APPCA member and personal chef Anne Blankenship has pretty much served as our reporter on the ground for personal chef transitions. The owner of Dallas’ Designed Cuisine a Personal Chef Service, Anne is working her way toward retirement and has written about that process for us. This week she outlines the process of hiring and working with an intern, the idea being that she could eventually refer incoming potential new clients. 

If you’re looking for help and a way to pay forward the help you received when you were just starting out–or if you’re a culinary school student searching for some practical internship experience–you’ll want to ready this guest post by Anne:

They say too much of anything is not a good thing. When you have more business than you can handle, what do you do? I have recently found myself in the position of turning away clients on a weekly basis for the first time since I started my personal chef business. While I am thrilled that potential clients are calling, it is also frustrating to be unable to accommodate potential new business.

When I sat down to ponder this issue, a light bulb went off in my head. Recalling my days in culinary school I knew that there were required internships of students. I so “fondly” recall working for $5.85/hour, scrubbing fish scales out of the sink around midnight, and then mopping the floor! However, it was a great experience and when you are the “low person on the totem pole” you never say “that’s not my job.”

I contacted my alma mater (a local community college with an outstanding and highly rated culinary program) and sent a message to the head of the Food and Hospitality Institute at the college. The school’s culinary program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation, and I of course knew that the “CPC” (“Certified Personal Chef”) designation was available through the organization. I told the chef that I wanted to hire a student for an internship as well as provide them with insight into a different area of the culinary world—that of a personal chef. I also reminded him that the “CPC” designation was a viable option, as many culinary instructors are unaware of this classification. He responded and said he would mention my internship to his classes and that the best option was for me to post it on the online job board for students, which I did at the end of August when school started. In addition, I contacted my clients to let them know I was considering hiring an intern. I wanted to check  whether or not it would be alright with them that this person would accompany me on future cook dates.

I received a response to my ad within a week from a promising young student. However, I had neglected to post the days/hours that I needed the applicant, and his school schedule was such that he would not be available. After I amended the posting to include the hours, I received a second response at the end of September. This time I knew I had potentially found the right candidate in Tina, who is in her first semester. Like me, she had been in the corporate world for 20 years and wanted to change careers, had always wanted to be a chef, loved to cook, and had planned and executed dinner parties for friends with various cuisines and interesting dishes. We exchanged e-mails and as she told me more about herself I became certain that if she was interested, I could help her pursue becoming a personal chef as well as have someone viable to whom to refer new business.

We met for lunch a few days later and after three hours of discussion we made plans for her to accompany me on upcoming cook date at the beginning of October. Once at the client’s home I showed her the menu and recipes for that day and we divided up the tasks and who would make which menu item. Although I was watchful, I knew she was competent and I truly didn’t have to worry about the way she cooked the food. Everything she has done thus far has been excellent (and made me think I’ve been a little careless in the way I cooked some of my recipes!). Even better is that when we review the menu for the day and divide up tasks, she usually has a good idea of how to execute the recipes but always asks if she is not sure.  Truly, she is the best person I could have gotten for the job!

The “end game” is that if she decides to pursue being a personal chef, I would help her get started and hopefully be able to refer any incoming potential new clients to her as I am quite satisfied with the client base I now have. I told her that it wasn’t all “philanthropical” on my end—she would be helping me so that I wouldn’t have to turn away business and she would benefit by having her own clients. I have been very honest with her about how clients come and go in the personal chef business, that you have to be flexible, manage your finances well and be prepared for what could happen. However, I also told her that being your own boss, making your own schedule, and truly enjoying what you do for a living is beyond compare to working in the corporate world. I still love what I do every day and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

She will be with me until the middle of December but has until the end of December to decide whether or not to go back to the corporate world or pursue her dream of being a chef.

I did not change my liability insurance policy as I did not know how long Tina would be with me.  Since my insurance premium is due in December, I will take a look at everything at that time. When we talked she asked me what the “big picture” was and I said that I wanted to try and retire in 2020 and if the right person came along, I would consider turning my business over to them.  I was working out details about possibly taking a percentage of the client fees for awhile when I turned over the business.  I am still mulling over that idea. If Tina does not want to go forward with this then I will start over again next semester and possibly hire someone else.  If I cannot find the right person, I will just keep on doing as I am now and turn business away.

If you are in a position to hire an assistant for your personal chef business, consider your local community college, as many of them now have excellent culinary programs. You have the ability to mentor someone (probably younger) and show them that there is so much more to the food industry than working at a restaurant. I feel it is one way for me to “pay it forward” for someone who wants to be a personal chef. I have the Internet presence, the knowledge and 12 years of experience to assist her in getting started. I believe she feels as strongly as I do about the “personal” in being a personal chef and how we interact with our clients’ families, children and lives. As a result, my tagline has now become “Personal Chefs – We Make a Difference in Peoples’ Lives.”

