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.

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!

 


Background vector created by Freepik

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!

 

It has been a little over a year since we last checked in with member Carol Borchardt. Carol owns A Thought For Food Personal Chef Service in the Memphis, Tennessee area and also has a thriving food blog called From A Chef’s Kitchen.

Carol told us all about how she began her food blogging venture in this How I Fell Into Food Blogging post. We asked Carol to give us an update on how everything was going with developing a food blog as an additional source of income and the other creative avenues she’s pursuing in addition to her personal chef business.

As you recall, I had a slow start and at first hit some roadblocks with my food blogging endeavor. However, I feel everything is now coming together rather nicely.

To recap my journey, I became intrigued with the idea of having a food blog after reading Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write for Food. I read her book because I was doing a biweekly food column for our local daily newspaper that involved recipe development, writing and photography.

After a fall in a client’s kitchen three years ago put me out of commission for a six-week period, I decided that was a good time to start my food blog.

However, my original concept, which was based on my love of cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework and republish cookbook recipes. I got worn out explaining that wasn’t all I did so I decided to rebrand and change direction two years ago to my current focus, From A Chef’s Kitchen.

Earlier this year, my newspaper column was discontinued due to budget cuts and layoffs at the newspaper. I was a little relieved about that because it enabled me to spend more time on my blog and now I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor:

  • My traffic is increasing nicely. I have just over 70,000 unique visitors (an important metric brands use that indicates new visitors) to my site each month.
  • The competition is fierce, however I’ve been able to work with a number of brands on sponsored posts.
  • Ad revenue I receive each month has replaced approximately three cookdates and it continues to grow. This is passive income I earn just by having people visit my blog. I still love my personal chef business and clients, but it’s wonderful not to have to stand on my feet all day for that income!
  • I’m now a paid contributor to Parade Magazine’s website, Community Table. I was fortunate to be accepted because they generally like contributors to have at least 10,000 Facebook followers. My From A Chef’s Kitchen page is just over 7,300, but they liked what they saw on my blog. I’m able to post articles and recipes but have been doing mainly collections of recipes such as:

There have been some real eye-openers since I began blogging. I really didn’t pay that much attention to food blogs until I read Dianne Jacob’s book. However, the fact that food blogging is an entire industry and can be very lucrative was an eye-opener such as:

  • There are several paid membership websites by food blogging pros where they share their knowledge and resources.
  • There are countless food blogging conferences around the country, which, I’ve attended several. At one of the conferences, I had the privilege of taking a workshop with one of the best food photographers in the business, Helene Dujardin.
  • Brands work with food bloggers as a cost-effective way to “influence” their readers to buy their product. These are referred to as “sponsored posts.” The brand pays the food blogger to develop a recipe and post for the product. This can be extremely lucrative for food bloggers–especially if their blog is popular.
  • There are ad networks that manage ads on your website enabling you to receive passive income. I’m with MediaVine.
  • There are affiliate sales programs where you earn a commission if someone clicks on an affiliate link on your blog and buys the product.

However, two of the biggest eye-openers were, the amount of time required to be successful and that as a food blogger, you wear many hats. If you want to be successful, you have to treat it like a business and build your brand. Obviously being a good cook is important, but you have to be everything else including the writer, the photographer, the programmer and the promoter. As the promoter, you have to be on top of all the social media trends and how to stand out in a sea of food bloggers. I’m at a point where I’m considering hiring a virtual assistant to help me with the social media.

My biggest challenge has always been and continues to be social media; I’m not a very outgoing person. However, the only way to grow your blog is through social media so I just do it and try not to think about it. There is still more I could be doing to grow my blog such as doing food videos, but my personal chef business still takes up a significant amount of my time.

I really love that as a food blogger, I can be as creative as I want to be. I always enjoyed developing recipes prior to becoming a personal chef and then developing them for my clients. Food blogging is a way to share them with the world and it has solidified my identity as a personal chef.

Becoming a publisher and photographer has taken a lot of time and there have been numerous struggles along the way. Shortly after writing How I Fell Into Food Blogging, I went through a particularly discouraging period because my traffic was not growing. I really wondered if I should keep doing this. Some of my photos never get to my blog because I don’t consider them good enough and I’ve wasted an entire day. However, I get right back at it and remake the dish or photograph it again. It’s all about not being a quitter.

As far as what’s next, I’ll continue working as a personal chef, however, I’ve scaled back to working three days a week when possible. I’d love to do a cookbook of my own or be the photographer for one.

