Last week the annual Consumer Electronics Show hit Las Vegas and among the gadgets being touted were hyped up electronics for the kitchen. Eater wrote about several. Some were worth drooling over–like LG’s Harvester, a fridge-adjacent cabinet that controls light, water, and temperatures and even allows you to grow herbs indoors. Some were curious, like the $229 “Smartypans,” a “smart” frying pan that tracks the nutritional value of the food you’re cooking in the pan. Huh. And then there were the “what were they thinking” gadgets such as a smart trash can that seals and replaces your full plastic bag automatically but needs weekly charging and pricey trash bags, and a smart voice-activated faucet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All this is to say that as kitchens–and homes, of course–are growing increasingly automated, there’s a lot that personal chefs need to keep on top of when working at client homes.

If you conduct–as you should–an assessment when meeting with a new client, this category is something you need to add as a review item.

Consider just some of the things in your own home that may be controlled by apps or devices:

  • Indoor lights
  • Outdoor lights
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fans
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Slow cookers
  • Blenders
  • Microwave ovens
  • Doorbells
  • Door locks
  • Light bulbs

And these may be controlled by a hub, like Apple HomePod, Google Nest, or Amazon Echo (aka Alexa).

If you aren’t informed about your client’s automated appliances and home devices you could find yourself unable to see your way out the door (literally if the lights are off and you can’t just flip a switch to turn them on or figuratively if you can’t unlock the door). What if something you’re cooking begins to smoke? A Nest smoke detector, for instance, can give you a heads up that it senses smoke and will release an alarm. If you have the app you can dismiss it. If you don’t, you’re in for a lot of noise.

You may not be able to turn on a house or stove top fan if you need it, adjust the home’s temperature, or use the client’s kitchen scale. What do you do when a light goes out?

I’m sure you can come up with more examples based on how you work in a kitchen and within a given client’s home. What makes the most sense is to discuss with them what e-connected appliances and devices are in the house, figure out how it impacts you while you’re there, and how to control them–especially if your client isn’t home while you’re there. Do you need to download the relevant apps and log into their account? Can they be temporarily disconnected from the apps and used manually?

And don’t forget to have them apprise you of when they add a new e-controlled device to the home or change something.

You don’t want to be left in the dark.

Have you experienced any e-controlled device issues at client’s homes? How do you manage working in an automated home?

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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Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

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

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

 

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Are You Ready for 2020?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 16, 2019

While you’re hard at work prepping meals for regular clients and perhaps also taking on catering events, there’s one more task you need to take on: preparing for 2020.

Nothing stays the same. Clients leave, new clients come on board. Food trends change. Your own life changes. And if you’re running a successful business you must be ready and even eager to evolve your business so that it continues to work for you.

So, let’s look at some things you need to do to know what tweaks you might have to make in various areas of your personal chef business:

  • Take a fresh look at your business plan and make revisions. Consider whether you’re enjoying your work and if not, why not? Then you can make adjustments to your schedule, your services, and even your goals. Have your priorities changed? Have your skills evolved? Before 2020 hits, determine what exactly you want to make of it and write it all down as a commitment to yourself.
  • Take a hard look at your finances, especially your profit and loss report. That end-of-year P&L will help you figure out ways to improve 2020 finances. Are you earning enough of a profit? Is your pricing realistic? Are you charging enough to make a profit? Are you ready for quarterly tax payments? Are your expenses getting away from you and what will they look like next year? We’re talking marketing, insurance, fuel/transportation, new equipment, perhaps even part-time help.
  • Review your equipment. Speaking of expenses, your cooking tools are some of the most consequential investments you make in your business? Do you need to replace anything or buy new and novel equipment for new menus you’re creating? Are there tools you no longer use and can stop hauling around with you? Do you need to get knives sharpened or buy fresh uniforms? Hey, if your car is your transportation to clients and events, you need to consider if it needs servicing or new tires.
  • Examine how well you’re promoting your business. Sure, your business is currently thriving but you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A good, long-term client can go away in a snap. Have you been consistently marketing yourself and your business? What kind of professional networking are you doing and how can you improve it in 2020? Do you have business cards and do you hand them out? Are you promoting yourself through social media? Have you ever reached out to guest post on this blog (so you can then promote it on social media or your website)? Do you take great photos of your food for your website and social media—if not, how about taking a food photography class?
  • Look at your client mix and potential new opportunities. If you started your business even five short years ago you know that food culture and culture in general has dramatically changed. Five years ago you may have had an interest in cooking vegan food, but couldn’t find clients who were all that interested. Today it’s a thing so now’s your opportunity to seek them out. Perhaps you’ve developed an interest in cooking for people who have specific health issues to address—from heart disease to cancer to dementia. Or you want to help pregnant moms and young families. Or you want to prepare healthy “on the run” foods for young, time-deprived professionals. This is the time to research opportunities and make them happen in your 2020 business plan. It’s also the time to review and refresh your menus, maybe challenge yourself with new skills and trending ingredients.
  • Finally, look at your personal life and how well you’re balancing it with work. Are you and your family happy with your schedule or do you need to tweak it to give yourself family or personal time? Are you exercising and doing fun things that keep your body, mind, and heart satisfied? Are you prioritizing vacation time? Are you exploring continuing education that doesn’t just help your business but also feeds your soul?