Have you considered working with an intern? What are your concerns about the hiring and collaboration process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Physiology of Taste and Smell as We Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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APPCA’s MidAtlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC, held their annual fall meeting September 24 at the Olney, Maryland, home of Iva Barrerra-Oro. The nine attendees had a packed day, starting with a light breakfast and meet and greet, followed by basic old and new business issues to address.

Then came the meat of the gathering: first a Fagor Pressure Cooker Demo, conducted by April Lee. As you know from an earlier blog post, APPCA members are able to get a 50 percent discount on selected Fagor equipment until Oct. 24. So April did a demo on Fagor’s electric 8-quart multi-cooker.

She likes the model because it frees up a burner and at high pressure is more than adequate to quick cook a variety of foods. According to April, she uses the multi-cooker all the time for stews, stock, long braises, corned beef, and more. As she pointed out, using the pressure cooker allows her to start a dish and let it cook unattended while she takes care of other tasks. As part of her demo, April prepared a Thai Chicken Green Curry with Kobucha Squash and Eggplant. She shared the recipe, which follows below.

Following April’s demo, the group held a business round table that allowed the participants to discuss how they’ve faced business challenges or grown their business and get help on a major challenge they need to resolve. That was supposed to be followed by a SCORE presentation from this year’s chapter president Keith Steury that described the nonprofit agency that helps small business and explained its various offerings–from mentors to a library filled with business templates, articles and e-guides, and videos and podcasts. Due to time constraints, Keith is sending the information from the presentation to the participants to review on their own.

Following a potluck lunch, Bernard Henry gave a knife sharpening demo, during which he demonstrated using a wet stone, which he noted, is time consuming but gets the best result because it’s more gentle on the knife. He also explained how to use a manual sharpening machine and gave an overview of the best types of knives to buy.

Following Bernard’s demo, Keith did a wrap up of the day and the group came up with proposed dates and locations for a spring 2018 meeting before the event concluded at 3 p.m.

 

THAI GREEN CURRY CHICKEN w/KABOCHA SQUASH & EGGPLANT

(adapted by April Lee from Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
One (14-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cubed skin-on kabocha squash (about half of a small 4-pound squash, washed skin)
1 medium (12-ounce) eggplant, cubed (about 4 cups)
4 pounds chicken (I prefer boneless chicken thighs)
Kosher salt for seasoning chicken and veggies
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into large chunks and season with salt. Also season cubed eggplant and squash.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat (“brown” setting on Fagor multicooker) until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add curry paste and cook, stirring another 2 minutes. NOTE: You can actually just put all the ingredients in the pot and pressure cook on high for 13 minutes without browning first. Browning brings out a deeper flavor in the spices, but it’s not nec-essary.

3. Stir in coconut milk and fish sauce. Add half the squash and eggplant. Add chicken and top with the remaining squash and eggplant. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 13 minutes.

4. Release pressure, remove lid, and stir in chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Softened vegetables will thicken stew upon stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into serving bowls and garnish with a few whole Thai basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges on side.

Do you live in a part of the country that has several APPCA members? Contact us if you’d like to start up a chapter!

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

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

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Given the size of our national APPCA membership, Candy had suggested years ago that members gather regionally to better get to network and share information. The MidAtlantic Chef Chapter, or MARC, has long been an active and tight-knit group with a membership currently at 19. In April they announced a new slate of officers:

Keith Steury

President: Keith Steury of The Food Sherpa

Treasurer: April Lee of Tastefully Yours

Secretary: Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table

The first agenda item will be identifying a date to meet for their fall gathering–a potluck at member Iva Stanic’s home in Olney, Maryland. Then, of course, if the big two-day Spring meeting for 2018 that Steury hopes will include a trip to a pick-your-own working farm in Virginia.

Why join a member chapter? Well, Steury, whose business is based in Arlington, Virginia, explained that he joined the MARC chapter a few years ago.

“Before that I was a member of the APPCA, but I did not really have any meaningful personal connections to other chefs who were also running their own PC businesses,” he said. “Joining this group has helped me to make these connections and has proved very valuable to me. I am hopeful that we will continue to provide support to both current and potential new members during my tenure as chapter president.”  