Seven years ago when I shot my first food photo for the newspaper, I never dreamed a well-known food photographer would tell me my photos were good. Anyone can do what they set their mind to.

Are you doing anything professionally to augment your personal chef business? It doesn’t have to be writing. It could be studying to be a nutritionist or becoming a recipe developer for restaurants or corporations. What makes your heart sing?

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!

We’ve written here before–many times, in fact–about the importance of marketing your business via social media. Clearly, more of you are doing this. So, how’s it going?

As social media platform user numbers grow, it admittedly can get harder to get eyes on your page. Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. As of March 2017, they had 1.28 billion active daily users on average. These numbers along make it feel like everyone’s playing in someone else’s sandbox. On top of that, it seems we’re always griping about how Facebook is constantly changing their news feed algorithms in ways that make our likes and views drop. Now we can add to that the scales weighing more toward advertising as opposed to organic views.

You couldn’t be faulted for wanting to throw up your hands and giving up. Don’t. Instead be smarter and be more strategic.

Here’s what you need to know to form that strategy. Let’s start with content, since the media you can include has expanded. According to Sprout Social, these are the options:

  • Status: The simplest form of communication can sometimes be the most powerful. With new features like larger text for shorter messages and the option to put your text on a colored background, you can get your essential message out in a more vibrant and eye-catching way.
  • Images: Posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement, so being visual helps. But don’t rely on images to do all the work–put effort into high-quality photos and awe your audience. If your product is considered “boring,” use beautiful images to highlight your brand’s creative side. Inspire users with virtual reality features or 360-degree content.
  • Videos: Video is in high demand and 43% of users would like to see even more from marketers. However, only 15% of Facebook videosare watched with sound. Video should be accessible, easy to digest and always have captions. Create videos that catch a user’s attention and provides something worthwhile.
  • Links: Links are perfect for sharing industry news and your own blog content. Find your most engaged content and continue to share it on Facebook. It’s not easy doing so organically, but it shouldn’t stop you from posting your best content.
  • Facebook Live: Live content drives three times more engagementon Facebook. With in-the-moment content growing in popularity, see how your brand can give sneak peeks into industry or office events, product launches and other behind the scenes content. Go Live, wow your audience and engage.
  • Facebook Stories: New to 2017, Facebook Stories are in-the-moment content clips. This was based off Instagram Stories, which ultimately were from Snapchat Stories–seeing a trend here? Brands have tested their efforts on Snapchat for a few years now. But with the newest release, you can attempt this style of content with one of your biggest networks.

You’re chefs, so the best way for you to share on Facebook is through visuals of your food. That means really good images. Dark, drab, out-of-focus photos are going to turn potential clients off. If they don’t look mouth watering, don’t post them. Period. So, get better at photography, even if it’s phone photography. And don’t be afraid to take short videos and post them. Or, post live video. You can do this. It’s fun!

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

  1. Put together a basic approach with goals and how to meet them. What are you trying to accomplish on Facebook? Getting more business? Raising your professional profile? Networking? Any and all are valid–just have those goals in mind as you post.
  2. Understand your demographics. Click on “Insights” on your Facebook business page and study the numbers. That includes page view, likes, reach, and post engagements. Click on People to learn about how the numbers break down. You’ll learn what’s popular and what’s been a dud, if you’re growing your audience, and where they come from.
  3. Bring in more views through tagging. Did you just put on a great catering event? Did you take fab photos of the food and the space? Post them and tag your client if he or she’s on Facebook. Their friends will likely get that post in their news feed. That may get you some extra attention–and possibly inquiries about your services.
  4. Post just enough–and at the right time. You don’t want to spam people with your self-promoting photos but you don’t want to be forgotten. Look at those Insights on your page to learn when your posts get the most attention and schedule posts for that time and day.
  5. Experiment with content and form. Instead of posting a bunch of photos together in a static collage, try using the slideshow tool. Those same photos have movement and attract more eyes.
  6. Consider ads if your goal is to drive business. Start small and see how it goes with results. But remember, ads only spread content–so you have to be sure you are creating great content.

Finally, as we always say, social media is not so much about promoting as it is about engagement. Share your friends’ and clients’ great news and achievements. Post comments. Invite comments. Ask questions. Join groups, including our own APPCA group for members, to network and increase your visibility. And, if you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, cross post. Instagram, for instance (owned by Facebook), has tools that facilitate posting simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s your Facebook experience going? Any tips or tricks you can share with your colleagues here?

