April Lee

Don’t you love the revealing moments people share about themselves that make you admire them all the more? I saw a post APPCA member April Lee shared on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that made me rush out a note to her asking if I could use it as the basis of a post here. Not only did April, owner of Tastefully Yours in the DC-Baltimore area, agree, but she shared even more information for me to put together here for you. I’d like to think of it as the inspiration we all need to do what we can in our communities during this pandemic. So, this is from April:

During this pandemic when it’s become extremely dangerous for older people to go out, I’ve been boxing up meals and delivering them to the senior citizens I know who can benefit from some well-made, nutritious meals. While I and many here are professional personal chefs, anyone can set aside an extra portion or two to offer to others. I have friends who are nurses and first responders. They also need ready-to-eat meals. So, consider reaching out to people you know (this is important as you cannot cook out of your home for strangers because of liability issues and health department regulations). But cooking for friends or acquaintances is fine and very much appreciated now. Just please be extra vigilant in following food safety guidelines when cooking, cooling and storing food. And maintain social distancing.

I wear a mask and gloves always when going out. I call the person to let them know when I’m coming. I call/text again once I arrive (just to make sure they are at home) and then leave the boxed meals in a bag at their front door. I will not leave food if they cannot bring it inside their home as I wave from inside my car.

I’ve been giving free meals to low-income senior citizens and families in my county every week since February of 2017. Because I work out of a leased commercial kitchen, I am able to do this. I would NOT encourage personal chefs who don’t have a commercial kitchen to even try this because it is in violation of all sorts of codes and regulations. Even if you’re giving the food away, you can’t cook out of your own residential kitchen. It’s been a good project for me, a way to use up extra ingredients and not waste anything. Many of my clients found out what I was doing and pay me a little extra to help offset my expenses for the groceries and containers for my “guests” (versus my paying clients). People like the idea of helping their community in a very direct way.

My suggestion for others to set aside portions of their home-cooked meals is because there is such a great need right now for ready-to-eat meals. Senior citizens, especially those who are elder orphans, are particularly vulnerable now because they don’t have family members checking in on them. And, as I said, first responders, nurses, doctors, hospital staff workers (think about all the minimum wage workers who are doing all the janitorial and housekeeping work in these hospitals), all need to eat after working days and shifts on end.

Again, I don’t want to give the impression that people can start providing meals to strangers. They absolutely cannot. HOWEVER, they can set aside a couple of portions of the dinners they are making for friends and acquaintances they know who could benefit from a tasty, nutritious, well-prepared meal. Many of the moms and dads who are still out there working because they must, would appreciate having dinner delivered for their families. Parents who are home with their young children now because daycare and schools are closed are struggling to balance getting their work done, taking care of the kids, helping them with online classes, and tending to household chores. You’d be amazed at just what a batch of freshly made chocolate chip cookies can do for a friend or acquaintance who’s overworked, over stressed, and sleep deprived. There are so many ways we can help and, now is the time for us to share our bounty and our talents with those in need.  Not everyone knows a first responder, but everyone knows someone (probably many someones) who are pushed to their max right now. A prepared dinner is manna from heaven for these pandemic weary folks.

What kinds of service are you providing your community or your extended family these days? Send us your story!

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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How’s everything going? Are you still able to work with clients or have some cancelled for the shelter-at-home duration?

If you’re using this time to make changes in your business, how about staying in your clients’ line of vision–and the vision of potential clients–by sending out a weekly newsletter?

The newsletter could be as simple as a weekly note via email that checks in on your clients, lets them know what’s going on with you (yeah, you’re not all that busy either but perhaps you’re noodling around with new recipes, working in your garden, starting a cookbook…), shares links to health or food news, and perhaps offers a recipe or two. Just design it so that the content is broken up into easily consumable pieces, bold type where useful, along with bullet points and links.

But that same content could also be part of a more designed, formal e-newsletter, using Constant Contact, BenchmarkCampaignMonitor, MailChimp, or some other platform. Depending on your distribution, these could be free to use or modestly priced.

