This falls under the category of “there’s no proof but it just feels right:” Talented cooks love to share what they do. They are often innate teachers.

If I’m wrong, forgive me. But if you’re a personal chef and you find yourself instructing your kids or friends in the kitchen… well… And perhaps you should consider releasing that inner teacher to the world–and earn some money while doing it.

Not sure if this is your thing or if you’ve got game? Round up some friends for a cooking session and try it out. Then find an organization that could use a volunteer to teach kids cooking or teach adults in transition for housing. I’ve done both, bringing an understanding of how to cook low-cost but healthy meals, complete with recipes and it was very satisfying.

With that under your belt you could go in several directions.

APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef in Baltimore actually started teaching classes before she became a personal chef.

Shelbie Wassel

“This was years before social media,” she said. “I ran an ad in a local rag, taught a series of three ethnic cuisine classes. Years later, after joining the APPCA, I met a fellow chef here in Baltimore who was giving up her teaching gig at the community college and she suggested that I apply. The reality is that community colleges are dying to get instructors for adult Ed classes. Just contact them and offer your services. The pay isn’t great, but it can become a marketing tool for other jobs. I loved my students and found it rewarding!”

Angela Felice Cerezo of Amore Kitchen in San Diego teaches cooking classes for kids along with adults. “I do kids cooking camps because I used to be a school teacher,” she explained. “I include lessons in etiquette, nutrition, cleanliness, and more. I mostly teach Italian cooking classes.”

Perry E. McCown of Thyme is Precious in Roseland, California, is also interested in working with kids. “I am in the process of writing a plan to teach a group of kids (10 aging from 5 to 10) a few skills leading to a meal they can own and make for their families in the future. An educate and empower kids in the kitchen class. Probably a salad, dressing, pasta with chicken and a sauce… maybe cookies or a pie…”

Depending on your situation, you could teach from your home or a client’s. In fact, one of your personal chef services could include cooking class parties. Of course, you need to research your local jurisdiction to find out what the rules are.

And, while Amazon has effectively caused the closing of many local housewares shops, chains like Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma still offer cooking classes, which means they need teachers. Check those out, as well as any local shops in your area.

What should you charge? Wassel explained that it depends on the menu. “Unlike my PC clients who pay chef fee plus groceries, I usually charge a flat fee,” she said. “I think about my grocery bill and factor in my time and the amount of students. It also depends on my crowd. Are we talking homemade pizza for kids or a sophisticated menu for adults? Adding a wine pairing requires an expert (which I am not), so that’s another element.”

You could also research cooking classes in your area to learn the going rates and work backwards from there in terms of pricing your food and expenses, not to mention time.

For any of this you’ll need to market your new services. Tell your current clients. Tell your friends and family. Promote it on Facebook and other social media. Certainly set up a new page on your business website that outlines your class offerings. And as you start teaching, post lots of great photos.

Clearly, this isn’t a comprehensive guide to teaching cooking classes, but think of it as a way to turn on a light bulb in your head for launching a new business line. As we grow closer to a new year, you’ll want to be considering how you want to shake up your business and find additional ways to bring in income under your personal chef umbrella.

Do you teach cooking classes? How did you get started and how has it evolved?

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

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

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Are clients still paying you by check? How is that working for you? It may actually be easier for you–and them–to use an electronic, or “e-payment,” solution. A client can use a credit or debit card if they prefer or, depending on the tool, the money owed to you can be deposited virtually immediately and securely and with less steps on your part to make the deposit–even if your bank or credit union allows you to make electronic check deposits using their mobile app.

No doubt you’re familiar with PayPal, Square, and Venmo but there are literally dozens of options with different fee schedules, security, and other services.

Recently Entrepreneur magazine published a piece with a slide show of 25 payment tools for small businesses. These tools include systems like Dwolla, Authorize.net, Braintree, and Stripe. The differences between them include global versus domestic payments, the ability to handle recurring payments, processing fees, device friendliness, loyalty programs, and tax calculation.

Time tracker software firm Clockify also has suggestions for payment tools specific to freelancers, which can translate, of course, to your personal chef business. They include Quickbooks Online, which facilitates online invoicing, and Google Pay, which combines and replaces the previously used Android Pay, Google Pay Send and Google Wallet.

