We talk a lot as personal chefs about our mission to create healthy meals for families. Part of that mission also includes thinking about where our food comes from. Is it organic? Is it from local farms and ranches? Who made it? Now it’s not always feasible–for cost reasons or just geography–to buy organic, local, and sustainable–but it’s something to strive for. In San Diego, where we have year-round growing seasons and are right on the ocean, it’s become a big deal.
That includes seafood. One of the premier seafood wholesalers in San Diego is Catalina Offshore Products, founded and owned by Dave Rudie. They got their start decades ago selling sea urchin that Dave would dive for. The company has long since expanded and in the last several years, they’ve positioned themselves as a chef favorite and now a public favorite, thanks to the face of the company, Tommy Gomes.
Tommy comes from a fishing family and is a wealth of knowledge about seafood–and, importantly today, sustainability. While the company doesn’t pretend to be entirely sustainable, they are working hard to do all the right things–and still be profitable. That extends to their recent agreement with non-profit advocacy group Seafood of the Future to label products in ways that help consumers make good choices based on local fisheries in healthy supply by building a network of restaurants, distributors, and producers also committed to fishery sustainability. Catalina Offshore Products uses their guidelines to inform customers of the status of various species they sell. It’s all about transparency.
That’s why you’ll still see white shrimp for sale from Baja (which we in San Diego consider local), Bluefin tuna, corvina, and Cabrilla grouper (not on the Seafood for the Future list) alongside approved species like black cod, yellowfin tuna, wild swordfish, and Chilean sea bass. You may still buy the grouper or shrimp, but, hopefully, you’ll think about that purchase, and perhaps also buy some black cod.
Catalina Offshore Products is also interested in getting customers to go beyond just the filet and strive to eat the entire fish–from tail to mouth. To do that, they have weekly in-house cooking demos, primarily by Chef Christopher Logan of Creative Flavors Catering, but also by numerous other chefs who have befriended Tommy and Catalina Offshore Products–and often Tommy himself will wield a spatula over a skillet. Consequently, they have gotten people to fall in love with fish collars and cheeks. Chefs fall all over each other to get livers and eggs and other innards that they transform into exquisite dishes.
And, five years ago, Tommy and Catalina Offshore Products launched a regular Sunday evening event called Collaboration Kitchen in partnership with local produce warehouse Specialty Produce, both to demonstrate seafood cooking techniques and raise money for local organizations. Tickets to these events, which are $75, sell out in hours and draw San Diego’s best chefs to participate. The event now has a formal 501(c)3 nonprofit designation and board of directors and hands out a check for $3,000 on the spot to the recipient.
We thought you’d enjoy a recipe from one of these events. This was the 2014 season opener with Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien, who has an Emmy Award-winning TV show, a radio show, blog, and several cookbooks.
He’s a local food celebrity and charmed the crowd that night with dishes like Deviled Eggs and Shrimp Skewer, Curried Grouper, and Captn Crunch Seared Tuna.
Here’s one with a fish you may not have thought to cook with: shark:
Hoisin Shark Tacos
From Sam Zien
Makes 2 tacos
4 green onions, white & light green parts only, sliced lengthwise into thin shreds
1/4 cup jicama, sliced into thin shreds
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1/2 tablespoons Asian chili paste
1/4 pound shark fillet without the skin, cut into small pieces
2 corn tortillas
· Combine green onions and jicama into a “slaw” and set aside
· Mix hoisin and chili paste in a small bowl and set aside
· Preheat a skillet or wok well on fairly high heat – also preheat a nonstick skillet to heat the tortillas
· Add 2 teaspoons peanut oil to the wok, then the shark and cook quickly until still a bit moist inside, about 3 minutes
· At the same time, heat the tortillas in the nonstick skillet
· Spread some sauce on the each tortilla, top with shark and slaw
What are your favorite seafood dishes to serve clients? Are you buying local, sustainable seafood? If not, why?
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.
We love connecting with you on our personal chef forums. But we also enjoy the relationships we’re building on social media. Some of you are just as active on social media as we are. But others are wary of this medium or uncertain about what to do. One thing we’ve noticed, particularly on Facebook, is that when we go to your business pages to try to promote your work or your page, it’s often neglected. The most recent posts are months old. Or, you haven’t got any useful content to speak of that would draw people to engage with you or help them understand what you do.
So, we thought we’d give you some tips for how to draw people in–people who could be potential clients, after all, or good contacts for networking–and keep them coming back. They aren’t difficult to do. In fact, all they do is make you more interesting, useful, and engaging. We like to think of social media as a large cocktail party filled with lots of conversations going on simultaneously. Do you want to be the wallflower or social butterfly? Think about how you act at a party. You find yourself in a small group of people. Do you monopolize the conversation and not let anyone else have a turn or do you ask others questions to learn more about them? Do you have some interesting anecdotes to share, some useful information or story you found in a newspaper or do you drone on about how hard it was to shovel snow from the driveway or get your car to start?
