About Caron Golden

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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When you run a small business, like a personal chef company, it can be helpful to keep track of trends–both to keep you in the know about the industry and consumers and to give you some new ways to think about what you do and what your clients want or need.

SmartBrief published a piece on July 2, 2020 by Laurie Demeritt, the CEO of The Hartman Group, which does market research. The Hartman Group just released The Hartman Group/FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker report representing mid-May. Here’s some of what they found:

  • In planning meals, focus often goes to minimizing trips and waste through smart use of perishables.
  • Over one-third (36%) feel they are now eating healthier. Younger consumers especially have adjusted how they eat, with more emphasis on maintaining a healthy body while at home.
  • Older consumers aim to safeguard their health via prudent consumption, minimizing trips and waste.
  • During the timeframe of the report during the lockdown, 41% of consumers said they were cooking more of their meals, 27% said they were “planning more meals in advance, and 20% said they were trying more new dishes.
  • Consumers are reevaluating the very necessity of shopping trips and turning to larger, less frequent trips and alternative modes of sourcing perceived to be safer, such as online and click and collect.
  • Consumers are reevaluating the very necessity of shopping trips and turning to larger, less frequent trips and alternative modes of sourcing perceived to be safer, such as online and click and collect.
  • Looking farther ahead, new routines that focus on preparation for the unknown are likely to have lasting impacts.

Spinach Salad with balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts

So, no surprise, the pandemic has deeply impacted consumers’ lives when it comes to food and cooking. But what about those who are finding being in the kitchen less joyful? This same report noted that 23% of shoppers said their priority when cooking is to spend as little time as possible doing it and 33% said they seek “something interesting” to eat when they cook at home, which apparently indicates some fatigue with cooking.

And here’s where it gets even more fascinating for you: More than half–57%–of households outsource cooking to food service and dine out at least one a week with 21% doing it three or more times.

Is there anyone more “food service” than a personal chef? For these shoppers, the decision between cooking at home–seen as being more healthy than eating out–considers three things: cost, time and effort, and taste and cravings.

These little data bites should make you stop and think about the possibilities for your personal chef business. They can guide you on how to market yourself to potential clients or sell yourself again to clients who may have drifted away around March when the world started shutting down. And, they can also give you some inspiration for a new way to conduct your business or add services to it for now, during the pandemic,  and once it eventually comes to an end.

It could mean not just preparing meals for clients but sending the message that their exhaustion in preparing their own meals–and perhaps the same old things–can come to an end with an exciting menu you create for them.

Baja Fish Tacos with Quinoa

For those still anxious (including you) about preparing meals in clients’ homes, it could mean renting time in a commercial kitchen, perhaps a restaurant kitchen that’s reduced hours and could use some income, and then delivery the meals to them. Sometimes the old way doesn’t work all the time.

And then there are those people who you could help by putting together a weekly menu of recipes and sourced ingredients. You could do your own version of a Blue Apron and create a video cookalong to help with technique.

Look above at what you’ve learned about consumers. They don’t like making grocery store trips. They want to eat healthier. They want to prepare meals in advance. They want to try new dishes. How can you not look at this data and project your own business onto it! This is an opportunity a serious personal chef should take advantage of!

How is your personal chef business evolving during the pandemic? What are you learning about consumers during this time?

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

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

 

 

What is a recipe? According to the ginormous reference on one of my bookshelves, The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, recipe is first defined as “A set of directions with a list of ingredients for making or preparing something, especially food.”

But the second definition is just as interesting: “A formula for or means to a desired end.”

The question is are recipes written in stone or a template for a concept for a dish? Let’s set aside baking–which requires fairly strict adherence to a recipe to result in a bread with the right texture, a cake with the right crumb, etc. How closely do you adhere to a recipe you got from your grandma, chose in a cookbook, or found online?  Do you stick to it the first time to see how it works and riff from there? Based on your expertise, can you see flaws in the ingredient amounts and make adjustments? And how do you expect others to use your recipes?

What does a recipe mean to you?