According to Clockify, these are some issues to consider when choosing a payment tool:

  • Transaction fees: how much it charges for each transaction
  • Processing time: how much time it needs to process payments
  • Payment methods: does it support your preferred payment methods
  • Transfer limit: how much money can you receive at once

You also obviously want to do thorough research on those tools that look the most appealing to you. The biggest risk is that you hook up with a less-than-savory service. A company like Payza, which was charged with money laundering and fraud in 2018, is clearly one to avoid.

And, remember, the best payment system for you also has to be the best for your clients.

How do you invoice and collect payment from clients? Do you use an e-payment solution?

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

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

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Ask a personal chef for his or her pet peeve and the answer may just be the irritation of people calling them caterers.

“It’s over 20 years in and people still refer to me as a caterer,” said longtime APPCA member Phyllis Segura. “For 20 years I’ve been correcting them. A personal chef, a private chef, is not a caterer.”

“Happens to me too,” said Jodi Giroux. “Same person over and over, ‘How’s your catering business?’ My same response, ‘My personal chef business is going well, thanks!’ I may/may not give another explanation of the difference. Also, people refer me as a caterer on the local Advice site pages. STOP…I’m a personal chef! I’ll just add my website.”

If you’re a personal chef and this aggravates you, too, maybe we should have some definitions at the ready. You, as a personal chef, prepare custom meals for clients in their homes or in a rental kitchen for them to reheat and enjoy throughout the week or whatever your arrangement is. You often create menus tailored for specific needs–from cancer diets, anti-inflammatory diets, low fat or gluten free diets to cardio, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of you are trained dietitians or nutritionists. Others of you have developed an area of specialization. But the word “personal” is there for a reason.

Catering may be a service under your personal chef umbrella but it’s altogether different. It’s preparing food and drink for a one-time event.

As chef Renee DuBose explained, “Catering is a whole other beast that requires offsite kitchens, special licenses, permits, and a crew of many talents. Plus, you get into the rental arena for tables, dinnerware, etc. You need multiple contracts…..who’s liable for specific situations, set up, break down, clean up, trash hauling, the list goes on. It is a much more intense job, but you also get volume which can balance costs.

“My mind gets all tangled up thinking about it all,” she added. “I don’t think people, in general, really take into consideration all the things needed to make a large party gig happen. I have much respect for caterers, but personally am not equipped to handle it as a solo chef.”

Of course, not all catered events are massive. Perhaps you have a personal chef client who wants you to cater a special anniversary dinner party or a holiday brunch. We have members who include that kind of service, along with others, such as teaching cooking classes.

APPCA members Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have actually come up with a way to clarify the distinctions between their personal cheffing and in-home catering.

“Most view caterers as those who service parties or dinners rather than those who prepare off-site and finish when they arrive so we say we cater small parties,” said Nosko. “I tell them we are not full-service caterers and explain. We also send out IHC How it Works.”

He explained that the IHC is a word document they send out to people along with their menus. “We have one document designed for our personal chef side and another for our In Home Catering. The IHC How it Works document will let them know about a deposit… what part of the process that we do and what is the responsibility of the client. After this, we will direct clients to rental companies and waiter/bartender service providers if necessary.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Of course, Robinson often has to address a very different irritating issue: sexist assumptions.

“Dennis and I are partners in life and in business ….there are still those who hire us who assume I am the assistant and I have heard many people say in 20 years, ‘Thank you Chef Dennis….and Christine….,'” she said.

She’s not the only one. “happens to me ALL the time!,” said Carol Crikelair Taradyna of The Occasional Chefs. “My new husband and I just laugh now. I started the business 12 years ago down here in Forida. He joined me a few years back when we first met. I could be at a job for hours. He walks in and they swarm all over him saying, ‘Hello, Chef!'”

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

As member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service joked about the personal chef versus caterer confusion, “I get it! But, hey… we could be called worse!”

Chefs, have people referred to you as a caterer? What’s your response?

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

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

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Some of you asked Candy to respond to a recent slew of scam emails that some members have received. Here is her expert advice:

Here we go again!

SCAMS! SCAMS! SCAMS!

We have posted warnings and notified members for years in the APPCA Internet Fraud Forum about the latest internet scams directed at the personal chef industry, and since the scamsters seem to have upped their game recently, this is a good time to sound the alert once again.

The latest version of this classic scam features a pretend geologist who found your business info on the APPCA website: 

He is coming to your town with his family for 6 to 8 weeks and wants to hire you.