The idea is to become a person who is helpful and entertaining. To be viewed as an expert with resources to share. To engage others. Yes, you want to promote yourself and your business–but not at the expense of being boring or viewed simply as a self-promoter. Be the cool guest at the cocktail party.
With this in mind, here are six ways to help you accomplish this:
1. Ask questions. Think of it as a way to learn more about your “friends” and “followers”–and as a useful market research tool. Find out what people’s favorite foods are, how often they eat at home with their families, if they enjoy cooking shows, what their favorite ethnic foods are, how they learned to cook–or if they cook. If you are ignorant about something–an ingredient from another culture or a cooking technique–ask if someone can share their knowledge. As you do this more frequently, you’ll find your questions will be more targeted and you’ll be surprised at what sparks a conversation. And that’s a great result.
2. Tag people with a purpose. One of the most annoying things on Facebook or Twitter is to be tagged by someone just because they want your attention. But if you have something to share (a link to a magazine article, a TV show, or cool website) that specifically mentions someone–a friend, a celebrity chef, a business–by all means tag them. If you want someone in particular to respond to a question, tag them. If you’re linking to a blog post you’ve written that mentions someone, tag them.
3. Use great photos. Facebook has recently acknowledged that long posts are out and photos are in. If you want to show up on other people’s news feeds, make sure you have at least one great photo to draw attention. It could be a beautiful dish you’ve prepared, a gorgeous piece of produce, an infographic, whatever. And, if you use a smart phone to shoot your photos, get an app called InstaFrame or one like it to easily create a multi-photo collage you can upload. You can do the same with PicFrame on a Mac (very helpful in blogging, too).
4. Share posts others put up–or be a helpful retweeter. Be the good guy and generously spread their good news or interesting articles. You may even find other people like your business page because they’ve now discovered you.
5. Engage with others on their feeds or tweets. Read your news feed and become part of the conversation. If you have something useful to say, jump in with a comment, observation, solution, or question.
6. Be judicious in promoting yourself. All social media platforms are great resources for self promotion, but don’t overdo it and find ways to do it that are useful (like offering a recipe or cooking tips). Brag on a new gig you got or a compliment a client gave you for a dish. Announce what your services are and how you can help people. Illustrate it with gorgeous photos. Just do it as part of your larger engagement with others. They shouldn’t be the majority of your posts.
And, here’s an extra tip–feed your accounts regularly. Pick a few platforms that you think will do you the most good and be involved on them. If you try to be everywhere you’ll surely give up. It’s very frustrating to have people you’re trying to build a relationship with disappear for months on end. Don’t over post, but don’t go AWOL. Find your rhythm and try to stick with it.
What social media challenges do you have? Where can we find you?
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.
Periodically we want to feature APPCA chefs who we think are doing great work, making a difference in their communities, or would be a source of inspiration for our member chefs. Steve Loeschner of Chef Steve Personal Chef Service in Derry, New Hampshire falls into the latter category. We know all of you are working hard to constantly improve your culinary skills and build your business. Take a page from Steve’s efforts. Perhaps it will give you some ideas for amping up your own personal chef business.
Like many of us who have a passion for food and cooking, Steve learned kitchen skills from his his grandmothers and mother. “Being German, Italian, and Polish, food was in my blood,” he says. And, he early on he was fascinated by “The French Chef “and “The Galloping Gourmet.” But his practical side chose a career in technology, reserving his cooking for family and friends.
Eventually, however, he started a catering business but gave that up and then with his wife Maryellen, started a bakery where they made cupcakes, brownies, and other baked goods. But the “crazy long hours” weren’t sustainable.
“I wanted to stay in cooking but didn’t want to work in a restaurant on the line making the same food day after day,” he recalls. “Still looking for a way to pursue my interest in the culinary field, I found the personal chef field. I thought this was a great fit! I can take on as many clients as I can handle.”
Steve also found the APPCA. “Everyone has been a great help and always lots of support,” he says. “I’ve also been trying to figure out how to get my culinary training and still be able to work.” He learned about the Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy through the APPCA and is thrilled with the program. “This allows me to spend the time I need to review the material and it’s not crammed into an eight-hour day like a brick-and-mortar school. If I know the material I run through it. If it’s new to me I can go over it as much as I want until I get it. And the chef mentors are great. You can even send them recipes you create and they’ll review them.”
He’s now picking up the formal knife skills and basic French-cuisine fundamentals he’s been keen on learning. Because the chef mentors can review and critique your work, but obviously not taste your food, he relies on family and friends for that.
Steve has been in business for close to a year now, bringing tasty meals and a healthy lifestyle to clients. “Everybody eats such junk. They go to the store and buy boxes and bags of whatever. We bring fresh ingredients instead of chemicals, better cuts of meat, food that keeps you healthy.”