Each offers templates that allow you to pretty easily create a design. You can set up a format that offers a box for any news you want to promote, such as a guest post for this blog, a new Facebook group you’ve launched, volunteer/community work you’re doing, or a new cooking demo you’ve released on YouTube. You could have another that offers a recipe with a photo. If you have a niche service, like cooking for athletes or expectant moms, you could have a section with relevant health news and links to stories with the details. And, of course, you should have a permanent section that describes who you are, where you are, the services you provide, and how to contact you, etc. Fill it with great photos, but keep enough white space in the design so it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

When I was still writing my blog, San Diego Foodstuff, I prepared and sent out a weekly e-newsletter using MailChimp to both promote it and my other work as a food writer. I ran an excerpt from the new post on the top left, food community news on the top right (a cookbook author coming to town, classes people I knew were teaching, food events, etc.), and below that a photo and description of my latest story for the San Diego Union-Tribune’s food section with a link to the story. If I had won an award, that was placed on the lower left above the block that had information for how to get in touch with me and then a description of my work. And, of course, I included any advertising I had and a photo of my dogs–because why not? (Also create an easy way for people to unsubscribe because realistically not everyone on your subscription list will want to receive it.)

You should also include any social media links you have: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest.

Why so much information? Because you’re marketing yourself at a time when you need to keep your clients engaged and plant seeds in the minds of potential new ones. Because you may be looking for new opportunities under your personal chef umbrella to teach classes, cater events, write food articles, or be on local television.

You may think, well, I have a half dozen clients. I’m doing fine. Why should I bother writing a weekly newsletter? Well, how about broadening the possibilities and sending it to local news producers, local newspaper editors, or influencers who could help you find new clients or other food-related gigs? If you’re on social media, you can even announce you’re launching a newsletter, describe the type of content you’re planning and encourage people to sign up for it.

These are weird and challenging times. If you and yours are healthy and you can carve out some time, why not design and start sending out a collateral via email that can help you rebound once the world reopens? If you’re concerned about your business, this is another tool in your toolbox to help it come back. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who is still busy, congratulations. But you know you should always be thinking ahead. A weekly newsletter can help you stay at top of mind with those with whom you already have a relationship and launch new relationships with those you want to impress with your skills.

How do you promote your business? Have you been writing a newsletter to clients?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Last week APPCA member and friend Christine Robinson wrote a Facebook post that articulated what so many of us are feeling these days–boredom with the routine at home, irritability with the constraints, and yet a total understanding that it was all necessary. So, I asked Christine who, with her partner Dennis Nosko, operates A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston, Massachusetts, if she’d like a different challenge, guest writing a post for her fellow personal chefs. I’m so glad she embraced this because what she wrote below is so meaningful!

I had heard from a lifelong friend sometime in mid January that she was concerned about this virus popping up in China and had I heard. I researched the rumblings and decided that it would be a good idea to just prepare a little bit (anyone knows my least little bit is over the top) because we all know when you prepare and over plan, nothing happens.

Spanish-Style Chicken Thighs

Needless to say, here we are. We have been in business for 20 years and have seen downturns, trends, situations, busy times, lean times, but everything always balanced out. This, this is one for the history books as we navigate the biggest challenge our world has faced in recent history.

When everything started hitting we made sure to let clients know how vigilant we were and that we understood their fears. We have had about five clients hang on for the duration, all people who stay at home under most circumstances, have some special needs, and have spacious enough homes that we can practice safe distancing and bring in as few items as possible. Cleaning frantically has become the norm and taking our temperatures and announcing numbers has become second nature. We keep in touch with other clients who have taken this time off to email, trade some recipes and just check in with no mention of business concerns, rather human concerns. We love our people and want to see everyone on the other side.

Right now is the time for our best ideas to be put forth, to brainstorm, to get creative.

I started a Facebook page almost a month ago called ChefDemic—we are just over 250 members. We became concerned with people’s abilities to cook from what they had available in their freezers and pantries, and also wanted to address food waste and using what you have on hand. Our intent is to amp up on demo videos (our son bought us a tripod to use for videos) and to move over to a YouTube platform and continue this. The sense of community on the page is very strong and we have regular posts from members showing off their own creations. When we have not been available to offer advice in a timely manner, 10 odd people will address a member’s concern. Much more than the food advice, is the distraction, the humor, and the support for our members has built a wonderful, creative group.

Mixed Vegetable with Cabbage, Peppers, and Broccolini

This has also spurred talk of online cooking class parties or instruction.

We are taking this time at home to rest our minds, deal with our own health, get out and walk, and allow ourselves to fear the uncertainties, while taking some time to regroup mentally. Menus for clients are being revamped, we are cooking for ourselves, concentrating on balanced meals rooted in foods that boost immunity. I have managed to maintain a 20-pound weight loss I started on shortly after my surgery at the end of October and so has Dennis. Documenting this journey could be another direction we explore.