What he is NOT telling you is that he has also targeted every other personal chef in that town as well as the car service companies, caterers, event planners, personal shoppers, and any other personal service business he/she can identify.

The goal on his end is to get you to give up your banking info to him so he can send a money transfer to you OR, to send you a money order or check for you to deposit in your account that is significantly larger than the agreed upon amount and have you send a check to him for the overage. His check IS NOT REAL, and your bank account may be drained as a result of this action taking place.

One of our newer members who had never been exposed to this scam before recently responded to it, and it got as far as his receiving the bogus check from the scamster. Fortunately, his bank notified him immediately that the check was bogus and he was saved by their swift action.

I suggested he write the bank a letter of thanks and hand deliver it with a basket of homemade personal chef treats to acknowledge their commitment to their small business owner account holders.

I also suggested he share the incident and the bank’s quick action with the business editor of his local daily newspaper, the local Better Business Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce so they can warn small personal service businesses how best to protect themselves from this type of criminal activity.

Here are a few ways to protect your business from an “out of town” potential client:

  • Tell the potential client from out of town you do not book service dates for non-local clients who do business exclusively by e-mail.
  • You require the potential client’s banking information, current workplace contact information, workplace contact information he will be associated within your town and two references with contact information.
  • Tell him/her you must meet with them personally when they arrive in your town before you will book cooking service dates.
  • All cook date service dates MUST be paid in full and personal checks or money orders must clear your bank prior to you booking cook dates for service.

Finally, those of you who are APPCA members who do receive what you think may be a scam, please post it to our personal chef forum or our Facebook group page. Not only can you get feedback (many of your colleagues may have gotten the same or similar request), but you’ll help your colleagues avoid falling for one should they receive a request that is too good to be true!

Have you received a scam letter since you’ve been a personal chef? Please share how you addressed 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!

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Enjoying a Garden Burger

You know the drill. You, as a Mom or Dad or in your role as a personal chef, are going out of your way to prepare healthy meals for your kids or your clients’ kids, filled with nutritious vegetables. The kids, however, greet their plate with a scrunched up nose. They don’t care that it’s good for them. They won’t eat it and challenge you or their parents to make them. And who has the energy to sit at a table all night facing down a plate of peas? Or listen to parents complain that the meal you carefully prepared sat uneaten by finicky children?

But with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children over the past 30 years, adults need to find effective ways to help children eat more healthfully— and that, of course, includes eating more vegetables.

According to the USDA, children should eat one to three cups of vegetables a day, depending on their age, with toddlers from two to three eating one cup and teens eating two-and-a-half to three. But making that happen is a challenge when they reject broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and squash at home and toss the lunch  made them for school.

As a volunteer for the Olivewood Gardens & Learning City in National City, near San Diego, I taught cooking classes to young, mostly low-income children using organic produce mostly grown on site. That experience taught me that adults tend to go about wooing kids with vegetables all wrong. Bits and pieces of information are good. Lecturing is dull. Making food all about color and flavor wins hearts. And, well, so does a little subterfuge. It’s not so much that you’re tricking them — after all, they may be around while you’re cooking. They certainly are if you’re teaching a kids’ cooking class. It’s more like you’re incorporating vegetables through clever cooking techniques that don’t blast that they’re eating what they’re trying to avoid.

Try these five approaches:

  1. Make pancakes and waffles — using summer squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or other vegetables you can grate.
  2. Turn salsa into soup — if the kids you cook for enjoy salsa, they’ll love gazpacho.
  3. Sauce it up — steam veggies and puree them with a little stock and herbs/spices to turn into a simple sauce. Forget the bottled ranch dressing. Make dips by steaming vegetables and pureeing them with yogurt and light mayo.
  4. Wrap it up — Make healthy burritos and wraps by steaming, sauteeing, or roasting veggies. Create a burrito bar with beans, brown rice, cheese, chunks of chicken or fish and set the kids loose.
  5. Hide in plain sight — Chop and add more vegetables to tomato sauce. Stir fry or mix brown rice, whole grains cooked orzo or other pasta with diced, cooked vegetables. Add vegetables to chili or thick soups.

But the most important way to get kids to eat vegetables — and, in general, eat more healthfully — is to cook with them. Even the youngest kids can help in some way. And if they also help with the marketing, even better. Also, whether you’re a parent or cooking class teacher, create a rule that they have to take one big bite before they turn something down. Chances are they will love what they cook.