Candy and Dennis are eager for you to succeed. If you are an APPCA member and have any questions about how to make your business work better for you, reach out and ask. If you’re considering becoming a personal chef in 2020, join APPCA. We can help you set up your new business.

What kinds of issues are you mulling over that we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2020?

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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Yep, we’ve got another batch of anticipated food trends for 2020 to hit you with. This one’s from Innova Market Insights, which describes itself as a “global knowledge leader in the food and beverage industry.”

According to Innova, storytelling is the key trend. Increased consumer interest in the stories behind their food and beverage products and their notable influence on purchasing decisions has resulted in companies increasingly paying attention to storytelling in branding strategies.

1. Storytelling: Winning with Words

Although ingredient provenance has always been important, consumer interest in discovering the story behind their foods has risen further and increasingly influencing purchasing decisions. Consumers’ attention is piqued by opportunities to learn more about how products are produced, which promotes an understanding of product benefits and helps build all-important trust in the brand.

As a result, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.

2. The Plant-Based Revolution

Plant-based innovation in food and beverages continues to flourish as a result of consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics, which ties into the broader consumer lifestyle trend towards cleaner living. As the use of the term “plant-based” moves more into the mainstream, the industry and start-up companies in particular, are taking up the challenge to deliver more clean label meat and dairy alternatives with improved nutritional profiles.

3. The Sustain Domain

Consumers increasingly expect companies to invest in sustainability, with Innova Market Insights research indicating that 85% of, on average, US and UK consumers expected companies to invest in sustainability in 2019, up from 64% in 2018. In the area of food waste, upcycling is the new recycling, as companies strive to follow a zero-waste approach by creating value from by-products. Meanwhile, in packaging, the focus is on using less of it, as well as developing sustainable alternatives.

4. The Right Bite

Stress and anxiety are key concerns in modern life as consumers manage careers, families and social lives while striving to maintain healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally. Responses to this vary, although the majority of consumers aim to balance the benefits and costs of busy lifestyles. This, in turn, raises the demand for nutritious foods that are easy to prepare, convenient and portable. Indulgent treats play a role in relaxation and enjoyment.

5. Tapping into Texture

Last year’s leading trend “Discovery: the adventurous consumer” is still prominent, with consumer demand for something new and different being reflected in more product launches with textural claims. Consumers increasingly recognize the influence of texture on food and beverages, allowing a heightened sensory experience and often a greater feeling of indulgence. According to Innova Market Insights research, 45% of, on average, US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks, while 68% share the opinion that textures contribute to a more interesting food and beverage experience.

The other top trends for 2020 identified by Innova Market Insights are:

6. Macronutrient Makeover

7. Hello Hybrids

8. A Star is Born

9. Eat Pretty

10. Brand Unlimited

According to Innova’s director of Insight and Innovation, Lu Ann Williams, customers want honesty, transparency, and authenticity. In the context she was speaking of, it’s directed toward brands and their customers. But as chefs can see, it amounts to the same thing. These trends may be identified to help food manufacturers develop and market products, but as a chef, you need to be always updating your menus and offerings. Understanding what clients are looking for and how they’re influenced can help you develop and fine tune an approach to your business and the kind of clients you’re seeking, as well as the services you want to provide.

Do these trends align with your experiences as a chef with clients? If not, how do they differ and what are you seeing?

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’re two weeks out from Thanksgiving and while we tend to focus on our own family celebrations, some industrious personal chefs may also have picked up a Thanksgiving catering gig. Whether you’re expert at managing your own expansive meal or you usually bring a dish or two to someone else who’s hosting, it can be a little daunting to create this big, über meaningful holiday meal for a client. Not only do you have to meet their expectations, but also those of their guests, who come with life experiences and expectations of their own traditions.

But you have a distinct advantage. As a personal chef you are expert in preparation and organization. And who is the best at both? Our own executive director, Candy Wallace. We thought we’d share again some of her best tips for streamlining Thanksgiving so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s assume you’ve already done your client assessment, so you know what foods your client and their guests can eat or need to avoid before you planned your menu. And, let’s assume that if the meal needs to be vegetarian or vegan, you’ve got experience with creating delicious options that meet that criteria.