Eater recently ran an article by Navneet Alang that wrestled with this. Alang points out that cooking is an act of care and that following a recipe can be ritualistic, “the practice of repeating established, sequential steps a comfort when the world feels uncertain.” He likens it to received wisdom or repositories of knowledge. And,  he explains, “There is a reason recipes are passed down from generation to generation.”

APPCA member Lola Dee says, “I have a very difficult time sticking to recipes, I tend to tweak everything and substitute ingredients, using what I have. I think if you use the recipe as a guideline and apply correct methods you can come up with some delicious breakthroughs. However, if you’re cooking institutionally or for a restaurant, you do have to stick to the recipes for consistency, costing, etc.”

I know I can relate to this. I, too, am a recipe tweaker, although with recipes using a technique unfamiliar to me, I tend to follow them precisely the first time to learn.

But an experienced, confident home cook or chef can take the essence of a recipe and turn it into a dish that doesn’t just make do with the ingredients we have or can source–an issue we’ve faced through the pandemic. Their massage of the recipe can be an act of creativity, a way of imprinting oneself on a dish. Or, of course, a adaptive way to address dietary restrictions. We look at a recipe’s construction to learn where to build flavor, how to build body, how to transform texture. We are taking a basic melody and essential instruments and coming up with our own orchestration.

Essentially, the recipe transforms from a directive to a template. A happy guidepost to our own destination.

As personal chef, food blogger, and recipe developer Gina Bean explains:

“Recipe writing is a skill… A good recipe has its place, for sure. But, cooks should make dishes the way they, and their diners, like them.”

What is your approach to using recipes and writing them? Are they set in stone or a template for creativity?

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

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

 

Little Chef Izzy

If you’ve ever enjoyed watching the food competition shows that feature children–Top Chef Junior, Kids Baking Championship, Chopped Junior, and MasterChef Junior, just to name a few–they might just take you back to your days as a child in the kitchen. Or not. While it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch kids wield the kind of culinary technique most adults can only dream of, many of us who grew up cooking had much more modest skills that were honed only later in life.

If you’re on Instagram you might also have come across a precocious British three-year-old named Little Chef Izzy, who has actually been on the platform since September 2019. According to a story about her in MyRecipes, she’s been baking cupcakes, gingerbread men, pizza, and more since before she was two.

Little Izzy may have talents way beyond what we had at that age but it does make you think about what kids are capable of and how we should encourage them in the kitchen. After all, isn’t that what molded us?

“My mom had me at the counter watching and helping at three,” recalls APPCA member Christine Robinson. When asked how she helped and what was the first dish she made by herself, it wasn’t quite up to Instagram’s Little Chef Izzy, but instead more relatable to those of us whose adventures in the kitchen were more, well, childlike. What I love about Christine’s cooking adventure was just how resourceful she was.

“Um…that was the ill-fated creamed potato experiment,” explains Christine. “I was under specific instructions to never turn on burners nor the oven and to never use the sharp knives. So my mom made the best creamed potatoes. All I knew was that there were potatoes, sour cream and butter. But how to make them on my own without breaking my restrictions? I got out a small stainless saucepan and cut the (not peeled) potato with a butter knife, dumped sour cream in with a stick of butter and climbed on the counter to utilize the only heat source I was allowed to use, the metal toaster. I set the pan atop the toaster and proceeded to turn it on to its highest setting, hit the switch, and stirred furiously with a metal fork. I chose all conductive metal for the project. Every time the toaster would, pop I would press the switch down again and resume stirring.

“This went on for a good 15 minutes,” Christine continues, “until my mom walked in and started screaming I was going to electrocute myself. Needless to say, it was a failed experiment. I lost toaster privileges and we moved on to supervised baking after that.”

Okay, pull yourself together and stop laughing. Christine was just more creative than most kids.