Do you cook with kids or teach kids cooking classes? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned help children eat more healthfully?

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

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

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If you’re a personal chef, you are likely running your business on your own. And, yes, it’s exhilarating! You’ve probably been searching for just this opportunity for years and here you are making it happen!

But it can also be a little disconcerting to make all decisions on your own, especially if you’ve been part of an organization where decisions were made as part of a team—or just handed to you from the powers that be.

That, of course, is what APPCA is here for—to help you make your business decisions based on knowledge, not just gut feelings. We have lots of resources for you based on Executive Director Candy Wallace’s decades of expertise and materials she’s developed that reflect the ever-changing landscape of the profession.

And we have our forums—because, of course, we have members who have done it all and seen it all who contribute ideas and advice.

But, I want to remind you that we also have both our Facebook business page and our active Facebook group. We have hundreds of members who participate here, along with our forums. Both are private groups. You must be an APPCA member to participate in our website forums. Our Facebook group doesn’t require membership but we ask those who want to join to respond to these three questions:

  • Are you a chef or interested in being in the culinary field?
  • What is your interest in joining this group?
  • Are you a vendor interested in selling to group members?

We do this because we want this to be a forum targeted to chefs and their specific interests, especially personal chefs. And we want it free from solicitation or gathering names for solicitation.

I encourage you to join this group if you’re not already a member. Here you can post photos of your dishes with links to recipes or your own blog posts or website. But just as important—maybe even more—you can ask pressing questions and get advice, ideas, suggestions, and leads.

Here are just some of the issues that have been brought up recently:

  • Advice on how to charge for recipe development
  • What kinds of fish dishes can be prepped, frozen, thawed, and reheated for pescatarian clients
  • How to figure out costs of “at home pantry” ingredients
  • How to get chef discounts at restaurant supply stores, cooking shops, and web designers
  • How best to transport equipment
  • What to charge for services
  • How do deal with in-kind donation requests
  • How to land celebrity or high-paying clients
  • Air fryer recommendations
  • Good advertising ideas
  • How to budget for marketing

And, we also share info on the latest scam emails that personal chefs tend to get.

Whether you’re an experienced pro, a novice, or somewhere in between, no doubt you can benefit from having a group of supportive peers around to cheer you on with a success, help you figure out a nagging question, or poke around and learn what the pressing topics of the day are that can give you some inspiration. Our forums and Facebook group are support groups for culinary professionals. How cool is that for a sole proprietor!

Are you a member of our Facebook APPCA group? Are you an APPCA member who participates in our forums?

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

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

 

 

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Every year our friends in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) of APPCA gathers in the spring to share stories, business insights, and a cooking demo followed by a potluck lunch. This year, the meeting was held on April 13 at Lettie Lavallee’s home near Annapolis, Maryland, and attended by Keith Steury, April Lee, Katie Enterline, Mary Stewart, Laura Knight, Lettie Lavallee, Shelbie Wassel, and Iva Barrera-Oro.

The meeting first addressed old business–reviewing the Treasurer’s report and member dues) and then nominated chapter officers for a tw0-year term. Keith Steury will hand over the presidential reins to Lettie Lavallee. Treasurer Laura Knight nominated Mary Stewart for her job, which was accepted. And Secretary Katie Enterline accepted a second term.

April Lee let the attendees know about a new Zavor (formerly Fagor) equipment promotion she helped organize for APPCA members. (Note: we’ll have all the info about this great discount for equipment in an upcoming post.)

Next, the group spent some time discussing Personal Chef Kits. Photos were provided by many of the chefs to demonstrate the items and equipment that they take with them to a typical cook date. The discussion provided the participants with some useful tips for improving efficiency when packing materials in support of their cook dates for clients.

