I spend a lot of time on social media, much of it on behalf of APPCA. I started to notice a lot of interesting tweets coming from an APPCA member, Angela Capanna of Eat Your Heart Out Edibles. She serves South Jersey, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The tweets are engaging and fun. She clearly knows what she’s doing. So I asked her to share her strategy and approach. She generously has–and I hope she inspires you to do more and do it thoughtfully as part of your marketing strategy.

My website is the primary source of new leads for my business, Eat Your Heart Out, and social media has become a significant driver of traffic there – as well as direct inquiries, I might add. As a busy chef, I operate on the KISS principle (keep it short and simple!)…I use two main channels – Facebook and Instagram (eatyourheartoutedibles). I have Facebook set up to auto-post to Twitter (@EYHOEdibles) – two for the price of one! LOL).

I make sure to stay consistent with posting timing; I post by 10 a.m. and again between 5-7 p.m. daily. If I have time, I’ll do a third post in afternoon. That allows me to catch followers’ attention no matter what time of day they’re on social media. Another point of consistency is that I always use certain hashtags with every post. I do roughly the same posts on Facebook and Instagram, modifying if needed for format.

In terms of content, of course the majority of my posts have to do with meals that I am cooking, or recent catering events – always with at least one picture. (Here’s my Grilled Mediterranean Chicken and Quinoa Salad.)

I also try to post something “personal” a few times a week, as that really engages followers. (I have read studies on this, and I find this to be true with people I follow). Overall, with everything I post I try to represent my brand image. What I mean by “brand image” is that I like to keep my posts mostly about food/cooking/personal cheffing/catering, with a few personal posts about me – but never about politics, current events, etc. I always try to keep anything too personal off my EYHOE social media so that whatever I post ultimately points back to my business – food and cooking. I guess you could say that my brand image is one of a creative, somewhat adventurous, chef who takes food, but not herself, seriously.

One approach that I have found to generate a lot of “engagement” is my “Name that Food” game, where I post an unusual picture of a food, and ask my followers to identify it. I also suggest that they like and share the post to get their friends in on the fun – which can result in more followers for me! Then I post the answer, usually the next day, with a “normal” picture of the food, replying to/tagging the commenters to keep them involved. Here’s a close-up of a “Rambutan”, the edible fruit of a tree from Southeast Asia.

Once the prickly skin is peeled away, the fruit reveals a sweet and juicy flesh, with bitter seeds found in the center. The second picture is “the big reveal.”

I also use social media to promote my blog, “Annie’s Anecdotes.” Whenever I have a new blog post, I will post a lead-in and link to the blog on Facebook and Instagram, to generate blog readership.

While making these posts does take a certain amount of my time, I def think it is worth that investment. I love engaging/getting personal with my followers on social media. The best part of social media is the engagement with followers! After all, I am a “personal chef”! love going back and forth with them; their comments are often insightful.

Chefs, are you active on social media? What is your strategy? How’s it 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!

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

Time to get off the dime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Sociable, Share!

We’re in the thick of hot and lazy summer days. Okay, hot but probably not so lazy. Or are they? Have clients gone out of town on vacation? Has business slowed down for other reasons? If so, this is the perfect time to look inward and consider how you can ramp things up for the fall as well as protect the business you already have.

I was poking around the Internet and came across some must-read small business tips for food entrepreneurs. They come from a Sidney Morning Herald interview with Sarah Hancox, a woman in Australia, who provides outside catering and offers consultancy services to small hospitality businesses. The story is five years old, but Hancox’s tips are evergreen. Here they are:

1. Know your trade. These days you need to know your strengths, whether it is cooking or in other parts of the business. If it’s not cooking, take a back seat and let your chef do it but be able to fill in for them if for any reason they can’t.

2. Understand your target market. Know who they are, how to reach them and what they want.

3. Know your key performance indicators. You need to understand your KPIs very well, especially your food and labour costs. This will help you understand your cash flow and what’s happening in your business, including whether someone is stealing from you.

4. Quality products almost always produce a quality dish. People are very educated about food these days – many through watching cooking reality shows – so don’t scrimp on quality.

