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Since becoming a personal chef in 2011 APPCA member Dan Vogt has chosen his own path for operating his business. Instead of traveling to client homes to cook, he’s always opted to use a commercial kitchen for cooking and then delivers their meals.

“It’s completely custom, but I can do the cooking on my own time and I’m not bothering anyone in their home,” he explains. “I thought if it were me, I wouldn’t want to have someone in my kitchen clanging around pots and pans. I just want someone to make what I want and bring it to me. And because I rented a commercial kitchen I could service many more clients.”

Vogt’s focus has been on a clean eating approach, using local, organic ingredients as much as possible. Based in Long Branch, New Jersey, Vogt works with a broker for farmers markets in Pennsylvania who is himself a farmer. Based on what’s available, Vogt designs his menu.

Paleo Winter Tacos

Paleo Winter Tacos

“My niche is gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free,” he explains. “I work with doctors, with whom I’ve created alliances, to address specific diets. My meal plans can meet everyone’s needs.” 

For years, Vogt called his personal chef business Food by Dan. It’s attracted both locals and vacationers at the Jersey shore. He works with NFL athletes and consults with their dietitians to optimize their nutrition. Vogt also partners with about six doctors in New Jersey. He does weight loss and lifestyle coaching with people trying to lose weight, often in partnership with local gyms.

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But recently, Vogt had a brainstorm. He re-conceived the business and changed its name to Hello Chef. The biggest change was opening a quick-service storefront, also called Hello Chef, on December 7, with hours from 9 to 3 Monday through Saturday. It features breakfast, lunch, and cooking classes, while also Vogt also prepares his custom meals for clients in the back. People can come in and pick up prepared meals, they can eat in (Hello Chef  seats 25), and they can set up a private dinner with Vogt, including a farm-to-table dinner party at the restaurant.

Because Vogt doesn’t have the overhead of serving and bussing staff–it’s just himself, his wife, and a dishwasher–expenses can be kept down and he can cook client meals. Eventually, he’d like to hire a line cook who can put together dishes Vogt already has prepped so he can focus more on the business–not in the business. That’s a big difference to him.

Vegan Black Eyed Pea Hash with Acorn Squash Bowl and Pomegranate Guac

Vegan Black Eyed Pea Hash with Acorn Squash Bowl and Pomegranate Guac

Vogt saw a huge need for this kind of quick service food option in Long Branch. “In our area, there are places where you can get good food, but it’s limited. They tend to be stuffy, high-end places where entrées are $35 to $40. Most folks can’t afford that,” he says. “I think it’s unfair. People should be able to eat real food. I want to make high-quality food at a reasonable price. So I came up with the idea of having a quick-service place with fresh real food. It’s more expensive than other quick-service places, but people understand they get what they’re paying for.”

So, is the storefront the focus of Hello Chef? No. In fact, Vogt, says, it’s basically a way to market his personal chef services. He tells of a customer who came in for breakfast, but after learning about his personal chef services, ended up spending about $200 by ordering 10 customized dinners and a couple of quarts of soup.

High Brow Breakfast Stack

High Brow Breakfast Stack

One recent Friday night, he hosted a girls night out with all-you-can-eat appetizers. He had 25 people at the event at $60 a person. “It’s a way to promote our real business, which is meal plans,” he says. “That’s our whole push.”

“We get summer beach crowds in Long Branch, and we’ll be marketing to those complexes,” he says. “Imagine planning a vacation and having food ready in your fridge when you arrive.”

He’s also talking to investors about launching a healthy food truck business by this summer. And, Vogt is working toward opening multiple locations with the idea of franchising some day.

Vegan Cranberry Apple Crisp

Vegan Cranberry Apple Crisp

Are you trying to develop ways to expand your personal chef business? Vogt has a few tips for you:

  1. Give thought to your goals. Everybody’s business goals are different. Do you want to build something that self sustains or something where you’re your own boss? Think about it. There’s a big difference. For me, it’s something that self sustains.
  2. Get creative. Consider how you can do something different to market your business. Trade your skills with a gym to get in front of clients. You can’t be stingy with it. Build that sense of trust with people and they’ll tell everyone about you.
  3. Marketing is what it’s all about. You can have the best food in the world but if no one knows about you, nobody’s going to care.

Do you have a unique approach to running your personal chef business? Let us know if you need any help or advise!

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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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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