Yes, we all have stories. Here’s mine. I was about three–and this is my first memory period–when my dad decided to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. Yes, I was way behind Izzy… Instead of putting me on a step stool, he held me over the stove and gave me the spatula to let me stir the curds into what would become breakfast. I was never a science geek but watching the runny yolks and whites solidify into soft pale yellow buttery mounds was transformative. I ended up learning how to make all sorts of dishes from my parents, from meatloaf (how much fun is it to sink your clean hands in a bowl with cold ground beef, a couple of eggs, ketchup, matzo meal, and spices and mush it all together), roast chicken, flank steak spirals, and lamb chops. I made salads and set the table. I made coffee in the morning for my parents and still recall the pop of opening a new can of MJB and the heady aroma that burst out. Or arguing with my siblings over who got to lick the spoon and the bowl from the cake or brownie batter and cookie dough we made with our mom. Yes, we three were raised in the kitchen.

As soon as APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel was tall enough to reach the stove, she recalls making spaghetti and meat sauce. And, like many of us, there were what we now call “dump cakes.”

“My mom used to keep boxed cakes in the house for my friends and me to make,” Shelbie says. “She said it was good for us to read the directions and learn to measure… this was probably fourth to fifth grade.”

Jennifer Grawburg asked her mom to teach her at age 13. The dish was Jiffy Blueberry Muffins. “My grandma and my mother were good home cooks and inspired me to be the chef I am now.

Grandparents make learning how to cook and bake special. Anne Blankenship says that she was probably seven or eight years old when she made “kitty kat pancakes (two circles and ears) with her grandfather. “I was lucky to have a mother, grandfather and two grandmothers from whom I learned to cook,” she says.

So, what are you doing to help a new young generation of children to learn how to cook? Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, there are all sorts of dishes you can teach them to prepare–at the level they’re at. It could be starting with measuring ingredients or stirring them together, learning how to read a recipe, or just offering tastes to get them interested in new flavors. Older kids can learn knife skills, how to sauté or fry or bake a loaf of bread. Teach them favorite family recipes and recipes that are deeply part of their heritage.

Teach them how to feed themselves and those they love and gain a skill that helps them be independent.

And then teach them how to do the dishes.

How old were you when you first learned to cook? What did you make?

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

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

 

It’s been a few months since the country locked down. That means we’ve had some time to rethink how we go about serving clients–and if we’re serving clients.

Brian Kasten of the Supper Solution in Vermont and an APPCA member explains, “When I saw this coming I secured a commercial kitchen that was unused and have done a temporary transition for those clients I have that are immune compromised. One day a week I work out of this kitchen to cover those clients and I am the only one allowed in… Plus I spend two hours re-sanitizing before any equipment is moved in. And then afterwards.”

Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please! in Arkansas and also an APPCA member recounts, “We have a man here who was in the process of opening a restaurant…his plans are on hold, but he’s cooking in a church kitchen for the community. The church pays for the food, but they accept donations. In a twist of fate, the American Legion hall decided to sell their building and, rather than build out the initial space he had selected, he’s hoping to take over the hall…which is a much nicer facility. Talk about serendipity!”

On June 3, 2020, Eater published a story about how New York’s fine dining chefs have done a 180 and have been starting entrepreneurial home businesses. Alejandra Nicolon, laid off as a pastry chef from Eleven Madison Park, is now making bagels with her husband Andre Lev Pavlik, formerly sou chef at Tom Colicchio’s FiDi restaurant Temple Court. Daniel Burns, from closed, Michelin-starred restaurant Luksus, is making meals. Kate Telfeyan, formerly the chef de cuisine at Mission Chinese Food is not only making dishes like cumin-spiced lamb and kimchi stew, but she’s delivering them herself by bike.

As a personal chef, you probably find this sounds familiar and perhaps not quite kosher.

“We developed the personal chef concept almost 30 years ago specifically to provide a legitimate alternative career path for professional culinary workers who found it difficult or impossible to work in traditional commercial kitchen situations yet chose to support their families using their culinary skill and expertise,” explains APPCA founder and executive director Candy Wallace. “We worked with state and city governments to develop a template to assist chefs and cooks in setting up and operating legitimate, successful businesses as personal and private chefs which meant operating within the safety and licensing requirements of their particular municipalities so the industry could grow and contribute to the benefit of clients who required or desired the service and the financial stability of the chef owner/operator.”

Candy points out that food preparation in residential kitchens being delivered to client’s homes or businesses is illegal in all 50 states in the U.S. Operating with a municipal or State business license, specific local Food Sanitation certification and Specific General Liability Insurance coverage is also required.

