Do You Need a Mentor?

Filed under: Business Strategies,Training , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 25, 2019

Throughout each phase of your career you no doubt will need advice, someone to bounce ideas off of, a role model, and inspiration. We think of mentors as older, experienced people who help young professionals with their wisdom and advice. But take a look at this definition by Oxford Dictionary of a mentor: “an experienced and trusted advisor.” It’s that simple.

If you’re just starting out as a personal chef, no doubt you could use a mentor to guide you through starting this kind of business and career. Advising you on how to get clients, how much to charge, how to market yourself, how to deal with cranky clients or those who don’t communicate well with you.

But it’s possible that even an experienced personal chef could use a mentor. Times change—and change quickly. If you’ve been in business for 20 years maybe you want to shift what you do and how you do it. Perhaps you want to add catering or food writing or food styling to your personal chef umbrella but don’t know how to get started. Or you’re happy with your business but think you could do more. You may need advice in how to market yourself in 2019 compared to what you did in 1999.

So, what should you look for in a mentor? What should you expect?

First, pinpoint what you need. Are you a newbie and need overall help in figuring out how to get started? Do you need coaching in marketing yourself? Do you need coaching in branching out into another aspect of being a culinary professional?

Now before you seek a mentor, consider what options you already have in gaining the information and coaching you need. If you belong to APPCA you have a leg up. You have Executive Director Candy Wallace to turn to, who is the queen of expertise in this industry. You have this blog, which we fill with helpful posts on a wide spectrum of business-related issues for personal chefs. And you have both our Personal Chef Forum and our Facebook Group.

Still need a mentor? Then consider what you’re looking for in that person. According to Forbes, it’s not about finding a mentor with the most years of experience or the biggest title or profile. It’s about finding someone with the knowledge and experience you need—someone who has been in a similar situation to you and has worked their way through it.

  • You want to find someone you can trust—since that person will be privy to what you share about your business. And you need to be just as trustworthy.
  • You want someone who will challenge you to improve, who may ask tough questions of you and will provide honest feedback.
  • You want someone who has the time to talk with you. Maybe it’s weekly or maybe it’s monthly. Or something else. Do you get together in person or by phone?

Now what should you expect? A mentor won’t solve your problems. That’s on you. A mentor is there for guidance and ideas, for reassurance and critique. Perhaps he or she could make introductions or referrals. Let’s say you want to do some public speaking or chef demos and this person is a pro at these skills. Perhaps that person can do a little instruction (not cooking) in social media or photography or public speaking. Make sure you aren’t too needy or demand too much time, recognizing that this person is bound to be quite busy. But if they put you off repeatedly you probably need to move on to someone else.

Then comes the most crucial part: how do you find the person?

Again, APPCA can be a great resource. There are so many talented people who are members. You no doubt could find someone through your membership. Post a request on our forum. Ask Candy for a suggestion and referral for someone in your area or even outside who has the expertise you’re looking for.

Scroll through our Facebook business and group pages or our Twitter feed to identify individuals who are addressing what you need and reach out to them with a note introducing yourself and your situation with a concise explanation of what you’re looking for. Ask if you can set up a call or meeting to discuss a mentor relationship. Try to come up with at least a couple of people and don’t be discouraged if they tell you they don’t have the time to help. It’s all about finding the right person.

And, remember to pay it forward. Once you push your way through your brick wall, bring someone else along who could benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Have you had experience with a mentor or as a mentor?

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

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

 

 

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I have biscuits on my mind. My friend Matt Gordon just closed his two restaurants in San Diego. Among the many pleasures of dining there my guess is that for most of Matt’s devotees, it will be his biscuits that are missed the most. I say that because at the closing meal last week, which was packed, almost everyone seemed to have ordered the biscuits.

Now you may think you’ve got the best biscuit recipe ever. Maybe it came to you from your grandma or your mom or great auntie. I’m sure it’s divine but why wouldn’t you want another one that is so good that people were standing at the bar several people deep drinking cocktails and scarfing down biscuits. Yeah, they’re that good–and your clients deserve the best.

So, what do you know about biscuits? We may think of biscuits as an almost scone-like pastry, but in fact the word  biscuit covers a range of flour-based edibles. According to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, they are generally small in size, thin, and have a crisp texture. But that mostly refers to the British context, where biscuit can equal cookie or cracker. It didn’t account for North America’s meaning that is more like a scone. The actual name biscuit is derived from the Latin panis biscoctus, meaning “bread twice cooked.” Think hard, crumbly rusks or biscotti. The idea was to create a long-lasting product.

Today, you’ll find all sorts of baked goods under the biscuit umbrella, from snickerdoodles and sable cookies to British digestives and Garibaldis to Spanish tostadas. Our North American biscuits remain most closely related to soft, quickly baked, leavened British scones. Yet we use the biscuit name.

Matt alternately uses cream and buttermilk as the liquid. You can interchange them, but if you play to make the dough in advance, you should use cream. Matt says he found that the buttermilk version of the dough will turn a bit gray. It won’t affect the taste, but it’s not very attractive.