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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Our Candy Wallace has been on a commencement speech roll. Earlier this spring she delivered a virtual graduation address to the students of the Escoffier Online International Academy. Then on June 17 she was the keynote speaker at the Art Institute of California in San Diego’s commencement.

It’s no surprise that the founder and executive director of APPCA would be asked to give graduating students–and not specifically the culinary students–just entering their new chosen profession words of wisdom and advice. After all, Candy has been a leader in the culinary industry for decades. She’s seen it all and done it all–and created a career path that has drawn hundreds upon hundreds of people looking for a way to better control and direct their lives and find success and happiness.

So, what did she tell these graduates, whose degrees ranged from fashion, web design, photography, and advertising to media arts and animation and culinary arts?

She told them that the first thing they needed to do was make a plan. “Not having a plan is like throwing yourself off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down,” she said. “That’s not so good. You need a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls of cliff jumping.”

You start, Candy said, by defining where you want to go–in 10 years or next year. This plan is where you create a place for your dream to live.

Then, she noted, you have to figure out how to get there. “Know that you don’t know it all yet.” And she advised them to search out resources for learning more. And throughout, to stay humble and stay determined.

Find a mentor, she advised, someone who can help you, push you, encourage you, and be honest with you while you’re learning and growing.

Here some other sage nuggets of advice she gave these graduates:

  • Commit to learning something new every day.
  • Know that you can’t learn everything on the clock so you need to do it on your own time as well.
  • Make mistakes. It can be frustrating and embarrassing but admit to them and learn from them. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Be patient with yourself and stay realistic.
  • Keep your eyes open for opportunities and see challenges as opportunities in disguise.
  • Be kind to the people you encounter along the way and give credit to those who help you.
  • Learn about the world, especially through travel. Be adventurous and curious–and share your own culture.
  • Participate in your community.
  • Nurture the friendships you make over the years. Keep loved ones close to you.
  • Honor your parents. They started you on this journey and have been your biggest cheerleaders.

And, finally, she told the graduates, “Stop along the way to enjoy your life. Press the party button!”

You can listen to the full eight-minute speech here:

What were the best words of advice you received when you launched your career? What do you wish someone had told you?

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!

 

 

Carol Borchardt is one of APPCA’s greatest success stories. She’s an in-demand personal chef, who dug deep and expanded her talents to include writing and food photography. In fact, she’s helped us with gorgeous photos for our Facebook page and upcoming new and improved website. Carol understands the value of smart marketing through photography and social media. And she’s melded both to launch the delightful food blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. I asked her to tell the story of how she got into blogging and how she’s turned it a strategic way to promote her business and even add new revenues.

Carol Borchardt

We eat with our eyes first and everyone loves to look at beautiful images of mouthwatering food. I have always been fascinated with food photography and all that goes into producing those beautiful images. However, it wasn’t too long ago, whenever I attempted to photograph something, the result was nothing short of awful.

As part of reaching out and getting to know people in my local food community to promote my personal chef business, I got to know one of the food columnists at our local daily newspaper. She asked me to help with a project, loved the recipes I submitted for it and subsequently asked me to do a biweekly food column containing a recipe and write-up for the newspaper. I had never done food writing before but thought it was pretty cool to be a personal chef and newspaper columnist. I would get paid and the newspaper would allow me to mention my personal chef business at the end of every column so I figured…why not.

As part of the arrangement, the newspaper was going to send a photographer out for each column. However, with my cooking schedule and where I live, scheduling cooking, styling and photographing the dish was nearly impossible. After two complicated sessions, I decided to take the photo myself. The photo was not very good, however it passed and the newspaper was happy to let me take all photos after that.

Suddenly, I was a food photographer too, which was pretty interesting because my knowledge of photography in general was quite limited.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Because of my new sideline gig as a biweekly columnist for the local newspaper, I wanted to learn more about food writing. I came across Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write For Food. Her book is a great resource for anyone interested in writing a cookbook, doing freelance food writing and, of course, food blogging, which is how I became intrigued with it. It intrigued me because I love to create new recipes and being able to share them with the world seemed so rewarding. However, my personal chef business kept me extremely busy so I wasn’t able to delve into the process.