So, if you’re not already a personal chef and certified, please, she says, pay attention to these important requirements before you proceed.

“In our current reality of the Covid-19 virus, cooking for clients in your home or their home at this time is dangerous from a potential virus transfer standpoint but also from a legal vulnerability standpoint. If any of your clients or their extended family members become sick, you are a big target,” Candy emphasizes. “If you have no liability insurance coverage, you are cooked. If the health department or city administration departments in your city or state choose to pursue you, they will, and you will find yourself in a morass of red tape that will prevent your being able to open another business.

“Please think before you act.”

Candy suggests that instead you locate a licensed commercial kitchen and deliver safely and legally from it. Protect yourselves by being aware of local requirements and cover your bases.

“I have been a professional chef, author, educator and advocate for many years, and have dedicated my life to the industry I love,” Candy says. “Please be careful, keep safe, be strong, and be kind, support your colleagues, and most of all, be proud of your craft.”

What have you been doing with your business since the lockdown? Have you discovered some useful workarounds to serve clients?

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

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

While many in the greater world are just discovering their kitchens, thanks to lockdowns, you chefs have tons of expertise is all aspects of meal making. But there are things we do by habit or were taught that could be improved on, whether it’s to save time, save clean up, or just be more effective.

We thought it would be interesting to learn what some of your favorite kitchen hacks are so we asked people on our Facebook pages to share. Here’s what they had to offer:

  • “I grate my eggs when preparing egg salad. I create a simple sauce with lemon mayonnaise mixed spicy mustard and seasoning. Mix in capers and serve with butter lettuce salad.” Allyson Demlinger Shapiro
  • “I zest my lemons holding the lemon and using the zester facing up. It holds the zest and I can see how deep I’m going. It’s backwards but makes more sense to me.” Jennifer M. Grawberg
  • “Using a jumbo paper clip — opened to like a “C” — to truss the legs of poultry before roasting. Way easier than twine.” Kim Jones
  • “Using a frozen stick of butter and a (preferably flat) grater, peel down paper on stick of butter and grate butter into flour for pastry dough; then combine with pastry cutter or fingers.” https://www.facebook.com/designedcuisine/videos/712702312420776/  Anne Blankenship
  • “A year ago I bought a wooden oyster holder from France … I broke it eventually and looked for a replacement at Sur La Table … replacement was made of plastic and rubber … accompanying knife was dangerously sharp … I have reassembled my broken wooden French version … and will take my chances … how do you open oysters?” Walter Newell

And, because who doesn’t love a great kitchen hack, here are some others I found around the Internet:

  • Employ a “garbage jar”: If you love baking and find yourself with bits of leftover ingredients like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts, and dried fruits, put anything less than half a cup into a jar. Next time you bake a batch of cookies or Rice Krispie Treats or the like, shake up the jar and add your collection to your recipe. From MyRecipes 
  • Flattening parchment paper from a roll: Got parchment paper that won’t stop curling up on the pan? Easy fix–just crumple it up in a ball and then flatten it out. From Food & Wine
  • How to clean your spice grinding: Remember the old coffee grinders we used to use for coffee. We’re so sophisticated we use burr grinders for the beans and use these for spices. But cleaning them is a drag. Unless you use a hunk of bread. Bonus! You wind up with spiced bread crumbs! Don’t want to use them at the moment? Put them in a bag and store in the freezer. From Epicurious
  • Juice your lemon without cutting it: If you only need a teaspoon of juice from a large lemon, why cut it when you stick a skewer into the non-stem end and squeeze out just what you need? Then put the lemon in a bag and store in the fridge. From Southern Living
  • Get more use from your loaf pan than banana bread: Make smaller casseroles, meatloaf, a terrine, a stacked dessert, pull-apart bread. From MyRecipes
  • Get rid of static plastic wrap syndrome: Simple–store it in the freezer. From Southern Living

What are your favorite kitchen hacks?

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

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

 

Caprese empanadas

Back in 2015, I posted here some recipes for empanadas. Well, just a few months ago, before lockdowns and quarantines, I spent time in the kitchen of an Argentine chef in San Diego whose entire business revolves around empanadas. I surely hope he’s still in business because these pastries are so divine.