5. Focus on customer service. Too many in this industry forget about the customer and instead think they are the stars of the show. If no one is buying your product because they are not getting the right service then the venture is pointless.

6. Value your staff. Not only should you reward good work but you should not be afraid to get rid of poorly performing staff. By looking after staff you get low turnover and consistency of product.

7. Plan your menu well. Stick to your skill set and remember who is going to be eating your food as well as where and how.

8. Be organised. There’s a lot that goes into cooking including organising storage and understanding products throughout. When you run a food business you have to wear many hats.

9. Get a good accountant. You need someone who is proactive; they don’t have to understand your industry but they need to be able to make suggestions. You should also outsource anything that you don’t have skills in, especially marketing.

10. Use social media. How successful you are with social media will often depend on the customers you are marketing to. Find out where you are getting responses and capitalise on them through targeted marketing.

Many of our personal chef members are great business people. You understand the value of what Hancox advocates here and have already been implementing these concepts. You also get that having a passion for cooking and feeding people isn’t enough. If you’re going to turn that passion into a business you need to treat it like a business. If you find that your talents are not in keeping books or tracking costs, find someone trustworthy who can do that for you.

And, remember that Candy and Dennis are here to help, with advice and resources that will help you overcome any walls you think you’re facing.

Here’s to a happy August. Refresh, review, and ramp up for a busy fall!

What are your tips for running a small food business well? What are your challenges? 

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 like to touch base with members to learn their best practices for getting new clients. We’ve written on this subject several times over the years, mostly because marketing is one of the most critical aspects in any business for developing new business.

 

Your strategies tend to break down into a couple of categories. See where you fit it:

  • It’s who you know: Carol Tipton Wold explained, “I’ve gotten more business through relationships and word of mouth than anything else I tried. Belonging to service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Soroptomist, etc.) and volunteering at their events has paid off 10 fold because you make friends who tell their friends. Of course, you always give them the “Because we’re friends” deal. Website, Chamber of Commerce, ads, never worked out.
  • Website: Member Christine Robinson, as well as Katie Muente Losik and Kitchen Kalibur agreed with Tipton Wold about word of mouth–but also added website. In fact, your website is your front door to your business, opening up to a world of information–if you give it the love and care it deserves. It’s also a point of impression. It can either deliver a terrific first impression or turn someone away. Be sure you have the basics (your name, service area, and services, along with contact info), as well as beautiful photos, menu samples, and other information a potential client would want to know. Make it easy to navigate and make sure it’s linked to your social media platforms.

Four additional marketing practices we advocate include some very simple concepts:

  • A professional-looking business card with all contact information. Take advantage of both sides, with one listing your contact info and the other your services–or a mouth-watering photo of a classic dish you prepare. And, please, have them with you at all times! You never know who you’ll meet, even at the market, even at church, even at your kid’s soccer game or on line at the checkout at Old Navy! (That means you also have to be sociable and strike up conversations with strangers.)
  • Up-to-date social media, with beautiful photos. You may not actually get a client via social media, but that account of yours could reinforce a decision to hire you–or turn someone away. Post beautiful photos of food you’ve prepared. Note events you participate in, new types of services you offer, new ingredients you’re working with. Ask questions (the answers can help you identify new approaches to your business or new service areas). Make social media work for you.
  • Networking. Get involved in your community. It doesn’t even have to be a food-oriented organization–just anywhere you’re going to meet people, like your kids’ school, your church or synagogue, a beach clean up group, or a political organization. Volunteer to help put together a meeting or event–or host one–to demonstrate your chops. It’s all about widening your circle and then showing off your skill set.

Cooking Classes

  • Teach classes. Offer cooking classes to clients or others you know to which they can invite friends and family. The classes put you and your skills–and charm–into the spotlight.

What are your most successful strategies for building your client base? What lessons have you learned?

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!

Do you ever have an occasion in which you feel you should gift one of your clients? Usually we discuss this around the holidays but over the course of the rest of the year there are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or other special events your client celebrates. And, how about a thank you on the anniversary of your beginning work for them?

Well, if you’re feeling the need to present a gift, how about making them sea salt caramels? If your client can eat–and absolutely loves–sweets, this will be such a cool way to say thanks or congratulations.

