So, what week of the coronavirus shut down are we in? I’m losing track. How about you? What I do know is that many of us have lost work and are trying to hold things together–both financially and emotionally. So, here’s a suggestion: put your talent to work in a different way and hold online cooking classes.

Already I’m hearing about APPCA members trying this out. In fact, member Shelbie Hafter Wassel shot me a message inviting me to take a look at her new video on Facebook, which she later uploaded to YouTube, shot by her husband Jerry. Here she offers a couple of recipes for making fish. Check it out!

So, here’s what I’m thinking. You have clients. You have recipes. You may have limited access to groceries but no doubt you have a fridge and freezer packed with food. Why not learn to use a new technology while you have some down time, engage your current clients, social media promote the heck of your video classes to get new ones when this crisis ends–and maybe even make some money while you’re at it?

Money? You can earn money making a video? Well, there are at least half a dozen platforms that could enable you to earn some money holding online cooking classes. Let’s discuss.

Skype: You probably are already familiar with Skype. So, why not use it for an interactive online cooking class? You can charge a fee and share recipes for the class ahead of time so your participants can follow along. Maybe you teach a knife skills class with recipes based on various skills you teach. Or perhaps you create a meal kit for clients and include this interactive online class to teach them how to use it?

Google Hangouts Chat: You can do the same thing on Google Hangouts Meet as with Skype. Take a look at this invite from San Diego chef Jason Roehm, who regularly teaches via this platform. The class is live, followed by recipes. He charges $25 for a two-hour class and sells the tickets via a link to Eventbrite.

Patreon: Here’s how this website describes itself: “Patreon powers membership businesses for creators by giving them the tools they need to acquire, manage, and energize their paying patrons. With a subscription-style payment model, fans pay their favorite creators a monthly amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive access, extra content, or a closer look into their creative journey.”

As The Street describes it, “Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that enables fans (or patrons) to pay and support artists for their work. For producers of videos, webcomics, music, podcasts and more, Patreon is a way to earn extra money on what might otherwise be free content, and allows fans to contribute to their favorite artist’s platform.”

The site allows creators to set up monthly, subscription-style payment tiers. Creators can also charge an upfront payment instead–and that remains permanent. Your “patrons” can join by creating an account and pledging money to you, with subscription options sorted by different payment tiers or per-post options for content. According to their site, Patreon takes 5% of the amount paid to creators in fees. Creators keep some 90% of their revenues, with an additional 5% going to transaction fees.

Vēmos: Vēmos allows creators to host interactive classes that enable participate to engage with you. You can sell tickets to attend your virtual class to earn income from your home. Vēmos uses Stripe Connect. This allows ticket sales to be deposited directly into your account as soon as sales role in. They don’t charge a monthly subscription fee. Instead, a 10 percent fee is added to the consumer buying the ticket, with a maximum fee of $9.95 per ticket. You select the price point for each ticket for the class. Vēmos has a step-by-step guide for starting an event.

Zoom: I hate to say it, but if you haven’t heard of Zoom in the last few weeks you’ve been living under a rock (and probably safer there). Zoom has become the default platform for video conferencing for the coronavirus shelter at home worker. But why not make it work for you for earning some money with virtual cooking classes? It’s free. It’s easy to sign up. Perhaps use Eventbrite to sell tickets and then you can round up your students at the time you teach the class.

Now you may not make a ton of money doing this, but every little bit can help. Plus, you learn a new tool and can flex your muscles working on a new angle to promote yourself and your business.

Have you started doing video cooking classes? What’s your experience been like?

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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In the coming weeks, Candy and I will be working to developing suggestions for ways in which you can keep yourselves whole during this coronavirus shutdown. We know many of you are worried about how to make ends meet. Here’s what Candy had to say this week:

First things first. I suggest that APPCA members file for a Small Business relief loan immediately. Here’s how to get the information. Contact all of your monthly financial obligations including cellphone carriers, internet providers, all utilities, car loan holders, landlords/mortgage lenders, and student loan lenders, for example, to see what kind of disaster relief they are offering.

On our Facebook group page, member Holly Verbeck shared her experience with contacting every business she has bills with:

“DROP your personal and business expenses QUICKLY!

I’m adjusting NOW to the fact business/income will be down for 90 days or so.

I just got off the phone with every company I pay a bill to.