Empanadas are traditionally shaped into crescents — a form that comes from simply pulling the edge of one half of a circle of dough over the filling to the edge of the other half and pressing together the edges to make a seam. But, as Matias Rigali, owner of Empanada Kitchen, explained, the array of beautifully shaped pastries and twisted seams that you can find in a home or a shop is a way of distinguishing pastries with different fillings. Beef and chicken filled empanadas tend to have the usual crescent shape, but the twisted seam of the beef has smaller folds than a chicken empanada. His Caprese and Ham & Cheese empanadas are both shaped into circles by pulling together the two ends of the crescent and sealing, but the ends of the Ham & Cheese variety are crisscrossed. The Mushroom & Goat Cheese variety has a more rectangular shape. And on it goes.

While beef is considered the classic version, Rigali explained that there are endless types of fillings. Many have an Italian influence, which aligns with Argentina’s population.

I got to learn Rigali’s dough recipe and his Caprese recipe, which I thought I’d share since we’re in the thick of spring, and tomatoes and basil are coming into season. This dough is home-cook friendly so even if you’re dough phobic, as a chef you should have no problem. And this dough, which uses Spectrum, an organic vegetable shortening, or Nutiva, an organic shortening that’s a blend of red palm and coconut oil, as the fat, is far more heart healthy than his country’s traditional beef tallow. Rigali said it also makes for a flaky pastry.

The dough is simple, made with all-purpose flour, salt, the vegetable shortening and water. Mix the first three ingredients together and slowly add the water. If the dough is still a bit dry, you can add more but a very little at a time. After forming balls, chill the dough for an hour. Rigali highly suggests using a pasta machine to roll it out, with the roller set at 8. But you can also roll it out with a rolling pin. It needs to be as thin as a flour tortilla. Then cut into 5 1/2-inch circles.

To make the Caprese filling, clean Roma tomatoes of the seeds and dice. Mince fresh basil just before using it to keep the edges from browning. And finely shred mozzarella cheese. Combine the mixture, which also includes salt and pepper, in a bowl, using your fingers to keep the tomatoes from breaking and to more evenly spread the spices. Then you’ll form 2-ounce balls.

The fun part comes with the assembly. Place a ball of the filling in the middle of the rolled-out dough circle. If you’re a beginner or teaching a child, do this on the counter, then fold over half the dough to meet the other half and use the tines of a fork to pinch the edges together and then pull the ends together and pinch to make a circle. Once you’re feeling a little more confident and competent, place the circle in your hand, place the filling in the middle and fold one half of the dough over the other and use your fingers to first seal together and then draw together the ends of the crescent to form a circle. Once assembled, each hand pie should be pricked with a skewer or toothpick twice on the upper side to allow steam to escape while baking.

Rigali stressed a great trick to perfect this hand pie: freeze the raw empanadas overnight and bake from frozen. This allows the pastry to cook briefly at high heat without either burning the dough or overcooking the filling. Before baking, give each pie a quick brush of egg wash. Bake a single layer 10 at a time at 550 degrees for 10 minutes. Then keep checking 1 minute at a time until they are a light brown. Serve them with a bowl of chimichurri.

Empanada Dough
Makes 20 empanadas

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons un-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 cup of water

Mix flour, salt and vegetable shortening in a bowl. Start adding water until it is absorbed. Add more water if necessary. Divide the dough ball in smaller balls, wrap each in plastic, and chill for at least an hour. Stretch the dough, ideally with a pasta machine set at 8. If rolling it out with a rolling pin, the dough should be about the thickness of a flour tortilla. Cut the dough into circular shapes about 51/2 inches in diameter.

Caprese Empanada
Makes about 20 empanadas

1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cleaned of seeds and diced
2 ounces fresh basil leaves, finely chopped just before using
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
20 empanada dough circles
1 egg, beaten

Mix the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl with your fingers to better disperse the spices. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Add the mixture to the mozzarella. Blend carefully, trying to avoid breaking up the tomatoes. Make 20 small balls of about 2 ounces each.