Steve works with clients to identify what they need, depending on their preferences, health issues, and dietary needs. “We create menus as a result of our assessment. We’ll swap out ingredients in our recipes to make them healthier based on their specific needs. In a lot of cases, we contact their doctor or have a list of foods we should incorporate in their diet. One client has leukemia so we have to be very cautious about both what we prepare and how we prepare it.”
He’s now collaborating with a woman who does personal training and nutrition to come up with a program for clients that integrates nutrition and fitness.
One of Steve’s biggest efforts in building his business has been developing a social media presence through Twitter and Facebook. “I’m still learning. I feel for other chefs because they’ll be going through the same thing. But it’s really important because this is how people communicate today. I like the foodie chats on Twitter. I meet a lot of people and learn a lot by watching what they say. It’s a lot of fun. You get a lot of followers that way.”
“You have to stay in front of your potential clients all the time,” he emphasizes. “It helps them remember you. It’s huge and doesn’t cost anything. With advertising and marketing so expensive, why wouldn’t you do social media?”
And, he’s beginning to organize cooking classes to teach specific dishes to clients at their homes with the ultimate goal of holding larger classes at a commercial kitchen.
But the classes won’t eclipse working with clients at their homes. That’s Steve’s passion. “Cooking for clients is quite personal and that’s why I like it. You get to know them and what they like and dislike and create meals just for them that they’ll enjoy. I love getting to know them!”
Do you have favorite story to tell about your personal chef business? Please leave a comment and let us know.
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.
We know from talking with you on our forums that many of you enjoy making special treats for your clients. Well, Valentine’s Day is at the end of the week and we thought you’d like to have at least one sweet option on hand. Truffles.
In San Diego, we have a dangerous chef friend, Andrea Davis. Andrea is dangerous because she’s so good at what she does, which is truffle making. Andrea’s Truffles puts out 500 to 800 truffles a week, which are sold at a variety of locations around San Diego. Once a savory chef, she takes that understanding of flavor pairings and extends it to chocolate, with often whimsical varieties, including Bacon Whiskey and Spicy Cinnamon with Tequila, Peanut Butter with Cap’n Crunch Brittle, and Sculpin Pretzel Bark (made with local Sculpin beer).
For Valentine’s Day, she’s making Strawberry Champagne for the restaurant 100 Wines, Blood Orange Chocolate with Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese and Chocolate Praline for Ripe North Park, and Bucherondin Goat Cheese with Homemade Raspberry Jam. She does pairings with breweries, coming up with truffles like Goat Cheese and Blood Orange Truffle to pair with a Jucundus Orange Honey Wheat ale.
The first, of course, is clear by looking at them. They’re not the traditional truffle shape—as in round and dusted with cocoa powder to imitate truffles rooted out from the dank ground. Davis admits that she’d been watching Alton Brown on TV making truffles and when she saw him pour the ganache into a half sheet, then slice them into squares like a brownie she had an aha moment and switched out her technique.
Davis uses a combination of Callebaut and Valhrona chocolate as the base of her ganache, into which she blends butter, cocoa powder, and cream, going low and slow with the heat. If she adds alcohol like tequila or beer to the ganache she takes out an equal amount of the cream. When it’s thoroughly blended she pours the ganache into aluminum trays lined with plastic wrap since the cooled and set ganache is the easier to lift out so she can unwrap it and slice it into squares.
Davis dips the truffles in tempered chocolate, relying on touch to let her know when the chocolate is cool enough to dip. She places each truffle on a fork to quickly dunk, turn, and lift out. Both the ganache and the tempered chocolate must be cool enough so that the chocolate doesn’t run and puddle around the truffle when it’s placed back.
While the tempered chocolate is still soft after the dousing, David adds the finishing touches. It could be lime zest and cinnamon, gold dust, sea salt, or brown sugar.
Have we lured you into trying your hand at this for client gifts? If so, find a basic truffle recipe that includes chocolate, heavy cream, butter, and cocoa powder—not condensed milk. Then take to heart Andrea’s additional half dozen tips:
1. When it comes to flavors, think about what works with what and remember that less is more. You don’t have to mix them all together in the ganache either. You can always sprinkle some on top for an extra punch. For example, Andrea makes a green tea and white chocolate truffle but to round it out she sprinkles cinnamon on top.
2. With chocolate, use the best ingredients you can afford.
3. Layer your flavors. Don’t mix everything together at once. Build the flavors as you’re cooking the ganache or the caramel.
4. When using alcohol in the ganache, take out the equivalent amount of cream so it doesn’t get runny.
5. When incorporating a dark stout or wine, first reduce the liquid to half to capture more of the flavor when it’s blended with the chocolate.
6. When using tequila you’ll find that it actually makes the ganache sturdier, so take that into account and don’t use a heavy hand. The tequila also keeps its flavor so, again, don’t use so much that it will overpower the chocolate.
