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!

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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!

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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

 

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Whole_Foods_Market_green_logo

Whole Foods announced its top 10 food predictions for 2017. Their 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 465 stores.

Here’s what they expect:

Wellness Tonics – The new year will usher in a new wave of tonics, tinctures and wellness drinks that go far beyond the fresh-pressed juice craze. The year’s hottest picks will draw on beneficial botanicals and have roots in alternative medicine and global traditions.

Buzzed-about ingredients include kava, Tulsi/holy basil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms (like reishi and chaga), and adaptogenic herbs (maca and ashwagandha).

Products from Byproducts – Whether it’s leftover whey from strained Greek yogurt or spent grains from beer, food producers are finding innovative – and delicious – ways to give byproducts new life.

Coconut Everything – Move over coconut oil and coconut water – coconut flour tortillas, coconut sugar aminos and more unexpected coconut-based products are on the rise. Virtually every component of this versatile fruit-nut-seed (coconuts qualify for all three!) is being used in new applications. The sap is turned into coconut sugar as an alternative to refined sweeteners; the oil is used in a growing list of natural beauty products; and the white flesh of the coconut is now in flours, tortillas, chips, ice creams, butters and more.

Japanese Food, Beyond Sushi – Japanese-inspired eating is on the rise and it doesn’t look anything like a sushi roll. Long-celebrated condiments with roots in Japanese cuisine, like ponzu, miso, mirin, sesame oil and plum vinegar are making their way from restaurant menus to mainstream American pantries. Seaweed is a rising star as shoppers seek more varieties of the savory greens, including fresh and dried kelp, wakame, dulse and nori, while farmhouse staples like Japanese-style pickles will continue to gain popularity.

The trend will also impact breakfast and dessert, as shoppers experiment with savory breakfast bowl combinations and a growing number of mochi flavors like green tea and matcha, black sesame, pickled plum, yuzu citrus and Azuki bean.

Creative Condiments – From traditional global recipes to brand new ingredients, interesting condiments are taking center stage. Once rare and unfamiliar sauces and dips are showing up on menus and store shelves.

Look for black sesame tahini, habanero jam, ghee, Pomegranate Molasses, black garlic purée, date syrup, plum jam with chia seeds, beet salsa, Mexican hot chocolate spreads, sambal oelek or piri piri sauce, harissa, and adobo sauces.

Rethinking Pasta – Today’s pastas are influenced less by Italian grandmothers and more by popular plant-based and clean-eating movements. Alternative grain noodles made from quinoa, lentils and chickpeas (which also happen to be gluten free) are quickly becoming favorites, while grain-free options like spiralized veggies and kelp noodles are also on the rise. That said, more traditional fresh-milled and seasonal pastas are having a moment too, which means pasta is cruising into new territories with something for everyone.

Purple Power – Richly colored purple foods are popping up everywhere: purple cauliflower, black rice, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple sweet potatoes, purple corn and cereal. The power of purple goes beyond the vibrant color and often indicates nutrient density and antioxidants.

On-the-Go Beauty – “Athleisure” is not just a fashion trend; the style is now being reflected in natural beauty products, too. With multitasking ingredients and simple applications, natural beauty brands are blurring the line between skincare and makeup products, and simplifying routines by eliminating the need for special brushes or tools.

Flexitarian – In 2017, consumers will embrace a new, personalized version of healthy eating that’s less rigid than typical vegan, Paleo, gluten-free and other “special diets” that have gone mainstream. For instance, eating vegan before 6 p.m., or eating paleo five days a week, or gluten-free whenever possible allows consumers more flexibility. Instead of a strict identity aligned with one diet, shoppers embrace the “flexitarian” approach to making conscious choices about what, when and how much to eat.

Mindful Meal Prep – People aren’t just asking themselves what they’d like to eat, but also how meals can stretch their dollar, reduce food waste, save time and be healthier. Trends to watch include the “make some/buy some,” approach, like using pre-cooked ingredients from the hot bar to jumpstart dinner, or preparing a main dish from scratch and using frozen or store-bought ingredients as sides.

Fresh oven-ready meal kits and vegetable medleys are also on the upswing as shoppers continue to crave healthier options that require less time.

The USDA’s food price outlook shows modest increases for 2017. According to the USDA, supermarket prices are expected to rise between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. Despite the expectation for declining prices in 2016, poultry, fish and seafood, and dairy prices are expected to rise in 2017. These forecasts are based on an assumption of normal weather conditions throughout the remainder of the year; however, severe weather or other unforeseen events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts. In particular, the drought in California could have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices. Also, a stronger U.S. dollar could continue to make the sale of domestic food products overseas more difficult. This would increase the supply of foods on the domestic market, placing downward pressure on retail food prices.