There are certain foods that no matter how simple they actually are to make if you actually endeavored to learn how still have a mystique about them. Caramels, for me, fall into this category. Honestly, we’re talking just four basic ingredients–butter, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. But this quartet, once cooked together, is the foundation of sweet magic–that is, if you use really good ingredients and have the finesse and creativity to take it to a sublime level of deliciousness. I found someone in San Diego, where I’m based, who taught me her secrets.

Nancy Flint created a small business–Sugar Mamma–around caramels five years ago. She’s taken these four basic ingredients and elevated them with various flavorings to create 17 flavors of caramels that you can find all over San Diego County.

Flint makes everything by hand by herself out of her Talmidge home kitchen, usually working in the neighborhood of 12 hours a day every day to meet her orders. She starts by combining her foundational ingredients–the butter, sugar, cream, and corn syrup, in a large pot, heating the mixture over medium high heat until it reaches 248° F–stirring all the while.

“Once the sugar dissolves, you can step away briefly, but stay close,” she advised. “You can stir every minute instead of constantly but you don’t want it to stick or burn.”

With a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper next to her, Flint stirs until she reaches the temperature she wants, at which point she removes the pot from the heat. Then she adds kosher salt and vanilla, stirs to incorporate them and pours the mixture into the pan. If it’s her Sea Salt Caramel flavor, she’ll give the mixture a few minutes to set, then sprinkle Maldon sea salt over it. In general, fruity flavors get the fruit addition during the cooking process. Any alcohol flavor gets that at the end of the cooking process, once it’s off the heat.

If you make these–Flint has generously given us her Sea Salt Caramel recipe–follow these additional tips of hers:

  • Use the best ingredients you can.
  • Pour what comes out into the pan. Don’t scrape the dregs of the pot into the pan because they won’t crystalize. Instead, scrape them into a silicon ice cube mold.
  • Got bubbles? Don’t worry. Flint said they tend to pop on their own over the 12 hours.
  • Got a sticky pot? Soak it in hot water to melt the sugar so the mess will release.
Sea Salt Caramels
from Sugar Mamma
Yield: 240 1-inch pieces
Ingredients
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher stalt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Maldon sea salt to sprinkle
Directions
1. Line a 10- X 15-inch jelly pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Combine the butter, cream sugar, and corn syrup in a large pot. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Once the mixture comes to the boil continue stirring by just every minute instead of constantly. Add a candy thermometer to the side of the pot reaching into the caramel mixture. Once it reaches 248° F, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. When mixed well, pour into the jelly pan.
5. After 5 minutes sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the mixture.
6. Let set for 12 hours or overnight. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap them individually in wax paper.
Have you ever made caramels? Do you ever make special edible gifts for 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!

APPCA members never fail to amaze me. It’s so exciting to read both our website forums and our Facebook business and group pages to learn about how creatively you’re running your businesses and marketing them. So, I when I saw that Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas recently had a radio interview experience I wanted to learn more–and figured you would, too. Not only did Anne come through with her story about the interview, she has included a wealth of great tips on preparing for it and–even more important–serving it up as a way to promote her business. You’ll want to take notes!

Recently I was contacted by a company called All Business Media FM, which is a subsidiary of I Heart Radio. At first I was skeptical, since I receive so many “spam” calls on a daily basis. My philosophy is “if they don’t leave a message, it’s not important.

But I did receive a voice mail from this company and it sounded fairly legitimate so I returned their call. When I spoke to the lady I queried her with my usual questions to verify their intent/legitimacy. How did you find me? Why did you select me/my business? And most importantly, “How much is this going to cost me?” She was a “fast-talking New Yorker” (apologies to all of you in the NYC area!) but as I listened, she was able to answer my questions. She said that she had visited my website (and cited some sample menu items I have listed) and had seen the reviews on my business on Google and Facebook, so I felt comfortable that she had at least done some research on me and wasn’t just a “scam artist.” She was very honest about the fact that there would be a follow-up call and that it would probably involve a marketing pitch, although there was no obligation after the interview.

