As personal chefs one way to market your business is by showing off your food in mouthwatering photography. But all too many of us wind up with blurry and poorly lit shots of dishes that in real life were spectacular. One of our APPCA members, Chef Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, took this challenge to heart and learned everything she could about quality food photography. If you check out her website you’ll see she’s become quite the expert. We asked her to share her insights with you and she generously wrote a guest post with seven tips for better food photography.

Seven Tips to Better Food Photography
by Carol Borchardt

1. Study Good Food Photos
First familiarize yourself with what really beautiful food photography is. Websites such as FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com feature some of the best food blog photography on the web. Any food blog that has earned a “Saveur Sites We Love” badge will have exceptional photography (Saveur.com/siteswelove).  Some of the most renowned food photographers have a portfolio of their work on their websites:

·      Matt Armendariz

·      Penny De Los Santos

·      Aran Goyoago

·      Lara Ferroni

·      Beatrice Peltrie

·      Helene Dujardin

·      Teri Campbell

·      Katie Quinn Davies

·      Sara Remington

When you come across a photo that really appeals to you, study it and determine what it is about that photo that moves you. When you can determine what a good food photo is, you can begin to move your photography in that direction.

2. Understand Camera Fundamentals

 ·      White Balance: It’s called white balance because whites should be white and it can affect the entire color balance of your photo, which in turn greatly affects its visual appeal. White balance settings include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy and fortunately, Auto, which is where I keep mine set. 

·      Exposure: Three camera settings determine the proper exposure:  Aperture (size of lens opening), shutter speed and ISO (a measure of sensitivity to light).  For highest quality, shoot with the lowest ISO possible.

·      Depth of Field: The portion of the image that is in focus and a purely stylistic and artistic decision. This depends on the aperture and can only be achieved with a dSLR/SLR camera.

·      Camera Modes: The easiest mode to begin shooting food is “Aperture Priority (A or Av on the dial).” The camera will control the shutter speed based on the aperture you choose.

·      If all you have is a smartphone camera, helpful apps to make the most of it are:  CameraPlus, VSCO Cam, PicTapGo and Tadaa. If you’re still using a flip phone, you may want consider upgrading.

3. Understand Lighting

The right lighting can take an ordinary photograph and make it extraordinary.  Making food look good in artificial lighting is tricky and requires additional equipment and skill. Fortunately, the best lighting for photographing food is natural light and it’s free!

Know where your light is coming from. Side lighting or back lighting is best.  Think of your plate of food as a clock. If the light is coming from 9:00 or 3:00, you are working with side lighting. Back lighting will be coming from 12:00.  Front lighting (6:00) would mean the light source is in back of the photographer, which means the photographer would be blocking much of the light.

Two major lighting rules apply:

·      Turn off the flash if you don’t have the proper artificial lighting. The flash causes glare and it gives food an unnatural look.

·      Never mix artificial and natural lighting; it throws off the color balance.

4. Establish a Photography Work Area

Study and locate the best source of natural light in your home.  Preferably, you want a north or south-    facing  window.  The set-up does not have to be permanent.  Once you’ve established an area in which to work, start gathering basic tools, supplies and props.

 Studio

   ·     Backgrounds: Fashion something, such as a piece of plywood or MDF,  that you can set up to block out what doesn’t belong in your photo such as your sofa. Paint one side white and the other a dark color such as black, brown or green. White lends softness while a darker background is dramatic.

·      Surfaces: Gather fabric remnants for soft surfaces (and backgrounds).  Repurpose old and distressed wood from pallets or fencing, use old cutting boards and metals with a weathered patina such as a well-loved cookie sheet.

·      Gather unique textiles, plates, old silverware, old serving pieces, platters, etc.  Use simple round matte (no gloss) plates and bowls. Avoid patterned plates; white is always a good choice. Square or rectangular plates are very difficult to make look good in a square frame.

5. Pay Close Attention to Cooking and Plating

·      A mouthwatering photo starts with quality ingredients.

·      Read the recipe and visualize the dish. Evaluate whether it will make an interesting subject to photograph. Any brown food is going to be difficult.

·      Make sure prep is meticulous and keep the finished product in mind throughout the entire cooking process.