Do you have favorite truffle flavor combinations? Please leave a comment and let us know.
If you have an iPhone or iPad or some other breed of mobile phone or tablet that can download mobile applications you have the springboard for a robust portable reference library you can use on the fly. In the food category, the menu is extensive. Most celebrity chefs, from Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsey to Jamie Oliver and Catt Cora have their own apps. So do culinary schools like the CIAand Escoffier. And, if you have some bucks to spend you can even get the Modernist Cuisine at Home app for a robust $80.
But, if you’re just starting to build your app portfolio, we’ve got some terrific low-cost or free apps that are hugely useful—whether they’re geared toward recipes, shopping, or business/kitchen management. Some of you may have been introduced to these apps by Chef Carol Borchardt at her Personal Chef Summit in San Diego. She offered some ideas here, too.
Take a look and please leave your suggestions in the comments section so we can all fill up our devices with great resources! Note: The apps listed below are found on iTunes for iOS devices. Most, if not all, are also available for Android.
Find & Hire a Personal Chef: Free. We’re starting with our own app first. The APPCA launched this app last year. We suggest you promote it within your own circles and make sure that you (members) are listed in the detail you want since this is geared toward promoting your services. The app is searchable based on geography and includes videos that discuss who needs a personal chef, how to find and hire a personal chef, and features a day in the life of the Dinnermaker Personal Chef Service.
How to Cook Everything: $9.99. From the bestselling cookbook by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, it features 2,000 recipes and 400 how-to illustrations. There’s also a separate app from Bittman called How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Epicurious: Free. Thousands of recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and other sources, a recipe box, shopping list, voice commands—and newly updated for iOS 7.
Ratio: $4.99, From Michael Ruhlman’s best-selling cookbook Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It’s less about the recipes than the building blocks of creating them. So you’ll get 33 key proportions for fundamental recipes and the app does the calculating and converting for you.
Specialty Produce: Free or $1.99 for Specialty Produce Pro. The product of a San Diego produce warehouse, the app has developed into a terrific database of produce history, cultivation, seasonal availability, and recipes.
Kitchen Calculator Pro: $3.99. Perfect for scaling recipes. recipe conversions for temperature, weight, volume, distance. Standard cooking fractions. And you can create a database with your favorite ingredients.
Seafood Watch: Free. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Helps you choose sustainable seafood and sushi with rankings of Best Choice, Good Alternative, and Avoid. Includes new project, FishMap.
Hello Vino – Wine Assistant: Free. All-in-one app providing recommendations for meals and specific food pairings, for various occasions, by type and variety, and your own taste preferences.
iAnnotatePDF: $9.95. This isn’t specific to food but Borchardt swears by it for her business. Use it to read, mark up and share PDF, DOC, PPT, and image files. “With the assistance of Dropbox (yet another one!), you are able to make physical changes to PDF documents. When I meet with clients, I take my iPad with me and pull up my menu and the clients can ‘check off’ the ones that appeal to them with their fingertip. I’ve also used it to upload my shopping list, too,” she explains.
GroceryiQ: Free. Build a grocery shopping list with specific brands manually or by scanning barcodes or doing a voice search. Create a favorites list segmented by stores.
Asian Market Shopper: $3.99. Demystifies Asian ingredients, focusing on the 100 most commonly used staples, along with how-to videos and recipes.
The Meat App: $4.99. Another app recommended by Borchardt, this is a butcher’s-eye view of cuts of meat and how to cook them, with butchering tutorials.
CarbsControl: $2.99. If you have diabetic clients, you can use this app to search specific foods and find out the carb count to build a recipe.
Is That Gluten Free?: $7.99. A great resource if you have gluten-free clients. More than 29,000 products and 1,077 brands listed.
Fooducate: Free. Useful for chefs who need to track product nutrition for clients, it features a product/brand scanner and nutrition trips.
4-in-1 Kitchen Timer: Free. A practical app to use when you need to time multiple dishes. Has four timers that you can identify by dish and even continues to count when the app is closed.
What are your favorite, most useful apps? Please leave a comment and let us know.
We’re only a month into the new year. How are you doing with those resolutions you made for achieving new career goals? Have you honored your commitment by signing up for any new classes or workshops?
If you’re in the mid-West and eager to jumpstart your career as a personal chef, you’re in luck. I’ll be in Chicago Feb. 15 and 16 conducting a two-day training seminar filled with detailed instruction and analysis to help you successfully launch your business in the shortest time possible.
These two-day seminars (upcoming ones will be held in San Diego in March, Baltimore in April, Chicago in May, and back in San Diego in June) are geared toward individuals wishing to enter the personal chef industry. The seminar blends two disciplines—culinary and business—to help you set up and operate a legitimate personal chef business that reflects your specific level of expertise and requirements for what you want your business to look like. We’re talking about:
- · Determining what level of service you wish to offer and to whom
- · How to find clients and how to serve them
- · Deciding what format you want your business to take
- · How to register your business name with your state and address local licensing and regulatory requirements
- · How to set up and maintain company records, accounting, tax liability, etc.