Now if you’re actually a biscuit-making novice, no worries. Biscuit recipes are very forgiving so long as you get the basics right. One of the first rules you must follow is to keep the butter cold and work the dough as little as possible to keep the butter from melting.

Cut the butter into small pieces to make sure it’s evenly dispersed and, as the mixture comes together, can form small, pea-sized pieces. And don’t use a food processor for this. Either mix it by hand or use a stand mixer on the lowest speed.

Another tip is to slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients mixture. Start with the smaller amount. If you’re using a stand mixer, it’s okay to stop while you still have some dry ingredients at the bottom of the mixing bowl. You’ll keep from over mixing and can better judge how much more liquid to add by finishing by hand.

You should still have pieces of butter visible in the dough, like you do when making pie. That’s what creates the layers. But, unlike pie dough, biscuit dough doesn’t need to rest. Just keep it cold and roll it out. You can use a rolling pin, but Matt pats it down and shapes it by hand with his fingertips. And, because restaurants are all about preventing waste, he cuts his biscuits into squares. Another tip he has is to brush the formed dough with an egg wash before separating the biscuits.

Say, you’re catering a party and want to get some of your dishes prepped in advance. Like Matt’s now former  staff you can prep all the dry ingredients except the herbs for a batch and bag it, keeping the mix chilled until you’re ready to bake. Then add the herbs and liquid to mix, shape, and bake. You can also make a batch of biscuits ahead of serving them and then reheat them.

Cheese and Chive Biscuits
From Matt Gordon
Yield: About 15 biscuits

1 ½ cups pastry flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 1/2  sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups loosely packed white cheddar, grated
¾ cup loosely packed fontina cheese, grated
1/8 cup minced chives
1 ¼  to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Egg white from 1 egg (optional)

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter, chives, and cheeses, and mix with a pastry knife or the paddle attachment of a mixer on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate the butter. There should still be small pea-size chunks of butter; this will make the biscuit flaky.  At this point you can store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two if necessary.

Slowly add the buttermilk, starting with 1 ¼ cups and fold together for about 10 seconds. Move the ingredients around by hand and pour the remaining ½ cup of buttermilk into the bottom of the bowl to make sure the moisture gets there. Mix again for just a few seconds. Add slightly more buttermilk if the dough hasn’t pulled together. Do not over mix dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times only.  Handle the dough as sparingly as possible to keep the butter from melting. Using your fingertips, flatten dough out to about ¾ -inch thick and brush the top with egg whites (optional). Cut in desired shape.  Brush the top with egg whites (optional).

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. (If you have a convection oven bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.)  You can crack a biscuit open to make sure it is cooked inside. If it is not, lower heat to 250 and check again in a couple of minutes. You can bake these ahead of when you plan to serve them and reheat before serving.

Orange Honey Butter

½ pound unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon grated orange zest
½ tablespoon honey
¼ tablespoon kosher salt
¼ tablespoon garlic, chopped

Whip butter in mixer for 10 minutes until light and airy. Add remaining ingredients and whip for another 3 minutes.  Use immediately.  Store in refrigerator but let it warm up slightly before using.

Do you ever make biscuits for clients? What do you serve with them?

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

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

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Celebrating Norooz

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 11, 2019

This year Norooz, the Persian New Year, begins on March 21. Celebrating Norooz, which means “new day,” is a very old celebration that has nothing to do with religion. It marks the transition from winter to spring and is filled with feasting.

In fact, the holiday, celebrating the vernal equinox, has been a part of the culture of the people of Iran and Mesopotamia since antiquity and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian, the religion of ancient Persia before Islam. Weeks before, people will put seeds of grass or lentils or wheat or mung beans in water in a decorative pot so that they will sprout by the first day of Norooz—bringing to life the concept of growth and the arrival of spring. Then the house gets a thorough spring cleaning.

Norooz is celebrated for 12 days, but my friend Mahin Mofazeli, who owns a Persian restaurant in San Diego called Soltan Banoo, explained that on the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated. In Iran, she said, the tradition was to leave the city and go for a picnic to “get rid of the thirteenth.” They’d bring the sabzeh that had grown tall in the pot and tie knots in the young growth, then make wishes on the knots. Then they’d leave them behind, throwing them in the river, before returning to the city because after that, having the sabzeh would be bad luck.

So, what foods are made for the new years?

The first thing to know about Persian food is that everything starts with basmati rice. Know how to make this well and you have the foundation for numerous dishes. The rice requires rinsing a couple of times to remove the starch and then soaking to reduce cooking time. When you’re ready to cook it, you’ll drain the water and transfer the rice to a large pot of boiling water containing a little olive oil where it will cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Perhaps the most traditional Norooz dish is Sabzi Polo, or Rice with Fresh Herbs. The herbs usually include cilantro and parsley, but could also include dill weed and fenugreek. At the bottom of the pot is really the best part—the tahdig, a crunchy layer formed by rice or bread or sliced potatoes, or even tortillas. Mofazeli prefers potatoes. She slices russets with the skin on and makes a single layer on the bottom of the pot, which already has a little olive oil and saffron water (she always has a mixture of that in her kitchen), then starts layering with rice, then herbs, then more rice, then more herbs until she’s used all the ingredients. She’ll add a little saffron water, then put it on the stovetop over fairly high heat to cook uncovered for about five minutes. Then she puts on the lid, lowers the heat, and lets it cook for about 30 minutes. The dish is traditionally served with Mahi, or fish, since it represents abundance. In Persia, it’s white fish from the Caspian Sea.