·      Be realistic with serving sizes. Some food bloggers love to load up plates and bowls. That’s fine for a food blog; however, our clients are looking to us to help them eat better.

·      Go for height. Try to “lift” your food off the plate. Stack brownies and cookies, place proteins on top of the starch or the vegetable. Don’t spread food around the plate; it looks flat and boring.

Salmon & Lentils

·      Garnish, garnish, garnish! Use whole herb springs instead of chopped and sprinkled; it’s a cleaner look that makes a bolder statement. However, the herb sprig should not dominate the photo.

·      Use food as props if the food was used in the dish: A bowl of avocados, cloves of garlic still in the skins sprinkled around, herb sprigs half chopped, etc.

Veg Filo Tart

6. Understand Composition

Think of composition as a group of ingredients required to cook up a good photograph:

·      Orientation  (Vertical or horizontal)

·      Balance (the visual harmony in the photograph).

·      Rule of Thirds is a good rule of thumb. Think of your photograph divided into a “Tic Tac Toe” grid (nine even sections). One of the points (off center where those lines intersect) is generally where you want to place your subject.

ruleofthirds

Chicken Chorizo Red Beans and Rice

·      Create “movement” with triangles. A great food photo keeps your eye moving around the photo in a triangle shape. The triangle can be the plate of food and two props or leaves of basil in a pasta dish.

·      Create “movement” with objects. Show something else going on besides the food just sitting there. Get a helper to hold a spoon of gooey macaroni and cheese being lifted out of the pan, the spatula still frosting the cake, etc.

·      Say it with color. Opposites on a color wheel always work together and a monochromatic look can be very dramatic.  Watch out for colors that clash.  If you wouldn’t wear the combination, don’t have it in your food photo.

·      Avoid “tight” or extreme close-up shots. Zooming in too tight can leave food unidentifiable. Your clients want to see your food as they would see it sitting down to the table, not how it would look two inches from their face.

·      Not every part of the photograph needs to be filled with props. Negative space or space that is left empty can make a very powerful statement.

7. Find a Good Editing Program to:

·      Correct exposure and brightness

·      Lighten shadows

·      Adjust highlights, contrast, color saturation and balance

·      Crop and straighten

·      Sharpen

·      Retouch

There are many free programs, such as Google’s Picasa, GIMP, Paint.NET, and iPhoto on Macs. Your camera probably came with software to do this.

 

Well, it’s been, what, five months–six months–since what should probably call “before times.” Who can keep track anymore? In that time, many or most of us have found our lives and businesses have been turned upside down. Some of us have gotten sick. Some have lost family or friends. Our country has lost more than 150,000 people. These are sad, confusing, frustrating days.

And, yet, we have to go on, albeit carefully. Those of us who operate solo businesses have to do our best to hang in there and find new resources, new ideas, and new opportunities to shine and earn a living. It’s all about flexibility, ingenuity, and doggedness.

Over the past several months we’ve tried to offer ideas and inspiration for new approaches to your personal chef business. And we’ll continue to do so.

Today, though, here are some tips for solo entrepreneurs. We tend to call these the lazy days of summer. If that’s true for you, perhaps it’s the right time to start mulling over next steps and thinking about how to rev up business come fall. We’re hoping these tips can sizzle your brain and juice up your enthusiasm for this very important business you run.

