to steam the skins off the peppers. Wait about 10 minutes and remove the peppers and peel the skins off. Slice in half and remove the core and seeds. Then slice into segments and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Slice through the sausage casings and add the meat to the skillet. Break it up and sauté until browned. Set aside and add the mushroom slices. Let them brown. Add the sausage meat and the mushrooms to the marina sauce.

4. In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper.

5. To put the casserole together, brush an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil. Then layer half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Follow that with half of the marina sauce and a layer of the peppers. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat these layers and end with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the ¼ cup reserved Parmesan cheese and the panko crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s your favorite low-carb riff on lasagna? What ingredients do you feature?

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.

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Last week the annual Consumer Electronics Show hit Las Vegas and among the gadgets being touted were hyped up electronics for the kitchen. Eater wrote about several. Some were worth drooling over–like LG’s Harvester, a fridge-adjacent cabinet that controls light, water, and temperatures and even allows you to grow herbs indoors. Some were curious, like the $229 “Smartypans,” a “smart” frying pan that tracks the nutritional value of the food you’re cooking in the pan. Huh. And then there were the “what were they thinking” gadgets such as a smart trash can that seals and replaces your full plastic bag automatically but needs weekly charging and pricey trash bags, and a smart voice-activated faucet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All this is to say that as kitchens–and homes, of course–are growing increasingly automated, there’s a lot that personal chefs need to keep on top of when working at client homes.

If you conduct–as you should–an assessment when meeting with a new client, this category is something you need to add as a review item.

Consider just some of the things in your own home that may be controlled by apps or devices:

  • Indoor lights
  • Outdoor lights
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fans
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Slow cookers
  • Blenders
  • Microwave ovens
  • Doorbells
  • Door locks
  • Light bulbs

And these may be controlled by a hub, like Apple HomePod, Google Nest, or Amazon Echo (aka Alexa).

If you aren’t informed about your client’s automated appliances and home devices you could find yourself unable to see your way out the door (literally if the lights are off and you can’t just flip a switch to turn them on or figuratively if you can’t unlock the door). What if something you’re cooking begins to smoke? A Nest smoke detector, for instance, can give you a heads up that it senses smoke and will release an alarm. If you have the app you can dismiss it. If you don’t, you’re in for a lot of noise.

You may not be able to turn on a house or stove top fan if you need it, adjust the home’s temperature, or use the client’s kitchen scale. What do you do when a light goes out?

I’m sure you can come up with more examples based on how you work in a kitchen and within a given client’s home. What makes the most sense is to discuss with them what e-connected appliances and devices are in the house, figure out how it impacts you while you’re there, and how to control them–especially if your client isn’t home while you’re there. Do you need to download the relevant apps and log into their account? Can they be temporarily disconnected from the apps and used manually?

And don’t forget to have them apprise you of when they add a new e-controlled device to the home or change something.

You don’t want to be left in the dark.

Have you experienced any e-controlled device issues at client’s homes? How do you manage working in an automated home?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Don’t waste time feeling anything like pity for those of us who live in Southern California and “endure” its  winters. While the rest of the country is digging out of snow over the next few months, we shiver when the temps drop into the low 60s. But it does at least mean we can all agree on one thing: the magical qualities of a steaming bowl of soup. Warming, comforting soup that’s also deliciously healthy with winter veggies.

I’m working on a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune on healthy winter soups and have my recipe line up ready. Somewhat similar to one of these recipes is one I came up with a few years ago when I was gifted with a huge bag of baby spinach, already cleaned and prepped and looking for a purpose. I had just made spanakopita so that was out. There’s only so much spinach salad one person can eat, so that wasn’t going to do it. And back then San Diego was about to get hit with another storm so a cold salad didn’t appeal to me anyway.

I already had the remains (meaning the breast meat) of a rotisserie chicken I had bought at Costco. (Existential question: Does anyone really enjoy a market rotisserie chicken beyond the convenience factor?) I had feta cheese and a just wrinkling jalapeño pepper I needed to use, a huge head of garlic, a quart of vegetable stock and an onion, fresh herbs and Meyer lemons in my garden, and purple prairie barley in the pantry. As I scoured my kitchen and garden I figured, okay, I had the makings of a big pot of soup.

Now you can, of course, add other vegetables to this. Mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, or winter squash would all be nice. You could leave out the chicken for a vegetarian soup or add sausage or other proteins to make it even more hearty. Couscous or rice would work instead of barley. Basically, add whatever your clients will love most. But what you really want to keep in–besides the spinach, of course–is the lemon juice. It’s the magical ingredient that makes this soup special. It turns a very nice conventional soup into something bright and interesting. And makes it the perfect go-to for a chilly cloudy weekend. And it freezes beautifully for clients to store.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Chicken and Barley
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 pound baby spinach, thoroughly washed, dried, and chopped
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces shredded chicken or other protein (optional)
6 ounces barley
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
crumbled feta for garnish

Directions

1. Heat a large Dutch oven and add olive oil. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until golden. Add the pepper and sauté another 30 seconds.