- · How to conduct an effective assessment of clients needs and wants to enable you to custom design a palate-specific program
- · Client service, scheduling, menu planning, and pricing
Plus, we provide you—included in the seminar fee—printed educational materials and a full year’s membership in APPCA so you can turn to the organization for mentorship and enjoy the visibility we provide via our Find a Chef searchable database and mobile app. And, you’ll receive a certificate of completion.
Of course, there are some personal chefs out there who already have launched a business—maybe six months or a year ago or even longer—and need this kind of educational experience because they now know what they don’t know. And they need help. We welcome you and we also welcome APPCA members who want to polish their business skills or simply kick their marketing and/or client services up a notch.
Like all our seminars and books and software and the annual Personal Chef Summit, this weekend seminar brings with it the 20+ years APPCA has devoted to positioning the personal chef industry to the professionally validated status it enjoys today. We provide the only culinary-professional owned and operated (and award-winning) trade association specifically training and representing personal and private chefs.
I believe it’s time well spent to recharge your batteries and reinvigorate your efforts, whether you’re a trained chef or proficient home cook who is adept and confident in the kitchen, but is at a loss when it comes to creating, setting up, and operating a small business. Time is money when you’re establishing a business, so why spend six months reinventing the wheel and making avoidable mistakes when we can help you get started on the right foot?
The February seminar in Chicago will take place on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel, 8500 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. For more information, go to www.personalchef.com, call 1-800-644-8389, or send an email to email@example.com.
What are your professional development goals as a personal chef? How are you trying to reach them? Please leave a comment and let us know.
While most people travel to escape from the pressures of home and work, chefs tend to relish the opportunity to experience new flavors. A trip to Oaxaca, Mexico can be a gustatory lesson in moles and chiles. A week in Tuscany can be spent savoring olives, tomatoes, pastas, and wines. As Americans, we can take in domestic culinary pleasures, too—cioppino in San Francisco, jambalaya and crawfish étoufée in New Orleans, fish tacos here in San Diego, and, well, pretty much anything in New York City.
The point is that as personal chefs we should include travel in our lives as part of our professional development. It brings new flavor combinations into sharper relief. It refreshes our recipe development muscles. And, it enlarges our perception of how to use ingredients—even expanding our repertoire of ingredients.
No budget or no time to travel? Then make a point of visiting local ethnic markets. You’d be astounded at what you’ll find in Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, African, and other markets. And don’t let yourself be intimidated by the idea of unfamiliar ingredients. Take a page from Evie Golden, our friend Caron Golden’s mom. (Caron works with us, managing our social media.) One of Evie’s favorite strategies for shopping at a market with intriguing but mystifying products—especially produce—is to simply stand in front of the display and wait for someone to happen along who picks it up and seems to know what he or she is doing. Then she’ll ask questions. Before long, she not only knows how to select the best quality, but she also winds up with a recipe.
Last November Dennis and I traveled with Caron to Chicago to attend a social media conference and we had lunch at the marvelous The Purple Pig on The Magnificent Mile. Dennis ordered their Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes. We enjoyed several dishes from the menu (be sure to try the Charred Cauliflower, House Cured Lardo Iberico, Taramosalata, and amazing “JLT”—Pork Jowl, Tomato, Frisee and Fried Duck Egg), but that milk-braised pork was so tender and luscious we couldn’t shake the memory of it. And, naturally, it inspired me to try to recreate it back in San Diego.
I’ve made it a few times now, each time trying to refine it and I’m getting close. I’m sharing it with you here in the hopes that you’ll enjoy it as well—and think about how your own travels can inspire you to cook with new ingredients and create new recipes for both your clients and your own family.
Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Creamy Gravy
Inspired by Chicago’s The Purple Pig
It takes two days to prepare this dish, although the actual work time is minimal. On day one, you’ll make the pork stock. You can trim the bone from the pork shoulder you’re going to braise and use that with the rest of the pork stock ingredients listed below. Tip: if you want your stocks or soups to be clear instead of murky, never let them reach a hard boil (like what you want when cooking pasta). Instead, keep to a gentle simmer—low and slow.
For Pork Stock:
2- to 3-pound pork shoulder or shank and any pork bones you may have stored in your freezer for stock
1 ½ gallons water
1 head garlic, whole and unpeeled, halved through its equator
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 to 3 carrots
3 stalks celery
4 to 5 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
For Braised Pork Shoulder
1, 4-pound bone-in pork shoulder
2 onions, peeled and quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 to 3 stalks of celery, chopped into large pieces
1 bunch of fresh thyme
6 large bay leaves
1 ½ gallons milk
1 ½ gallons pork stock
¼ cup Marsala
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Cooking liquid from braised pork
Salt and pepper
1. To make stock: Brown the bones, meat, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan. Cover with water, bring to an active simmer, and skim off any scum as it appears. Add the carrots, celery, and spices, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer at least four hours, adding water to cover as needed. Strain stock. Allow to cool and refrigerate, leaving layer of fat intact.
