eprewitt

So many chef stories begin with childhood anecdotes of cooking with grandparents or just being born with a passion for food. For Silver Plum Personal Chef’s Elizabeth Prewitt, preparing food started simply as a post-college bargain with her parents. After graduating from Auburn University with an industrial design degree, she moved back to the family home in New Orleans. The deal was that they would buy the food if she would cook it–not necessarily because she had proven skills, but because they were working hard at their consulting business and didn’t get home till late. They needed someone to make dinner.

You could call that her first personal chef gig.

Smoked Trout & Endive Puree Canape

Smoked Trout & Endive Puree Canape

Prewitt was self taught, with the help of her parents’ subscriptions to Cooking Light and Cooks Illustrated (“I have no idea why they had these subscriptions,” she joked.). She muddled along with those and chefs from Food Network. Until Hurricane Katrina hit. Then she and her parents headed a bit north to Kentucky where her sister lived in Louisville. And it was then that she decided to attend culinary school at Louisville’s Sullivan University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2007 with a specialty in baking and pastry arts.

“I’ve always loved the arts and creative expression,” Prewitt explained. “Cooking is a way for me to be creative three times a day. I like doing things I’m good at and the more I cooked and baked the better I got. And, it’s a way to help people.”

During this time, she’d had a long-distance relationship with the man who would become her husband. He lived in Chicago, so eventually Prewitt moved there to be with him. She’d already done the restaurant shift thing, having worked at New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace and Louisville’s Proof on Main. “I had worked in enough restaurants to know I didn’t want to do that,” she recalled.

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Lime, & Cilantro

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Lime, & Cilantro

So, instead she took jobs that would give her steady daytime hours that would allow her to spend evenings and weekends with her husband. She worked for awhile with a jewelry designer, then as a receptionist at an architecture firm. But when the recession hit and she got laid off, she did some research on Sullivan University’s website and learned “that personal cheffing was a thing.” The university offered a degree in this but Prewitt thought, “shoot, I could do that.” She found APPCA through Sullivan, became a member, and launched her business in 2010.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Today, it’s thriving, thanks to a lot of word of mouth and a dynamic website filled with her beautiful food photography. She focuses on higher-end clientele, emphasizing high quality and customization. “I want to give my clients the experience of fine dining on their schedule in their home,” she said. She specializes in bi-weekly and monthly service and special events. “And I’ve been very successful doing that. I just stick with my strength.”

Prewitt also has a food and travel blog, onehundredeggs.com, which features recipes and her travel stories.

Cardamom Citrus Cake with Mango Jam and White Pepper Crunch

Cardamom Citrus Cake with Mango Jam and White Pepper Crunch

One thing that Prewitt feels has given her an advantage in her business–which is currently running a waiting list–is the fact that she’s a trained pastry chef and baker. “I definitely think it gives me an edge, especially for dinner parties. I can make an amazing dessert for a client that works with the savory meal I’ve created.”

Prewitt is sharing with us a simple holiday treat she makes for friends every year.

Crispy Chocolate-Mint Guys
From Elizabeth Prewitt, Silver Plum Personal Chef

Makes about 50
 
These could not be simpler.  They’re a fantastic way to use up any leftover melted chocolate, if you ever have any.  Take care when adding the peppermint oil, as one drop too much can make them taste unbearably minty.

10 ounces good-quality chocolate (not chocolate chips)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (not extract)
2 cups (about 4 ounces) puffed rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies), or a little more if needed

chocolate-guys-7

Chop the chocolate into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving about a third in larger 1 inch pieces (which will help temper the chocolate).  Place all the chocolate in a medium to large microwave-safe bowl.

chocolate-guys-10

Heat the chocolate in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.  Remove and stir (it will not be very melty yet).  Continue microwaving in 10 to 15 second increments, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is mostlymelted, but a few large lumps remain (this is important to help the chocolate temper properly; do not fully melt it in the microwave).