Then, two years ago, I was sidelined from my personal chef business due to an injury. I tripped and fell in a client’s kitchen, fracturing my right kneecap. I couldn’t work or drive for six weeks. It was during this time I realized that someday my personal chef career could end for any number of reasons. Having already experienced severe office job burnout prior to becoming a personal chef, I knew there was no way I could ever go back to work in an office. I felt I needed to have something to fall back on that I was passionate about.

Oven Roasted Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Butter

Oven Roasted Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Butter

That’s when my “real” food blog was born. I say “real,” because I had a small blog section on my business website, but it got very little traffic. I knew absolutely nothing about how to promote it; I didn’t even have a Facebook account until a few months before my accident. My food photography had progressed to a point where FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com were accepting some of my photographs so I received traffic there. Because their editors carefully curate those sites, having photos accepted was very encouraging to me.

Warm Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad (8)

This salad took me four afternoons / four attempts to photograph it in a way I was happy with it. FoodGawker put in on their Instagram feed last Monday (117,000 followers!) and I nearly cried.

So, with tons of time on my hands during my recovery period, I decided if I were ever going to delve into food blogging, it was the time to do it.

Because a food blog is nothing without great photography, I first immersed myself into learning everything I possibly could to improve my photography through reading books, watching online video workshops and by studying great food photography.

I then researched how to start a food blog and looked at hundreds of food blogs.

I knew nothing about social media but knew I had to learn it in a hurry because it’s one of the main ways to promote a food blog. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, StumbleUpon, and Google+ were all mysteries to me so I had to start figuring them out.

 I knew nothing about WordPress (a popular blogging platform), website design or search engine optimization (SEO). For my personal chef business website, I had always let pros at APPCA do it. This, however, I was determined to learn from the ground up, and it wasn’t long before I learned what the “white screen of death” was.

Grilled Citrus Chili Shrimp with Mango Pineapple Salsa

I also knew nothing about how to make money with a food blog—I just knew people did it because they published their income and traffic reports.

But, as with all journeys, they begin with the first step. My original food blog concept, which was based around my love for cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework cookbook recipes. (Branding experts advise having a clear, definable focus.) The concept worked for Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame, but it wasn’t going so well for me. Three graphic designers couldn’t come up with the right logo for me so I worked until midnight many nights trying to design one myself on professional software I knew nothing about.

After hitting numerous roadblocks, I decided to rebrand last summer and change my name to what it is now—From A Chef’s Kitchen. I knew I was doing the right thing when one of the first people I told about the change said, “Now THAT tells me who you are!” I tried a graphic designer one more time and my logo came together quickly and painlessly.

Fast forward to today and I’m having a ball. I absolutely love the process of recipe development, styling the dish and nailing a mouthwatering shot. I love being able to share my recipes and passion for food with the world. It’s very gratifying receiving comments from readers who made a recipe and it’s become their new family favorite.

Through social media and particularly Pinterest, my traffic is growing nicely. Many of my posts are written from my viewpoint as a personal chef. I’m also using my food blog to help promote APPCA and personal chefs in general with my monthly “Menus” posting.

I don’t plan on giving up my personal chef business any time soon, but ways I’m turning my blog into a secondary business is through:

  • Ad revenue
  • Affiliate marketing (commissions are earned by helping to sell other people’s products)
  • Recipe development / sponsored posts for companies. So far, I’ve worked with Calphalon, Weight Watchers and Australis Barrmundi for compensation. However, companies such as Oxo and NordicWare send products for review and I’ve also been able to add some free cookbooks to my collection.

Many food bloggers develop a product to sell such as a self-published cookbook, other food-related book or meal plans. I would like to do that someday. I hope to start doing freelance food photography work and am looking into becoming a certified food stylist.

Cuban Chicken Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls

Cuban Chicken Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls

I’m still a little shy about putting myself out there with my recipes and photography but I’m growing more and more confident about it each day.

If you enjoy photography, writing and recipe development, I highly encourage you to look into food blogging. As a mentor of mine in the food blogosphere said, “Start, and then learn.” That’s what I did!

Have you been wanting to start a blog? What’s been holding you back? If you have one, please add your link in the comment section below and describe what you’re doing.

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!

Among the many marketing tools you have available to incorporate into your personal chef marketing strategy is video–specifically YouTube. Food videos are huge. According to a 2014 story in BloombergBusiness, subscriptions to the 300 most-viewed food channels on YouTube more than tripled in 2013 over the previous year and views of videos on those channels jumped 59 percent, according to an analysis by Google.