2. The next day, break down the pork shoulder, removing the bone and cutting the meat into 6- to 8-ounce servings. Tie them with string. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large roasting pan and sear the pork pieces. When all sides of the meat have been browned, add the vegetables, fresh herbs, milk, and pork stock to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Season with salt and pepper again, and place the covered pan in the oven to braise for two to three hours.
4. Remove the cooked pork from the pot. Cut off the string from each piece. Cover and let rest. Strain the braising liquid into a bowl and discard the solids.
5. Place the pan on the stovetop, add back the braising liquid, and reduce by half. Add the Marsala and cook for a minute. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to the hot liquid to thicken the gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve pork on a bed of hot, creamy mashed potatoes, cover with gravy, and top with sautéed or roasted asparagus.
What have been your most enlightening food travels? Please leave a comment and let us know.
As personal chefs one way to market your business is by showing off your food in mouthwatering photography. But all too many of us wind up with blurry and poorly lit shots of dishes that in real life were spectacular. One of our APPCA members, Chef Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, took this challenge to heart and learned everything she could about quality food photography. If you check out her website you’ll see she’s become quite the expert. We asked her to share her insights with you and she generously wrote a guest post with seven tips for better food photography.
Seven Tips to Better Food Photography
by Carol Borchardt
1. Study Good Food Photos
First familiarize yourself with what really beautiful food photography is. Websites such as FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com feature some of the best food blog photography on the web. Any food blog that has earned a “Saveur Sites We Love” badge will have exceptional photography (Saveur.com/siteswelove). Some of the most renowned food photographers have a portfolio of their work on their websites:
When you come across a photo that really appeals to you, study it and determine what it is about that photo that moves you. When you can determine what a good food photo is, you can begin to move your photography in that direction.
2. Understand Camera Fundamentals
· White Balance: It’s called white balance because whites should be white and it can affect the entire color balance of your photo, which in turn greatly affects its visual appeal. White balance settings include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy and fortunately, Auto, which is where I keep mine set.
· Exposure: Three camera settings determine the proper exposure: Aperture (size of lens opening), shutter speed and ISO (a measure of sensitivity to light). For highest quality, shoot with the lowest ISO possible.
· Depth of Field: The portion of the image that is in focus and a purely stylistic and artistic decision. This depends on the aperture and can only be achieved with a dSLR/SLR camera.
· Camera Modes: The easiest mode to begin shooting food is “Aperture Priority (A or Av on the dial).” The camera will control the shutter speed based on the aperture you choose.
· If all you have is a smartphone camera, helpful apps to make the most of it are: CameraPlus, VSCO Cam, PicTapGo and Tadaa. If you’re still using a flip phone, you may want consider upgrading.
3. Understand Lighting
The right lighting can take an ordinary photograph and make it extraordinary. Making food look good in artificial lighting is tricky and requires additional equipment and skill. Fortunately, the best lighting for photographing food is natural light and it’s free!
Know where your light is coming from. Side lighting or back lighting is best. Think of your plate of food as a clock. If the light is coming from 9:00 or 3:00, you are working with side lighting. Back lighting will be coming from 12:00. Front lighting (6:00) would mean the light source is in back of the photographer, which means the photographer would be blocking much of the light.
Two major lighting rules apply:
· Turn off the flash if you don’t have the proper artificial lighting. The flash causes glare and it gives food an unnatural look.
· Never mix artificial and natural lighting; it throws off the color balance.
4. Establish a Photography Work Area
Study and locate the best source of natural light in your home. Preferably, you want a north or south- facing window. The set-up does not have to be permanent. Once you’ve established an area in which to work, start gathering basic tools, supplies and props.
· Backgrounds: Fashion something, such as a piece of plywood or MDF, that you can set up to block out what doesn’t belong in your photo such as your sofa. Paint one side white and the other a dark color such as black, brown or green. White lends softness while a darker background is dramatic.
· Surfaces: Gather fabric remnants for soft surfaces (and backgrounds). Repurpose old and distressed wood from pallets or fencing, use old cutting boards and metals with a weathered patina such as a well-loved cookie sheet.
· Gather unique textiles, plates, old silverware, old serving pieces, platters, etc. Use simple round matte (no gloss) plates and bowls. Avoid patterned plates; white is always a good choice. Square or rectangular plates are very difficult to make look good in a square frame.
5. Pay Close Attention to Cooking and Plating
· A mouthwatering photo starts with quality ingredients.
