For personal chefs just launching their businesses, money can be tight. If you’re in that position–or simply looking for a way to reduce costs–check out this post by APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace:
Looking to stretch your start-up budget?
Trade outs can help.
Need a logo design but don’t have the funds to hire a designer in your start-up budget?
Offer a trade out.
A trade out is a dollar-for-dollar even exchange of services. Trades have been around for centuries and are a way of providing equal value for both parties providing services.
When I started my business over 20 years ago I wanted advice on developing my reporting, accounting, and tax preparation systems so I could share them with other personal chef start up chefs who would be able to use those systems with confidence. I didn’t have a lot of cash at the time so I approached a tax accountant with an offer for a trade.
My offer was that I would provide personal chef services for three dinners per week during his busy tax preparation season (January through April 15) for him and his three colleagues for one year to match fees for bookkeeping/accounting, personal chef report forms, and tax preparation services. The accountant would pay for the food costs.
Both of us were well pleased with the agreement. It allowed me to receive services that would not otherwise be in my budget at the time.
Advertising was another one of those services where I felt a trade out would be effective and attractive to the trade out partner.
Weekly/monthly local publications are surprisingly well read by residents. These are usually dropped at the door of the residence, and stacked or racked in local coffee shops, grocery stores, car washes, and the local library branch. They do not usually have a food section, so I presented myself at the office of the publication in the area I wished to develop for my services and offered to provide a regular article or recipe featuring a seasonal local ingredient in exchange for a prominent mention of my business and contact information on each of my articles or recipes. The recipes always included the invitation to “Call or e-mail Chef Candy if you have questions about this recipe or ingredient.”
The consistent response to this arrangement provided a large portion of my initial and ongoing client base and actually resulted in a feature article in the business section of the local daily newspaper that generated almost 400 inquiries for service or information about the personal chef business. The business editor’s wife read my column and prepared each recipe. It didn’t cost me a penny.
Trade outs are clean, specific agreements to exchange services dollar for dollar and can be put in writing and signed for protection of both parties.
I actually even traded out live copy radio advertising for my services which were provided for a morning drive DJ who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. He spoke about his personal chef, the delicious meals, and his weight loss progress on his show daily and the radio station paid for the food so we were matching advertising dollars to personal chef service dollars. Once again, the DJ lost weight and I gained local visibility and picked up clients.
Don’t be afraid to approach a vendor or service provider with the option to trade out. You don’t know what they might need, and the worst response you can receive is No, which we all know that is just a word.
What services could you use that you could turn into a trade out?
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!
Come September and it’s soon time for the high holidays. This year, they fall late, with Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the Jewish New Year) falling on October 2 and Kol Nidre (the eve of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement) falling on October 11. Rosh Hashanah and breaking the fast of Yom Kippur call for traditional Jewish comfort food–and in my family that always includes a sweet noodle kugel–or lokshen kugel if you want to go all the way with the Yiddish.
Noodle kugel (there’s also potato kugel for Passover)–basically a noodle pudding or casserole–is dish usually made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and butter. Made well, it’s a sweet, fluffy, cheesy dish. When I was growing up, my grandparents would often show up at our house for Friday night dinner, almost always bearing three things–her Hawaiian chicken, a Pyrex dish bubbling with a warm kugel, and mandelbread (the Jewish version of biscotti) for dessert. Because kugel is such a cholesterol nightmare it’s no longer something I eat much of, but if I get half the chance I’m all over it. Plus, it holds up well as a leftover or frozen and reheated. For personal chefs with Jewish clients who call on you to make Jewish holiday foods, this is a must-have in your repertoire.
I’ve had many versions of noodle kugel over the years and tend to avoid it at most Jewish delis because at least our local ones in San Diego don’t do a great job with it. A lousy kugel is kind of flat and dense and unpleasantly chewy. Whether it includes raisins or other dried fruit, pineapple chunks, or peaches (as one friend prepared it), it should be a bite of rich creaminess under a crisp top. In looking at other recipes over the years I’ve found a key difference between my Nana’s and these others. Nana always separated the egg yolks from the whites and beat the whites until stiff. You can’t miss with that technique–even if you use cottage cheese (yet another ingredient option).
This recipe below is about as traditional as you can get. But you can change it up with extra ingredients you enjoy, like reconstituted dried or fresh or canned fruit, and different toppings. I added a little brown sugar to my most recent kugel and enjoyed the deeper flavor it created.
Nana’s Noodle Kugel
Yield: 12 servings, depending on how you slice it
1 pound dried wide egg noodles, cooked and well drained
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint sour cream
6 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat egg yolks with sugar and add to cooked noodles.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add butter, cream cheese, and sour cream to noodles. Gently fold in egg whites. Yes, it will be loose. Don’t worry. It will come together while cooking.