Katie Enterline

In his own words, Steury’s plans for his tenure as president include:

  1. Providing cross-referrals for new business: This is something that we already do a lot within our chapter and it is really a great thing. There are ebbs and flows in everyone’s businesses and times when we could all use a new client. Referrals are an excellent way to accelerate this process. This is also a very nice feature for new members and those new to the personal chef industry, because it gives them an immediate connection to potential new clients and the support of other chefs in the process of acquiring them.
  2. Supporting each other and helping each other to succeed:  The APPCA provides a solid foundation and frame-work for how to run a successful PC business, but there is also room for each individual chef to modify things to fit their unique preferences. The chapter provides a great forum for discussing ideas, tips, pitfalls, and related information about running a PC business. There are a lot of smart people with creative ideas in the chapter, and they are open and willing to share this information with their fellow chefs.  This helps everyone to improve their businesses and be more successful. 
  3. Being aware of market changes and how to differentiate ourselves as personal chefs:  I am amazed at how much things have changed since I started my PC business back in 2007. Back then, the concept of a PC was still pretty novel (at least here in Northern VA). Now, not so much. In addition, there is a lot more competition in the marketplace, so I think that makes our job more challenging. Now more than ever, I think it is important to be educated about the market and to take the time to identify and explain how we as PCs differentiate ourselves from these other options. We save our clients valuable time, we provide a custom experience/solution (to often complex problems), and we do it all while cultivating a meaningful relationship with a focus on excellent customer service.

April Lee

We wish the MARC chapter a productive and fulfilling year! If any of you would like to start a chapter in your region, please reach out to Candy and she can help you get it up and running!

Do you know any fellow APPCA members in your community or region? How do you network with other personal chefs–or do 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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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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Pudwill Berry Farms Honey Crisp Apples2

I’m often asked if the produce we buy always has to be organic. Let’s face it, organic usually costs more than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and we don’t all have a budget that can manage strictly organic.

A few years ago I interviewed Urvashi Rangan, project director of Consumer Reports’ Greenerchoices.org. The environmental health scientist believes that it’s a matter of prioritizing. This terrific site is an invaluable resource filled with interesting articles on food products related to health, safety, and other food-related news.

Rangan pointed out that berries, for instance, tend to have very high levels of pesticides. “So organic can get you a lot of value,” she said. “On the other hand if you’re weighing the difference between buying conventional or organic avocados, the thick skin and the fact that avocados may not require as many pesticides to produce means there’s not as great a health value in buying organic.”

She also noted that parents with young children should be aware that organic food in their children’s diet can make a significant different in lowering the amount of pesticide residue they consume. “They’re neurotoxins and when they build up in the body, even at low levels, for a child’s developing brain and neurosystem, reducing the amount of these agents is a much healthier way to go.”

All this, of course, gets back to the main issue. What fruits and vegetables pose the most challenges where pesticides are concerned and which ones are less problematic?

SideBar-TakeAction
There are two websites consumers should pay attention to. The first is a list put out by the Environmental Working Group. This list ranks  fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The lower the number, the more pesticides. So, you have apples, celery, strawberry, peaches, and spinach in the top five. Asparagus, avocado, pineapples, sweet corn, and onions are at the bottom–meaning they have the fewest amount of pesticides. Less than one percent of sampled onions, for instance, were found to have any pesticide residue.

The EWG’s executive summary is the most direct, with a list of what to buy organic and what is lowest in pesticides. For a quick reference, this is quite useful. The group also has a mobile app for iOS and Android called Healthy Living.

womf_logo_label2
Another group doing some fascinating work in this arena is the Pesticide Action Network. Here you’ll learn that 888 million pounds of pesticides are applied annually in the U.S., averaging three pounds per person. So, what’s on your food? Go to the site and select a product and click. A page will open listing how many pesticide residues are found on that product, what they are and the toxicity risks to humans and the environment. So, click on green beans, for instance, and you’ll find it has 44 pesticide residues–chemical names that are pretty unpronounceable. Some, like carbendazim, are suspected hormone disrupters. Others like diazinon, hit that along with bee toxins, developmental or reproductive toxins, and neurotoxins.

“We have found that folks are grateful to see which pesticides are linked to particular health threats–so the brain, DNA, child, and bee icons have been helpful points of orientation/interpretation,” explained Heather Pilatic, PAN’s spokeswoman. “In sum, pesticides are enormously variable in their toxicity. That’s why we cross-referenced the residue data with toxicological info fromwww.pesticideinfo.org.”

PAN also has a What’s on My Food iOS app.

Altogether, these are a good start for personal chefs who are trying to serve purer food and want to better identify how what they buy will impact their clients’ bodies.