Assemble the empanada by placing a ball of the mixture on the center of the circle. Fold over and seal the edges, either with the tines of a fork or pinching the edges closed with your fingers. Poke the top side with two small holes to release steam while baking.

Freeze overnight on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees. Brush the frozen empanadas with the beaten egg and bake in batches of 10 for 10 minutes, checking in one-minute increments after that until they’re golden brown.

Do you make empanadas? What varieties do you enjoy?

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

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

Breakfast tacos for dinner! Some chorizo with carrots mushrooms and chard, avocado, red onion, backyard eggs: Contributed by The Quarantined Kitchen member Trish Watlington

One of the phenomena that the pandemic has brought to social media is the rise of sharing in the quarantine kitchen. In fact, a private group I joined when it launched last March on Facebook is called The Quarantined Kitchen. Already it has 2.3 thousand members.

It’s by no means the only one. Another Facebook Group, Quarantine Meals, is even larger. Enormous, in fact, since it’s a public group, with 45.2 thousand members.

And, then there’s the more intimate private Facebook culinary lockdown group launched by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston. She calls her group ChefDemic. It  currently has 520 members.

What the three have in common is that members are encouraged to share photos and videos of the foods they’re preparing, share recipes, ask questions, and generally be a culinary gathering place. Or as Jenn Felmley, a San Diego chef who started The Quarantined Kitchen said, “My goal is to make this an online kitchen where everyone can gather.”

For Robinson, there was also a practical issue that needed solving.

“As things closed down for the pandemic emergency, we found ourselves looking in our freezers and pantries wondering what runs on grocery stores would look like, the panic buying,” she explains. “On a whim I turned to social media and created a Facebook group, ChefDemic. All the people included in the initial invitation seemed to like the name and the idea. The premise was to have a place where friends could come on and say, ‘Hey? I have such and such and no idea how to cook it, but it was all the store had.’ We also wanted to concentrate on what people had at hand in their homes and how they could utilize those items to minimize food waste.”

Initially Robinson thought there would be 20 to 40 people talking back and forth about shredded pork over some odd grain they found and what to do with half a bag of greens. What happened, along with that, she saw, was the building of a supportive community, free from virus talk and politics, dealing only with the food they were making at home, sharing ideas, photos, troubleshooting.

“Dennis [her partner] and I started some short, informative videos, posted what we were eating at home, a few instructions on cuts of meat and freezing. After a week or two, we had people asking to add friends. Then we noticed that conversations were taking place between members who were jumping in to help others with questions. Talk about a wealth of talent and information.

“I have always despised the term, ‘safe place,'” says Robinson, “but during this whole time I have embraced it as we have provided a safe place for over 500 friends and family members, including every level of talent out there, and for ourselves. And the posts have been creative, funny, supportive, informative, and people have stuck to the rules. I have received many private thank you notes via text and Messenger which confirms that there are people craving distraction.”

Most recently on ChefDemic a group member was wondering what to do with quail eggs–and four days later triumphantly posted several photos of her Angus burger with edam cheese, quail eggs, tomatoes, butter lettuce, salt and pepper on toasted, sprouted rye. There are photos of seared polenta cake, pulled pork, and coleslaw; photos of fish markets; photos of chicken and mushroom asparagus crepes with a mushroom dill sauce; shrimp zoodle pad thai; and Bibimgooksu (Korean Cold Mixed Noodles)–and so much more.

And here’s where you can find ChefDemic’s YouTube channel.

 

I know a lot of the folks who post on The Quarantined Kitchen and find myself posting on it pretty regularly. It’s filled with chefs and food writers, and, as you’d expect, a lot of dedicated home cooks–many of whom share dishes they’ve made with food they’ve grown.

To join the private groups, simply head over to the group page and request to join. Once you’re a member you can also invite your friends. These are wonderfully quirky groups and places where you can not just show off your own creations, but get inspired by what others are making and learn how they do it–all while getting out of your head a bit if you’re still in lockdown at home.

Do you belong to a Facebook culinary group? What have you gotten out of it?