With that behind you, really, the biggest things to do are advanced planning and shopping along with mindful prep. And here’s where Candy can help, offering seven tips to make your Thanksgiving week easier:

  • Make turkey stock to be used in multiple dishes in advance of your event. Roast vegetables and purée in advance to have for a gravy base.
  • Measure and prepackage everything to be used in assembling your recipes. You’ve got that down, of course. Personal chefs are the experts in food packaging and meal storage for clients. But this time, use your skills to set up efficient and smooth assembly of components used to prepare the holiday meal your clients are looking forward to.
  • Are you baking cornbread? Then be sure to pre-measure all dry ingredients, then package and label them. Do the same with the wet ingredients.
  • If you’re making cranberry relish, again, pre-measure the berries, dried cherries, etc. and package and label them separately from the liquid components, which you’ll also package. Assemble the relish on the day of service.

  • Vegetables can take a lot of prep. So get that done ahead of time, including any blanching, shocking, and cooling so you can store them and make the recipes with little fuss on the day of the meal. Do the same with your herbs and spices–prep, measure, and store them. If you’re using the same herbs and spices for different dishes, separate them for each dish and mark them.
  • Clean and prep your bird ahead of time. If you’re dealing with a frozen turkey, be sure you give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. If you’re going to do a wet or dry brine, you’ll need to start that process within a couple of days of the holiday.
  • If space on the stove or in the oven is limited, identify the dishes that can be cooked in advance, frozen, and then reheated for the meal. Many pies–apple and pecan, for instance–can be made ahead of time, wrapped well, and frozen. So can stuffing and even mashed potatoes.

Working a day or even several days ahead will save you time, and keep you sane and strong on Thanksgiving and other holiday service. Hey, do it right and you will still be able to enjoy the day yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What dishes are on your Thanksgiving menu for clients? What tips can you share to make holiday catering more manageable?

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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Swiss Chard Pesto for Kids

Filed under: Business Strategies,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 4, 2019

We’ve written here periodically about teaching cooking classes for kids. Well, I was looking back at an old calendar and saw entries for classes I used to teach as a volunteer at Olivewood Gardens in National City, just south of San Diego. Olivewood Gardens is a non-profit oasis in a fairly low-income community, with organic gardens and a Queen Anne house outfitted with a kitchen where classes are taught to school kids. Olivewood Gardens is designed to help families learn where their food comes from and help them learn how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals. What’s taught at Olivewood is part of the school curriculum and kids come one or two times a year. On any given day there, I’d teach six, 25-minute classes to a group of about a dozen kids.

I thought I’d share my experience there as inspiration for some of you chefs who may also be interested in working with families on these issues and demonstrate how exciting and easy to develop recipes for and cook with children.

Back on that November morning the dish I decided to make with the kids, who were in the fourth and fifth grades, was a lavash pizza with garden veggies and Swiss chard pesto.


See, we had several criteria for our recipes — they needed to be nutritious, they needed to be able to be made and eaten in 25 minutes, they had to be something the kids could help prepare, and the ingredients had to include produce grown in the gardens. As we all know, with November the pickins are a little slim–even in Southern California. What did they have in abundance? Swiss chard. So, I played around with the pesto idea and came up with a recipe that tasted good and also would be fun for the kids to squirt out of a bottle and decorate their pizzas. Sort of a cooking/art project.

The kids, of course, were completely unfamiliar with lavash (and we discovered they also need help with geography since they had no clue about what countries make up the Middle East), but they were open to trying it. First came a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then they each added a rainbow of veggies that could include mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, jalapenos, grated carrots, sliced black olives, zucchini, and tomatillos. Then a little more cheese followed by squirts of the pesto.

Each square went into a 375-degree oven for about 13 minutes. I have to say they were delicious and the kids loved them.

Now, here’s the kicker. By the third class I was looking to change things up so when we were making the pesto I asked the kids if they wanted to add any other ingredients and see what would happen. They decided on a handful of chopped tomatillo and a few tablespoons of chopped chives. And, it was delicious! Even better than the original, plus the kids were thrilled that they had created a recipe.


Swiss Chard Pesto
Makes 2 cups

1 pound Swiss chard (or kale, spinach, or other leafy green)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon honey
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup or more olive oil
(feel free to add about 1/2 a cup of chopped raw tomatillo and 3 tablespoons of chopped chives)

Carefully wash the Swiss chard leaves. Remove the tough central ribs, then tear into smaller pieces.

Purée all the ingredients in the food processor or blender to form a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar, covered with a thin layer of oil, where it will keep for a week or more. It also freezes well.

Do you teach kids cooking classes? What kinds of recipes do you develop for them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelbie Wassel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go again!

SCAMS! SCAMS! SCAMS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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