One  of the things we have tried to reinforce for personal chefs as a way to increase business is raising your profile in your community. Now this can happen in a variety of ways–public speaking, chef demos, and teaching cooking classes, for example. But it can also take the form of media participation. If you’re doing something unusual, like helping an organization raise money you could send out a press release to local newspaper editors. You could also send out releases based on your professional expertise, such as a personal chef’s tips for how to manage holiday cooking. These could lead to stories written about you or inclusion in a larger piece. Just being out in the community could lead to media attention you weren’t even anticipating. Or you could strive to get a regular column in a local publication or website or contribute to a blog (like this one).

Three of our members have gotten some media love recently, and we thought we’d share each with you as inspiration for what you can do in your community–and to give them some blog love!

Heike Ashcroft

Heike Ashcroft runs Just for You Personal Chef from Boston’s South Shore. She was featured in Wicked Local Hanover in November. The story highlighted her personal training license and background in nutrition, how she runs her business, and even interviewed one of her clients, Catherine Hummel and her husband Andrew Danieli of Marshfield, who have been utilizing Ashcroft as their personal chef for a year and a half.

“’Heike is unbelievable in her caring, her creativity and professionalism…we have gained our life back,’ said Hummel.

“Hummel said the couple is saving about 15-16 hours a week by not having to cook themselves, and creating more quality time with each other.

“’It is absolutely the best decision we have ever made,’ said Hummel. ‘It saved our health, our energy… even saved our relationship.’”

Heike isn’t really sure how the local newspaper’s interest in her and her business came about. All the reporter could do was tell her she got the request to write the piece from her editor. But, Heike’s best guess is something you should keep in mind as you decide how to market your business:

“I catered for a local fundraising event in a town nearby; the fundraiser was advertised in the town’s paper and it mentioned me as the caterer,” Heike recounted. “A friend of mine actually sent me a photo of the ad and, funnily enough, two days later I received a request for the interview.”

Note to self: Accept fundraising catering gig. You never know what will come of it later in the form of publicity and business.

April Lee

April Lee is a long-time personal chef in Baltimore. She was included in a recent round up of food-related activities in The Baltimore Sun. The piece highlighted her business, Tastefully Yours Professional Chef Services by Chef April Lee, and focused on her in-home cooking classes.

“’When I teach people in their homes, they’re the ones who do the hands-on work, using whatever equipment they have,’” she says. “’During the lesson, I will make recommendations on how they can best use what they already own.’”

Like Heike, April still doesn’t know how the story came to be. “This is a local lifestyle magazine and they were doing an article about interesting things families could do together. I don’t know whether someone referred my name to them or whether they just googled me,” she said.

Carol Borchardt

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis, however, knows exactly how she got her gig with Community Table by Parade Magazine. Carol, who had written a regular column for her local newspaper until earlier this year when the paper had to make cuts, has also branched out with a successful blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. She has a huge social media presence that helps feed traffic to the site.

“Community Table by Parade Magazine invites people to apply to become paid contributors,” she explained. “That’s all I did!  They do like for people to have an active social media following such as 10,000 FB “likes.”  I’m only at about 7,800, however, they liked what they saw on my blog and saw my potential for growth so accepted me.”

Carol has been writing for Parade since last March. Recently, she wrote a round-up of Breakfast Casseroles from food bloggers, noting, “I can pretty much do anything food related.”

So, what’s the secret to getting this kind of attention?

April gives a lot of credit to having a robust and well maintained website. “I will say that it’s important to keep your website current and do what it takes so that your name/site comes up as one of the first few for your particular county/area … all that SEO stuff.”

Carol would advise anyone who is looking for media attention to get active in their local food community–going to events, helping out at events. She said that’s where the local news media is going to be and it’s prime time to get noticed.

“The way I got the newspaper gig was to become more visible and I met a local food columnist who in turn worked with the newspaper to get me the gig,” she said.

And, when one gig goes away–like that local column did for Carol–consider it an opportunity to take up something else. For Carol the time she spent on the column instead went into developing her blog, which, in turn, led to the Parade gig.