– Verizon ‘suspended’ my account for 30 days (=ZERO due this month w/ no changes to my service!!)

– NY Times dropped my paper subscription by HALF for one YEAR!

– my utility company dropped my bill by 20% for one YEAR!

– Sirius XM dropped my bill by 30% for one YEAR!

The list goes on…

I’m dropping all my expenses and haven’t reduced services!

This makes it a helluva lot easier to pay the mortgage!

Call…call now…call everyone, chef. Ask them what they can do to help reduce your payments while your business is impacted! And SHARE your results with other chefs!!”

Then, how best can we serve our current client base and/or secure new income stream sources? With all the restaurant closings chefs all over the country and restaurants have converted to production cooking and either pick up or delivery from licensed commercial kitchens.

However, your client base relies upon and appreciates the personal commitment and custom designed programs designed by and provided by their personal chef. Members with access to commercial space can convert to 100 percent delivery to avoid exposure for their clients and for themselves. Come up with promotions you can afford to do to spark more interest. Perhaps an extra dish with meals? A discount on a future catering gig?

Adding on or providing separate services like shopping for clients, if feasible in your city, could provide income.

The biggest challenge for personal chefs right now is securing product. You may find that your usual local markets are out of your usual items because of the panic run by customers. While this is likely temporary–officials stress there is no shortage of food–it can be inconvenient right now. Here are some options:

  • I found that shopping for produce with the closure of the farmers markets in our area was a challenge (although in San Diego the Little Italy Mercato just announced a limited market with stringent entrance rules).  I turned to Chefs Garden, which delivers fresh-picked, customer-selected amazing produce via FedEx in a cooled shipping carton.
  • Check in with local farms to learn if they are creating CSAs to sell their produce. If you haven’t heard of them, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Many farms have subscription CSAs. You sign up and then pick up or have delivered a box of the farm’s produce weekly or every other week. Farms that usually sell directly to restaurants are now instead opting to sell directly to customers. So find out if this is an option in your locale.
  • Contact farms directly or go to their Facebook page to learn if they are holding temporary farm stands.
  • If your city has a restaurant warehouse, a Costco Business Center, or wholesale markets–not just for produce but also seafood and other proteins–find out if you can buy from them.
  • I’ve seen on Facebook offers from people who participate in community gardens make offers to the general public to share produce. Check this out.

If you have encountered other options, please share them with us below! Or contact Caron at caron@goldenwriting.com so she can share them.

What changes are you making to your business to adapt? What could you use help with?

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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We Can Do This!

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 16, 2020

How’re you doing? Coping with the chaos? Our chef members are the rocks of their communities. In times of disruption there may be nothing more important than to have focus, a strategy, pragmatism, and, yes, optimism. Every state and locale is experiencing this coronavirus pandemic differently so far but what we have in common is to critical mandate to protect ourselves and our society by following CDC guidelines and keeping up with federal, state, and local direction.

APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has been through tumultuous periods before–from recessions to 9/11 to other pandemics. Naturally, she has a great perspective on what we’re going through now and advice for member chefs.

I have been struggling with this situation, like you, for weeks, watching it evolve so that I could offer realistic recommendations and suggestions to support our personal chef members.

This is even more challenging than the financial challenges of 2008 with the gravity of a global pandemic. Safety from contagion is paramount. Peace of mind, professional leadership, and stability are vital to prevent panic. Personal chef clients hire us because they need/want our assistance and guidance, so how can we continue to be useful in the present situation?

Let’s address first what we are dealing with: A fear of food source instability that’s causing panic buying, fear of exposure, and a lack of comprehensive information and/or direction from our government to name a few. Let’s not forget anxiety and the collapse of our way of life when it comes to employment, healthcare, education, sports/entertainment outlets, and organized face-to-face religious support and worship.

Let’s be honest. We are in a state of chaos where the parameters change with the fluidity of liquid mercury so the ability to adapt service for clients while remaining safe is the quandary.

What do we know with certainty at this point?  Not much. But this is no time to panic. We’re smart; we’re resourceful. And we’re among the luckiest of our citizens. So, let’s make use of it. How? Think of this period as a time to prepare, do your best to help clients and your families, and plan for the future–because this will resolve and life as we knew it will resume.