Pour mixture into buttered 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan. If you want you can make a topping with brown sugar, cinnamon, and granulated sugar (and/or breadcrumbs, crumbled graham crackers, streusel, or crushed cornflakes).
Bake for about an hour until the center is set and the noodles are light brown on top. Let the kugel rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
What special dishes have your clients requested for the High Holidays? Do they ever give you family recipes to make?
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!
Thank you, Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen in San Francisco, for your insights on cooking for clients with special needs:
Special diets are either a major pain in your patootie, or a lucrative niche market where you can shine as a personal or private chef. It’s up to you. The demand is there. How you meet that demand comes down to making an important choice: either fully embrace this ever-growing market or suffer your way through it, because it ain’t going away. I recommend the former. That’s what I did. Now, 10 years later, having built a good reputation in the Bay Area for being a chef that knows his way around food allergens, I’ve found the demand continues to grow and evolve.
The market has become way more sophisticated in the myriad of allergen-friendly products and solutions being offered than when this whole “trend” started (do food trends actually last an entire decade?). As a personal chef you’ll find there’s still plenty of room for pioneering. But we don’t have to venture out alone into unknown and sometimes dangerous territory anymore. We now have strong allies including many great chefs who have done much of the experimenting along the way; failing, succeeding, and discovering new and better ways to offer truly delicious alternatives. No more hippie hockey pucks!
If you still feel the need to roll your eyes whenever a client asks for strictly Paleo, or allium-free, or everything raw, please read on. You might still want to roll your baby-blues, but you might see something different. If you have already embraced special diets as part of your journey as a PC, as challenging as it can be at times, then you might appreciate some of the basic insights I have gained.
The YES List
What you can eat is way more nourishing than what you can’t. Sounds simplistic, I know, but if a client’s focus is on what she CAN’T have, then feelings of being deprived and all of the emotional baggage that goes along with that (punishment, scarcity, loss…..name your poison) grow even stronger. It’s hard to win as a chef in that kind of atmosphere. I found early on that by building what I call a YES list (those ingredients that are allowed/safe to use) and designing recipes from those ingredients only, not only did my clients feel better, but I could shift my focus from navigating the mine field of all of the no-no ingredients to looking only for those ingredients that work. No more guessing. You know that phenomenon where you decide to buy a blue car and all you see are blue cars for the next few weeks? That same mindset sets in when you—and your client—choose to pay attention to only those items on the YES list. Suddenly a world of food possibilities opens up. Because for a restricted diet variety is key, the YES list gave me the opportunity to get really good at knowing my way around flavor profiles, especially ethnic. Speaking of which…
Flavor is King
A restricted diet means flavor is of the utmost importance. What your client CAN eat needs to be really tasty. What gives food its flavor is nutrients. The more nutrients the better an ingredient tastes. Good nutrients come from good soil and good growing techniques. Over-farmed soil or over-processed foods contain very few nutrients, hence a bland flavor. Therefore, making sure the ingredients you choose are the most nutrient dense you can find is essential. I have discovered that by choosing great ingredients, half the battle is won. It also means I don’t have to have complicated recipes. Cooking becomes simple, my labor is reduced, which means my margin increases.
Flavor profiles. All of my cooking classes, and I’ve done over 40 of them, are geared towards the Allergenista. My main filter is always no gluten, dairy, soy, shellfish, or peanuts—the five most pernicious allergens. In my first few classes I asked myself, “if diets are restricted, how can I enhance the flavors of what CAN be eaten?” I covered three fundamental areas: spices, herbs, and condiments: three worlds of mostly safe ingredients with the possibility of an infinite amount of flavors. Knowing your way around your spice cabinet, the herb garden, and how to turn simple recipes into flavor-enrichening sauces gives you the ability to provide flavors from around the world. Here are some simple examples of what I mean by ethnic flavor profiles:
- Caribbean: Annato, Chile, Coconut, Ginger, Coriander
- Chinese: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Chile, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal, Licorice/Anise, Sesame, Sichuan Pepper, Star Anise, Vanilla
- Eastern European: Caraway, Dill, Parsley
- French: Lavender, Tarragon, Rosemary, Marjoram, Sage, Lemon Peel, Parsley
Ten years ago, when I was approached by a nutritionist and long-time friend to start cooking for her clients (she told me that when she gives them their elimination diet they are like deer in the headlights), I quickly saw it as learning a new language. The appeal of providing people with the experience of enjoying familiar foods while using only safe ingredients was great. Discovering new ways to have the look, mouth feel, and aroma be as close to the original as possible was exhilarating. For example, I use organic instant mashed potatoes as a thickener for sauces as opposed to guar gum or tapioca or turn soaked and blended raw cashews into cheesecake or ricotta for lasagna.