Heike is making the most out of the local story on her. She’s put a link to the article on her Chef Heike Facebook page and her website. And, guess what–following the article’s publication, she received business inquiries and is in the process of following them up.

“I am thinking of re-publishing the link on FB at the beginning of the new year as people will get back into their daily routine after the holidays and may have renewed interest,” she added. “I am also hoping to have the budget next year to re-design my website for it be to more interactive so that I can easily post recipes; links to news articles; or write short blog entrees. I am learning step by step to market my business on social media, and for now try to balance my time between cooking and posting and keeping a presence on FB and Instagram.”

She’s working it! And it may lead to future articles–or writing for publications herself, like Carol.

The big takeaway? Be out there, talk up your business and your achievements, and take advantage of opportunities–or create them yourself.

Have you been featured in your local publication? How did it happen and what did you then do with 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 to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!


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!

Be Sociable, Share!

It’s that time of year again! The food and demographics experts are weighing in on food trends we can expect in the coming year. Whole Foods is the first out of the gate. Why should you care?  As a personal chef creating menus for clients–both for family meals and catering events–you want to be on top of current and upcoming trends so you can start experimenting with ingredients and speaking to the interests of current and new clients. You want to be relevant. As for this particular list, Whole Foods is the shopping destination for so many of you–and your customers. If they have the pulse of the consumer, you want to know what that pulse is. We’ll mostly leave out their product marketing that follows each trend.

So, here we go with their Top 10:

1. Floral Flavors

Foragers and culinary stars have embraced edible petals for years, but floral inspiration is finally in full bloom. From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics. Look for flowers used like herbs in things like lavender lattés and rose-flavored everything. Bright pink hibiscus teas are a hot (and iced) part of the trend, while elderflower is the new MVP (most valuable petal) of cocktails and bubbly drinks.

Try the Trend: Jacobs Farm Organic Edible Flowers.

2. Super Powders

Powders are serious power players. Because they’re so easy to incorporate, they’ve found their way into lattés, smoothies, nutrition bars, soups and baked goods. For an energy boost or an alternative to coffee, powders like matchamaca root and cacao are showing up in mugs everywhere. Ground turmeric powder is still on the rise, the ever-popular spice used in Ayurvedic medicine. Smoothie fans are raising a glass to powders like spirulina, kale, herbs and roots for an oh-so-green vibrancy that needs no Instagram filter. Even protein powders have evolved beyond bodybuilders to pack in new nutrients like skin- and hair-enhancing collagen.

3. Functional Mushrooms

Shoppers are buzzing about functional mushrooms, which are traditionally used to support wellness as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Now, varieties like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane star in products across categories. Bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies and teas are leading the way. The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavors. Body care is hot on this mushroom trend too, so look for a new crop of soaps, hair care and more.

4. Feast from the Middle East

Middle Eastern culinary influences have made their way west for years, and 2018 will bring these tasty traditions into the mainstream. Things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top. Spices like harissa, cardamom and za’atar are hitting more menus, as well as dishes like shakshuka, grilled halloumi and lamb. Other trending Middle Eastern ingredients include pomegranate, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam and dried fruits.

Try the Trend: eggplant; bulk pistachios and dried fruit

5. Transparency 2.0

More is more when it comes to product labeling. Consumers want to know the real story behind their food, and how that item made its way from the source to the store. GMO transparency is top-of-mind, but shoppers seek out other details, too, such as Fair Trade certification, responsible production and animal welfare standards. At Whole Foods Market, this plays out in several ways, starting with these three happening in 2018: 1) In January 2018, all canned tuna in our stores will come from sustainable one-by-one catch methods; 2) In September 2018, labels will provide GMO transparency on all food items in stores; and 3) Dishes from Whole Foods Market food bars and venues are now labeled with calorie information. The FDA’s deadline for nutrition labeling is among the first regulatory steps for greater transparency, but expect consumers and brands to continue leading the way into a new era of product intel.