The company specializes in small businesses and since I am not only an entrepreneur but a female in what is still (unfortunately) a fairly male-dominated profession of being a chef, this was an “enhancement” for them contacting me and wanting to do an interview. Once I said “yes” she put me through to their scheduling department and we verified all of my information and e-mail address. We scheduled a date and they sent four questions to me via e-mail that I answered and returned to them prior to the show. She had given me information about the fact that it would be an eight-minute interview, who my host would be on that day, and how to retrieve the interview afterwards from their website so I could post it on social media.

I created an “event” on my business Facebook page so everyone could see when the interview would be and posted the information on my personal Facebook page as well, since I knew some of my friends would listen in. In addition, I took the time to listen to a few of their other live interviews to get a feel for what would be the experience. I happened to listen to a woman who is a massage therapist and focused on Reiki as well, which was interesting to me, so I ended up listening to the whole eight minutes.

To prepare for my interview I reviewed the answers to the questions they had sent me and highlighted some important points. I knew it would go quickly and having been in Toastmasters at one time, I also knew the importance of no slang, no “uhs, ers, and ums,” as well as not starting sentences with “OK” and “So.”

They called me at the set time and the host chatted briefly with me about some simple instructions. I was nervous but truly most of the information is in my head since I’m always ready with the “elevator speech” and how to condense what I do in a few short paragraphs. Although I repeated myself a few times, overall it went well and they were very complimentary (which I’m sure they tell everyone!) A week later I was able to retrieve the interview and posted it everywhere on social media, as well as sent the link via e-mail to clients, friends, and family. (You can listen to it here.)

My joke with everyone was “Well, I got through my radio interview and at least I didn’t use the “F” word – except for “Food!” It’s just one more thing to be able to add to my repertoire of marketing tools. The power of social media is amazing and the more you can post in various places, the more your traffic will increase. I have had my website for some time, but constantly review and try to change something on it at least once a month (new menu items, videos, this radio interview link, etc.) I have also created accounts everywhere in the name of my business, “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” This includes Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, and as “Anne Blankenship” on LinkedIn. I review my traffic every week on all of these entities and have seen it increase dramatically in the past two years, thanks to consistent postings.

I thought no one really listened to the radio much anymore, but Caron Golden pointed out that podcasts are a huge thing now (something I had totally forgotten) so doing this radio interview and promoting it through social media is a terrific way to keep “oiling that marketing machine.”

What kind of marketing are you doing to promote your business? Do you have a gap you need help with?

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

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

Be Sociable, Share!

As a personal chef your goal is to make your clients happy with food that not only tastes good but perhaps also addresses health issues they face.

But what do you do when their health issues conflict with yours? What if, like APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle, you have celiac disease and yet still make baked goods and dishes you can’t taste?

This is neither a small issue or a rare one. Think of all the people in your life with gluten allergies, seafood allergies, and other random food allergies. Just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean they’re immune to them.

Chef Dakota Weiss of Sweetfin, an L.A.-based chain of fast casual poke shops, told Forbes back in 2016 that she can’t even touch fish without reacting. She explained that her throat will close up, her tongue gets itchy, and it gets difficult to speak. So, how does she do her job? When scaling fish she dons two sets of gloves and wraps a bandanna around her face so that a scale doesn’t fly into her eye. It’s not always successful and failure results in her eye swelling shut.

Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag discovered she has an intense allergy to hazelnuts. She told Cooking Light that she worked with her allergist to create a plan and gather the right tools. “On the set of Chopped, I’m a regular. They know about my allergy. Hazelnuts are never on set when I’m there. They’re not usually on set at all. Any guest judge appearances I make, I let them know before I come in that I’m allergic to hazelnuts. That’s my first step. Second step is to always have an EpiPen.”

APPCA member Christine Robinson has issues with green peppers and gluten. “I can take digestive enzymes for small amounts of wheat and we use an Italian non-GMO flour that does not cause me to react…we tell clients ahead of time that we use every color of pepper except for green bell, as I can’t taste it…in nearly 20 years no one has minded…”

Similarly APPCA member Shelby Wassel addresses her watermelon allergy by leaving it out of dishes. “It’s not a big deal, but I never offer watermelon, feta and mint salad to my clients as I’m allergic to watermelon! No one has ever missed it.”