  • Stay agile and don’t be afraid to say no. Andrew Wassenaar of software firm Timely makes the great point that without extra staff, solo business owners have less baggage and are able to enjoy more freedom in business. It’s so true. You may wish you had help or a boss to tell you what to do, but as a personal chef running your own business you have the agility to switch things up if you find something isn’t working or you discover something unexpected that brings you joy–and more money! As Wassenaar notes, it also gives you the flexibility to say no to whatever doesn’t align with your vision. “It comes back to the fact that time is valuable, and when it’s being consumed by things that don’t contribute to what you’re doing, it’s being wasted,” he writes.
  • Be specific with your goals. Kelly Spors of The Hartford’s SmallBiz Ahead published seven business tips from successful small business owners. One of them seemed directly relevant to personal chef business owners. Be very specific with your goals. Break big goals into smaller ones. It could be based on a timeline, such as 10 years, three years, and one year. It could be work/life. It could be seasonal. Once you have set your goals, develop a dashboard that allows you to note your progress with your goals to help you stay focused.
  • Build a wide range of skills. Small Business Trends published a list of 21 rules for solopreneurs to live by. Among them is “Build a Wide Range of Skills.” Now you already know how to cook, but during this down or downish time you could focus some more on the skills of owning a business–like marketing and accounting. Networking might seem like a crazy idea these days but “out of sight, out of mind” is a cliché that’s all too true. Work on your Zoom or Facetime skills and make or revive connections. Get smart with video and teach virtual cooking classes. Learn how to write professional recipes using tools like “The Recipe Writer’s Handbook” and put together virtual meal kits for clients or launch a food blog. Improve your food photography.
  • Get technical. Of all places, The UPS Store published a series of tips to advertise your solo business. Their idea is you want to drive awareness and engagement. Even if you don’t advertise, we hope you’re doing a good amount of marketing via social media, email newsletters, and blogs. We’ve offered lots of tips on these in the past, but here are some extra ones. If you’re on Twitter, use their polling feature in a multiple choice survey question about, well, anything. Perhaps you’re interested in changing up your menu. You could test out ideas. Or you’re considering targeting a different type of client. Ask questions that would help determine if athletes or vegans or adult children helping their aging parents are a viable option. Or just ask food-related questions that are fun and capture an audience’s imagination. They also advocate asking for retweets on Twitter (let’s extend that to “sharing” on Facebook and Instagram) and making use of SEO, but using SEO keywords that aren’t as competitive. Clueless about SEO? See above’s “build a wide range of skills.”
  • Band together with others. Time published a fascinating piece on small business owners banding together to adapt during the pandemic. It featured a New York City chef scheduled to open her first restaurant in March. She never got a chance to open it. As you can imagine, she had to transition to takeout and discovered a community of fellow restaurateurs in her neighborhood seeking to help one another. As personal chefs, you work alone. But you live in a community that might have other personal chefs, and certainly small markets, farmers, and other purveyors. You all need to do business. How can you help one another? Perhaps you buy from them, they promote your services. Or you and your fellow personal chefs who have different types of clients can cross promote each other. This calls for networking, zoom meetings, and ingenuity.

What tips resonate with you? Do you have any special tips to share with your colleagues?

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!

Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

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!

 

Are You Ready for 2020?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 16, 2019

While you’re hard at work prepping meals for regular clients and perhaps also taking on catering events, there’s one more task you need to take on: preparing for 2020.

Nothing stays the same. Clients leave, new clients come on board. Food trends change. Your own life changes. And if you’re running a successful business you must be ready and even eager to evolve your business so that it continues to work for you.

So, let’s look at some things you need to do to know what tweaks you might have to make in various areas of your personal chef business:

  • Take a fresh look at your business plan and make revisions. Consider whether you’re enjoying your work and if not, why not? Then you can make adjustments to your schedule, your services, and even your goals. Have your priorities changed? Have your skills evolved? Before 2020 hits, determine what exactly you want to make of it and write it all down as a commitment to yourself.
  • Take a hard look at your finances, especially your profit and loss report. That end-of-year P&L will help you figure out ways to improve 2020 finances. Are you earning enough of a profit? Is your pricing realistic? Are you charging enough to make a profit? Are you ready for quarterly tax payments? Are your expenses getting away from you and what will they look like next year? We’re talking marketing, insurance, fuel/transportation, new equipment, perhaps even part-time help.
  • Review your equipment. Speaking of expenses, your cooking tools are some of the most consequential investments you make in your business? Do you need to replace anything or buy new and novel equipment for new menus you’re creating? Are there tools you no longer use and can stop hauling around with you? Do you need to get knives sharpened or buy fresh uniforms? Hey, if your car is your transportation to clients and events, you need to consider if it needs servicing or new tires.
  • Examine how well you’re promoting your business. Sure, your business is currently thriving but you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A good, long-term client can go away in a snap. Have you been consistently marketing yourself and your business? What kind of professional networking are you doing and how can you improve it in 2020? Do you have business cards and do you hand them out? Are you promoting yourself through social media? Have you ever reached out to guest post on this blog (so you can then promote it on social media or your website)? Do you take great photos of your food for your website and social media—if not, how about taking a food photography class?
  • Look at your client mix and potential new opportunities. If you started your business even five short years ago you know that food culture and culture in general has dramatically changed. Five years ago you may have had an interest in cooking vegan food, but couldn’t find clients who were all that interested. Today it’s a thing so now’s your opportunity to seek them out. Perhaps you’ve developed an interest in cooking for people who have specific health issues to address—from heart disease to cancer to dementia. Or you want to help pregnant moms and young families. Or you want to prepare healthy “on the run” foods for young, time-deprived professionals. This is the time to research opportunities and make them happen in your 2020 business plan. It’s also the time to review and refresh your menus, maybe challenge yourself with new skills and trending ingredients.
  • Finally, look at your personal life and how well you’re balancing it with work. Are you and your family happy with your schedule or do you need to tweak it to give yourself family or personal time? Are you exercising and doing fun things that keep your body, mind, and heart satisfied? Are you prioritizing vacation time? Are you exploring continuing education that doesn’t just help your business but also feeds your soul?