· Read the recipe and visualize the dish. Evaluate whether it will make an interesting subject to photograph. Any brown food is going to be difficult.
· Make sure prep is meticulous and keep the finished product in mind throughout the entire cooking process.
· Be realistic with serving sizes. Some food bloggers love to load up plates and bowls. That’s fine for a food blog; however, our clients are looking to us to help them eat better.
· Go for height. Try to “lift” your food off the plate. Stack brownies and cookies, place proteins on top of the starch or the vegetable. Don’t spread food around the plate; it looks flat and boring.
· Garnish, garnish, garnish! Use whole herb springs instead of chopped and sprinkled; it’s a cleaner look that makes a bolder statement. However, the herb sprig should not dominate the photo.
· Use food as props if the food was used in the dish: A bowl of avocados, cloves of garlic still in the skins sprinkled around, herb sprigs half chopped, etc.
6. Understand Composition
Think of composition as a group of ingredients required to cook up a good photograph:
· Orientation (Vertical or horizontal)
· Balance (the visual harmony in the photograph).
· Rule of Thirds is a good rule of thumb. Think of your photograph divided into a “Tic Tac Toe” grid (nine even sections). One of the points (off center where those lines intersect) is generally where you want to place your subject.
· Create “movement” with triangles. A great food photo keeps your eye moving around the photo in a triangle shape. The triangle can be the plate of food and two props or leaves of basil in a pasta dish.
· Create “movement” with objects. Show something else going on besides the food just sitting there. Get a helper to hold a spoon of gooey macaroni and cheese being lifted out of the pan, the spatula still frosting the cake, etc.
· Say it with color. Opposites on a color wheel always work together and a monochromatic look can be very dramatic. Watch out for colors that clash. If you wouldn’t wear the combination, don’t have it in your food photo.
· Avoid “tight” or extreme close-up shots. Zooming in too tight can leave food unidentifiable. Your clients want to see your food as they would see it sitting down to the table, not how it would look two inches from their face.
· Not every part of the photograph needs to be filled with props. Negative space or space that is left empty can make a very powerful statement.
7. Find a Good Editing Program to:
· Correct exposure and brightness
· Lighten shadows
· Adjust highlights, contrast, color saturation and balance
· Crop and straighten
There are many free programs, such as Google’s Picasa, GIMP, Paint.NET, and iPhoto on Macs. Your camera probably came with software to do this.
January is a time of new beginnings and one of them can include jump-starting your business. It’s essential for personal chefs just launching a business, but even a seasoned professional can use a new tip or two. Getting in front of potential customers can open up new opportunities and there are a myriad of successful ways to approach it.
The most obvious would seem to be paid advertising, but that’s actually not something we endorse. As Chef April Lee has said, “Think about how you go about hiring a professional service provider. Do you hire anyone off a flyer? Does anyone? Do you pay attention to paid advertisements?”
What you should invest money in are professionally printed business cards and a professionally designed and written website filled with mouth-watering photos (and no “selfies”). As you know, we can help you with the website.
The rest of your investment should be in time and creativity. Find ways to get out into the community. Make yourself visible and meet as many people as possible who are either in a position to hire you or to refer business to you—or invite you to speak or participate in any of their business or community activities.
Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York, who was awarded our top prize in marketing at our October APPCA Chef Summit, has more than a dozen quick tips to offer:
- · Polish your elevator speech and use it at every opportunity possible. Family, friends, neighbors, etc.
- · Wear your chef coat while shopping for yourself as well as when shopping for clients.
- · Introduce yourself to the department managers of the produce, fish, and meat departments in the stores where you shop. Use you elevator speech in your first meeting.
- · While waiting for the butcher, fishmonger, etc., to prepare your order chat them up about what you are cooking, etc. Oftentimes other customers will hear you and you’ll have an opportunity to use your elevator speech and present them with a business card.
- · Have a website linked to your name in the APPCA Find a Chef Directory.
- · Use social media, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to connect with people from your past, present, and future. Create discussions about your business.
- · Write a blog that connects to your website and all social media. Write about recipes, events, and menus you have created. Quality pictures are a must!
- · Send out press releases—when you start up, anytime you do anything for a charity event, whenever you want to talk about a new food trend, about whatever is popular with your clients, to feature recipes for an upcoming holiday. Try to get the copy deadlines for these holidays.
- · Send thank you cards to clients when you provide dinner party service or when you fulfill a gift certificate. (Remember a gift certificate gives you two clients to market to.)
- · Write catchy Craigslist ads and post pictures when advertising.
- · About four to five times a year I mail postcards to all clients, past and present. You can use a variety of topics—for instance, you can remind them that school is starting and that your service helps with the tight schedule families deal with or that Valentine’s Day is coming up and that you can prepare an intimate dinner party, or suggest random dinner party ideas (e.g., recipes from any Julia Child cookbook around her b-day).
- · Buy car magnets and bumper stickers that promote your service.