Try the Trend: Pole & Line canned albacore tuna traceable to the exact captain and vessel that caught the fish; 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rated fresh meat and poultry; sustainability certification or ratings on every type of wild-caught seafood in Whole Foods Market’s seafood department; Non-GMO Project Verified products; Fair Food certified tomatoes and strawberries.

6. High-Tech Goes Plant-Forward

Plant-based diets and dishes continue to dominate the food world, and now the tech industry has a seat at the table, too. By using science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins, these techniques are creating mind-bending alternatives like “bleeding” vegan burgers or sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes. These new production techniques are also bringing some new varieties of nut milks and yogurts made from pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts and pecans. Dairy-free indulgences like vegan frosting, brownies, ice cream, brioche and crème brûlée are getting so delicious, non-vegans won’t know the difference – or they might choose them anyway!

Try the Trend: Beyond Meat Burger; Ocean Hugger Foods Ahimi vegan tuna (available in NYC and LA Whole Foods Market stores); Ripple milks made from peas; Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan ToonaMALK cold-pressed nut milks

7. Puffed & Popped Snacks

Crunchy snacks are perennial favorites, but new technology is revolutionizing all things puffed, popped, dried and crisped. New extrusion methods (ways of processing and combining ingredients), have paved the way for popped cassava chips, puffed pasta bow ties, seaweed fava chips and puffed rice clusters. Good-old-fashioned chips also get an upgrade as part of the trend, with better-for-you bites like jicama, parsnip or Brussels sprout crisps.

8. Tacos Come Out of Their Shell

There’s no slowing down the craze for all things Latin American, but the taco trend has a life of its own. This street-food star is no longer limited to a tortilla, or to savory recipes: Tacos are showing up for breakfast, and trendy restaurants across the country have dessert variations. Most of all, tacos are shedding their shell for new kinds of wrappers and fillings too – think seaweed wrappers with poke filling. Classic tacos aren’t going anywhere, but greater attention to ingredients is upping their game. One end of the spectrum is hyper-authentic cooking with things like heirloom corn tortillas or classic barbacoa. And thanks to brands like Siete, there are grain-free options for paleo fans too. Taco ‘bout options!

9. Root-to-Stem

Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable, including the stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. Recipes like pickled watermelon rinds, beet-green pesto or broccoli-stem slaw have introduced consumers to new flavors and textures from old favorites.

Try the Trend: Produce butcher at Whole Foods Market Bryant Park; root-to-stem salad bar items, featuring Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and celery seasonal varieties

10. Say Cheers to the Other Bubbly

LaCroix may have paved the way, but now there’s an entire booming category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention. Just don’t call them “soda.” These drinks are a far cry from their sugary predecessors. Flavored sparkling waters like plant-derived options from Sap! (made with maple and birch) and sparkling cold brew from Stumptown will are shaking up a fizzy fix. Shoppers are also toasting mocktail must-haves like Topo Chico and Whole Foods MarketTMLime Mint Elderflower Italian Sparkling Mineral Water. Cheers to the other kind of bubbly!

Try the Trend: Waterloo Sparkling WaterSap! maple and birch sparkling waters and seltzers; Stumptown Sparkling Cold Brew (in Original, Honey Lemon and Ginger Citrus); Alta Palla Sparkling Waters; Whole Foods MarketTM Italian Sparkling Mineral Waters (in Citrus Blend, Lemon, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon Raspberry, Grapefruit and Lime Mint Elderflower flavors), 365 Everyday Value® Canned Sparkling Water (Pure, Lime, Lemon, Orange and Grapefruit flavors).

This year’s predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s experts and industry leaders who source items and lead trends across the retailer’s cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments, and spot trends for the retailer’s more than 470 stores. Shoppers can try the trends in their local Whole Foods Market stores or on Amazon.com.

What food trends are you noticing or are you clients sharing with you? Any of these something you’ll try?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Are You Readying for Retirement?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 2, 2017

Are you a person who plans ahead? Well, if you’re heading towards retirement–or at least slowing down a bit–coming up with a strategy for what to do when you retire should be on your to-do list.