Candy and Dennis are eager for you to succeed. If you are an APPCA member and have any questions about how to make your business work better for you, reach out and ask. If you’re considering becoming a personal chef in 2020, join APPCA. We can help you set up your new business.

What kinds of issues are you mulling over that we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2020?

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!

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!

 

 

As we look ahead to 2019, Candy and I hope you’re taking whatever downtime you may be enjoying right now to plan your business strategy. I thought it might be helpful to look back across our blog’s 2018 posts for the helpful words you and your personal chef colleagues offered us. Think of it as a friendly reminder of the wisdom you and your peers have and have enthusiastically shared. Perhaps they will spark some cool idea that you were just developing. Or perhaps they’re concepts you’re ready to hear and act on now that you weren’t months ago.

We also wrote several posts in 2018 with strategy in mind that we hope you will find worth revisiting. I’m going to start with this essential checklist I wrote this time last year:

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.

Marketing:

Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.

Specializing:

Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

Additionally, check out these topics:

We’ll be back in 2019 with more ideas and suggestions to help you run your business effectively. And we hope you’ll contribute guest posts with your own successful strategies! In the meantime, we wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

What are your 2019 business strategy resolutions? What do you need 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!

 

Everyday Dorie’s Lemon Goop

Filed under: Books,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 3, 2018

Chances are if you know Dorie Greenspan, it’s because of her divine baking cookbooks. I’m one of the thousands of her fans of her über chocolatey sablé World Peace Cookies, the recipe for which is on page 138 in her 2006 tome, “Baking: From My Home to Yours.” Yeah, I love those cookies.

Greenspan is the author of 13 cookbooks—and baking is only a slice of her culinary skill. She’s a magnificent cook and shares those recipes in books like “Around My French Table,” which takes us from sardine rillettes and chestnut-pear soup to chicken basquaise and fresh orange pork tenderloin. The Brooklyn-born writer has collaborated with Julia Child, Pierre Hermé, and Daniel Boulud on their cookbooks, and is the recipient of five James Beard Awards. She is the “On Dessert” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and she’s just published book number 13, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook (HMH/Rux Martin Books, $35).

In October, I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Dorie in front of an audience in San Diego. Yes, she’s as delightful as you’d think she is from her books (as is her husband Michael). And, oh, the stories she told!

In preparation for the interview I read the book cover to cover. Greenspan brings decades of experience—both her own and what she’s learned from chefs—to home cooks from the perspective of a home cook. “Everyday Dorie” may surprise you by how accessible the recipes are. And by the familiarity of many of the ingredients. It’s just that she uses them in ways that make you stop and want to slap your head upsides with a “why didn’t I think of that” roll of the eyes.

I also made several dishes from Everyday Dorie. Well, one wasn’t actually a dish, but a condiment–and I want to share it with you because I just thought it was so cool and unique. When it comes to condiments I have to admit, I think I’m a hoarder. One of my favorites is preserved lemon.

When I saw that Dorie had a recipe at the back of the book she calls Lemon “Goop” I had to check it out. It’s like preserved lemons, but it’s a jammy-like condiment. And it’s made with both salt and sugar. And in making it you also get lemon syrup. So it’s also a two-fer.

Lemon goop and the syrup are easy to make. You’re going to peel the zest from 6 large lemons, then cut off the top and bottom of each lemon and cut off the rest of the rind and pith so all that’s left is the fruit.