How concerned are you and your clients about whether their food is organic? Have you had to make decisions based on cost as to whether or not to buy organic ingredients?

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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Our Candy Wallace has been on a commencement speech roll. Earlier this spring she delivered a virtual graduation address to the students of the Escoffier Online International Academy. Then on June 17 she was the keynote speaker at the Art Institute of California in San Diego’s commencement.

It’s no surprise that the founder and executive director of APPCA would be asked to give graduating students–and not specifically the culinary students–just entering their new chosen profession words of wisdom and advice. After all, Candy has been a leader in the culinary industry for decades. She’s seen it all and done it all–and created a career path that has drawn hundreds upon hundreds of people looking for a way to better control and direct their lives and find success and happiness.

So, what did she tell these graduates, whose degrees ranged from fashion, web design, photography, and advertising to media arts and animation and culinary arts?

She told them that the first thing they needed to do was make a plan. “Not having a plan is like throwing yourself off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down,” she said. “That’s not so good. You need a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls of cliff jumping.”

You start, Candy said, by defining where you want to go–in 10 years or next year. This plan is where you create a place for your dream to live.

Then, she noted, you have to figure out how to get there. “Know that you don’t know it all yet.” And she advised them to search out resources for learning more. And throughout, to stay humble and stay determined.

Find a mentor, she advised, someone who can help you, push you, encourage you, and be honest with you while you’re learning and growing.

Here some other sage nuggets of advice she gave these graduates:

  • Commit to learning something new every day.
  • Know that you can’t learn everything on the clock so you need to do it on your own time as well.
  • Make mistakes. It can be frustrating and embarrassing but admit to them and learn from them. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Be patient with yourself and stay realistic.
  • Keep your eyes open for opportunities and see challenges as opportunities in disguise.
  • Be kind to the people you encounter along the way and give credit to those who help you.
  • Learn about the world, especially through travel. Be adventurous and curious–and share your own culture.
  • Participate in your community.
  • Nurture the friendships you make over the years. Keep loved ones close to you.
  • Honor your parents. They started you on this journey and have been your biggest cheerleaders.

And, finally, she told the graduates, “Stop along the way to enjoy your life. Press the party button!”

You can listen to the full eight-minute speech here:

What were the best words of advice you received when you launched your career? What do you wish someone had told 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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This past weekend, Escoffier Online International Academy celebrated its 2016 graduating class online and our own Candy Wallace delivered the commencement address. Candy considers it to be a tremendous honor to have been asked to speak to the students, but it’s no surprise that they would invite her. After all, she has had close ties to Escoffier. In 2014 she was inducted into Disciples of Escoffier, and has been serving on the Advisory Committee of the Auguste Escoffier Schools of Culinary Arts.

During her 12-minute talk, Candy reviewed her own culinary career and how, 24 years ago, she came to launch the then-new profession of personal chef. For Candy, it’s all about having options throughout your career. You may start on the line in a restaurant and love the demands and hours of that job. But maybe 10 years in or 20 your priorities change. Candy wanted to create an option for culinarians who wanted to continue to cook for people to be their own boss, have their own business, focus on their dreams–but in a way that suits their changed lifestyle or interests.

In her address, Candy emphasized the value of learning in the course of a culinary career. She told the graduates that if they’re entering the industry in a restaurant to learn something everyday. To volunteer to take on tasks. To keep your mouth closed and do what you’re asked and do it with joy. The time will come soon enough when your skills catch up with your opinions and your opinion will then be valued by a time-pressed executive chef.

And, throughout your career, she said, “Read, watch videos, travel if you get the chance. Developing a global palate is a lifelong journey that you’re going to enjoy. Get out, look around, taste, and talk to the farmers and chefs and fishermen you encounter in your travels and learn.”

Candy also did a special call out to one of our valued APPCA members, Beth Volpe of Savory Eats by Beth in Glendale, California. Beth, she said, had joined APPCA and launched a successful personal chef business but wanted to have official culinary credentials, so she asked Candy for advice. Candy suggested Beth enroll in the Escoffier Online International Academy. Beth did so the next day and now she was one of the graduates Candy was congratulating in her commencement address. “She kept her word and did the work. I’m proud to call her my colleague,” Candy said.

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It turned out that shortly after the delivery of the address, Candy received this note from Beth:

Hi Candy,

At 8:00 am this morning Joe (my husband) and I settled in with our coffee to watch Graduation.  I was very excited for him to hear you speak and put a name to the face.  You are obviously my mentor and he has heard me talk forever about you and your success. Your speech was so fantastic and outlined your journey and the culinary path of being a personal chef. Needless to say we both about fell off the couch when you mentioned me. And at the same time started tearing up. We were so shocked and so humbled and proud. I can’t thank you enough for such a mention. I feel so honored and am still in awe. You have certainly made our day, our month, our year. 