Special diets and picky eaters are kissing cousins. As a PC you’re always going to have clients who are very particular about what they eat. Food is emotional. Which means it can feel impossible at times. It also means that food can be connective, fulfilling, and immensely satisfying. Cooking would be easy if it wasn’t for food being so emotional, but who wants that?
Lots of good people are on special diets. Will you be yet another cook who rolls your eyes, or will you be the hero of the day? Your choice.
Chef Tom has great examples of adapting recipes with traditional ingredients into recipes that are allergen-friendly. Click here for a free cookbook. Here’s a sample recipe:
Smoked Trout Pate
by Chef Tom Herndon
Yield: 32 cucumber cups
This recipe, says Tom, meets his basic criteria of no gluten, dairy (milk—but he changed it to vegan mayo), soy, shellfish, or peanuts.
1/2 pound smoked trout, heads and skin removed, fillets carefully boned
1/4 cup very finely diced onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste
2 large English cucumbers (other options are Persian or Lemon cucumbers)
1. With clean hands, squeeze and mash the trout into a thick paste in a bowl.
2. Fold in remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning.
3. Spoon a teaspoon into a cucumber cup or serve as a dip with gluten-free crackers or crudites.
Are you beginning to take on clients with special dietary needs? How have you approached your learning curve?
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!
I’m often asked if the produce we buy always has to be organic. Let’s face it, organic usually costs more than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and we don’t all have a budget that can manage strictly organic.
A few years ago I interviewed Urvashi Rangan, project director of Consumer Reports’ Greenerchoices.org. The environmental health scientist believes that it’s a matter of prioritizing. This terrific site is an invaluable resource filled with interesting articles on food products related to health, safety, and other food-related news.
Rangan pointed out that berries, for instance, tend to have very high levels of pesticides. “So organic can get you a lot of value,” she said. “On the other hand if you’re weighing the difference between buying conventional or organic avocados, the thick skin and the fact that avocados may not require as many pesticides to produce means there’s not as great a health value in buying organic.”
She also noted that parents with young children should be aware that organic food in their children’s diet can make a significant different in lowering the amount of pesticide residue they consume. “They’re neurotoxins and when they build up in the body, even at low levels, for a child’s developing brain and neurosystem, reducing the amount of these agents is a much healthier way to go.”
All this, of course, gets back to the main issue. What fruits and vegetables pose the most challenges where pesticides are concerned and which ones are less problematic?
There are two websites consumers should pay attention to. The first is a list put out by the Environmental Working Group. This list ranks fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The lower the number, the more pesticides. So, you have apples, celery, strawberry, peaches, and spinach in the top five. Asparagus, avocado, pineapples, sweet corn, and onions are at the bottom–meaning they have the fewest amount of pesticides. Less than one percent of sampled onions, for instance, were found to have any pesticide residue.
The EWG’s executive summary is the most direct, with a list of what to buy organic and what is lowest in pesticides. For a quick reference, this is quite useful. The group also has a mobile app for iOS and Android called Healthy Living.
Another group doing some fascinating work in this arena is the Pesticide Action Network. Here you’ll learn that 888 million pounds of pesticides are applied annually in the U.S., averaging three pounds per person. So, what’s on your food? Go to the site and select a product and click. A page will open listing how many pesticide residues are found on that product, what they are and the toxicity risks to humans and the environment. So, click on green beans, for instance, and you’ll find it has 44 pesticide residues–chemical names that are pretty unpronounceable. Some, like carbendazim, are suspected hormone disrupters. Others like diazinon, hit that along with bee toxins, developmental or reproductive toxins, and neurotoxins.
“We have found that folks are grateful to see which pesticides are linked to particular health threats–so the brain, DNA, child, and bee icons have been helpful points of orientation/interpretation,” explained Heather Pilatic, PAN’s spokeswoman. “In sum, pesticides are enormously variable in their toxicity. That’s why we cross-referenced the residue data with toxicological info fromwww.pesticideinfo.org.”
PAN also has a What’s on My Food iOS app.
Altogether, these are a good start for personal chefs who are trying to serve purer food and want to better identify how what they buy will impact their clients’ bodies.
How concerned are you and your clients about whether their food is organic? Have you had to make decisions based on cost as to whether or not to buy organic ingredients?
Social media is great. We love it and are avid users. I spend a lot of time creating and curating content for our accounts and are tickled that we’ve seen our following grow.
But Facebook and Twitter in particular are no substitute for the intimacy–and privacy–you get on our APPCA forums. Here is a place where you can speak freely without worry that you’re going to get flamed or spammed by strangers. It’s a place where you can interact with colleagues on a range of issues that are deeply important to you.