From there you’ll section the lemons. Then you’ll combine sugar, salt, and water in a pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the zest and the lemon sections, bring back to the boil, then lower the heat so that it just simmers. Leave it for about an hour. Once it’s cooked down and nice and syrupy, remove it from the heat, and strain the syrup from the lemon solids. Puree the solids in a food processor or blender, using some of the syrup to create the texture you want. That’s it.

Lemon goop is just the acidic/sweet note you want to hit to balance the richness of a fatty fish. Or a pork chop. Or roasted chicken. The syrup can play all sorts of roles. Dorie adds it to vinaigrettes, as she mentions below. How about mixing it with garlic and ginger and a little neutral oil to brush onto shrimp for roasting? Or add to a seafood salad?

The great thing is that you have plenty of time to consider how to use the lemon goop and syrup because it lasts in your refrigerator for ages–like forever–until you use it up. Just keep it tightly covered.

Lemon “Goop” and Syrup
from Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan

Makes about ⅔ cup goop and ¾ cup syrup

From Dorie: I had something like this years and years ago at a restaurant near Le Dôme in Paris. It was served with tuna; perhaps tuna cooked in olive oil, I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I loved it, went home, tried to re-create it and came up short. The second time I had it was at a Paris bistro called Les Enfants Rouges, where the chef, Daï Shinozuka, served a dab of it with fish. Daï gave me a recipe — and this is based on it — but his started with preserved lemons. The recipe I finally came up with uses ordinary lemons and finishes up as a glossy jam that tastes a little like preserved lemons but is sweeter and more complex.

You’ll have more syrup than you need to make the jam — aka “goop” — but the syrup is as good as the jam. I’ve added it to vinaigrettes (page 307), roasted beets, sautéed green beans, tuna salad, chicken salad and more. It’s a terrific “tool” to have in the fridge.

I serve the goop with fish and shellfish, pork and chicken. To start you on the road to playing around with this, try it on Twice-Flavored Scallops (page 193).

6 large lemons
2 cups (480 ml) water
1½ cups (300 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt

WORKING AHEAD Refrigerate the goop and syrup separately until needed. In a tightly covered container, the syrup will keep forever, and the goop’s lifespan is only slightly shorter.

1. Using a vegetable peeler or small paring knife, remove the zest from 3 of the lemons, taking care not to include any of the white pith; set aside.
2. One by one, cut a slice from the top and bottom of each lemon, cutting deeply enough to reveal the fruit. Stand the lemon upright on a cutting board and, cutting from top to bottom, slice away the rind and pith, again cutting until the fruit is revealed. Slice between the membranes of each lemon to release the segments.
3. Bring the water, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Drop in the segments and reserved zest and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat so that the syrup simmers gently. Cook for about 1 hour, at which point the syrup will have thickened and the lemons will have pretty much fallen apart. It might look as though the lemons have dissolved, but there’ll still be fruit in the pan. Remove from the heat.
4. The fruit needs to be pureed, a job you can do with a blender (regular or immersion) or a food processor; if you have a mini-blender or mini-processor, use it.
5. Strain the syrup into a bowl and put the fruit in the blender or processor. (Save the syrup in the bowl!) Add a spoonful of the syrup to the lemons and whir until you have a smooth, glistening puree. Add more syrup as needed to keep the fruit moving and to get the consistency you want. I like the goop when it’s thick enough to form a ribbon when dropped from a spoon. Thicker is better than thinner, because you can always adjust the consistency with more of the reserved syrup.

LEMON “GOOP” AND SYRUP is excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

What cookbooks are you hoping for or gifting for the holidays? List them below to give us inspiration! 

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!

Chefs, you probably have a personal Facebook page but perhaps you haven’t gotten around to setting up a business page. Or you have a business page but haven’t put much effort into populating it or promoting it.

Time to get off the dime.

I promote my writing business on Facebook with three pages: my personal page (hey, it’s my personal business), my Goldenwriting page, and my blog San Diego Foodstuff’s page. Plus, I have Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Instagram accounts. Am I on and posting all the time? Of course not. I work for a living. But I make sure that I have a regular presence on each. I’m probably most active on Facebook and Instagram. And on Facebook, I’m most active on my personal page and San Diego Foodstuff (not to mention APPCA’s business and group pages).