- · Print materials describing all the services you provide to be presented to clients when you are performing an assessment.
Additionally, be sure your email always goes out with a signature offering your business contact information (website, email, phone number, and social media links). And your website, your Find a Chef Directory listing, and any other showcase for you should always have the basics, including your full name, your location, the services you provide, and your background. Personal chefs offer a personal service. Don’t make it difficult for people (or the media) to find you or learn specifically what you do.
And be bold! We had a member some years ago who decided he wanted to reach as many potential clients as possible as quickly as possible. He put on his chef wear and tall toque, put a doily on a silver tray, spread his business cards out on the tray, and set off for the local commuter railway station where he “served up” his cards to hungry, tired commuters at the end of the busy work day. These folks wanted to get home, have an adult beverage, and a good meal. His image and business card went a long way in delivering his message.
Do you have a way with the video camera? Create quality cooking demo YouTube videos that link to your website and social media outlets. Use them to try to get a regular gig on your local television station’s morning show. Are you a good writer? Offer to write a column for your local newspaper. This is especially helpful to the publication if you have an area of specialization like cooking vegetarian or vegan meals or if you combine your chef skills with a degree as a dietician or nutritionist. Chef Donna Douglass of What’s Cooking has done this successfully. She also teaches cooking and nutrition classes and appears at health fairs.
And, if you do have an area of specialization, research organizations that could help direct your services to their clients. Providing meal services to people on special diets can be so rewarding and impactful. New member Chef Lori Himmelsbach of A Chef of My Own in Kentucky googled “hospice,” “oncology support,” “holistic healing of…,” and “gluten-free support” in her area. Then she called the organizations listed, asked for the director of operations or the office manager, and explained who she was and how a personal chef could help their clients.
“I asked if I could send an email giving them more information about my services (including my website), as well as a request to pass this information on to their staff so they are aware of what a personal chef can do,” she explains on one of our forums. “Then I asked if they would like brochures (which I printed at home) to give to their staff or clients. One of my callers has already requested 30 brochures to pass out to her social workers.
“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” Lori says. “As I’m starting my business I ask myself everyday what I can do to increase my income—and then do it!”
Everyone eats, so that means everyone is a potential client. It’s just up to you as to how you want to reach out to them. The only thing that limits us as personal chefs is the limits of our own imagination.
What have been your most successful marketing strategies? Please leave a comment and share with your colleagues across the country.
This is the week we traditionally take a look over our shoulder to consider all that happened in the past year before we fill a glass with bubbly and toast the year about to emerge.
For us, it’s been a year of transition, with all the good stuff that accompanies change.
Earlier in the fall we debuted our first mobile app, Find & Hire a Chef, for iPhone. Just last week we launched the Android version. Now it’s even easier for potential clients to find you. Help yourself get found by making sure your profile in our database is complete and lists everything about you and your services that you want to promote.
We’ve developed an active social media presence this year on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We have twin goals with our activity: to share interesting information with you and to promote what you do. We want to spur conversation, show off your achievements, and give you resources for helping your business. Okay, sometimes, we want to provide a smile or good laugh, too. Please like our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and join our Linkedin group—and participate! It’s fun and it’ll help you, too.
Along with social media, our Personal Chef Forums have been bursting with good conversation and useful sharing—as well as some needed venting and bragging. These forums are just for members so they’re a safe place to ask critical professional questions among colleagues or share successes.
We held a rocking Personal Chef Summit in Baltimore in October, along with a number of Personal Chef seminars in cities including Chicago, San Diego, for getting your business up and running quickly. Thank you to speakers April Lee, Bernard Henry, Mark X. Dowling, Randall Sansom, Scott Faber, Thomas P. McNulty, Dr. Fred Mayo, Lou Garcia, Carol Borchardt, Javier Fuertes, Jim Huff, and Cheryl Frazier-Trusty. And congratulations again to chefs Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, who received the Personal Chef of the Year 2013, to Javier Fuertes of The Dinner Maker for Life Balance, and to Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist for Marketer of the Year! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!
This month I was the guest columnist for CafeMeetingPlace.com (the Center for the Advancement of Food Service Education). It gave me an opportunity to advocate why culinary teachers should consider operating a personal chef business as an adjunct career.
These are just some of the highlights of the year about to end. We’ve got plenty planned for the coming year, including more Personal Chef Seminars and a totally new website. All of this is to serve you, so if you have any suggestions or ideas for how we can do it better, let us know!
Dennis and I are your biggest supporters. We believe in the importance of the work you do and want to help you achieve your goals. Let’s lift a glass to the year we’re leaving and toast 2014! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!
What were your 2013 successes? What do you want us to do for you in 2014? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase, what else, New Year’s resolutions. Please check our Private Discussion Forum — General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what your personal chef resolutions are and why so you can appear here.
Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go personalchef.com to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership and join.