That’s something APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas has been doing. She sent us a note to tell us about her plans and we asked her to share it with the rest of our members. Take a look:

I looked up the other day and realized that my upcoming birthday would put me another year closer to Medicare and only 2 years from retirement – Yikes! I absolutely love being a personal chef and having come into it so late in life (at 50+), that I really treasure every day in a career that is so rewarding and satisfying.

It made me start thinking about what would I do when I retired? Never been the kind of person to sit on my behind, and I enjoy staying active as much as possible. I attended culinary school for the experience but in the back of my mind was the thought – “well, when my body starts to give out, maybe I can teach cooking if I have some type of certification.” The certification aspect of finishing culinary school kept me going as much as the knowledge and experience I gained. Proudly graduating as a “Certified Culinarian” was a big day!

As retirement looms closer I started researching about what people do when they retire, why some people are happier in retirement than others, and that if one PLANS for their “golden years” they are well-prepared and more satisfied when this life-changing event occurs. Ah, that word “plan” caught my eye, as all my friends know that I am the one in the group that takes charge, plans events, and am affectionately called “She Who Organizes.” Activities such as volunteering, substitute teaching and other jobs for those who are retired came up in my reading and it started to sink in – I really could teach culinary school when I retired. So my planning/strategy of finishing culinary school had paid off with that little voice in the back of my head saying “finish school so you can teach someday.”

 

Putting some action into all the research I had done, I took a deep breath and decided to contact a community college in the area where I plan to spend 6 months of the year. The worst they could do was to say “no.” My plan is to spend 6 months in the mountains in northeastern Arizona where it is so beautiful and cool in the summer months, with plenty of hiking, fishing and similar activities available. There are many retirees in the area and I was thinking these people would be my potential students. The college responded quickly (a pleasant surprise) and put me in touch with the HR person. Since I knew I would be out there in August of this year, I asked if I could meet with her, explaining my idea and that although it would be a few years away, teaching culinary classes at the college was my interest.

Wanting to be prepared, I had sent ahead by e-mail all the information I could about my certification, my memberships in the American Culinary Federation, Texas Chef’s Association, etc. I was lacking information about my membership in APPCA, so made a call and spoke with Candy. She graciously volunteered to write a letter of recommendation for me and the college was quite pleased to receive it. A super bonus to being an APPCA member!

I had a very nice interview with the college administrator/HR person during my vacation there in August. During my meeting, she explained that once I was vetted, I could set my own schedule for the classes, curriculum, class size and fee (the college takes a percentage). This sounded like heaven! At the end of our meeting she said she would start a file on me and to please stay in touch. They currently have one culinary instructor and are considering building a kitchen at one of their campus locations in the future. I am hoping they vote “yes” on funding for a new kitchen!

So if you are approaching retirement and need some ideas as to what to do with yourself, consider sharing your knowledge and talents with others who want to learn about cooking. I always advocate that teaching cooking is teaching a life skill, and feel like I am “paying it forward” when I do so.

Are you getting close to retirement? What plans are you making for when you’re done with working?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

 

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Last week, Christine Robinson wrote about creating a dish for a themed party. Well, we’re on a roll with this topic because I recently got an email newsletter from APPCA member Nancy Cordi of Mediterrania Personal Chef Services showing off her “Sandals & Sangria”party that she organized for the VeriDiva Business Group. The newsletter so intrigued me, with it’s beautiful food photos and interesting description that I asked Nancy if she could explain to members how to create these kinds of themed parties for clients. Here’s what she created for us. I hope it inspires you!