The next portion of the meeting was reserved for the very robust topic of “Maximizing Profits,” including alternative income streams and tips for increasing overall business efficiency. This section of the meeting included a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Executing “Pop-Up” Demo Dinners
  • Transitioning to a commercial kitchen space
  • Tips for how to differentiate ourselves from the glut of meal delivery service providers now active in the marketplace
  • Exploring less traditional methods for marketing/extending our services:
    • Cozymeal 
    • TryHungry 
    • Publishing regular newsletters to provide useful content to clients/potential clients about our services (e.g., ConstantContact, MailChimp, etc.)
    • Considering “partnerships” between chefs to accommodate and support larger jobs or client requests that we might not consider if working alone.
    • Increasing community involvement to help generate goodwill for your business and get your name out to a broader group of people.
    • Exploring summer camp and/or summer course meal preparation and/or cooking class opportunities for school-aged children
  • A discussion of recipe management software options to help improve product consistency and efficiency of service, including:

    • Bigoven

    • Mastercook

    • Modern Meal

Iva Barrera-Oro

The meeting continued with a demonstration of a Vegan/Plant-Based recipe by Iva Barrera-Oro of Chef Iva’s Kitchen. Iva prepared a delicious Indian-Style Mung Bean Soup for the group. The chefs exchanged their own plant-based recipes for the benefit of the group. The demo was followed by a delicious sit-down pot-luck lunch prepared by the members of the chapter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several of the participants extended their stay and traveled to Great Frogs Winery for a wine tasting before breaking for the day.

The next meeting, which will be hosted by member Laura Knight, has been tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2019.

Now, you may ask, why get a group of personal chefs together–let alone organize a chapter? I asked Keith Steury and he responded, “For me the MARC group provides a networking opportunity with fellow chefs who understand the unique challenges of running their own businesses. It is an opportunity to see what others are doing. What is working for them, as well as what is not. All of the members are very open, supportive, and willing to share both their successes and failures with the group. This exchange helps to make us all better business owners, because being a personal chef is about so much more than being a good cook. We have to wear many hats in order to make our businesses successful and keep them that way. Since I started my business back in 2007, this has become an increasingly more difficult task. Many of us work alone or rarely with other chefs, so this time together helps to recharge or batteries and re-focus our efforts on the tasks and activities that are likely to yield the best results for us moving forward. I always come away with at least one great idea for my business – typically many more. This is why I look forward to our meetings and so value the benefits that the chapter provides to me and my business.”

April Lee

Member April Lee, who founded the chapter, explained,”When I decided to create MARC eight years ago, the idea was to form a network of local personal chefs to get together a couple times a year to share ideas. What I didn’t know then is that I would meet not only talented chefs from this area, but we would form friendships that have lasted and grown over the years. I have been to every meeting (of course) since MARC’s inception and, even though I am one of the more veteran personal chefs in the area, I still come away from every meeting with at least one new idea, inspired and revitalized by the other members. There is nothing like the bonding and spontaneous brain-storming that goes on during our face-to-face gatherings, every member contributing with their experience and ideas to help support their colleagues. I suspect that even when I hang up my apron and retire as a personal chef, I will still want to be part of MARC just to be inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of my fellow PCs whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Katie Enterline

And for member Katie Enterline,”It is such a pleasure to get to meet with all the wonderful chefs in our area. I learn so much every time. It makes a mostly solo profession feel less lonely.”

If you would like to launch a chapter in your region, get in touch with our Executive Director Candy Wallace. She’d be happy to give you some tips on how best to get organized.

Chefs, are you interested in gathering fellow personal chefs into a local chapter? 

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

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

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Chefs, how do you transport recipes to your cook dates? Do you bring a cookbook/notebook with your recipes? Do you keep them on a digital device or in the cloud to download to a device and bring that with you? Or are they all in your head (to which I say you are amazing)?

I asked our members on our Facebook APPCA group page about this. Here’s what I posted: How many of you use paper/book recipes at client cook dates? How many of you use a laptop/pad/cell phone? If the latter, how do you protect the device and more specifically the screens? How do you feel about hearing voice directions via Alexa or Siri?

I got some interesting responses I thought you’d find helpful:

Christina Hamilton Snow: “I make a binder to keep at my clients house and one at mine. If it’s a new recipe I’m trying I’m usually getting it on my phone. If the client likes the recipe I add it to each binder. That way my clients can review recipes and decide what they want me to cook.”

Javier Fuertes: “When I first started I had a binder I would carry with me. Each printed sheet was laminated.
That was 16 years ago. Today….. I cook from the top of my head. I know the recipes or basically….the ingredients, and just cook with passion PER customer. Remember, we customize. Whenever its a new recipe or so…. I literally will just print out for the day and bring it with me. I’m ok with it getting dirty. I’ll just toss out when I’m done. If its on digital form, I make sure to have the links on my phone ready to go. Basically…. I don’t fret over this anymore like I used to.”