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

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

What do your pantry and freezer look like? Back in March when the country began to shelter in place and we were discovering empty shelves for the first time, it was clear hoarding was on. Beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen pizza, chicken–gone. All of a sudden it felt like we were living in the 1970s Soviet Union.

Supply chains have been struggling so it’s no surprise that in May we’re still finding some empty shelves–or being told to limit our purchases of beef or tomato sauce or eggs. But it’s hard to tell what exactly is happening in the kitchens of America when you’re stuck in your own kitchen.

So, it was fascinating to read this article in Axios last week, called The Quarantine Diet. I thought I’d share with you some of their findings.

For one thing, all those food and nutrition trends we were anticipating for 2020? Things like the rise of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and organic or sustainable products? See ya!

Instead, customers are purchasing historic amounts of frozen foods–from pizza to vegetables to entrées. Same with canned and processed foods. According to The New York Times, food sales at General Mills and Campbell Soup rose more than 60 percent in the four weeks that ended April 4. Consumer data company Nielsen also noted that Kraft Heinz, Kellogg, Flower Foods, and others had increases of 37 to 50 percent. This comes after a downward sales trend for soups and other canned foods as consumers began to favor fresh produce and other more nutritious options. Now people are stocking up–what the food industry calls “pantry-loading.”

Another option being revived for those who can afford it are meal kits, like those from Blue Apron and Home Chef. But it’s not just dedicated meal kit companies. Restaurants are getting into the act as well. Chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are introducing their own meal kits along with Denny’s, Panera, and Just Salad. Panera, like many neighborhood restaurants, is also adding groceries for sale. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. customers spent around $100 million on meal kits at retail stores in the month ending April 11. That’s nearly double from the same period the prior year.

And good-bye to the sober-curious. Meet the bored and the anxious (dare you look in the mirror?). They’re driving up liquor sales. Think “quarantinis” and Corona beers (too on point for me). Apparently, the rise in drinking corresponds to the same instincts driving up to childhood comfort food favorites. And dairy is making a comeback. Ice cream. Cheese. Butter. These complete proteins calm us and comfort us.

Axios pointed to several trends to watch. Faux meats are heading south, thanks to the pandemic, which Suzy Badaracco, Culinary Tides consultancy CEO Suzy Badaracco forecasts will continue. According to Badaracco, despite a national meat shortage, people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers. Vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants even as meat eaters will return to animal proteins at an accelerated pace.

And, sadly, “sustainability sales,” which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate. Badaracco attributes this to cost, not desire.

What food and beverage trends have you noticed in your region? Do these trends sound familiar to you?

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Both of my grandmothers were terrific cooks and one, my mom’s mother, was also an accomplished baker. I have a collection of recipe cards from her, my Nana, but when I was in my 20s I asked her to make me a cookbook of her recipes. By then she was closing in on 80, if not that already. Her memory of exact recipe ingredient amounts was sliding and her handwriting had become a bit wispy. But she accommodated my request and within months presented me with a blue denim three-ring notebook filled with handwritten recipes. I adore that book. It’s on my list of items to grab in case of evacuation.

I’m going to take a big leap and assume that you, too, have some stacks of cherished family recipes in a drawer or box, or shoved into cookbooks. Would I be right as well in assuming that on some to-do list somewhere is a goal of organizing them for yourself or your kids? I ask because I happened upon an article in My Recipes that has all sorts of wonderful ideas for how to turn old family recipes into heirlooms. Sure, there were the expected takes, like the notebook and box for index cards. But the author also surprised me with some unexpected ideas I just have to share. Because it seems to me that if you’re stuck at home looking for a new project to take on after binging on all your favorite shows and mastering baking sourdough bread, creatively corralling all those recipes–perhaps even your own, if not those of parents and grandparents–could be a satisfying activity.

What does the author suggest?

First, the photo album, of course. I’m partial to this idea, along with the next, because I love being able to hold the pieces of notebook paper, the backs of the envelopes, and the stained index cards with my Nana’s or mom’s sprawling handwriting.