Our forums are divided into a variety of categories, including Private Discussion, Virtual Water Cooler, Recipes for Succe$$, Sources and Resources, Special Diets, Tips and Techniques, Marketing, Techie Stuff, and Serving Senior Clients. If you have a special issue, there’s a forum to address it. You can add attachments to your post and create tags. And it serves as a terrific archive of resources.
But–and this is a big but–it only works if our members participate. So, here are six reasons you should make a habit of visiting and posting on the forums.
- You can get important questions about your business answered by your peers. Are you concerned about pricing or packaging? Has a client hit you with an issue that you don’t know how to respond to? Are you leaning toward moving your business from your clients’ kitchens to a commercial kitchen? Do you need to come up with a special menu for a client’s medical condition? Are you unsure how to figure out portions for a catering event? Are you going to teach a kids cooking class for the first time and need advice? You pose a question and your personal chef colleagues are bound to have feedback for you.
- You can network and really get to know colleagues in your area you may not have met or colleagues in cities across the country. We all know how beneficial networking is in general, but, for example, here it’s not uncommon for our members to reach out to others in their service area with referrals.
- You can totally brag on yourself to those who will appreciate your success. Did you just get a TV gig or an award? Did you score a great new client or catering gig? Are you bursting because one of your clients wrote the most flattering letter of recommendation? You have a built-in audience of support on the forums.
- You can get a heads up on potentially fraudulent “clients.” We hate to talk about scams but there’s an underbelly of unscrupulous people (think Nigerian princes) who approach unsuspecting personal chefs with a too-good-to-be-true proposition. Experienced personal chefs have received these missives (typically someone overseas who is coming into town and wants to hire you as a personal chef but the money exchange is suspect) and can give you the low down on whether what you’ve received is legit or you’re being played. You want to tap into that on the forums.
- You can brainstorm marketing ideas and ways to get new clients. It can open new avenues you may not have previously considered and you can get help (or give it) to nail down the specifics.
- You can bitch and moan over whatever is bothering you in the company of sympathetic colleagues. You’ve had a bad day. A client gave you a hard time for no good reason. Your kid and your mom are both sick and you’re wiped out. Whatever it is, you have the attentive ear of your peers and can get virtual hugs when you need them the most.
- You can be the expert. All of you who have been at this awhile can share your expertise with those who are newer to the career. Or if you come to being a personal chef from an arena where you have useful expertise in marketing or finances or media, you can provide expertise to colleagues who need a hand.
We know how incredibly busy you are. Sometimes it feels like getting on the computer at the end of a long day is just one more task than you have the time or energy for. But using the APPCA forums is an investment in your career and a benefit we want you to take advantage of so that the hive mind can create more success for you and everyone else who is a part of our APPCA family. If you haven’t given it a try, get on and introduce yourself. If it’s been awhile since you’ve participated, Candy and I urge you to return. Let’s talk!
Have you signed up for the our Personal Chef Forums? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, what’s been the biggest help you’ve received from participating?
These days it’s no longer uncommon to look beyond the animal to plants for sources of protein—plants like grains and legumes. You know: rice and beans.
We’ve long heard that the rice and beans combo makes for the perfect protein. And, yes, it is a great combo, so long as they’re in balance. Since rice is so much less expensive than beans, when cost is a factor rice tends to dominate the pair and then it’s not nearly as nutritious. And, of course, not all rice is equal. As you know, white rice is far less healthy a choice than brown rice.
If you’re looking to plant-based sources of protein to complement or replace animal proteins, remember that what we need to stay healthy are the nine essential amino acids that make up what is called a “complete protein.” These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that our bodies use to manufacture essentials like muscle tissue, blood cells, hair, and nails among others. Will plant-based proteins offer this? No. Not entirely. But, the good news is that you can combine these “incomplete proteins” with other proteins in meals to create a complete protein. The exceptions? Quinoa (actually a seed not a grain), buckwheat, and hempseed are considered complete proteins.
Generally beans tend to have more protein per serving than grains. I’ve always enjoyed them but I learned some cool ways to prepare them from Chef Vince Schofield. Schofield pointed out some of the ways beans can be enjoyed. Who doesn’t love pork and beans—the saltiness of the pork and the earthiness of the beans “are just fantastic,” he said. Bean purees—think hummus, for example, with garbanzo beans—are the perfect mixture of creaminess and fat. You don’t have to be limited to garbanzos, though. Try making flavorful purees with Great Northern, navy, or cannellini beans—or black beans. Or riff on the mixture and turn them into soups. And then there are red beans, which in Chinese cuisine are often used for desserts.
I visited Schofield one day awhile ago and he prepared a very easy bean dish which showcases beans—in this shelling beans, which, fresh, cook much faster than dried beans. But, Schofield noted, any will work.