So it wasn’t long ago that I recently joined a local women’s club, Veridiva, a networking group in support of female entrepreneurs, in the Temecula area.  I was chosen as a member as well as their personal chef to represent the group. Rather than just showing up and being one’s personal chef, I decided to get even more creative and create themed parties and to really enjoy building fun and exciting menus around each theme.
Recently I hosted a “Sandals and Sangria” party which was the theme chosen to showcase one of our newest member’s products that she sells. At this party, it was very tropical and beachy so I decorated in bright floral prints using fabric I purchased on sale and used this material as my tablecloth, used real coconuts and pineapple for table décor, and broke out my tropical straws with various fruit on top which decorated each wine glass that would soon be filled with my homemade sangria. With great excitement, I created a tapas menu which consisted of bright, fresh flavors both savory and sweet, using fresh herbs mixed with fresh fruit topped on my open-faced empanadas with crab and chicken, cauliflower pancakes with fresh mint topped with a Saffron cream sauce and sweet and chewy Mejdool dates stuffed with Stilton blue cheese wrapped in smoked bacon.
And to swish all of this authentic Spanish food all down, I made a juicy fruity sangria which consisted of rose wines, Prosecco, peach brandy and a little bit of Grand Marnier that marinated overnight with chunky pieces of pineapple, strawberries, slices of orange and lime. Adding to that, I made beautiful mango and fresh raspberry purée ice cubes that beautifully enhanced and complimented my sangria in both flavor and presentation. And what ends a nice evening of savory tapas and juicy sangria? My creamy coconut flan topped with buttery caramelized pineapple.
Prior to this themed party, another that recently comes to mind is “Cocktails at Tiffany’s.” For this party, I also did finger foods which consisted of mint chicken and curry satay with a thai peanut sauce, garden fresh tomato, avocado and basil bruschetta on garlic crostini but the big hit of the party were my white and dark chocolate mousse and vanilla cake Tiffany cocktail desserts, each layer representing the classic Tiffany colors of black, Tiffany blue and white with edible silver pearls, and a black fondant bow on top.
And one of my MOST exciting events was my “A Journey to the Mediterranean.” This was my grand showcasing at my first themed part as a Veridiva member. I walked my guests through a culinary journey beginning with palate cleanser of a Moroccan black tea spritzed with orange blossom water. The guests then feasts on various dips, starting with Lebneh, a creamy, soft cheese made my draining the water from Greek yogurt over night, topped with excellent olive oil and fresh herbs, as well as made-from-scratch classic hummus with toasted pine nuts and roasted red pepper hummus. Then, they moved along the journey reaching for fragrant basmati rice made with cumin and cinnamon and fresh herbs which will soon be topped with braised beef and apricots, a succulent lamb meatball slider topped with a creamy whipped feta spread on a toasted brioche bun and a nice cooling side of fresh, citrusy taboulleh.

After they were done feasting on the savory food, I ended their journey with two authentic and decadent desserts, one from Italy, one from Greece and the Middle East. I wowed the guests with my lemon panna cota topped with chopped pistachios and pistachio oil and layers-deep of buttery baklava drizzled with chocolate ganache. I complimented these desserts with a strong Middle Eastern espresso with freshly grated cinnamon on top and even a hit of freshly grated black pepper.  This culinary journey through the Mediterranean was filled with many tantalizing surprises.

Doing themed parties is very exciting and it takes being a personal chef to a whole new level. It is so much fun to create a menu around a themed party as it is based on your inspiration and allows you to be as creative as you want with both food and decorations. It’s more than just showing-up and cooking. You get to experience the fun that you give your guests as well. I would suggest encouraging your client to do a themed party for the person they are celebrating or as a group to make the time and the culinary experience that much more memorable. You can increase your cost per person when doing this as you will provide fun, beautiful table décor and many other creative surprises, which you can provide at a very low cost to you.  Many of the items you can use for themed parties can be purchased at a grocery, fabric, thrift, or hobby store. Gather these party decorations and keep them to use over and over again for similar-themed parties.

When promoting these themed parties, aside from the promotion that comes from my women’s group, I also do email blasts through my website builder such as godaddy.com as well as share the events and details of each event via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I take many photos of each event, including the people enjoying themselves, décor, and especially the food, and promote them across as many social media outlets as possible. The response to these themed parties is so positive and people just love the experiences they see that I am providing my clients and want to know more about what I can do for them!