Then, there’s the recipe box. This can be as well-ordered with section markers or totally random for the fun of discovery. When my mom sold her house following my dad’s death a few years ago, she gave me a hefty orange recipe box that I periodically riffle through. I even found what had been someone’s (my little brother’s?) art project with a recipe lightly written on it. Was it the first thing she grabbed to take down a recipe from a friend on the phone? I’ll have to ask her.

Now, you could just buy a recipe box on Amazon. Or you could get creative and make one or get a bare bones box and decorate it. Or have a kid decorate it. Or scour Etsy for the recipe box of your dreams.

From inmyownstyle.com

Then the writer surprised me. How about framing favorite old, handwritten recipes? She demonstrates this with recipe cards and burlap as the matting, but whatever works for your style could be wonderful. This is where inspiration from Pinterest could come in handy.

Next came the idea of creating a memory recipe box. This is quite a bit different from gathering and organizing family recipes. Here you’re hitting on a recipe or group of recipes that strike you where you live and build a sort of altar to them, placing them in a shadow box with photos and other items that represent what those recipes mean to you.

WeeCustomDesigns on Etsy

Finally, there’s this very cool idea of transposing a cherished family recipe onto a tea towel or cutting board. Imagine this as a gift idea for relatives who all know and love Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies or lasagna. It can be a DIY project (you can go to the original story for a couple of sources) or you could have an artisan do it for you–and you can find them on Etsy.

Do you have a collection of family recipes that need organizing? How have you pulled them together or displayed 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. 

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There’s the Rub

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 4, 2020

Have you been absorbed over the past several weeks with intense cooking projects beyond or instead of what you do for your clients? Perhaps some attempts at sourdough bread? Maybe a complex cooking technique you’ve been itching to experiment with?

Well, if you’ve exhausted all those experiments or feel exhausted by them, here’s a hugely satisfying kitchen endeavor that requires minimal effort, yet will yield wonderful flavors to the other dishes you make:

A homemade herb rub.

I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I saw this piece in The Kitchn that advocates making taco seasoning at home instead of buying those tired, usually stale yellow packets at the market. In fact, you probably have many of the dried herbs and spices already.

The same goes for making your own curry seasoning. And chile. And so many others.

But if you have a garden filled with herbs, you can also do what I’ve been doing for years and make an herb rub.

I wrote about this particular rub years ago. But I thought that with spring here and our gardens our havens now more than ever, enjoying the bounty of those fast-growing herbs would be a joy. A good rub is not only perfect on meats, poultry, and fish, but also roasted vegetables. And, they’re so versatile you can enjoy them mixed with a really good, young extra virgin olive oil as a dip for bread. Make your rub the basis for a vinaigrette or creamy dip. Stir it into a sauce for pasta or into a soup. Oh, man, I can’t stop!

Now the rub I made last weekend features what’s going crazy in my garden right now: rosemary, sage, and thyme. Sometimes I add oregano. Or chives. To this foundation, I include garlic cloves–lots of them–along with hot pepper flakes, and coarse sea salt. I’ve also added lemon zest from Eureka lemons. Right now all I have are Meyer lemons, but the skin is too thin and delicate to zest well.

Collect your herbs and pull off the leaves. If the stems are young, go ahead and leave them on, but rosemary can get woody and thyme stems brittle, so if you have older rosemary and thyme stems, make sure you take just the leaves.

Unless you want to mince the herbs, garlic, and salt together by hand (which I used to do), pile everything into the bowl of a food processor (which I now do) and let it whirl. Make sure the mixture is reduced to small pieces that are about the same size. They don’t need to be–and shouldn’t be–reduced to powder.

Then pour out the very fragrant mixture onto a sheet pan. Spread it out thinly. Don’t dry this in the oven. Its secret power is the oils in the ingredients so place the sheet pan somewhere where the mixture can slowly dry on its own over the course of about three or four days, depending on the humidity. Stir it around daily with your fingers to break up any clumps. Once it feels dry, place it in spice containers. You may want to give some of it away to friends or clients to enjoy.

And, the additional benefit? Your house will have the most devastatingly delicious fragrance and you’ll be hungry all the time the rub is drying.

Do you make your own spice mixes or herb rubs? What ingredients do you use?

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

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

 

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