The inspiration for this dish, he said, come from humble beginnings and using what you have. Schofield paired the beans with animal proteins, but you don’t have to if you’d rather go vegetarian. Of course, the animal proteins take a back seat by providing flavor, not being the centerpiece. It’s a matter of giving them some TLC to transform beans into a hearty, comforting dish on a cold fall night.
This recipe literally took five minutes to prepare—but, you have to do some advance, if passive, prep with the beans. First, you must soak dried beans overnight. The following day, cover either the now-soaked dried beans or fresh beans in a pot with three times the volume of water to beans. Add one carrot, peeled and halved, one rib of celery and half an onion with the root attached so that it doesn’t fall apart in the water while cooking. Bring the water to a simmer—not a boil. Simmer the beans for 25 to 30 minutes if they’re shelling beans, an hour to an hour and a half if they’re dried. Remove from the heat and let cool. Only once they’re cooling then you can salt them. They won’t absorb the salt until then, said Schofield. At that point, you’re ready to make any bean recipe.
Beans and Harissa
From Vince Schofield
Harissa is a North African hot chili pepper paste that can include spices and herbs such as garlic, coriander, cumin, dried mint and caraway seeds. You can find prepared harissa at international markets. You can also serve this dish with mussels mixed in. If you want to do so, 3½ to 4 pounds of mussels will serve 4 to 6 people as a main dish. Schofield also says that if you don’t want to use meat in the recipe, add garlic and onion or any vegetable paste you enjoy to add more flavor.
Serves 4 to 6
- 3 tablespoons of brunoise mirepoix (two parts onion to one part celery and one part carrot, finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces lardo (cured pork fat) or bacon, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of harissa paste
- 1 pound beans (shelling or dried), prepped (see note)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced and charred — keep the juice to use as well (you can also use preserved lemon pieces)
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
To create the mirepoix, rinse, trim and peel the vegetables. Then dice them into 1/8-by-1/8-inch pieces. Sauté the mirepoix in the olive oil until tender. Add the lardo (or bacon) and sauté until crisp. Add the harissa and allow the paste to blossom in the oil (releasing all of its flavor). Then add the beans and chicken stock. Reduce to souplike consistency. Finish with parsley and lemon. Salt if needed.
Eat with crusty bread.
Note: If you’re using dried beans soak them in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. If they are fresh shelling beans this step is not necessary. The procedure will be the same as follows: Cover beans with three times the volume of water to beans. Add one carrot, peeled and halved, one rib of celery, and half on an onion with the root attached so that it does not fall apart in the water while cooking. Beans only accept salt when cooling, so salt at the end to your desired taste.
Are your clients fans of beans? What’s your favorite way to prepare beans for them?
Have you ever enjoyed Brittany butter, the sweet and slightly crunchy from sea salt butter that comes from cows in a region of France known for its butter production? It’s no neutral spread that functions as a quasi-lubricant for toast. It actually has flavor. Marvelous grassy flavor. After trying it years ago I realized that commodity butter wasn’t going to cut it for me any more.
These days it’s not impossible to find imports–even at your local Trader Joe’s–but why not try making your own butter for clients? A few months ago I poked around and found instructions for butter making–really easy ones (but not involving shaking a jar). I tried it and found I loved the results.
Of course, once you start… and so I had to try making cultured butter. Cultured butter has a tangy, more layered taste than regular butter. And it really comes alive when you take the time to culture it yourself. All that involves is adding the culture to the cream in a bowl and letting it sit at room temperature for from eight to 24 hours, covered. You can purchase the culture from cheese-making stores or you can simply add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt, which is what I did.
Now where regular butter takes little effort and a very short time to make, cultured butter requires little effort but many hours of waiting. Kind of like making bread, but without the kneading. But if you’re not in a hurry, this is makes an über version of butter that you’ll want to try.
As with all recipes with limited ingredients, the few used for making cultured butter have to be really really good. So, be sure to use organic unpasteurized heavy cream or whipping cream (even better if it’s from a local dairy), high quality yogurt, and, if you’re going to add salt, very good flaky sea salt.
To start you’ll mix together the cream and yogurt in a bowl, cover the bowl with a towel and leave it to sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Ideally room temperature is in the 70s. It should get thick like sour cream and a little bubbly. It should smell clean. If it smells funky, toss it and try again.
Once it reaches the right consistency, refrigerate it for an hour. You can leave it in longer if you don’t have time to make it immediately. I left mine in the fridge overnight, then took it out the next morning and left it for an hour to come back to room temperature before making the butter.
Now the way I make it is in the blender. And what I’ve learned by using my Vitamix is that you have to rein in your impulse to whip the cream on high. Instead, don’t even move the dial from the lowest speed. It’s fast enough to do the job of spurring the cream and yogurt mixture from thick to chunky.
