Over the years one thing I’ve learned from APPCA executive director Candy Wallace is how important client care is. By nature Candy is someone who is generous to others and loves surprising them with treats. But she’s also a smart businesswoman–and letting clients know how special they are to you is an important aspect of successfully running your business.

That’s why this time of year I like to offer ideas and recipes for edible gifts that you can make to give to clients for the holidays. Whether you make them or use them as inspiration for treasures you dream up, it should be a pleasure to offer a token of your appreciation you know your clients will enjoy, along with a sweet note that expresses that appreciation and your excitement about working with them in the coming year. And it’s also a smart gesture to make to potential clients you’re trying to win over.

The treat I’m offering you this week is something you can make now and store away for a couple of months. Pickles, of course, are a delight to many. These pickled watermelon gherkins are very special, if only because they’re so compellingly unusual. I got this recipe from my friend chef Kelli Crosson of A.R. Valentien in La Jolla, California, who I first made them with to give out at a big annual fall food event, Celebrate the Craft.

First, something about watermelon gherkins. These heirloom gherkins are known by numerous names, including Mouse Melons, Mexican sour gherkins, Cucamelons, and Cuka-Nuts. They’re treated as cucumbers, but technically they’re a different genus so they’re more like “honorary” cukes. They’re tiny, about the size of a grape, and look just like ultra-mini watermelons. They’re terrific for pickling, but you can enjoy them raw, add them to a salsa, or even to a cocktail. The question, of course, will be if you can find them in your city or town. If you have a specialty market that services restaurants, that would be the first place to look. And farmers markets, since farmers across the country do grow them. But hurry, as the weather co0ls, they’ll become harder to find this season.

Start, of course, with sterilized half-pint glass jars and lids. Then begin adding the herbs and spices. Slice and distribute the serrano chiles. Then add the little gherkins, followed by a classic pickle brine of water, distilled white vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt that has been brought to a boil.

(And if you’re a pickling geek, check out this stainless steel confectionary funnel I use to inject the water/vinegar mixture into the jars. It gives so much control with hot liquids!) Screw on the lids and place the jars into a water bath. Once they cool, label the jars and store in a cool, dark pantry until you’re ready to gift them.

Pickled Watermelon Gherkins are itty bitty flavor balls–crispy with a little saltiness, a hint of clove, and a pleasing hit of heat on the palate.

Pickled Watermelon Gherkins
from Kelli Crosson of A.R. Valentien

Makes 2 pints

1/2 pound watermelon gherkins, washed with stems removed
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 serrano chile, halved
4 garlic cloves
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1. Wash and sterilize two pint jars and lids, per manufacturer instructions.
2. In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, divide the serrano, garlic, clove, bay leaf, mustard seed, and peppercorns between the jars, and pack with the watermelon gherkins.
4. Pour hot brine over the gherkins, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.
5. Close the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
6. Store in a cool, dry, dark place for at least two weeks before eating the pickles. After opening, store in the refrigerator.

What do you make for clients–or potential clients–for the holidays? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Perhaps you know this intuitively, but according to a new survey, Chatter Matters: the 2018 Word of Mouth Report, 83 percent of Americans say that a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase that product or service.

In fact, writes Jay Baer, whose organization Convince & Convert, conducted the research, “And not only is word of mouth a powerful motivating force, it’s actually the preferred mechanism for information when Americans are making purchases. Among all Americans, word of mouth represents two of their three most popular sources of information when researching purchases (online search engines are the third).”

Aha, you say! I sell a service. Perhaps I should do more to stoke positive, even ebullient word of mouth about my business.

What you’re doing is the initial groundwork laying for a marketing strategy–which is especially important in such a social media/internet heavy environment. It’s not like you’re just trying to get your latest client for a catering gig to recommend you to her BFF. You also want that happy client to post a rave about you on Instagram or Facebook, replete with photos. It’s word of mouth on steroids.