The point is that social media–and Facebook in particular–hones community and community is what I need to further my business. As personal chefs, you need community, too. You need people to be aware of you and what you do and offer. You need to whet their appetites for your offerings. You need to help them think about their culinary needs or health needs or lifestyle needs.

Despite its flaws, Facebook remains a great option for this.

Now perhaps you’re on Facebook and haven’t gotten much traction from your efforts. Have you considered how you’re approaching it? Have you asked for feedback from fellow personal chefs or friends you trust? Are you trying to engage people or just posting (mediocre) photos of food you’ve made? Are you offering them anything useful? Are you demonstrating to potential customers or partners who you are and what you’re interested in?

Now your Facebook business page isn’t going to save your business. But its got the potential to be a tremendous marketing tool. And, I’m hoping, the tips that follow can help it become just that for you.

  1. Strategize: Consider what you want to get from the time you expend on Facebook. More clients? Of course–but how? Who are your target clients? Families? People with special health needs? Those who want to get fit? Caregiving children of parents who need assistance to stay home? Men or women? Knowing who your audience is will help you better craft your messaging and engagement. It may also help you determine what time to post and how often. Working people probably log on early in the morning or in the evening, for example. One way to learn about who is visiting your page and when is to check your page’s analytics that are in the “Insights” section of the page.
  2. Offer something of value for free: These could range from cooking tips, health news, and food recall updates to recipes. Try subscribing to food site email newsletters and post intriguing news and ideas you get from them to your page. Great resources include Cooking Light, Time Health, Well Done, the Kitchn, Epicurious, and Health.com. But explore the web for others you’re interested in.
  3. Hold a quiz: Not only are they fun, but done the right way they can give you consumer information. Ask people what they’d like to see on a weekly menu, their favorite Italian-style dishes, how they use their slow cooker, their kids’ favorite meals… Maybe quiz them on safe cooking practices. You get the idea.
  4. Post beautiful food photos: We write about this here all the time, but some of you aren’t paying attention. Here’s just one of our posts, written by APPCA member and superb photographer Carol Borchardt. If you do nothing else, make sure your photos are in focus and are well lit. If they look lousy, admit it and don’t use them. Then work on ways to improve them–and you can do this even with a cell phone. Take a look at this piece and think about how you can use these tips for improving your photos. They’re your business cards.
  5. Engage in Facebook groups: One way to bring people to your business page is to participate in relevant Facebook groups so people can get to know you and want to hear from you. They could be food or chef groups (be sure to join and contribute to our APPCA group and Carol Borchardt’s new group Taste Matters). But consider other options, such as a local community group, a group dedicated to discussing health care issues you specialize in, and even totally unrelated groups that engage in topics you’re passionate about–politics, gardening, pet care. The point is you’re meeting people and they’re meeting you. Offer useful information to demonstrate your expertise, ask great questions, let them know what you do. They’ll surely subscribe to your business page–and perhaps generate referrals.
  6. Make sure all critical business info is on your business page: Is your name and geographical location listed? Your services? Your areas of specialization? Do you list your website and contact information? Don’t make people have to labor to find you. It may not be a client. It may be a newspaper reporter who wants to interview you.

Facebook business pages will only be as useful as the time you put into them–and the quality of your content. You can’t stay off for weeks or months at a time. You can’t post lousy photos. And you can’t try to promote your business with it if you don’t engage with others and draw them to it. A Facebook business page has the potential to be a great marketing tool, but only if you master best practices in running it.

Do you have a Facebook business page? What are your best practices and how useful has it been?

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!

Every December Candy and I put together posts designed to help you address the big looming change in the calendar and get a fresh start on the new year. Some people want to build their business, some want to expand services. Others want to identify new ways to help their clients—perhaps bringing health or nutrition expertise to a specific range of people or simply deciding they want to be more efficient and rent commercial kitchen space for prep. And some chefs are looking to find more life/work balance for themselves.

Whatever your new ideas are for 2018, we want to help. We can start with the basics, getting you more focused with business plans that will help guide you through the year as well as a checklist for prepping for what’s coming. We can help you figure out marketing, if that’s an issue. We can provide you with inspiration from fellow members if you’re interested in specializing in a specific type of client or healthcare issue.