If food allergies dog you, your first responsibility is to your health and well being. Here are four tips for staying safe while still making delicious meals for your clients:

  1. “Just do the best you can, protect yourself first and if you can get someone to help that you trust then have them help you out,” Zirkle advised. That could mean hiring an additional person with you to handle the ingredients you’re allergic to–not just for prepping, cooking, and packaging, but also shopping for the ingredients so you don’t have to handle them at all, tasting the dish, and even cleaning up.
  2. Carry Benadryl and at least one EpiPen on you at all times. Double up on gloves and wear a mask if you absolutely have to work with an ingredient you’re allergic to.
  3. Be honest with your clients. Let them know that you have specific allergies and can’t prepare dishes with those ingredients in them at all or unless someone else you bring in handles them. Ask that anything you’re allergic to that they may have in their kitchen either be removed or stored away and well labeled so you can avoid it.
  4. Depending on the level of your reaction following exposure, don’t even offer it. It’s not worth the potential medical emergency that could land you in the hospital or worse.

And, if food allergies are an issue for you, let that be an opening into turning your compassion for potential clients who may also have food restrictions into new business opportunities. It may lead to your developing a new set of recipes that compensate for the ingredients you can’t work with, a new culinary specialty, and even new segment of clients who will appreciate how your limitations mirror theirs.

Do you have a food allergy you’re dealing with when cooking for clients? How have 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!

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Spring will be here in a week–March 20th. While those of you on the East Coast may still be dealing with harsh storms, eventually the chill will give way to warmth and flowers and sunshine. It’s a time of renewal–so what better activity to engage in than a virtual spring cleaning for your personal chef business!

We have five tasks you should take on to rebirth your business:

  • Examine and update your marketing tools: How long have you had the same style of business card? When was the last time you updated your website? Does it have all the critical information necessary for a potential client to find you and be engaged by your offerings (including the basics, like the geographic area you serve, your latest menu, your name, your phone number/email address)? Is it time to replace your Facebook business page cover photo? All touch points should examined–and ask your friends for their input about their effectiveness.
  • Embrace a new social media platform: If you’re already on Facebook, add Instagram and/or Twitter and/or Pinterest. You can do fun new things on each platform that can show off your offerings. Photos are your big sales tool on social media so be sure you’re posting well-lit, appetizing dishes.
  • Sharpen your knives and do a great cleaning on your tools: You probably give your knives a honing when you use them, but how often do you actually sharpen them? If you have to think about it, it’s been too long. And take a look at your other cooking tools. Are they showing signs of wear or grime? Clean them or replace them. And, hey, that includes your chefs aprons, your towels, your knife roll, and even your footwear. Spiff yourself up.
  • Learn new skills: Spring is a time of feeling energized so take that burst of energy and direct it into something constructive. Take an online cooking course from our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy–or, better yet, sign up for a certificate in culinary arts. Or take a cooking class at a local school. Learn new techniques or global cuisines. Experiment with new ingredients. Learn how to take better food photos and how to style your dishes to help with marketing. Take a writing class and start a blog on your site or write a food column for your local newspaper. Learn how to do public speaking.
  • Volunteer in your community: We talk a lot about networking. One way to network without having to “sell” yourself is to get involved in your community. Spring is the perfect time to look around and decide what group/s could use your skills and enthusiasm. Spend a weekend morning serving meals at a homeless shelter. Volunteer at the local food bank. Or do something outside of your food background with Habitat for Humanity or your local Humane Society if you love animals–whatever moves you. You’re helping your neighborhood, meeting new people, and building your resume.

These are just five ideas that should energize you and give you some momentum in building your business or moving it into a direction that excites you. If you have additional suggestions, please add your voice!

What is a “spring cleaning” task that you’ve found helps you re-energize your business? What have you been toying with doing that you’re finally going to act on?

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’re so tickled that Lida Saunders of Austin, Texas’ Foodie DeLites Private Chef Service has written a truly resource-filled post for us this week about cooking for elders.

If you are a private/personal chef and have the opportunity to cook for clients who are 60 and older, you will have a very satisfying experience, very appreciative audience and will be providing a needed service to folks who no longer wish to or can cook for themselves.