I have no doubt that when the chaos settles and the fear factor is reduced, personal chefs are going to be a big part of the recovery process and an enormous asset for a population that wants to get well and maintain  a healthy lifestyle. So stay in touch with your current and past clients, offer services that don’t put you in any jeopardy, and be a resource of advice and tips on being safe in their home kitchens in an epidemic and they will rely on you in the future.

What do I advise?

  • Wait. Watch. Pay attention. Rest. Exercise. Eat well. Keep safe. Remain calm.
  • Prepare to react quickly when we have real and reliable information.
  • Use this opportunity to update your recipe files and develop new healthy recipes.
  • Help current clients by updating them on ways to stay safe and offer support through communication and information.
  • Use social media to communicate your presence and commitment to the well-being of your clients and your community. Post current information impacting resources that impact your specific area so they will turn to you as a reliable source of information and support.
  • Stay in touch with your professional colleagues to glean and share information, suggestions and support.
  • Stay in touch with us–we have our forums and Facebook page and group that are all great resources for sharing information and comparing notes.

Let’s face it, our world is changing. We are in what I refer to as a breakdown across the board of Epic Proportions, and yes, I intentionally capitalized those last two words. We must be part of the equally Epic BREAKTHROUGH that is on the other side of this dreadful current reality.

In order to survive as professional personal chefs and rebuild our businesses and industry we must choose to be part of the change, be able to adapt and address the realities that are in the process of revealing themselves, and act quickly implementing a new service model when we have enough real information to determine direction.

In the next week stay safe, rest, reflect and recharge your batteries. And be sure to let us know what you need from us and keep us posted on what’s happening in your community!

Are you still able to work with clients? What kinds of challenges are you facing and how are you resolving 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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Asparagus Season is Almost Here!

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 9, 2020

When you were a kid were the food seasons really seasons? Did you have to wait for summer for tomatoes and corn? For fall for apples and chestnuts? For winter for citrus and root veggies? And for spring for asparagus and artichokes?

It seems that with our global economy comes global accessibility year-round to otherwise seasonal food–unless you’re committed to cooking and eating locally. That means that for many of us we can have what we want when we want it, as long as we’re willing to eat food shipped from other countries.

But wasn’t the anticipation of the first of the season produce or seafood or even flowers pretty thrilling? So, here it is March and while I can certainly find asparagus in my local supermarket and Trader Joe’s somehow its appearance at my farmers market or in the display areas for the seasonal produce just makes me happier and more eager to take it home to cook. And it’s almost time!

Back in the day, asparagus was exotic and pricey. At least pricey for my family. I may have first discovered them in their canned form, which is so not a winning introduction. Canned asparagus is overcooked and kind of slimy. But fresh asparagus! Oh, that’s another matter entirely. Especially grilled or broiled.

Now over the years two questions about asparagus persist:

1. Pencil thin or thick? (As if my preferred medium girth weren’t an option.)
2. Eat with your fingers or your fork?

I’d love to know your favorite way to prepare them and hope you’ll share them below. The way I enjoy them the most requires medium girth and a fork at the table–because I cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces. You see, I love them sautéed in olive oil and garlic, before being caramelized by lemon juice, and tossed with toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

This is the simplest of dishes and yet, to me, is all about the asparagus and how well it marries with each of these few ingredients.

Here’s how it goes down: Wash the asparagus and then snap off the tough, woody bottom end. Slice into two-inch pieces (or as close as you can get). Mince a couple of cloves of garlic. Lightly toast a couple of teaspoons of white sesame seeds. Get a nice juicy slice of lemon (I use Meyer lemons from my garden but a conventional lemon is fine, too).

Now pull out your favorite sauté pan and place it on the stove over medium high heat. To be honest, I have a Scanpan wok that I’ve had forever. I rarely use it for Asian cooking (I have a “real” wok for that) but love to sauté veggies in the Scanpan wok because the flat bottom perfectly fits one of my ceramic stove’s front burners and the swooping sides give me more cooking room.

Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and let it heat up a bit, then add the garlic. Once you can smell the garlic’s aroma, add the asparagus. Stir it in to coat with the oil and garlic.

Then be patient and let the asparagus cook for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. It takes about six minutes for the asparagus to show signs of browning. You don’t want it overcooked, just a little seared. Then add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. The garlic will turn into brown bits that actually are delicious, not to mention crunchy. Sprinkle the asparagus with sea salt, then toss in the sesame seeds. Mix well. That’s it. Time to plate it.