When chocolate is heated enough, remove from microwave and stir gently until all lumps melt.  This may take a minute or two.  It’s okay if all the chocolate doesn’t melt, just remove those lumps after stirring.

Stir in the peppermint oil in 1/16 teaspoon increments (it’s easiest to add such a small amount with a dropper or pipette), tasting after each addition, until chocolate has a noticeably minty flavor.  Add the oil until you’re okay with the flavor.  Note: peppermint oil is potent, and adding too much can make these taste unbearably minty, but you do want it to be a little too minty right now — just a little —to account for all the cereal you’re going to add.  (If you accidentally add too much oil, melt some more chocolate and stir it in.  Solved.)

chocolate-guys-12

Add the cereal and stir until fully coated, using extra cereal if necessary.  Spoon out onto a wax-paper-lined sheet tray in bite-sized mounds, a shy tablespoon or so per mound.

chocolate-guys-14

Let sit briefly, about 15 minutes.  If properly tempered, the chocolate will begin to firm up.  If not, place in refrigerator until set.  Even if they don’t look perfect, they’ll still taste the same.

chocolate-guys-15

 

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Prewitt

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.

Is Pinterest Right for You?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Author: Caron Golden , November 20, 2014

Pinterest

It seems every time we turn around there’s a new social media platform we’re told we must be active on. Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin. Instagram. Tumblr. For many of us, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. After all, we’re working chefs. Time is not on our side, especially if we also have a family or just want to have a life. So, it’s important to be strategic about where you spend your time and energy.

Recently, a discussion began on one of our forums about Pinterest. How does it work? Should I be on it? How will it help me? So, we thought it would be a good idea to offer some pointers so that if you decide you want to take it up, you can get started fairly painlessly.

Pinterest launched back in 2011 as a platform where users could upload, save, organize, and share images (and now other media, like videos and gifs) to unique pinboards (think of them as pages). These pinboards could be uniquely named by users to reflect a theme (great kitchen utensils, gluten-free food, cool teapots). The images can come from other users that you follow (you would repin them to a your own pinboard), from photos you upload from your computer or device, or websites you enjoy or manage yourself. Once they’re uploaded onto a pin, they’re shared with the rest of the Pinterest community, and in particular, people who follow your pins. In turn, you’ll see the images of those you follow.

Initially, this was thought of as a great way to organize personal projects. You want to renovate your kitchen? Then you could grab ideas for new lighting or counter tops, fabrics or dishware and have them in one place to get inspiration. People you knew or respected would pin something cool and you’d get great ideas that you might not otherwise have come across. The same applies to great vacation ideas, clothing and accessories, pets. You name it. But, as with everything these days, it’s also morphed into a way to promote brands.

So that’s where you can come in. As a personal chef you have a brand that you want to promote. Like Facebook and Twitter and other social media, this shouldn’t be all about you. But, along with creating boards that reflect your interests, you can also create boards that reflect your personal chef business. Are you a terrific food photographer? You can create a pinboard that features your food photography. Do you have a food blog? You can pin photos of your dishes that link back to the recipe on your blog (and generate more traffic). Do you cater parties? Take pictures and pin them to your catering pinboard.

You can also use Pinterest as a place to collect interesting recipes you want to try. Follow people/pinboards that reflect your interests and create a pinboard for repinning them. Perhaps a pinboard you call Paleo Treats. Or Everything About Grains. It’s limited only by your imagination.

SD Foodstuff Recipes

Our social media colleague Caron Golden has a blog called San Diego Foodstuff. So, of course, she has a pinboard called San Diego Foodstuff Recipes. Every week that she posts a new recipe she links it to that Pinterest board. How does she do it? Pinterest offers a “pin-it” button you can put on your browser.

Pinterest Pin It button1 copy

When you’re on a page that has an image you want to pin (including a photo of your recipe), simply click on the button and it will load a page with all the images on that page. Click on the image you want to pin. Then a new little window will open from Pinterest. You’ll select the pinboard you want to pin the image to from the pinboards you’ve created and then add a description. The link will already be included. That’s it. And, if you want, you can automatically connect that to Twitter so that your new pin appears on your Twitter feed.