Once you have some good sized chunks, stop. Let the mixture rest and separate. The liquid you get is buttermilk and it’s delicious. Don’t toss it but do drain it into a container and save it for baking muffins or making buttermilk dressing or however you like to use buttermilk.
Now you’re going to wash the butter to remove any remaining remnants of buttermilk since that will make it spoil faster. There are different ways to do it. You can squeeze it by hand. You could pull out the chunks of butter, place them in cheesecloth in a bowl and pour ice water over them and press the butter into the ice water so that the water turns cloudy–and repeat this several times until the water is clear. Or you can make life easier for yourself with a trick I learned from The Kitchn–add cold water to the butter chunks in the blender bowl and pulse a few times. Let the mixture sit until the water separates from the butter. It’ll be cloudy. Pour it out, being sure to use a slotted spoon or spatula to keep the butter in the bowl. Repeat a couple more times until the water is mostly clear. Move around those chunks at the bottom near the blades where water accumulates so you can drain it all out.
If you want to salt your butter, this is the time. Add just a scant quarter teaspoon of your sea salt to the blender bowl with the butter and pulse a few times to mix it in. Taste and make sure you have enough. If not, add just a bit more. Pulse again.
That’s it. Scoop the butter into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Alternately, you can shape it into a log, using plastic wrap and refrigerate it. It should be good for about three weeks in the fridge or up to three months in the freezer. If you want to make regular butter, there’s no waiting, simply pour a pint of the heavy cream into the blender bowl and follow the instructions above.
Adapted from The Kitchn
1 pint organic, unpasteurized heavy cream or whipping cream
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1. Whisk together the cream and yogurt in a bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let sit on the counter for 12 hours. Check to see if the mixture has thickened to a sour cream-like consistency and has formed bubbles on the top. If so, it’s ready. If not, give it some more time. When it’s ready, place it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour.
2. Bring the mixture to room temperature for an hour. This helps it separate into pieces faster. Then place in the bowl of a blender. At low speed, blend the cream-yogurt mixture for a minute or two until it it forms into chunks. That’s your butter.
3. Let the butter chunks separate from the liquid, which is buttermilk. At that point, pour off the buttermilk for another use.
4. Add enough cold water to the butter in the blender bowl just to cover. Now you’re washing the butter. Pulse three times. The water will be cloudy. Pour it off. Repeat two or more times until the water is relatively clear. Make sure you remove all the water.
5. Add salt now if you want. Pulse again a few times to make sure it’s well mixed. Taste to see if you need to add more salt.
6. Scoop out the butter and place it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate–or shape it into a log using plastic wrap and refrigerate. It should be good for a few weeks. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
Have you ever made butter? If not, why? What other commodity staples have you made from scratch that clients love?
You’ve met APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine. We’ve written about this Dallas-based personal chef before. She recently sent us a note about a client whose dietary needs posed real challenges to her skill set. But instead of turning them down, she turned it around, did a lot of research, and ended up having a learning experience that she says has made her a better chef. We thought you’d be interested in her dilemma and how she solved it–along with a couple of recipes she created for them.
I have started cooking for the most difficult client (menu-wise) that I have ever had in all the time I’ve been doing this. They are delightful people (thank heavens!) and enjoy everything I cook for them. Personally I think it’s as much about the service as it is the food with this client, but just my thought.
Here’s what they do not eat:
- No sugar
- No onions, beets, carrots, etc. – no root vegetables
- No pasta, potatoes, rice, wild rice, quinoa, farro, barley, or grains of any kind (but they eat about 1 to 1 1/2 pieces of bread a day) – no bread crumbs, panko, etc.
- No beans or lentils
- No mayonnaise or yogurt
- No honey, agave, etc.
- Very little cheese – some fresh mozzarella, ricotta, etc.
- Very little soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce
They will eat a little butter, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, artichokes, sour cream, olives, and miso. And a bit of salt. They’re not on the Paleo plan, or gluten-free, but just have consulted with a nutritionist and are going by those recommendations. This couple is probably in their 60’s and they look great, so I guess it’s working.
I did a cooking class for this couple’s children and spouses, and they started talking to me that night about cooking for them. I told them I needed to do some research before I could commit. I didn’t want to start cooking for people on such a special regimen unless I had at least a good handful of recipes in my “arsenal,” especially since it would be a once a week gig. And she told me they liked to eat beef (usually a steak) out, so for me to focus on ground turkey and chicken recipes, along with side dishes. Also some fish dishes, although they like to grill salmon. Thankfully it’s summer, so lots of great veggies abound now.
I started going through all my side dish recipes, chicken recipes and the few ground turkey recipes I have. Then I hit the Internet, combing through recipe after recipe, and communicating with the client to double-check on permissible ingredients. After three days (almost solid) of research, I was pretty proud of the fact that I had come up with about five pages of possible entrees and side dishes for them. My brain was fried, though! I also talked to a fellow personal chef here in town for whom I’ve worked with on some dinner parties, and who probably has more experience with special diets than I do. Even she was stumped!