And, let’s face it, the appetite, as it were for food videos, has only continued to grow. And it’s not just YouTube. If you’re on Facebook you can’t help but be blasted with food videos on your feed. As The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2015, “Indeed, if there’s a killer content category in these still early days of Facebook’s video platform, it’s food videos, say publishers and content creators.”

For APPCA member chef Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas, it took a conversation with another local personal chef who had been a graphic designer and is a wealth of information about “technie stuff” to inspire her. “Try as I might, it is so hard to keep up with all the stuff and understand it and how to use it,” Blankenship said. “But because of her suggestions, I got myself motivated to try and do some of what we discussed. She has only been in business two years so I know this is the type of thing that is helping her business. Things like creating an Instagram account (in the name of my business) and using it; updating my Facebook page as often as possible; doing a blog on my website; updating my keywords on my website; creating a Twitter account and using it; getting reviews on Yelp; doing a video, uploading it to YouTube (creating the YouTube account in the name of my PC business), and then imbedding that link in my website, etc.”

Blankenship has been doing cooking demos at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma and got a friend of hers to video of one of the demos, which is now posted on YouTube.

Now she’s working on how to do with at home that looks professional. She paid 99 cents for an app called CP Pro to help edit videos. Her goal is to create seasonal pieces on YouTube to link to her website.

There are a few ways you can go with video. One is to be in it yourself, chatting to your audience as you demonstrate how to make a dish. Here’s a great example of this from APPCA member Nicole Gaffney, who has created a fab YouTube channel called Coley Cooks:

Gaffney is engaging and enthusiastic about her subject. This video, less than a minute, is part of her quick tips series. She does others at around two minutes to demonstrate recipes.

“I guess the best piece of advice would be to just go for it!” she said. “Just make videos and put them up there and see what happens – that’s pretty much been my strategy. That, and don’t make them too long. No one has the attention span to sit through a 10-minute cooking video. And try to make them as entertaining as possible, because again, people have short attention spans.”

How long? “I think a minute or two is best,” Gaffney said.

Then there’s the question of a script and basic logistics.

“I usually just wing it but sometimes I write it out before recording,” Gaffney explained. “I record everything myself with a tripod, but it’s rather challenging, so if you can have someone else do it, I recommend going that route.”

Another technique is something that’s become pretty huge on Facebook–those videos of recipes that seem to create themselves, using display and titles to explain how the recipes come together. Tastemade, a video network, has perfected this style.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Tastemade edits videos specifically with Facebook’s unique qualities in mind. “For example,” it noted, “since Facebook videos autoplay without sound, Tastemade uses graphics to identify and walk people through recipes. They also shoot food at specific angles, taking into consideration how clips will look on mobile devices, where the majority of Facebook users peruse their news feeds. And they try and grab people’s attention early, knowing that Facebook videos play automatically.”

White on Rice Couple has also got this down beautifully–which makes sense since they’ve been known for years in the food industry for their sumptuous food photography.

So, what do you need in terms of equipment and tools? According to Entrepreneur, you need to have good lighting, a good camera, and good sound. They suggest spending some money on a Lavalier microphone, for instance. Then run the recording through a good noise-removal filter. A softbox lighting kit–or even some desk lamps–placed strategically will create depth and visual interest. Your camera can be whatever  you have on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, or, if you’re really serious, a digital single-lens reflex camera, like a Nikon or Canon.

I would add one more thing for those videos in which you’re not in the frames or narrating–good background music that enhances but doesn’t distract from the atmosphere you’re trying to create.

Entrepreneur also suggests editing with jump cuts, which is a technique that pulls together dozens or more little clips. This is a perfect style for food videos focused on recipes, since there are natural breaks between steps.

Speaking of which, you may need some video software to help you through the editing process. Instagram, Vine, and Twitter have apps that let you edit and upload footage. And you can, of course, upload video to Facebook. But if you want to do something more sophisticated, Social Media Examiner suggests tools like Adobe After Effects, an industry-leading tool that helps you create motion graphics that costs around $30 per month or free tools like PowToonand Camtasia to create video footage. You should also check out this article on Filmora for their top 10 on video editors.

Are you creating YouTube videos to promote your business? If so, please share the links to your videos and tell us how you’ve been creating 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.

We regularly feature member chefs in this blog and when we do, we like to have photos of both them and their magnificent food. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have what we consider to be one of the most essential marketing tools for a food business. It made us think that it was time to remind our members that to grow their business there are certain basics they need to invest in–whether it requires time, money, or both. They won’t guarantee that you get new clients, but not having them certainly puts you at a disadvantage.