Caron also has boards that reflect the variety of her food writing interests: SD Chefs and Their Dishes, San Diego Food Vendors, What I Want–And Can–Eat, Edible Reading, Curious and Compelling Food. And some non-food pinboards, like I Have a Purse Problem and Books to Curl Up With.

Don’t want everything to be public? Perhaps you have a project you’re working on that’s not for public consumption. No problem. You can choose to keep your board private.

You can also share pinboards on Facebook or Twitter or with individuals. You can like pins you find by clicking on the heart. You can repin images you like to your own boards by clicking on the red Pin It button that pops up when you hover your cursor over the image.

How will people find you? When you sign up, Pinterest can draw from your Facebook connections and enable you to connect with people who already know you. As you get more active, your pins will be repinned and others will see them. There can be a viral effect that’s very cool. You’ll also be informed via email of new people following you and have the opportunity to reciprocate.

Pinterest Help Center

Pinterest is evolving, but fortunately they do have tutorials you can click on that are helpful. Just click on your username on the upper right part of your homepage on Pinterest and then click on Visit Help Center. And, if you have any questions, you can post them here or on our forums.

******

Nicole Gaffney

If you’re watching Food Network Star, you know we’re rooting for our own Nicole Gaffney. And, she cruised through again! Well, perhaps cruising isn’t the best word. In this special Cut Throat Kitchen challenge, she and her fellow contestants were directed to make spaghetti and meatballs. Unfortunately, Nicole completely spaced on picking up a package of spaghetti during the shelf raiding, but she cleverly made up for that by making pan-fried breadcrumb gnocchi. Along the way, she got nabbed by fellow contestants who made her grind her meat with a spice grinder and then had her stomp grapes (don’t ask). But she did it and the judges passed her through to next week.

Speaking of next week, we’ll have a profile of Nicole in this space. Stay tuned!

Are you on Pinterest? If not, what’s keeping you from joining?

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.

APPCALogofinalhires

Look up professional organizations in the Encyclopedia of Associations and you’ll have to go through quite a long list–some 23,000 national and international organizations. If you have a job or a business, it’s likely there’s a professional society or trade association you can join.

But why? You pay an annual membership fee and what does it give you? Most experts agree on six basics:

  • Industry information and professional development opportunities
  • Networking opportunities
  • Professional credibility
  • Mentoring
  • Job listings
  • Industry best practices
  • Scholarships

Not all organizations offer everything, of course. You have to read up on the organization you’re considering and learn what they offer and if that’s meaningful for your goals. And, you should try to talk to those who are already members to learn about their experience with the group.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, as one of those groups, we’ve worked with thousands of members over the years. As the profession of personal chef has grown and evolved, we like to think our perspective has evolved with it (not to mention what we offer). And while it feels like everything you need to know about your profession is available to track down online–that joining a professional association is irrelevant these days–in fact, we feel that it’s more important than ever. All of us are searching for community, whether it’s via Facebook or what we used to call chat rooms (remember AOL?). All of us are looking for critical business information–how to deal with clients, how to add a new service, what are the latest trends. Having a group of people to call on who are part of a community, who are familiar with the issues you’re going through, and who can help you grow in your profession is invaluable. So is access to information. The question is, though, is the group you’re considering going to be the right fit?

We thought we’d help you figure out this path with some questions for you to ask yourself that should help you decide.

1. What do you wish to accomplish by joining a professional association?

We know that membership in a national or international trade association can give stability and credibility to a new business and elevate the professional impression of that business through the strength and reputation of the association. There’s also strength in numbers. A solid membership base means more opportunities to locate and interact with peers who can contribute to your success. At a basic level it shows you have a certain level of expertise. At a deeper level it also gives you connections to tap into.