Here are some of the things I have come up with:
- Zucchini Lasagna: Made with slices of zucchini for the noodles, ground turkey, fresh herbs, tomato sauce and paste, and a little fresh mozzarella
- Stuffed Bell Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables
- Marinated chicken: They like to grill so I’ve found some good recipes using garlic, olive oil, fresh citrus juices, and some that are “rubs” to put on the chicken. I also suggested chicken thighs, as they can be more flavorful. I have some more Asian-oriented marinades as well, since Asian food tends to be more healthy (sometimes) and uses things like fresh ginger, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Sriracha, etc.
- Baked Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks with Lemon
- Baked Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Caramelized Onions
- Roasted Multi-Color Cherry Tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic
- Baked Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Cumin and Mint
- Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Turkey Lettuce Wraps with ground turkey, spices & Sriracha, wrapped in lettuce leaves to eat
- Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken: a whole chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper
- Trout in Foil with Jalapeños and Lemon: A big hit!
- Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
- Steamed Green Beans with Toasted Pecans
- Cucumber, Onion and Fresh Dill Summer Salad
For fish, I prepare it and they like to bake it off, so I do fish in foil, and fish in parchment paper. They were eating tilapia (which, I’m sorry, is “starter fish” to me) so I made them some snapper and halibut and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world! Parchment is great because you can layer aromatics like fennel, lemongrass, etc. and just use a bit of olive oil and lemon with maybe something like capers and you can’t go wrong.
When a recipe calls for onions, I use green onions. I double-check the recipe to see if green onions would be a good substitute and in most cases I can use them, but have to use a lot to make up for the quantity of what would be ½ cup of chopped onion, as an example.
That’s just a few ideas. I also thought about roasting plain chicken breasts or thighs but making flavorful sauces to go on top of them. I have an “Aji Verde” sauce with cilantro, jalapeño, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, cumin and sour cream that is really good. And using ingredients like fresh lemon juice/sliced lemons, mustard (Dijon and regular), miso and similar type things helps flavor up chicken.
The best part of all this is that it has truly made me a better chef. Most of the recipes I have made for them are new to me, but I can tell pretty much whether or not it will be at least somewhat tasty. All that research I did is really good to have and may help me in the future. I am sure there are some APPCA chefs who might think this is a piece of cake but it was really a “let’s raise the bar” moment for me. Guess a lot of my clients have been more “comfort food” oriented, and even the healthy eaters weren’t this strict.
I am more confident each time I cook for them and they are terrific about feedback. They have liked pretty much everything I have cooked and I’m not even halfway through my five-page list yet!
Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables
4 green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded, and chopped
1 pound dark meat ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In skillet over medium heat, cook turkey, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until turkey
is evenly browned. Set aside.
Heat oil in same skillet and cook onion, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, and chopped pepper tops until tender. Add drained canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add spinach and cook until spinach is sufficiently wilted. Stuff green peppers with skillet mixture.
Put peppers in oven and cook approximately 40 min.
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, finely ground
3/4 teaspoon salt (DIVIDED USE)
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grind nuts in food chopper. Mix nuts in pie plate with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If chicken breasts are large, pound to thin them.
Dredge chicken breasts in egg mixture, then pistachio nuts. Press nuts firmly into chicken with hands. Place chicken breasts on plate or tray and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer (helps “set up” the nut mixture to adhere to chicken better).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and cook chicken breasts, 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken from
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté diced onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Sauté onions until browned.
Place chicken in baking dish, top with sauteed onion, and bake 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 160 degrees and juices run clear.
Have you been faced with client dietary requests that knocked you out of your comfort zone? What did you do? Say no or figure it out?
Like many of you, my parents were terrific cooks. For as long as I can remember, they both enjoyed the creativity of the kitchen and from an early age taught my sister, brother, and me jewels of recipes from our family and culture as well as day-to-day contemporary dishes. Some families ski, others go camping. Ours cooked. My mom in particular has long collected cookbooks about cuisines around the world and has been adventurous in both her cooking and baking and her grocery shopping. It’s just part of her DNA. She’s reined it in now and my dad can no longer cook, due to his progressing Alzheimer’s, but Mom can still surprise me with a terrific dish that’s new in her repertoire.
This lemon chicken is one of them. I first had it at their house several months ago. I’m not a white meat chicken fan so I wasn’t looking forward to eating it. But, whoa, I loved it. The chicken was tender and moist, with some crunch from breading in panko. Lemon and chicken is a perfect pairing and the citrus here is delightfully tangy, complemented by a fragrant herbs. My mom served it recently with grilled asparagus and roasted baby potatoes, but I’d be sure to have some kind of rice or grains to sop up the juices.