The challenges you face will open doors to new ideas and ways of viewing flavors and will increase your marketability and increased business, I assure you.

I have been a private/personal chef for 7 years and have also worked as a chef in two assisted living organizations. In both positions I was allowed to develop menus and be creative with flavors and seasonings with much success. And yes there were special diets and health conditions I had to consider in preparing food for residents. I even learned to make tasty pureed food for several residents who had swallowing issues.

I have also had the pleasure of privately cooking for seven elderly clients ranging in age from 85 to 98. Two of these clients had some dementia but the others were all people who had no cognitive issues. And they still enjoyed good, tasty food.

Now, I will tell you, that you do need to sit down with the client and ask a lot of questions, such as their favorite foods currently, flavors, spices they like and don’t like. And, of course, ask about food allergies and doctors orders for dietary exclusions such as salt and sugar.

Then I would suggest coming up with a list of meals they might be interested in and just see if your suggestions meet their approval. Don’t take offense if they don’t like what you have suggested. This is a trial and error process. Be patient and view this process as kinda like asking a child what they want to eat. And sometimes the client will just say, “oh anything you want to make.” Believe me, that will not work. You really need to find out truly what meals they have really enjoyed perhaps when they went out to eat. Otherwise you will be cooking in the dark and the client may be very disappointed and will tell you so.

However, truly, if you can perk up someone’s taste buds and provide them with an enjoyable meal, you will reap wonderful rewards and praises galore. You’ll become “a culinary rock star”!

So here are some tips to consider, but as the wonderful, talented chef you are, you will create, inspire and cook fabulous dishes.

  • Enhance the flavor: Spices can boost the flavor of a food but many elderly people cannot tolerate them. If spices don’t bother your gastrointestinal system, enjoy! Avoid salt, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. Simulated flavors, like bacon or cheese, can be added to soups and vegetables to make them more palatable. Try acidic flavors like lemon to boost the flow of saliva.
  • Enhance the aroma: Season chicken, beef and fish using low-sodium marinades; for example, chicken can be marinated in chicken flavor to intensify its aroma.
  • Add variety: Avoid sensory fatigue by having a variety of foods and textures on your plate. Then try switching from item to item between bites to keep your taste buds firing.
  • Play with temperature: Food that’s too hot or too cold may not be tasted as thoroughly; try varying the temperature to maximize food’s flavor.

There are many factors beyond pure taste that affect how much we enjoy our food. Experiment with presentation and even bite size to maximize your eating enjoyment as you age.

The Physiology of Taste and Smell as We Age

Now, for your reading pleasure, I have done some research and included below a little education on the physiology of taste and smell as we age (should you want to really understand what is going on about our taste and “smellology”):

Taste and Aging: First, a bit of taste physiology: the raised bumps, or taste papillae, you see when you stick out your tongue in the mirror are made up of specialized epithelial cells. Arranged around and inside these are your taste buds, only visible with the help of a microscope. The average person has about 4,600 taste buds on their tongue. In addition, taste buds can be found on the roof of the mouth, in the esophagus and at the back of the throat. They respond to five basic taste stimuli: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and the more recently recognized “umami,” the savory flavors of certain amino acids.

Taste receptors are heroes in the world of cell turnover, regenerating about every 10 days. With age, though, it’s believed that taste buds simply aren’t reproduced at the same rate. And fewer taste buds translated into diminished flavor perception. Cell membranes, the which transmit signals from the taste buds to the brain, also change with time and become less effective.

Some older people hang on to their sense of taste with little decline. Others, especially those suffering from dry mouth or who are taking certain medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants, may lose much of their taste perception. Certain conditions, such as stroke, Bell’s palsy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and depression, can also cause a loss or altering of taste.

Even tooth extractions can do damage to the nerves that transmit taste sensation to the brain.

Smell and Aging: Sensory cells within the nose transmit olfactory, or smell, messages to the brain. Over time, these smell receptors, like those for taste, stop regenerating as rapidly. They’re also more vulnerable to damage by environmental contaminants like air pollution, smoking, and microbes. Diseases like stroke, epilepsy, and various medications can also affect how smell is perceived by the brain. How well we smell also plays a large role in what we taste. It is probably a dwindling sense of smell, or anosmia that accounts for most changes in taste with age.