You get the idea. Since we’ve written about all these over the years I thought I’d put together a round up of these posts for you that are just as fresh and relevant now as when they were first written.

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.

Marketing:

Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.

Specializing:

Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

These are just some of the many posts we’ve written over the years to help you go further in your business and meet your life and professional goals. We have search capability so if you’re looking for more information, put it in the search engine and see what else comes up.

And if you have any questions or concerns about running your personal chef business, give Candy a call or shoot her an email. She loves to hear from you!

What have you got planned for 2018? Anything we can help you 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’re just days away from December and if you haven’t already, you should be identifying your goals for 2018. What will you want to have accomplished by this time next year? What new skills do you want to have? How about your income and savings? How will you reach those goals?

We have some ideas that you can use literally or that may spark some thoughts that more directly appeal to you and meeting your goals.

  • Update your business plan. First things first–you need to know what you are aspiring to? Whether you wrote a business plan last year or five years ago, things change and you need to update your plan annually. Maybe this is the year you want to branch out from strictly being a personal chef to also teaching cooking classes or catering–or writing. Whatever it is, put it in writing so you’ll more readily commit to it.
  • Rev up your personal chef skills. We wrote about this earlier in the year and have five suggestions–ranging from cooking skills and social media to local networking and specialization.

  • Be a better marketer. Potential clients need to be able to find you. If you’ve been getting by on word of mouth, congratulations! But most of us have to have a plan. That can include engaging in social media, doing food demos, speaking at local business organizations, creating a dynamite website, volunteering with business groups, and putting out press releases. Start a food blog–get inspiration here! Launch your own YouTube channel. Here’s how some members have done it.

  • Improve your food photography skills. Food and photography go hand in hand. We are amazed at how few personal chefs put any effort into learning basic photography skills to show off their work. Look at the photos you post on Facebook and Instagram. Do they make you want to devour the dish or are they so dark and monochromatic that they are, well, too sad for words. Get some tips here.
  • Network!: Networking, like marketing, means getting yourself out there. Find an organization doing something you’re passionate about and join it. Don’t just be on Facebook; join a group and participate. Even better, form your own group–perhaps you specialize in cooking for a specific type of medical conditions. Others who focus on that condition would be interested as well–dietitians, counselors, physical trainers, etc. These are all potentially great contacts to have. And when you’re out in the world, face to face with community members, always carry your business card. Always! (even at the dog park or at the market)
  • Refresh your website: Does your website really show you off to the world? Is it easy to navigate? Are the photos enticing? Can the public even learn who you are? It’s always good to take a critical eye to your window to your business. In fact, even better, ask someone who will be straight with you to do that and give you feedback. Here are some things to keep in mind. Then make this the year you make yourself irresistible through your site.
  • Open yourself up to new possibilities: If you’re feeling stuck in December 2017, you need to have a sit down with yourself and consider what will make you happy. Maybe you want to teach or write. Maybe you want to focus on a specific type of client–those into fitness or a particular diet or medical condition. Maybe you want to partner with someone and spread the responsibilities. Maybe you’re starting to consider retirement options. This is the perfect time of year to work through changes you want to make and then take steps to accomplish them (back to the business plan above). You know what else you can do? Call Candy and talk through your dreams with her to get her advice.
  • Stage with a pro: If you’ve ever been a restaurant chef, you know about staging with chefs at other restaurants to learn new skills and open your eyes to new ways of doing things. So, let’s say you’ve been thinking about teaching cooking classes but haven’t the faintest idea of how to do it. Ask another chef who teaches if you could stage with her. Same with doing cooking demos, catering, or food videos. Don’t let not knowing how to do something you think you want to do keep you from learning how to do it. P.S. You may also discover it’s not your thing, but at least you checked it out and can move on.

One of the reasons Candy launched the personal chef profession was to create a way for people who love to cook for others to tailor their work life in a way that makes sense for them. If you’ve chosen this profession then the best way to ensure you’re still in it for all the right reasons is to take the time to reflect and plan–and expand or tweak your vision. Then take the steps to turn that vision into your reality. This is the time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be, and then stay the course or make the corrections that will get you to your goal.

What are your goals for 2018? Have you figured out how to make them a reality?

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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