2. What type of benefits and support are you looking for?

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Some people join an organization just to put it on their resume or website. It gives that immediate credibility we’ve already cited. But others appreciate a specific list of benefits. These could be access to an online knowledge base, materials like business forms that help with better managing the business, the opportunity to attend continuing education conferences or webinars, support groups via online forums, business visibility through a website or mobile app, professional coaching, access to professional insurance, software systems, website construction, links to industry information sites… The list can go on and on. You need to evaluate what’s most important to you.

photo 2

3. What are your expectations of the group?

You have to dig deep for this one–especially since this is one of those things that tends to depend on how much you’re willing to participate. Most association members will say that the more they put into a group by using its resources, participating in events, and interacting with other members the deep their level of satisfaction and the more positive the impact on their businesses and careers.

4. What are you willing to give back to increase the value of the organization?

Initially, your expectations will probably run to “what can they do for me?” But in all honesty, much of those benefits comes from other members who feel such a close connection with the organization and fellow members that they’re doing a lot of the giving. Do you need advice to clarify how to respond to an uncomfortable situation with a client? Certainly whoever is running the organization can respond, but it’s just as likely if you’re asking this on a forum that a fellow member will help–or two or three or more. Perhaps members in your community are teaching classes or mentoring colleagues. In time, one of those members could be you–if that’s important to you. And you know the old saying, the more you give, the more you receive.

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

We’ve had this experience with many of our members. Our forums are filled with people who are eager to ask questions and eager to offer help and advice. Our conferences are populated with members who offer to teach colleagues in their area of expertise. Many of these members have bonded over the years.

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

One business is A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef, whose chef/owners are Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson. The Lexington, Mass.-based duo is one of the longest-running personal chef businesses in the greater Boston area. They joined in May 1999 and, as Christine says, “Fifteen years later, when you look forward to renewing membership, that speaks volumes. We are home.”

Christine believes that even though she and Dennis aren’t “joiners” their APPCA membership has given them a wealth of support. “We’ve gotten business guidance in the form of education and support, peer support, access to special benefits like liability insurance, leaders who understand what we do and how it works.”

Christine and Dennis also have thrived on the opportunity APPCA has given them to share experiences so that “we can learn from each other. They’ve built a community to support its members–giving longtime members recognition and allowing them to help guide newer members. From minute one we were invited in to ask questions, compare notes, build the business, receive educational materials, get continuing education, keep up on business and food trends, and get to know colleagues.”

As an organization member, Christine advises people who are newly joining a professional group to make their presence known on forums, ask questions, and keep asking until you get the answer you need. “Get to know the people who do what you do! We’re an eclectic bunch but we really understand each other. Solitary business owners can be lonely. This is our office!”

Indeed, the pros call it networking–but with the right group, what you’re nurturing are long and warm friendships that are both professional and personal.

DSC01926

So, what is it you’re looking for? If by answering these questions you locate a professional trade association that meets your needs–and you join–you could be embarking on a life- and career-changing journey that gives you the opportunity constantly learn about your industry and how to improve your business. Even more, it will provide the means to meet, interact, support, and enjoy a whole new world of people who appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish and are looking for the same from you.

What are you looking for in a professional association? How can we best meet your needs?

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.

Natalie Lewis

APPCA member Natalie Lewis may have a raging sweet tooth, but she’s deep into savory dishes that she makes for both her personal chef and catering clients. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, with a diploma in French cuisine, the Cincinnati native is a dedicated traveler who has enjoyed enhancing her knowledge of regional and cultural fare. Early in her career she took that knowledge to jobs at upscale catering catering companies and restaurants. Her move to Napa gave her a greater appreciation for local, sustainable cooking and the art of viticulture. Today, she lives with her family in Northern New Jersey.

Natalie's Sweet Pea and Parmesan Salad with Burrata and Capiocola

Natalie’s Sweet Pea and Parmesan Salad with Burrata and Capiocola

Natalie found us like many others–with a desire to get out of the restaurant business she starting researching other career options in the food world and found APPCA through an Internet search. She joined us in 2010.

“The best benefit has been that people find me easily when they do Google searches for personal chefs,” she says. “The APPCA website is one of the first to come up. So I’ve gained a lot of clients this way. The forums are also great, so I can connect with other personal chefs and compare notes.”