We asked members via Facebook what their most essential marketing tools were and we got three answers: car magnet, word of mouth, and a great website. We can’t speak to the effectiveness of a car magnet but certainly a good website is a must. As for word of mouth, well, there’s nothing better. But word of mouth is a result of good marketing and great delivery; it’s not something you can generate on your own.

So, here are the five marketing tools we think are essential for personal chefs to employ–and these are just the minimum.

A good photo of yourself and a variety of beautiful photos of your food. If a reporter or blogger gets in touch and wants to do a piece on you, unless they can send over their own photographer you have to have photos available that they can publish. If you’re teaching a cooking class or doing a demo at a store, they’ll want photos for promoting the event. The food photos have to be sharp, well lit, and well composed.

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

 

Chef Carol Borchardt's Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Chef Carol Borchardt’s Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

You must have a photo or two of yourself that is also sharp and well lit and shows you off as a professional and who you are. And the photos must be large enough/have high enough resolution so they don’t look fuzzy when enlarged. Need a primer on shooting good photos? We have you covered in this guest post by APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food.

eprewitt

 

IMG_0891

Shelbie Wassel

Business cards. Attractive, professional-looking business cards must be on you at all times when you’re out and about. Keep them in your wallet, keep them in the pocket of your chef jacket, keep a bunch in your car. Just keep them with you. They must include your name, your business’ name, contact information (including your website URL and Facebook page URL), what you do, and the region you serve. Don’t be shy about using both sides of the card.

A Facebook page. Let us rephrase this, an active Facebook page. We’re all about social media, but we recognize that time can be an issue. If you can, use Twitter, use Instagram, use LinkedIn. But above all, use Facebook and post regularly (at least a couple of times a week) because it’s both a more intimate and expansive way to let potential clients see what you’re doing and learn more about you. It’s an opportunity to reach out to others and show off your talents, brag about your work, and learn how you can help others. Join a group and network. And what do you need for a good Facebook page? See above. Good photos.

Brown Bag

Your chef’s coat. We’ve written about this before. Your chef’s coat tells the world who you are. Wear it into a market and people will ask what you do. Wear it on public transportation and it’ll generate conversation. In short, it’s a no brainer to wear it in public when appropriate–and, of course, keep the pocket filled with business cards to hand out to fellow customers or the butcher or fish monger or farmer.

Angela Rose

Natalie Lewis

A good website. Yes, we finally got there. But what does “good” mean? According to APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, it’s “Ease of use, key word driven on search engines, no ads, not mucking it up…all info transparent and straightforward….pricing, etc right on there…this may be an East Coast thing, but people don’t want the back and forth…we tend to move quickly and if info is vague, we move on to the next….”

For Carol Borchardt, it means thinking about who the customer is going to be.

“The customer/client of a personal chef is most likely going to be affluent, sophisticated, well-traveled and educated. I cringe every time I see typos on a PC website in addition to incorrect capitalization/lower case usage,” she says. “A website in late 2015-2016 needs to look clean, modern and flow well. Even the colors and fonts have to say 2016! Many of our clients probably have their own business websites, so they know what works, what doesn’t work and what looks good. Music is nice when you’re serving a dinner for two, however, music on a website can be a dead giveaway and startling if someone is doing a little web surfing to find a personal chef while at work. Websites also need to be “mobile-friendly,” as the vast majority of people no longer sit down at a computer to search for something–they do it on their phone or tablet. Google now penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly. My site is not “mobile-friendly” at this point and I’m not worried about it because I stay busy. If a new PC can not afford to have a website professionally built, there are simple platforms such as WordPress or SquareSpace to put together a nice-looking website.”

A Thought for Food

We actually have even more basic requirements–because, surprisingly, they are often missing. They include your name, where you are located geographically, what services you provide, a simple way to contact you, and the mention that you are an APPCA member and inclusion of the logo (to give you credibility). You are asking people to invite you into their home. They must know who you are and have confidence that you are legit.

These five marketing tools are the building blocks for getting attention and getting hired. Do a great job and at that point, you gain good word of mouth from clients. And get featured in media. And asked to do cooking classes or demos. And all the other things that make up your own aspirations. It’s all about being the quintessential professional who takes pride in his/her skills and accomplishments.

What are your essential marketing tools? How are you promoting yourself and 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.

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