What food trends are you expecting for 2017? What are clients telling you they’re interested in?

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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Dennis and Christine

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of Boston’s A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have long focused on creating healthy meals for their Massachusetts clients. That includes working with families living with dementia. As the population ages and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, Vascular dementia, and others are on the rise, personal chefs like Christine and Dennis can provide a foundation for enabling patients to stay healthy and stay home longer, while also helping caregivers, who live with the stress and anxiety of constantly caring for a declining spouse or parent, with nutritious meals and one less responsibility.

We asked Christine and Dennis to share their experience of serving clients with dementia and their advice is spot on.

Over the years we have had several clients with memory impairment. One of the main concerns of the family is generally how to keep a loved one in their own home for as long as possible, as long as the care level is up to par. 

Food and proper nutrition is a huge component in a dementia patient’s quality of life. Balanced meals can allow physical and emotional health to improve. That’s where personal chefs come in. But it is NOT an easy task and it may not be for you. However, for those who feel up to the challenge, you can make a huge difference in the life of a family dealing with dementia. 

When clients contact us to work with their family members with dementia, it is usually the children, hoping to keep their parents in their own home. Many times they’re out of state and this can pose some logistical questions. You need to figure out who is the “point” person and make one source of contact so that there is less confusion. We find that there is usually a family member who has good information about the physical health of the actual client and that is generally the person with whom you want to deal.

We always try to make the food all about the client recipient, following any dietary restrictions but making food they seem to enjoy. Keeping them fed is most important.

Not every job works out. You can have a spouse who does not want the service, or the person with dementia does not want other people around. In these cases, you have to evaluate if you are doing more harm than good. While there is no clear cut answer for every case, you want to err on the side of what will keep the client the happiest, even if it means ending the cooking relationship, recommending someone else, or even cooking at a close relative’s home for them to deliver.

Here’s what we recommend when taking on a family with a member who has dementia:

1) Establish whether another person coming into the home is going to be a benefit or a distraction. In-home meal service can either be a huge help or a stranger in the house can cause the family member with dementia extra stress…find out how they would respond. Many times a new person in the mix doing something different can be a welcome thing…but don’t be afraid to ask up front. Also test the waters to make sure how the other family members living in the house, usually a spouse, are going to feel about more help…the dignity and wishes of both parties are equally important.

2) Conduct a thorough client assessment, hopefully in person, and with a caregiver or family member other than the spouse present. Learn what type of dementia the loved one has–it could be Alzheimer’s, but it could also be any number of other types of dementia, which have different symptoms and progression. You can learn more about them on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Find out about medications and other health conditions that can be helped or exacerbated by certain foods. Cranberry juice, leafy greens, and flaxseed, for instance, do not go well with coumadin and other blood thinners. Make sure that any family members seeking your service are provided with copies of the assessment. Seeds, nuts, gassy vegetables, onions, and acidic foods should be explored on paper and in reality. Repeat favorites and get rid of textures that are not working. As the disease progresses and medications change, you will have to revisit this to make adjustments. 

3) Pay close attention to textures and tastes. Something as simple as a blueberry skin can be a distraction and texture issue for a patient. Have any caregivers/family members keep track of favorite items, but especially items that are not being eaten. Sometimes a switch from a ground meat to a solid piece can make all the difference. Sometimes, as the disease progresses swallowing becomes more difficult and textures become crucial so patients don’t aspirate food. But each person is different. Keep notes and be amenable to changes. This is not a time to be the creative chef, but to listen closely to a client’s needs.

4) Pay attention to the spouse and his/her likes and dislikes. Many times the person without dementia is the lesser focus. They are going through a difficult time seeing the love of their life slip into unknown territory. Ask about their favorites. Make a treat just for them. Talk to them. So much conversation is focused on the patient that the other person can feel left out, especially if the kids are spearheading the need for the personal chef. Everyone counts and should be part of the experience.

5) Expect that these cook dates will probably take extra time. Plan for it and expect to talk. Take advantage of the moments of lucidity and talk to the client about stories and what they may suddenly be remembering. Be prepared for the opposite as well, when they ask the same question repeatedly or talk to you as if you were a family member no longer with them. Ask their caregiver the best way to respond. Often, it’s just to go along with them and their conversation without correcting them.

6) Don’t try to become the savior. At the stage you are entering their lives, there is rarely a turnaround and no special meatloaf or spice combo is going to be the cure all. Enhance for nutrients where you can, and ask the family if there are any holistic things they want to try, such as cooking with coconut oil, or grassfed meats. As long as it does no harm, take their lead.