Natalie's Crab and Shrimp Avocado Salad with Tomato Coulis

Natalie’s Crab and Shrimp Avocado Salad with Tomato Coulis

Among Lewis’s other passions is her food blog, Natalie’s Daily Crave, where she posts recipes–mostly original–and gorgeous food photography.

The recipe below originated from cocktail appetizers she makes for her catering clients. “I make little bite-size red potatoes stuffed with blue cheese and bacon,” she says. “They’re always a hit at parties so I thought a potato salad with a similar concept would be a crowd pleaser also.”

This salad is perfect for summer picnics and barbecues–and something you can adapt for your own catering clients!

Natalie Lewis' Bacon-and-Blue-Cheese-Potato-Salad-so-delish1

Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad
from Natalie Lewis

  • 3 lb red skin potatoes
  • 6 oz good blue cheese
  • 10-12 strips thick cut bacon
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • 3 heaping Tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • salt and pepper

Clean and scrub outside of potatoes. Cut potatoes in half and add potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until they are fork tender, but still firm.

Meanwhile cook the bacon and crumble the blue cheese with a fork. Next, make the dressing. In a small bowl add the mayonnaise, Dijon, vinegar, chives and dill. Mix well and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooked drain well. Roughly chop the potatoes into 1-inch chunks and while warm, pour the dressing over the potatoes. Mix well and add salt and pepper.

Add the crumbled bacon an blue cheese. Top with additional bacon, blue cheese and chopped chives. Can serve warm or cold. Store in fridge 2 days in advance.

*Photos courtesy of Natalie Lewis

—————–

Vegas pool party

So, here we are at week seven of Food Network Star, so thrilled that our own Nicole Gaffney is now one of six contestants and in Las Vegas for a series of new challenges. But, there’s always a wrench thrown into these competitions–and one came this week in the form of reinserting a contestant. Yes, Star Salvation has ended and into the competition returned… ta dah… Luca! Gorgeous Luca, whose English has been transformed.

So we’re back to seven contestant and have two related challenges. The first, taking place in the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace, was with judge/mentor Giada De Laurentiis, who gave each contestant 90 second to describe up to three dishes in a way that would make her hungry. Kudos to Emma, who was the only one to nail it with all three. Nicole, starting with a beef pho, used words like viscosity and unctuous–great in an essay for an English class, but not very appealing or understandable for the general public looking for something delicious to eat.

Moving on, this critical skill was to be on display again for the main challenge–a pool party at the hotel’s Venus pool. Each contestant had an hour to prepare a dish representing their culinary POV and then a minute to pitch their dish to the crowd. Each of the 100 party guests was given three tokens to spend on three dishes, plus they were given what Alton Brown calls the “dial of doom,” a marketing gadget used to measure each person’s reaction to each pitch.

Our Nicole decided to make a seared scallop wrapped in serrano ham, accompanied by romesco sauce. Just one problem. There was no serrano ham and Nicole decided to substitute prosciutto. But, she wasn’t exactly forthright about that in her pitch. “I’m guessing that no one at this party is going to be able to tell the difference between serrano ham and prosciutto,” Nicole said. Well, no one except the judges…

The good news? Alton and Giada liked her pitch, calling it concise and connected to her viewpoint. And, she was grace under pressure as a gust of wind almost swept away her dish during her pitch. But while both judges liked the flavors of her dish, Giada took her down on the misleading description. “I loved the scallops but not the serrano ham,” she said. “Don’t misguide them or they’ll never trust you again.”

It was a good lesson. Gotta make a substitute with an ingredient? Be upfront about it.

Nevertheless, Nicole made the first cut with the top four, with Lenny winning and doing a celebratory belly flop into the pool. Can’t wait to see what next week brings!

Have a favorite summer dish you make for clients? Please share!

 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.

Is Pinterest Right for You?