The premise for this lemon chicken is simple. You take chicken tenders (or skinless, boneless chicken thighs–or even fish or boneless pork ribs) and dip them in egg, then panko (both well seasoned, of course) and sauté till brown. Place them in a single layer in oiled pyrex or other baking dishes (for this amount, you’ll need two). Pour the chicken broth mixed with lemon juice over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake.
And, the beauty of this dish–besides the flavor–is that it freezes wonderfully. So you can make a big batch at once for clients to package into individual meals.
Evie’s Lemon Chicken
Yield: 5 to 6 servings
To get really crispy chicken, use cast iron skillets and don’t crowd the chicken pieces. Be sure to have paper towels ready on plates to place the cooked chicken to drain. If you don’t want to use white meat chicken, this will work just as well with skinless, boneless thighs, boneless pork ribs, and even fish.
20 ounces chicken broth
Zest of 2 lemons
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 pounds boneless chicken tenders (about 15 tenders)
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To make the sauce, mix together chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside.
3. Mix together eggs, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Set aside.
4. Mix together panko, cheese, and herbs. Set aside.
5. Trim fat from the chicken. Dunk each piece in the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko mixture. Place in a single layer on a plate until ready to sauté.
6. Heat two cast iron skillets and add about a quarter inch of olive oil to cover the bottom. Add the chicken but don’t overcrowd. Sauté until brown on the bottom, then turn. When the chicken is browned on both sides remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Continue with the rest of the chicken until all have cooked.
7. Brush baking dishes with oil. Place the chicken in a single layer in oiled baking dishes. Pour chicken broth mixture over the chicken, halfway up the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with the juices.
What favorite family recipes do you cook for your clients? What family recipes have they given you to cook?
If you’re new to being a personal chef or looking for ways to bring in new clients to your long-time personal chef business, it’s time to get out in front of the public. That’s not as daunting an idea as it may sound. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of venues you may not have even considered as potential promotional opportunities. Some of our members are doing these already. We think you should consider these five–and hope that they’ll spark even more ideas for presenting yourself to your community.
- Urban infill new planned communities: Here you have busy people looking for resources for living in their new homes. Why not approach the community manager or marketing manager (with some freshly made eats, your business card, and menu list)? Give the person your pitch for helping new/potential residents learn how to grocery shop, menu plan, and cook ahead for themselves? Yes, that’s the service you want to sell, but a friend of mine refers to it as the butterscotch pudding theory of marketing. That luscious pudding is so good you want the recipe to make it at home–until you learn that candy thermometers and double boilers are involved. Then you just want to enjoy it at the restaurant. As a personal chef, it doesn’t hurt to explain how involved the shopping, menu planning, and cooking are so that new residents want to hire you to do it for them. Alternatively, make a pitch to the marketing manager to do monthly omelet breakfasts for residents. They pay for the food, of course, plus a small fee. One of our members, Sacha Quernheim of Red Zucchini Personal Chef Business has been doing this in her St. Louis community for a couple of years. You can read her tips here.
- Service clubs: First, you should join clubs you feel an affinity for so you can network and give back to the community. Offer to do a cooking demo or provide light eats for a meeting or event. But be sure to bring your marketing materials with you–the business cards and fliers that have all your current info (including social media accounts) on them.
- Bridal shows: Check your local convention center website or city magazine to learn when the bridal shows are in town. Nab a booth and bring edibles to hand out, along with your marketing materials. Not only are these opportunities to sell your personal chef services, but you can also get catering jobs for bridal showers and even weddings–and down the line, baby showers. In fact, check out maternity trade shows, too. After all, who needs a personal chef more than an expectant and then new mom!
- Wellness conferences and health fairs: If your personal chef business is oriented toward health and wellness, including special diets for special needs clients, you should have a booth at a conference or health fair that brings in people interested in those diets. It’s a ready-made audience. Depending on the costs, you could team up with other personal chefs in the area to split the costs and table time. And don’t just hang out at your booth. Go visit other vendors to network and hand out your marketing materials.
- Avocational classes: If you live in an area where there are kitchenware retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, or mom and pop shops, find out how you can do cooking demos. Talk to a manager about putting in an application, just like Dallas-based member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine did at Williams-Sonoma. She’s been doing demos for awhile now. And this smart lady even had a friend come in and snap photos and take a video. You can read about her experience with chef demos here. As she said, “I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.”
Chefs, as business owners you always have to be marketing yourself. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall or are lacking inspiration, look around your community for opportunities. Follow the lead of Sacha and Anne and find venues that are either untapped or totally suit your personality and goals. Then go for it!
Have you found a great venue for marketing your business in your community? Inspire us with your story!