My Delicious Juicy Sangria
Serves 12-15
from Nancy Cordi
(please use quality wines)
2 bottles of good rose wine
1 bottle Dolce Vita Prosecco
1 750ml bottle of Christian Brothers peach brandy
1/2 cup of Grand Marnier
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 limes cut into thin slices
2 oranges cut into thin slices
Add all ingredients to large container or glass pitchers with lids and let sit overnight (at least 12 hours).  Serve with mango and raspberry ice cubes.
Mango and Raspberry Puree Ice Cubes
from Nancy Cordi
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of cubed mangos
1/2 cup of blackberries
3 cups water
1 cup of cane sugar
1 tspn of lemon zest
1 tspn of lime zest
4 silicone ice cube trays
2 baking/cookie sheets
In two sauce pots, separate the mangos and raspberries.  In the pot with the mangos, add lemon zest and the pot with the raspberries, add the lime zest.  Now add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar to each pot.  Stir separately on medium heat for about 10 minutes until mangos become soft and water turns yellow and until raspberries break apart and sauce becomes thick and red. Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cooled, for the raspberries, pour through strainer and press puree through with a spatula into another pot, removing all seeds. Now, add blackberries and stir.  In separate silicone ice cube trays placed on baking sheets, pour the mango and raspberry puree into each tray almost to the top of each block.  Carefully slide baking sheets into freezer and allow the puree to freeze for at least 6 hours.  Once cubes are frozen, twist ice cube trays and place in stainless steel ice cube bucket and serve with sangria!

Have you had requests from clients to create a themed party? How did you go about 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 to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

APPCA member Gloria Bakst is a personal chef who specializes in cooking for any medical condition and good health. Among the conditions she focuses on is cancer. We asked her to contribute a guest post here to explain her background, the challenges of working with clients who have cancer, and the discoveries she’s made that have helped them. She generously agreed and even provided us with photos and a soup recipe that she makes for clients undergoing chemo and radiation. If this is an area you are interested in focusing on in your business, you’ll want to read this.

I’ve been doing healthy cooking for the past 40 years. It has been a slow evolution of being educated and applying it to my recipes. I started by taking private macrobiotic cooking classes, which then developed into starting a small catering business.

As a trained personal chef and nutritionist, over the past several decades I’ve cooked for, counseled, and supported individuals seeking to improve their health, lose weight, manage special diets or health conditions, and recover from disease or surgery.

My menus range from macrobiotic to heart healthy, with a focus on flavor and freshness. My current company, Chef Gloria B, continues to offers my personal chef services, including healthy meal preparation customized to clients’ needs, as well as cooking classes and grocery tours.

From 1997 to 2004, while working for Abbott Labs, at ZonePerfect Nutrition, I advised more than 100 people daily on the Zone diet and lifestyle. My weekly “Cooking With Gloria” column on the ZonePerfect website was followed by a quarter million people. I have created hundreds of recipes for health, which have appeared in the Weight Watcher’s Grilling Cookbook, Weight Watchers Meals in Minutes Cookbooks, The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook, and The Healing the Heart Cookbook. These recipes and my approach to a balanced lifestyle have been published by McGraw Hill in my book, ZonePerfect Cooking Made Easy (September 2006).

In 2011, a woman who had stage 4 breast cancer contacted me regarding doing personal chef work for her. She introduced me to Thea, her nutritionist, who had many years working with patients with cancer. Thea gave me a list of foods my client could not have. I cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner her and it was very challenging because in addition to the restrictive nature of the diet, her taste buds kept changing. However, since I happen to be a person who loves food challenges I was game to figure out how to keep her eating and eating well; it makes me more creative!

I had many opportunities to discuss cooking for cancer clients with Thea. I worked with this woman for four years until she unfortunately passed but I continue to get more clients who have cancer and use Thea’s list whenever I cook for clients. I also got involved with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium. However, I have learned through the years that different nutritionists have different points of view regarding cancer patients and food. I have introduced myself to the nutritionists at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Joslin Diabetes Center. Many are fearful of imposing what they think would be beneficial to the patients because it is restrictive and for fear that the patients wouldn’t eat. Many feel that just feeding cancer patients, because they get so thin, is the most important thing to do.

I have worked with many patients who have liver, brain, throat, lymphoma, and other cancers. The important thing is to find out as much as you can regarding their taste buds at the moment and work at finding creative solutions that will taste delicious and be beneficial.