For a true feast,Sabzi Polo can be accompanied by dolmehs, or stuffed grape leaves; kookoo sabzi, an herbaceous omelet-like dish; Baghali Ghatogh, lima beans with egg and dill; and pastries like honey-soaked baklavah.

Norooz Pirooz! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!

Sabzi Polo (Rice with Fresh Herbs)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
1 large russet potato, sliced
3 cups cooked basmati rice, prepared using the four steps
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 whole cloves garlic or green garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, ½ cup water and 1 tablespoon saffron water. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a large non-stick pot. Place a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Cover potatoes with a layer of rice. Combine the herbs and then add a layer of the herbs and the crushed and whole garlic over the rice. Repeat the layering of the rice and herbs, adding a sprinkling of cinnamon between the layers.
  3. Pour a mixture of 4 tablespoons oil and 1 cup of water over the top of the rice and add the remaining saffron water.
  4. Place pot on medium high heat for five minutes, uncovered. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon out the rice onto a platter. Garnish with the potato tahdig and serve with fish.

Do you celebrate Norooz? Have you ever made any Persian dishes?

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

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

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been air fryer curious for awhile. What’s prevented me from buying one when I scoped them out at Target awhile back was their sheer size. They’re huge and can take up a lot of counter real estate.

But I came across this article in The Kitchn and both it revived my desire and helped me focus on some options. Now there was no way I was going to spend $350 on one so I’d have to go for second best for about $100. This was the NuWave Brio 6-Quart Healthy Digital Air Fryer.

I always go big since even though I live alone, I want to have the flexibility to cook for a crowd. But my fears panned out. I couldn’t put it on my counter. It had to go on my glass-top stove. And I didn’t like it at all. It was hard for me to figure out how to use it, took way too long for the food–sweet potato fries (of course) and a chicken thigh–to cook separately. But I’d have put in more time to figure it out had my entire house not reeked of burning plastic.

I returned it.

But I couldn’t let go and a month or so later I went back to The Kitchn article and thought I’d scale down and give this much smaller Dash air fryer a try. Dash has the fryers in multiple cool coolers with a small compact footprint, and both manual and digital displays.

Here’s mine (and no, I don’t get any payment from either Dash or Amazon):

I used it for the first time on, what else, the shishito peppers. Normally, I would toss them in a little oil and let them blister in a hot cast iron skillet. It’s not a big undertaking, unless the temperature is soaring in the summer. But cooking them up in the air fryer–essentially using convection heat–was even better because I didn’t have to hover over the skillet and deal with peppers so twisted they wouldn’t stay where you turned them.

With the air fryer all I had to do was toss them in a little vegetable oil and place them in a single layer in the crisper  basket, which rests in the crisper drawer. The downside? Because it’s a small unit I had to do two batches, but it wasn’t a big deal since the cooking time is a mere five minutes. This particular air fryer is very intuitive so you press the power button and it immediately shows the temperature, which I turned up from its default 360° to 390° with the + button.

Then you press the timer/temperature button, which displays the default time of 10 minutes and move it to 5 minutes using the – button. Press the start arrow button and it takes care of the rest. In fact, the temperature and timer alternate on the display so you know exactly what is going on as it counts down. And once it hits the one-minute mark, it counts down in seconds.

Midway, pull out the basket and shake, then put it back into the machine. When the timer beeper goes off, check and make sure your shishitos are sufficiently blistered. If so, pull out the basket and use tongs to pull out the shishitos (excess oil may have collected in the bottom of the crisper drawer below the basket so you don’t want to risk burning yourself by flipping it over).

Now how do you season your shishitos? If you’re like most people you salt the shishitos, then squeeze lemon juice over them. And that’s perfectly wonderful. I’m fond of ponzu sauce on them as well. But with this batch I sprinkled coarse sea salt and shichimi togarashi, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning mix.

It has a bite, thanks to chili pepper and szechuan pepper. But it also contains black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, and dried basil. So it offers plenty of zesty flavor, too, and pairs beautifully with the blistered shishitos.

Now do I think you’ll use an air fryer for clients? I don’t know. But if you can think of it as a mobile convection oven you might think of some uses for it when cooking for clients who only have a conventional oven. I’ve made chicken thighs with this little one and they cook up nicely and faster than if I put them in the oven. You can create “fried” foods for clients who can’t have all that oil. In other words, it’s another tool to add to your cooking arsenal. And, hey, it’s something to have at home to get a meal for yourself made with less hassle.

Have you tried using an air fryer yet? What do you think?

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

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

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