2. Add the spinach in batches, stirring until it cooks down.

3. Add the stock and water, stirring to mix. Then add the chicken and barley. Bring to a boil, then reduced to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes or until the barley is tender.

4. Add the herbs and lemon juice. Stir. Let cook another 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Serve with feta.

What winter soups are you preparing for clients–or your own family? What are your favorite riffs on ingredients?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Fennel Gratin

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , January 6, 2020

Fennel is the coolest vegetable. It’s a bulb and an herb, thanks to its feathery green fronds. The bulb and stems can be eaten raw (think thin slices for a sweet crunchy salad) or cooked–braised, sautéed, roasted, or featured in a soup. It has its own unique anise flavor but is welcoming to all sorts of other flavors. And–at least in Southern California, where I live–it’s a perennial plant.

But, sadly, it’s a much overlooked vegetable. Let’s change that for your clients, especially this time of year when we all want to focus on vegetables, but also are keen for warming food!

For years I’ve used fennel for fresh salads but I’ve also sliced the bulbs in half lengthwise, brushed the surface with olive oil and then sprinkled grated cheese and bread crumbs on top before baking. It’s a side dish I got from my mom.

But, inspired by an eggplant gratin dish I enjoy making, I thought I’d do something similar with fennel. I had two super large bulbs that still had some fronds attached. I separated those and minced them. I then trimmed the fennel top and then cored the bulbs before quartering them. With the oven primed for roasting, the bulb quarters and sliced stems went onto a foil-lined baking sheet (along with some garlic cloves for me to snack on), got drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt before going into the oven for roasting for about half an hour.

Then I made a modified sauce with milk, gruyere and parmesan cheeses, green onions for flavor and color, and garlic. I don’t love sauces that drown the main ingredient, but having just enough to bathe and flavor can be delightful. This does it. The onions and garlic were sautéed in olive oil to which I added the minced fronds and fresh thyme from my garden. I mixed them in a bowl with the milk, cheeses, and some salt and pepper.

Once the fennel bulbs came out of the oven, I placed them into a ceramic baking dish I’d brushed with olive oil. I tucked the cheesy oniony mixture over and around them. On top I sprinkled a topping made of panko crumbs and more cheese. Finally, I drizzled olive oil.

Into the oven it all went, back at 400° F for about 25 minutes until it was all brown and bubbly. You know you have something when you take a bite and involuntarily sigh and smile.

Fennel Gratin
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt
6 green onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fennel fronds, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
½ cup milk
½ cup grated gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For topping:
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup gruyere cheese
½ cup panko crumbs
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.

Place fennel bulb quarters on a foil-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30 minutes until soft and just becoming brown.

While the fennel is roasting, sauté the green onions and garlic in olive oil (about a tablespoon or more). Don’t brown them. You just want them soft. Add the minced fennel fronts and thyme and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Remove the roasted fennel from the oven and place quarters in a baking dish coasted with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together green onion and garlic mixture with milk, cheeses, salt and pepper.
Spread over the fennel in the baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the cheeses with the panko and evenly spread over the fennel bulbs and green onion and garlic cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake uncovered at 400° F degrees for 25 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Are you a fennel fan? If so, how do you like to prepare it?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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It’s the time of year for gift giving–and for personal chefs, nothing says “Thank you for your business. I so appreciate you!” like handmade edible gifts. Over the years we’ve published a number of ideas. Now, just a day before Christmas but still a week out from New Year’s, here’s one more: Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts.

I don’t know about you, but I love spiced nuts, especially my recipe for those from Union Square. You know, their Bar Nuts. But I was surprised to see a recipe in The Kitchn for Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts. As in, why would you make spiced nuts in a slow cooker?

But curiosity got the better of me and since I have an Instant Pot I thought I’d check it out. Only instead of their “spiced nuts,” which only include ground cinnamon as the spice, along with some vanilla paste, I thought I’d amp it up with a sweet and savory version–like the Bar Nuts.

I’m lucky to have planted a garden filled with herbs so I clipped rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage, washed and chopped them up and prepped everything else–melted the butter, whisked the egg whites to make the sauce. I added cayenne pepper to get a kick of heat but if you have spice-averse clients, you can, of course, leave it out. After prepping, you make the sauce in the slow cooker pot. Then add the nuts, stir up the mixture to coat the nuts, and let it rip–or, in this case, gently cook. It’s actually a very easy recipe–but, it’s a slow cooker recipe so it requires patience. And your presence. Unlike other slow cooker recipes in which you can head out and it all takes care of itself, with this recipe you need to stir the nuts in their salty, herbaceous sweet sauce every 20 minutes.