One large study in Wisconsin found that almost two-thirds of people between the ages of 80 and 97 had some form of smell impairment. The researchers concluded that as many as 14 million older adults in the United States have a diminished sense of smell.

Consequences: At the minor end, a loss of taste perception can make a dinner out less enjoyable. But for the elderly, malnutrition is a real danger, either from eating less or making less nutritious choices.

People whose sensitivity to salt drops may add too much salt to their food, a potential risk if they have high blood pressure.

A reduced sensitivity to sweetness is a danger for diabetics if they add extra sugar to compensate. In addition, an altered sense of taste can make old favorites, like fruits and vegetables, less appealing. This has been shown to erode immunity to disease, even when the calories consumed remain the same.

Sources:

Cecile L. Phan, Jodi L. Kashmere, Sanjay Kalra. “Unilateral Atrophy of Fungiform Papillae Associated with Lingual Nerve Injury”. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, Volume 33, Number 4 / November 2006.

Claire Murphy, Ph.D.; Carla R. Schubert, MS; Karen J. Cruickshanks, Ph.D.; Barbara E. K. Klein, MD, MPH; Ronald Klein, MD, MPH; David M. Nondahl, MS.” Prevalence of Olfactory Impairment in Older Adults.” JAMA. 2002;288(18):2307-2312. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.18.2307.

Cowart, B. J. Relationships between Taste and Smell across the Adult Life Span. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 561: 39-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1989.tb20968.x (personal communication with author)

Schiffman, S. “Taste and Smell Losses in Normal Aging and Disease.” JAMA. 1997;278(16):1357-1362. doi: 10.1001/jama.1997.03550160077042

What has been your experience in cooking for elders? What have you found to be the most challenging issues and the greatest joys?

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!

No doubt many–dare I say most–of you engage both personally and professionally on various social media platforms. We’ve spent a lot of time here explaining the hows and whys to help you benefit from having a presence. But we may be overdue in encouraging you to find APPCA on social media. We’re on Facebook, both with a page and a group, and Twitter. And this doesn’t count our private groups on our website.

Our Facebook business page has more than 2,500 likes. It’s filled with great food information–from links to recipes and food trends to tips on healthy eating, nutrition updates, professional strategies… basically the wealth of useful information out there on the web geared to educate and inspire. I update the page four times a day during the work week and often ask questions related to the content so we can have a dialogue and share information with one another. It’s also where I link our weekly à la minute blog post on Tuesday mornings.

The Facebook group page has 1,139 members. It’s a closed group and Dennis and Candy decide who may join it–and we get a lot of requests. It’s very similar to our APPCA forums, only on Facebook. Are you getting what you think are spam requests for service? Do you have a question about how to use an ingredient or cook for a client with a specific health issue? This is a great place to post and get back helpful insights from colleagues.

For example, back in October APPCA member Perry McCown posted that he now had his first client with a no-egg requirement. He needed suggestions for an alternative binder.

” I recently connected with a new client with a few allergies, one was no eggs,” he told me. “It was a new requirement for me. Feeling very limited, I posted this to my fellow APPCA members confident someone has been there. Wow, it was hours before I had responses from several and the knowledge that came with it. I embraced that guidance quickly and have had beautiful results. Flax seeds being simmered…lead to corn bread my clients love and have asked for a few times. I’m not hesitant to do pie crusts on my beef pot pies using the exact egg replacer taught to me by our community. I was not limited, I just needed to be educated by my fellow chefs.”

Our Facebook group page is also a cool place to share referrals–this happens frequently. Our members also often share photos of successful meals they’ve created and share menus–or ask questions to get help with new menus.

Finally, we have our Twitter account. Follow us on Twitter and engage with other personal chefs, pick up links to useful information on all things food, and show off your own accomplishments. We’d love to hear from you and share your achievements.

No matter which of these platforms you use, when you connect with us, please say hi! Start a conversation. Ask a question. Post a great photo of a dish you’ve made. It’s social for a reason!

What social media platforms are you engaged in? What are you looking to get out of the experience?

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 »