Because of my background in macrobiotic cooking, I make a bone marrow soup that Thea told me about. This soup is so helpful to all cancer patients’ going through chemo and radiation because it helps to prevent nausea and has all the food important to their health at this time. No, it won’t help them put any weight on but patients aren’t going to gain weight anyway during this period. At least when they have these foods, they are getting excellent nutrition without any negative side effects.

The most important nutrition advice I can give to anyone cooking for anyone with cancer is NO DAIRY OR SUGAR! There is much more but if anyone is interested they can contact me at gloria@chefgloriab.com.

I get emails from all over the country asking me if I know anyone in their area who could help them. I would like to put together a list of personal chefs who understand how to cook for cancer patient and be able to give referrals.

I feel like this has been my life’s mission. I personally gave up sugar when I was 23 and became lactose intolerant at 37. I really feel as though each step of my journey was about healthy delicious cooking. It’s kept changing as life has taken its course.

Bone Marrow Soup
From Gloria Bakst
Yield: 4 quarts (about 4 days worth of soup)

This soup is intended to nourish the blood. Gloria suggests buying everything organic and from Whole Foods Market. The best bones to get are organic, hormone free, antibiotic-free, beef or bones. Use all the vegetables your client likes in small quantity, it fills up a large soup pot. While she lists vegetables, herbs, and spices below, other optional ingredients are shitake mushrooms, ginger, and various herbs.

Ingredients

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones, organic
Purified water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or more
½ tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary or more
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or more
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 bunch small sized beets, boiled with skin removed
1 large bunch beet greens, chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large leek, finely chopped
1 bunch baby bok choy (or more)
1/2 to 1 whole burdock root, peeled and chopped (can be found at Asian markets)
2 chopped carrots (or more)
1 bunch baby kale
2 parsnips, peel and chopped
5 fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped (or more)
Himalayan sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
In a large pot, place the bones and cover them with purified water. Add thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, and garlic. Cover the pot and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Cut the vegetables into small pieces and place in the pot, along with the turmeric. Cook for an additional 40 to 60 minutes. Add Himalayan sea salt, pepper, and taste.

Remove the bones. They can be given to your client to suck on if they wish.

The soup can be pureed if you wish after it is cooked. Some clients want a smooth consistency. Others like the vegetables in small chunks. This soup can be frozen.

What is your area of specialization? If you don’t have one, are you becoming interested in serving niche 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 to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Well, we’re at the precipice of month three of 2017. What actions did you lay out in your 2017 business plan to build your personal chef skills? Have you acted on them yet?

Now, you’re probably assuming we’re talking about cooking. And, yes, that’s a part of it. But being a successful personal chef involves more than cooking skills. It involves marketing yourself and your business. Gaining financial literacy so you actually make a profit. Broadening your social skills to be able to engage with clients and potential clients. Maybe it’s developing a specialty and attaining the critical knowledge of that area of specialization to deliver on it to clients.

With this in mind, here are five ways to build your personal chef skills:

  1. If you’re feeling that your cooking skills need a boost so you’ll feel more confident and able to expand your repertoire of recipes, enroll in cooking classes. They can be local classes or you can get certified by a cooking school. Our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy offers self-paced Culinary and Pastry Arts programs. In fact, several of our members are graduates.
  2. Amp up your visibility by building a social media presence. Figure out where your potential people are. Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? You don’t have to tackle them all but two, maybe three platforms will start to build your reputation among potential clients. Make sure you take great, well-lit photos of your food and reach out to others (including us) to build connections who can help share your posts.
  3. Where you live can make a difference in how you shape your business. So, why not reach out to other APPCA members in your city to network? You can exchange marketing tips, resources, and maybe collaborate on projects–catering large special events or backing each other up with gigs you can’t take on.
  4. Set yourself apart with an area of specialization. Some people focus on dietary specialties–gluten-free or vegan, heart-friendly diets, building athletic strength, disease oriented. Others like to cook for new moms and young families or busy executives or older adults. If there’s a type of diet or a type of client that really excites you, build a business around that–but make sure you have the special skills and insights you need to put you in demand. And that’s a combination of cooking skills and human interaction skills.
  5. Reinforce what you’ve learned and may have forgotten or weren’t ready to act on. When you joined APPCA did you attend our weekend Personal Chef Seminar at Candy’s home in San Diego? If you didn’t, this intensive course will give you a vast array of information, tools, and insights into running your business that you’ll leave excited and energized. If you did attend years ago, how about going back for a refresher course? With some experience behind you, you may discover some gaps you’re ready to fill. And Candy can offer you suggestions within the context of the seminar based on your evolved needs. The next seminar is March 11-12 and the following one will be held in May.