Wendy Marx, president of Marx Communications–a B2B boutique PR firm, just published a terrific piece on this in Business 2 Community. It’s worth your time to read, but let me share here her “8 Powerful Ways to Ignite Your Word of Mouth Marketing”:

  1. Build Trust: Here Marx says, you should do right by your customer and go above and beyond to champion them to build loyalty. And, she adds, “Trust also depends heavily on your skill and competency. Create a reputation of unparalleled expertise.”
  2. Create an Unbeatable Customer Service Strategy: Have a solid, reliable, well-trained team to improve a customer’s experience. Use appropriate humor to set customers at ease, resolve problems quickly, and leave them feeling satisfied. You don’t have a “team?” Then this is up to you.
  3. Be Different: Distinguish yourself from the competition in simple ways, including your marketing language. “Think of words that describe your product in new and engaging ways. From your website to your email marketing campaigns, make your messaging reverberate.”
  4. Encourage a Rich Brand Culture: What do you stand for? What are your values? Marx advocates writing a rich values statement that portrays your values–and then you should act on them. Maybe you support helping the homeless or a cure for breast cancer. If you actually volunteer for those causes, let people know via social media so potential customers who also hold those values can relate to you.
  5. Find Passionate Advocates: You may have happy, but quiet clients. But you may also have some who are more naturally outspoken. Nurture them as loyal advocates who will let others know about you and your services. Marx suggests creating a system where they can best advocate for your brand. Think about that in the context of being a personal chef. Perhaps they could host a gathering you cater. If you have a blog, they could write a guest post on what they look for in a personal chef and then share that on social media. Be creative.
  6. Give People a Platform: This could refer to to #5 above. As Marx says, “Social media pages, customer testimonial sites, and case studies are all excellent ways for your customers to share their happy experiences. You might include a link on your site or an email that encourages customers to leave a review. This could be as simple as Did we make your day? You can make ours by leaving a review below! Keep it light and conversational.” If you encounter someone who is especially happy with your service, perhaps you could interview and write about her for your blog–or this one!
  7. Incentivize Your Audience: You may have customers who love what you do but need a little something extra to get them to chat you up. How about creating a loyalty or brand advocacy program that rewards them for engagement? Big brands can create incentives for retweeting or posting something about you on social media. Personal chefs don’t necessarily have that kind of largesse available. But is there something you could do at a more modest level for spreading the word at incremental levels? Baking a dozen cookies? Offering a discount?
  8. Be Enthusiastic: This is a no brainer. As Marx says, “Love what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious.” She adds, “Love what you do, and do it well, others will be naturally attracted to your brand. And these enthusiasts will tell others about you who in turn will tell others and on and on.”

We know that personal chefs are not at all the same as large businesses that make and sell products. But, in fact, good, strong word of mouth is probably even more critical to small service businesses lacking a large marketing budget. So the more focused you can be on building a following through your own happy clients the more successful you can be as a personal chef.

What kind of strategy have you developed for better word of mouth? Can we help you with this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Every December Candy and I put together posts designed to help you address the big looming change in the calendar and get a fresh start on the new year. Some people want to build their business, some want to expand services. Others want to identify new ways to help their clients—perhaps bringing health or nutrition expertise to a specific range of people or simply deciding they want to be more efficient and rent commercial kitchen space for prep. And some chefs are looking to find more life/work balance for themselves.

Whatever your new ideas are for 2018, we want to help. We can start with the basics, getting you more focused with business plans that will help guide you through the year as well as a checklist for prepping for what’s coming. We can help you figure out marketing, if that’s an issue. We can provide you with inspiration from fellow members if you’re interested in specializing in a specific type of client or healthcare issue.

You get the idea. Since we’ve written about all these over the years I thought I’d put together a round up of these posts for you that are just as fresh and relevant now as when they were first written.

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.

Marketing:

Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.

Specializing:

Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

These are just some of the many posts we’ve written over the years to help you go further in your business and meet your life and professional goals. We have search capability so if you’re looking for more information, put it in the search engine and see what else comes up.

And if you have any questions or concerns about running your personal chef business, give Candy a call or shoot her an email. She loves to hear from you!

What have you got planned for 2018? Anything we can help you with?

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

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

 

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