7) Expect that you will cry after more than one cook date.

8) Expect that you will get some great, funny, wonderful stories when they talk to you.

9) Don’t be offended by anything that the client may say to you. Dementia works in odd ways and people who would never use coarse language can come up with some doozies. It is part of the condition and please realize it is NOT directed at you.

10) Be flexible and compassionate. Anticipate that things can change on a daily basis and you may be making more or less food as needs fluctuate.

This is a hard job, not for everyone. But cooking for these families can be the most rewarding job. You really can make a difference but don’t enter into it without realizing that a part of your heart will forever hold these families as very dear.

Have you been cooking for clients with dementia? What has your experience 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!

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Turkey Roulade

For many of us Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. Why? Most likely because we gather with people we care about over a great meal–without the pressure of exchanging gifts.

That’s not to say there aren’t other pressures, especially if you’re a personal chef and catering the holiday. Over the years we’ve written a lot on Thanksgiving–offering tips and recipes. So, for this Thanksgiving week post how about we revisit a few of these posts? Below are links to our best Thanksgiving tips and recipes. And at the end is a recipe for a multi-grain salad that can be a great side dish for the holiday meal–and easily be adapted for the vegetarians and vegans at the holiday table.

Chef Suzy Brown's roasted Thanksgiving goose

Chef Suzy Brown’s roasted Thanksgiving goose

Straddling the Holiday Service Dilemma: Can you possibly take on a catering gig or do extra cooking for Thanksgiving for clients and not fall asleep at your own holiday table? It’s a classic personal chef tug of war but APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has some pointed suggestions for making this work so you can get the best of both worlds–provide your clients with service and enjoy the holiday yourself.

Prepping

Beth Volpe’s Thanksgiving Turkey Two Ways: Undecided about how to prepare your turkey/s or how to get the dinner on the table so you can enjoy it with your loved ones? APPCA member Beth Volpe of Savory Eats figured out a way to make her Thanksgiving meal two days before so that she would have the holiday to enjoy with her family. “I make a brined, butterflied turkey, the gravy, the dressing, and the cranberry sauce the day before. Come Thanksgiving Day, all I do is slide my turkey in the oven and pour myself a glass of wine.” Beth offers her method of brining the turkey and has an additional recipe for a sensational turkey roulade.

Turkey Stuffing Muffins-small

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. What a cool idea! You could certainly do with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, but take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

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Now how about a Thanksgiving dish that’s also healthy? Grains are always a favorite of mine and grain salads are a no brainer–but have you thought of combining grains in a salad?

Creating a multi-grain salad means you get a more interesting combination of flavors and textures, not to mention colors. It all depends of what you mix together. I love the chew of red wheat berries. They’re perfect with robust vegetables like winter squash and thick-cut portobello mushroom. Quinoa is more delicate and colorful and works well with fruit, red peppers, cheese, beans, and cucumbers. Farro’s nuttiness fits somewhere in the middle. I enjoy combining it with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, and lots of herbs.

I decided to mix these three up together and add fruit in the form of fuyu persimmons and some beans–garbanzo and edamame–for color, texture, and sweetness. I got some crunch from toasted walnuts and pecans.

A word of advice, here. Combining grains doesn’t at all mean cooking them together. It’s a little extra work, but you must cook each grain type separately. If you don’t, you risk getting mush instead of the individual textures and flavors you’re after.

Also feel free to mix together your own combinations of whole grains. Consider barley, brown rice, kamut, and spelt, among others. And all sorts of other seasonal vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs will work well, too. This recipe should be inspiration to create a dish based on what you enjoy and what you find in the markets.

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Three-Grain Salad with Persimmons, Beans, and Nuts
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth for vegetarians)
1/ cup red onion, diced
2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1 cup cooked edamame beans (available at Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 tablespoon Mexican tarragon, chopped

Sherry Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch sugar
pinch salt
pinch ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook each grain according to directions. For the farro and quinoa, the proportions are like rice: 2 to 1 water to grain. Bring the stock or water to the boil, add the grains, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. You’re looking for the stock or water to be absorbed and the grains to still have a little chewiness. For wheat berries, it’s more like 3 to 1 with a longer cooking time, more like 35 to 40 minutes. It’s okay if the water isn’t fully absorbed as long as the grains are cooked and are a little al dente.

In a large bowl combine the grains with the rest of the salad ingredients.

To make the vinaigrette, mix together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Pour enough into the salad to coat the ingredients, but not so much that in drenches it. Serve at room temperature.

Wishing all of our members and friends the happiest of Thanksgivings! We are so grateful to you!

What will you be doing for Thanksgiving? Catering? Enjoying time with friends and family? Both?

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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