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

We can help you with any of these five tips. Get in touch with Candy to discuss the Escoffier culinary program. Get in touch with me to get some help with social media (or take a look at past posts here and here and here). If you’re looking for local APPCA members to network with, go on our forum to reach out or our APPCA group page. Or ask Candy for a list of local members to contact. Get input from colleagues on specializing in both of these groups–or, again, Candy. We’re here to help you succeed!

What steps are you taking to rev up your business? How can we help 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!

Be Sociable, Share!

New-year-background-thumb16816756

This is it! The last week of 2016. We hope it’s been a busy year, filled with exciting challenges, plenty of new clients, and a satisfying work/life balance.

But we also hope you’ve been thinking ahead to 2017 and how you can implement the changes you want to make in all aspects of your life. To do that takes some organization so you don’t get bogged down in the frustrations of the mundane.

We’ve come up with a six-point year-end checklist to help. They’re a mix of big things you can’t afford to ignore, modest but still very important, and things we hope Mom or Dad taught you growing up that are just as valuable in the professional environment as the personal. The idea is to create a foundation of success by taking advantage of the arbitrariness of the end of a calendar year to reinforce the good stuff you should be doing for yourself.

  1. Review and update your business plan: This is more than going over a checklist. This requires deep thought about where you’ve been, where you are, and what you want for next year. What are your priorities now? Have they changed? How do you go about meeting them? Do they involve new marketing strategies? New skills development? A new direction or emphasis in your service offerings? What can you do to implement them? Putting down some concrete steps to achieving your 2017 goals gives you a running start come January.
  2. Change over your annual file system: It’s so much easier to go through life having your essential documents organized–especially anything related to taxes and business records. Everyone has their system. Some still using paper. Some on the computer or in the cloud–or a combination of both. Just take the time to start your 2017 files so you have what you need easily at hand.
  3. Organize financial records for taxes: Fourth quarter taxes are due next month and perhaps your accountant, if you have one, has already sent you forms to complete before you meet to get the 2016 lowdown. This is the time to go through those well-organized files and gather your documents so you can pull everything together to file your taxes. If you’re new to having your own business, ask your accountant what expenses are deductible, how to track mileage, and how to write invoices. If you use Quickbooks, you can print out a record of your income and expenses and use that as a blueprint.
  4. Review your equipment: As a chef, your tools are among the most essential investments you make in your business. Do you need anything new or repaired? Are there utensils you lug around unnecessarily that load you down and you can get rid of? Could you use a better system for hauling your equipment? Do your knives need sharpening? Do your uniforms need refreshing? Hey, does your car need a tune up or new tires? That counts, too!
  5. Review your menus: How regularly do you update your menus? Certainly, clients will have favorite dishes you’ll need to keep in your repertoire, but it’s a good idea to refresh dishes so no one–including you–gets bored. It’s also an opportunity to challenge yourself with new skills and flavor combinations, not to mention wow potential new clients with your versatility.
  6. Say thank you: Before the year ends, get out some nice stationery and send thank you notes to clients. They’re the reason you have a business. Your letter of appreciation is an old-world gesture that will go a long way in letting them know how much you value them and their business.

We’re looking forward to an exciting 2017 and hope you are, too! Candy, Dennis, and I wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

What is on your end-of-year checklist we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2017?

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!

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Last updated by at .

Older Posts »