The recipe also gives you an option in cooking times. Cook low for three hours or high for one hour. I went all in since this was, after all, a slow cooker recipe. But after three hours it still didn’t look done–whatever that was. So, I amped the heat up to high and gave it another half an hour.

And I liked them. They’re gooey, and the nuts won’t be crisp as they would if you toasted them. But they actually have a lovely almost creamy texture and addictive flavor. You’ll be as stuck on these as kettle corn. And don’t try to have any self-control. They only last a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 6 cups

Ingredients
2 large egg whites
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper (optional)
6 cups raw, whole nuts, such as almonds, pecans, cashews, or walnuts

Instructions
1. Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Place the egg whites in the slow cooker and whisk until frothy. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, herbs, and cayenne pepper, and stir into a thick syrup.
3. Add the nuts and stir with a spatula until they are evenly coated.


4. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cover with the lid and cook, stirring every 20 minutes, until nuts are fragrant, lightly browned, and the coating appears dull and not shiny, 3 to 3 1/2 hours on the LOW setting or 1 to 1 1/2 hours on the HIGH setting. If you go with 3 hours on LOW, you can add another half hour on HIGH.


5. Stir one final time, then pour onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread into an even layer, separating the nuts as much as possible, and cool completely.
6. Once cool, break apart any nuts that have stubbornly stuck together and transfer to a serving dish, jar for gifting, or airtight container for storage. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

What edible gifts are you making for clients? Have you ever made this kind of dish in your Instant Pot?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Are You Ready for 2020?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 16, 2019

While you’re hard at work prepping meals for regular clients and perhaps also taking on catering events, there’s one more task you need to take on: preparing for 2020.

Nothing stays the same. Clients leave, new clients come on board. Food trends change. Your own life changes. And if you’re running a successful business you must be ready and even eager to evolve your business so that it continues to work for you.

So, let’s look at some things you need to do to know what tweaks you might have to make in various areas of your personal chef business:

  • Take a fresh look at your business plan and make revisions. Consider whether you’re enjoying your work and if not, why not? Then you can make adjustments to your schedule, your services, and even your goals. Have your priorities changed? Have your skills evolved? Before 2020 hits, determine what exactly you want to make of it and write it all down as a commitment to yourself.
  • Take a hard look at your finances, especially your profit and loss report. That end-of-year P&L will help you figure out ways to improve 2020 finances. Are you earning enough of a profit? Is your pricing realistic? Are you charging enough to make a profit? Are you ready for quarterly tax payments? Are your expenses getting away from you and what will they look like next year? We’re talking marketing, insurance, fuel/transportation, new equipment, perhaps even part-time help.
  • Review your equipment. Speaking of expenses, your cooking tools are some of the most consequential investments you make in your business? Do you need to replace anything or buy new and novel equipment for new menus you’re creating? Are there tools you no longer use and can stop hauling around with you? Do you need to get knives sharpened or buy fresh uniforms? Hey, if your car is your transportation to clients and events, you need to consider if it needs servicing or new tires.
  • Examine how well you’re promoting your business. Sure, your business is currently thriving but you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A good, long-term client can go away in a snap. Have you been consistently marketing yourself and your business? What kind of professional networking are you doing and how can you improve it in 2020? Do you have business cards and do you hand them out? Are you promoting yourself through social media? Have you ever reached out to guest post on this blog (so you can then promote it on social media or your website)? Do you take great photos of your food for your website and social media—if not, how about taking a food photography class?
  • Look at your client mix and potential new opportunities. If you started your business even five short years ago you know that food culture and culture in general has dramatically changed. Five years ago you may have had an interest in cooking vegan food, but couldn’t find clients who were all that interested. Today it’s a thing so now’s your opportunity to seek them out. Perhaps you’ve developed an interest in cooking for people who have specific health issues to address—from heart disease to cancer to dementia. Or you want to help pregnant moms and young families. Or you want to prepare healthy “on the run” foods for young, time-deprived professionals. This is the time to research opportunities and make them happen in your 2020 business plan. It’s also the time to review and refresh your menus, maybe challenge yourself with new skills and trending ingredients.
  • Finally, look at your personal life and how well you’re balancing it with work. Are you and your family happy with your schedule or do you need to tweak it to give yourself family or personal time? Are you exercising and doing fun things that keep your body, mind, and heart satisfied? Are you prioritizing vacation time? Are you exploring continuing education that doesn’t just help your business but also feeds your soul?

Candy and Dennis are eager for you to succeed. If you are an APPCA member and have any questions about how to make your business work better for you, reach out and ask. If you’re considering becoming a personal chef in 2020, join APPCA. We can help you set up your new business.

What kinds of issues are you mulling over that we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2020?

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

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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