I had my family watch this graduation ceremony not knowing that I would be mentioned and they too were thrilled.

Thank you for remembering me.  You changed the course of my life and allowed me to make the dream come true.

With warmest regards and XOXO

Beth

We hope that as you search for your culinary direction you consider all your options–there are so many now–and that a grounded education is your first step. And if your journey is to become a personal chef, that you get in touch with Candy at APPCA so that she can help guide you on your path and give you the help you need to establish and run a thriving business. We hope that watching her address below gives you the inspiration you’ve been looking for to take your next steps!

Are you considering a culinary career? What is your passion when it comes to food and cooking? Is being a personal chef an option for 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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Here we are again. It is almost the end of the year, and the beginning of what could very well be an exciting, successful, enjoyable new year for your personal chef business and your life.

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To help make that happen, APPCA’s executive director Candy Wallace believes it’s wise to sit down and do a review of the past year and make plans for what you want to create in the new year. This way, you are working a plan of your own design rather than being passively at the service of whatever circumstances present themselves over the course of the year.

Here are her recommendations:

Review your current biz plan

Ask yourself: Are you enjoying your business?  If not, can you:

  • Adjust your schedule.
  • Adjust your product or service.
  • Set higher goals.
  • Set more realistic goals.
  • Evaluate if the business model you’re using is right for you.

Finances

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Do you keep and maintain a Profit and Loss report? Do you know the nuts and bolts of your finances? Examine your year-end P&L to look for ways to improve your finances next year.

  • Identify Total Revenue: Is it consistent over the course of the year? Is it enough to meet your goals?
  • Identify Pricing: Are you charging what you need to make a profit?
  • Identify and prepare for Quarterly Tax Payment Liability: Are you putting funds away for each quarter’s tax payment?
  • Identify Total Expenses/Overhead: Can they be trimmed? Can you find less expensive ways to finance them? Will you have new or increased expenses in the coming year in the form of employees, insurance, fuel/transportation, food prices, equipment?
  • Identify Profitability: What is the balance between your revenues and expenses?
  • Identify Special Business Needs: Do you have a budget for unplanned opportunities or needs like promotional banners for an event or classes to elevate your skills?

Re-evaluate income streams

  • Consider a possible price increase:
    • Did you low ball your pricing to get new clients?
    • Do you need to revise your pricing to reflect your value, your expenses, increased costs?
  • Consider offering more and different services: Could your clients use additional services, like catering or cooking classes?
  • Can you take on more clients: How can you bring in more clients this year?
  • Are you interested in new income streams: Many personal chefs do more than offer cook dates for clients. They offer product demonstrations, cooking classes, catering, writing, and other food-related services. Maybe there’s something else you’d like to do under your personal chef umbrella.

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Administration Review

Are your satisfied with these?

  • Software support
  • Staffing
  • Contract services
  • Public relations/Promotion

How would you rate your marketing efforts?

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  • Are you engaged enough in professional networking?
  • Is your Web presence/SEO/design in need of an update?
  • Are you actively promoting yourself via social media and/or a blog that gives you and your business exposure?
  • Do you have and always carry business cards?
  • Do you need help in learning how to better market your business?

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How would you rate your business skills?

  • Do you feel confident in the various aspects of operating your business?
  • Could you benefit from training in different arenas, such as managing finances, marketing, public speaking, writing, or even cooking?

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Personal Finance review

  • Are you building your savings or depleting it? Can you establish a monthly savings structure? If you can’t save because your revenues and expenses aren’t aligned, go back to re-evaluating your business finances and income streams.
  • Are you engaged in financial/retirement planning? What steps can you take to build your finances now and in the future?

Personal Life Plan

Are you enjoying your life? If not and it’s related to work:

  • Review your work schedule and figure out how to make changes that better suit your lifestyle as it is or want it to be.
  • Make a vacation plan.
  • Schedule family time.
  • Commit to regular recreation/exercise/continuing education opportunities.

Remember, that as APPCA members you have a number of resources to assist you in improving your business. That includes regular weekend Personal Chef Seminars in San Diego. Many members take the seminar as they are launching their business, but we welcome established members, who are interested in revisiting topics and getting input in revving up their personal chef business. Our next seminar is January 16 and 17. For more information, visit our website.

We wish all of you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Happy New Year 2016

Do you do an annual review of your business and life? What other issues do you take into account as you look ahead to the new year?

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.

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