Filling for Burrito Bowl with Bison and Spinach

As far as the future, our plans are to focus on the very cornerstone of the personal chef industry, something we all know, to sense and execute customized food in the safety of the client’s home with attention to quality personally managed for them. I see a trend of gatherings being more special and possibly more frequent as we are all learning to celebrate the little things, as no one wants to miss out on any moment with loved ones  ever again. I envision a time when the RSVP lists are going to be packed with ‘YES! We will be theres,” and fewer, “Can’t make its.” While that may take time, we are willing to rework our model to fit the client needs.

Be well and be safe. You are our people and we love you, too.

How are you coping with sheltering at home. How are you thinking about adjusting your business for the future?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

 

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What Brings You Joy as a Personal Chef?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 6, 2020

As everyone’s all too well aware, we’re caught up in pretty anxious times right now, thanks to the coronavirus outbreak. Your clients are so lucky to have you help them through it with delicious and nutritious meals. We also hope those of you who for various reasons aren’t engaged with your clients right now are taking care of yourselves, sheltering at home, and working on new strategies for re-opening your business.

Back in the day, APPCA’s executive director Candy Wallace created this career path to give chefs an alternative to working a restaurant line–to be able to follow their own joy when it comes to working in a kitchen. Being a personal chef enables professionals to create the kind of business that works for them and their lives–to make food that inspires them, to help others, charge fees they deem appropriate for their services, and create their own hours. Some also elect to take on additional, related opportunities, like catering, teaching, and writing, under their personal chef umbrella.

When everything comes together, we find that chefs are creating a life for themselves that brings them joy. It may be the independence of directing their own business. It may come from their clients in the form of appreciation. It may be pride in what they’re accomplishing creatively. Or it’s the grace of knowing they are helping others.

We’re often in conversation about how to do things better–be more efficient, get more clients, update menus. But can we take a moment and share what brings you joy as a personal chef? We don’t talk about that nearly enough and we surely need it now. We asked participants in our Facebook group and business page what about being a personal chef brings them joy. Here’s what they had to say. Sound familiar?

Jennifer M. Grawburg: “When someone really thanks me for bringing joy to their lives whether it’s a memorable birthday or just easing the everyday grind by providing dinners each week. I’m truly thankful for amazing clients.”

Christina Hamilton Snow: “The smile on the face of a client that with my help, lost 90 lbs and is no longer pre diabetic.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

Christine H. Robinson: “When a tiny child who hates everything likes something I make….”

Natasha Layne: “When we create tasty and healthy dishes it does something to not only our spirit but to the spirit of the person we’re cooking for. I love taking some degree of stress away from a busy family or a person who’s worked a long hard day.”

Debbie J. Elder: “The chance to meet new people from all over. I focus on private dinner parties for visitors to the city.”

Erin Tripp: “The freedom to work by myself, when I can… and receiving accolades at the end of the night, isn’t so bad either! 

Jim Huff: “Just this week I was stuck at a client’s home waiting for a towing service (stupid chef trick I locked my keys in the car) my client, who I haven’t seen in two months as he started new job, felt so bad for me he offered to heat up some “delicious food” and join him for dinner! Of course he was referring to what I had cooked for him that day! 

Judy Harvey: “My senior clients that look forward to the food, but more so of me sharing 4 hours with them.”

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie Hafter Wassel: “When a client, two weeks ago gave me a bottle of wine from his collection… retails at $325. Gulp!”

Evangeline Kochanek: “Seeing clients become healthier and feel better 

Julie Handwerker Cicero: “When my client tells me I got her eat vegetables!”

Cammie Read: “When I get texts like ‘I’m sitting here enjoying my children while your food bakes. Thank you for giving me this time’ or when an overwhelmed mom is faced with so many allergies to eliminate and texts ‘thank you for taking his allergies and still creating food for us without missing a beat. You rock!’ I am honored to cook for so many wonderful families. My favorite one from a client ‘i appreciate you.’ It means so much to just feel appreciated.”
Heather Raymond McFadden: “I love when I get the chance to see my clients enjoy the healthy food I make. Their expressions say more than any words 
At APPCA we love that we can support all personal chefs achieve their goals and find joy in their work. Please let us know if there’s something we can do to help you, especially now!
What brings you joy as a personal chef? What do you hope to achieve in the future?

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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