Carol Borchardt: “I’ve tried techie ways of doing it but stick with Mastercook and print out the recipes for each cookdate on paper. 9 times out of 10 I never even look at the recipe and just cook on the fly. However, if I want to make a change to the recipe, all I need to do is jot it down and make the change in Mastercook. I like to keep my recipes up-to-date in the event I want to put it on my blog. Also, with Mastercook, they have an app now where you can sync recipes on all your devices so you always have them. If you do use a tablet and want to protect it, a big Ziploc bag will work.”

Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown: “I do both but mainly now I switched to That Clean Life. I just log on and it’s there you go.”

For those of you who would like to bring a tablet or laptop but need a connection to get online (and don’t want to ask your client for their WiFi password), a couple of people noted that you can use your cell phone as a hotspot. As Carol Borchardt helpfully explained, “If you have an iPhone, click on Settings and look for “Personal Hotspot.” You’ll need to enter that password on your tablet just like you would a wifi password. Doing that, however, will drain the battery on your phone very quickly.”

Chefs, how do you transport recipes to a cook date? Paper? Device? Something else?

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

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

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Do You Need a Mentor?

Filed under: Business Strategies,Training , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 25, 2019

Throughout each phase of your career you no doubt will need advice, someone to bounce ideas off of, a role model, and inspiration. We think of mentors as older, experienced people who help young professionals with their wisdom and advice. But take a look at this definition by Oxford Dictionary of a mentor: “an experienced and trusted advisor.” It’s that simple.

If you’re just starting out as a personal chef, no doubt you could use a mentor to guide you through starting this kind of business and career. Advising you on how to get clients, how much to charge, how to market yourself, how to deal with cranky clients or those who don’t communicate well with you.

But it’s possible that even an experienced personal chef could use a mentor. Times change—and change quickly. If you’ve been in business for 20 years maybe you want to shift what you do and how you do it. Perhaps you want to add catering or food writing or food styling to your personal chef umbrella but don’t know how to get started. Or you’re happy with your business but think you could do more. You may need advice in how to market yourself in 2019 compared to what you did in 1999.

So, what should you look for in a mentor? What should you expect?

First, pinpoint what you need. Are you a newbie and need overall help in figuring out how to get started? Do you need coaching in marketing yourself? Do you need coaching in branching out into another aspect of being a culinary professional?

Now before you seek a mentor, consider what options you already have in gaining the information and coaching you need. If you belong to APPCA you have a leg up. You have Executive Director Candy Wallace to turn to, who is the queen of expertise in this industry. You have this blog, which we fill with helpful posts on a wide spectrum of business-related issues for personal chefs. And you have both our Personal Chef Forum and our Facebook Group.

Still need a mentor? Then consider what you’re looking for in that person. According to Forbes, it’s not about finding a mentor with the most years of experience or the biggest title or profile. It’s about finding someone with the knowledge and experience you need—someone who has been in a similar situation to you and has worked their way through it.

  • You want to find someone you can trust—since that person will be privy to what you share about your business. And you need to be just as trustworthy.
  • You want someone who will challenge you to improve, who may ask tough questions of you and will provide honest feedback.
  • You want someone who has the time to talk with you. Maybe it’s weekly or maybe it’s monthly. Or something else. Do you get together in person or by phone?

Now what should you expect? A mentor won’t solve your problems. That’s on you. A mentor is there for guidance and ideas, for reassurance and critique. Perhaps he or she could make introductions or referrals. Let’s say you want to do some public speaking or chef demos and this person is a pro at these skills. Perhaps that person can do a little instruction (not cooking) in social media or photography or public speaking. Make sure you aren’t too needy or demand too much time, recognizing that this person is bound to be quite busy. But if they put you off repeatedly you probably need to move on to someone else.

Then comes the most crucial part: how do you find the person?

Again, APPCA can be a great resource. There are so many talented people who are members. You no doubt could find someone through your membership. Post a request on our forum. Ask Candy for a suggestion and referral for someone in your area or even outside who has the expertise you’re looking for.

Scroll through our Facebook business and group pages or our Twitter feed to identify individuals who are addressing what you need and reach out to them with a note introducing yourself and your situation with a concise explanation of what you’re looking for. Ask if you can set up a call or meeting to discuss a mentor relationship. Try to come up with at least a couple of people and don’t be discouraged if they tell you they don’t have the time to help. It’s all about finding the right person.

