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.