Sautéed Asparagus with Garlic, Lemon Juice, and Sesame Seeds
Serves 2

Ingredients
2 dozen medium-width asparagus spears (about a pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Sea salt to taste

Directions
1. Wash and trim the asparagus to remove the woody bottom. Slice into two-inch pieces.
2. Heat a sauté pan over medium high and add minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the asparagus. Stir to coat the asparagus with the oil and garlic. Then let it sit for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. Continue to stir a couple of more times until the asparagus starts to brown–about six minutes.
3. Add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt and stir in the sesame seeds. Serve.

What spring food are you waiting, waiting, waiting for? And how do you love to prepare asparagus?

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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Squash blossoms

Winter doldrums, menu malaise… It’s easy to get into a cooking rut. But it’s just as easy to get out of one, too. Especially with spring around the corner. Produce seems prettier and more inviting that basic root veggies. There’s color outside and more color in the markets.

I asked our Facebook page followers what they do when they’re feeling the need for some inspiration for new dishes, techniques, and menus. What is their inspiration? And I got a variety of options to share with you:

  • “I watch Fast Forward cooking shows,” responded Cherylanne Farley. “The Kitchn always has good ideas techniques.”
  • “The Barnes and Noble bargain cookbook area,” is member Carol Borchardt’s inspiration. “Pinterest. Old magazines because everything that is old can be made new again.”
  • “Tasting Table, Plate magazine or Pinterest are my go to’s,” said Jennifer M. Grawburg.
  • “Pinterest,” is Suzy D. Brown’s source of inspiration.

Media, of course, is a great source for food-related ideas. Social media is awash in food images and video. And you should certainly subscribe to daily newsletters that arrive in your email’s inbox from Epicurious, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, Well Done, Cooking Light, the Kitchn, ProChef SmartBrief, and MyRecipes–just to name some of the most obvious. So are the vast array of cooking shows on PBS, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

Marcus Samuelsson learning how to make noodles in Las Vegas

But sometimes you need to get your head out of your computer or device and get out. A recent PBS series that puts out there just how inspirational a hometown can be is chef Marcus Samuelsson’s “No Passport Required.” His second season just concluded but you can find the episodes on demand or the PBS website. Lucky you if you’re from Boston or LA, Philadelphia or Seattle or Houston. Most cities have enclaves of different ethnic groups and watching No Passport Required should give you the itch to explore your city’s Armenian neighborhood, or Filipino or Nigerian or Italian.

Yes, I recognize the irony of suggesting a TV show to get outside. So get outside. You may think you’ve hit all the hot spots of your town but there may be other towns nearby to explore.

Learning from a kind family at next table how to add egg to a Soon Tofu dish at BCD Tofu House in L.A.’s Koreatown.

I asked a chef I know in San Diego what she does when she’s looking for inspiration. She goes on food tours of the city–in San Diego or wherever she happens to be. They take her to markets, restaurants, food stalls, and street vendors. There she can try new flavors, ask questions, and develop ideas for new dishes. I’ve done this myself in San Diego, Los Angeles’s Koreatown, San Francisco, Paris, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Montreal. It can explode your mind and lead to an exciting new approach to your menu.

If you’re not in an area where organized food tours are available, how about gathering up a few friends and day trip somewhere close by? Take a bus or train or carpool to a nearby city for a day of markets and food from another culture? Bring a notebook, take photos, and ask lots of questions of chefs and shoppers? See something you don’t recognize in a bin? Ask someone making a selection about how to use it and how to pick the best quality.

Green almonds from a Middle Eastern market in San Diego

And, if you can’t leave town and you have several different kinds of markets in your town or city, turn that into a day trip and enjoy your region’s diverse offerings. Mark Dietz told us on Facebook he swears by markets as inspiration.

What if your inspiration needs to come from a very specific practitioner? Let’s say you’re interested in taking on cooking for clients with a specific dietary need. Sure, you can turn to the Internet and Pinterest, etc. But how about reaching out to professionals–dietitians or nutritionists, for instance–who can give you some ways you can incorporate specific foods into dishes? Maybe you can have a cook date to learn techniques?

It all comes down to how eager you are to come up with novel resources that ignite that spark of change. Just getting a fresh perspective from another chef or an aisle of gorgeous spring vegetables may send you racing back to your kitchen, eager to develop a new recipe or two for clients.

What’s your inspiration when you are in a culinary rut? 

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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