And, remember to pay it forward. Once you push your way through your brick wall, bring someone else along who could benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Have you had experience with a mentor or as a mentor?

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

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

 

 

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Colleagues, Not Just Competitors

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 4, 2019

Our friend and colleague Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas sent this guest post. As a freelance writer who relies on referrals for much of my business I could easily relate her conviction that the very people who I could consider “competitors” are also the best people to recommend me for a gig that may not be right for them or that they’re too busy to take on–and that I could reciprocate in this as well. It’s also just good karma and makes life richer. Take a read and think about your relationships with personal chefs in your locale. If you don’t already know one another perhaps it’s worth reaching out and befriending and assisting one another. 

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford.

When I started my personal chef business 12 years ago, I was so excited to discover that I could potentially do what I loved and be able to make a living. After undergoing the initial training through APPCA, I was fired up about putting into action all the terrific marketing ideas that had been learned during their seminar.  However, my phone didn’t ring off the wall as I had hoped.  This was probably due to the fact that I couldn’t quite let go of the steady paycheck, so was unable to devote all my time and attention to growing a new business.

Reality hit when I lost my paralegal job and was at a crossroads in my career.  I knew if I didn’t give it my all to pursue personal chef business, I would never do it.  I had to focus and concentrate all my attention and waking hours to culinary school and finding clients.  Now was the time to dip into that savings account.

Not ever known for being a “shrinking violet” I contacted two APPCA members in the Dallas area and we met and got to know each other.  I think this was the beginning of my trying to network with other personal chefs in the area and possibly get or give referrals of clients.  One became a good friend, with whom I have worked over the years.  If you are just starting your personal chef business, add to your marketing list of things to do a reminder to start contacting AND stay in touch with other personal chefs in your area.

Clients started slowly trickling in and I found that small dinner parties and catering jobs were more plentiful, so I took what I could get, still working for some of the large catering companies to make ends meet.  At one point I was attending culinary school, cleaning houses, doing odd catering jobs, and working for my fellow APPCA member on occasion while hoping for those clients to start calling.

Looking back at 2018, I know that I have finally achieved what I set out to do – my phone is ringing, I have a full roster of clients, and am actually having to turn business away.  Again, never one to be shy I started contacting fellow personal chefs in the area to see if they could take on any new clients.  In the e-mail exchanges to them I made the point that we are not just competitors for clients, but we are colleagues as well in the same profession.  Lately there seems to be plenty of business to go around, so my thought was “why not join forces and work together instead of constantly competing against each other??”  A novel concept to some, but when you can refer a potential client to a fellow personal chef whom you trust, that client will remember you and be grateful that you have helped them.

Recently I received an inquiry from a lady in North Carolina who wanted to hire a personal chef in Dallas to handle a dinner for her elderly parents.  I was unable to do so but referred her to a good friend of mine with whom I attended culinary school.  I knew his personality would be perfect for what she wanted.  What she wrote back to me after she hired him, is exactly why I am happy to make referrals to those I know:

“Hi Anne,

You really put the personal, into “personal chef.” 

Thank you for being so gracious and so helpful. Yes, we are working with Chef Thomas, and we think he’s a great fit for our parents’ needs.  What a nice and, obviously, talented person he is.

 It was great to have a referral as we were just wingin’ it, being from out of town.  You gave us peace of mind and we’ll always remember that. 

 Merry Christmas.  Best wishes with the holiday parties!

It is good business to know your competitors and what they have to offer so you can ensure you are at the “top of your game” with your own business. I feel strongly about not looking at the personal chefs in your area as just competitors, but as colleagues. When I finally got to meet with the personal chef in Dallas last month with whom I had corresponded, we both agreed that it made sense to be able to refer business to each other if we were overloaded and to keep each other in mind for parties and events if we were unable to do them.  We made “short work” of discussing our backgrounds, our businesses and how we could help each other.  It was an excellent meeting and since we run into each other while shopping many times, we can now say hello and briefly trade stories on our respective businesses and “the good, the bad & the ugly” about our clients.  Being on friendly terms with your colleagues who are also competitors just makes good business sense.

Do you know the personal chefs in your area? How have you helped one another?

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

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

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