Filed under: , Author: Caron Golden , June 16, 2014

Pinterest

It seems every time we turn around there’s a new social media platform we’re told we must be active on. Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin. Instagram. Tumblr. For many of us, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. After all, we’re working chefs. Time is not on our side, especially if we also have a family or just want to have a life. So, it’s important to be strategic about where you spend your time and energy.

Recently, a discussion began on one of our forums about Pinterest. How does it work? Should I be on it? How will it help me? So, we thought it would be a good idea to offer some pointers so that if you decide you want to take it up, you can get started fairly painlessly.

Pinterest launched back in 2011 as a platform where users could upload, save, organize, and share images (and now other media, like videos and gifs) to unique pinboards (think of them as pages). These pinboards could be uniquely named by users to reflect a theme (great kitchen utensils, gluten-free food, cool teapots). The images can come from other users that you follow (you would repin them to a your own pinboard), from photos you upload from your computer or device, or websites you enjoy or manage yourself. Once they’re uploaded onto a pin, they’re shared with the rest of the Pinterest community, and in particular, people who follow your pins. In turn, you’ll see the images of those you follow.

Initially, this was thought of as a great way to organize personal projects. You want to renovate your kitchen? Then you could grab ideas for new lighting or counter tops, fabrics or dishware and have them in one place to get inspiration. People you knew or respected would pin something cool and you’d get great ideas that you might not otherwise have come across. The same applies to great vacation ideas, clothing and accessories, pets. You name it. But, as with everything these days, it’s also morphed into a way to promote brands.

So that’s where you can come in. As a personal chef you have a brand that you want to promote. Like Facebook and Twitter and other social media, this shouldn’t be all about you. But, along with creating boards that reflect your interests, you can also create boards that reflect your personal chef business. Are you a terrific food photographer? You can create a pinboard that features your food photography. Do you have a food blog? You can pin photos of your dishes that link back to the recipe on your blog (and generate more traffic). Do you cater parties? Take pictures and pin them to your catering pinboard.

You can also use Pinterest as a place to collect interesting recipes you want to try. Follow people/pinboards that reflect your interests and create a pinboard for repinning them. Perhaps a pinboard you call Paleo Treats. Or Everything About Grains. It’s limited only by your imagination.

SD Foodstuff Recipes

Our social media colleague Caron Golden has a blog called San Diego Foodstuff. So, of course, she has a pinboard called San Diego Foodstuff Recipes. Every week that she posts a new recipe she links it to that Pinterest board. How does she do it? Pinterest offers a “pin-it” button you can put on your browser.

Pinterest Pin It button1 copy

When you’re on a page that has an image you want to pin (including a photo of your recipe), simply click on the button and it will load a page with all the images on that page. Click on the image you want to pin. Then a new little window will open from Pinterest. You’ll select the pinboard you want to pin the image to from the pinboards you’ve created and then add a description. The link will already be included. That’s it. And, if you want, you can automatically connect that to Twitter so that your new pin appears on your Twitter feed.

Caron also has boards that reflect the variety of her food writing interests: SD Chefs and Their Dishes, San Diego Food Vendors, What I Want–And Can–Eat, Edible Reading, Curious and Compelling Food. And some non-food pinboards, like I Have a Purse Problem and Books to Curl Up With.

Don’t want everything to be public? Perhaps you have a project you’re working on that’s not for public consumption. No problem. You can choose to keep your board private.

You can also share pinboards on Facebook or Twitter or with individuals. You can like pins you find by clicking on the heart. You can repin images you like to your own boards by clicking on the red Pin It button that pops up when you hover your cursor over the image.

How will people find you? When you sign up, Pinterest can draw from your Facebook connections and enable you to connect with people who already know you. As you get more active, your pins will be repinned and others will see them. There can be a viral effect that’s very cool. You’ll also be informed via email of new people following you and have the opportunity to reciprocate.

Pinterest Help Center

Pinterest is evolving, but fortunately they do have tutorials you can click on that are helpful. Just click on your username on the upper right part of your homepage on Pinterest and then click on Visit Help Center. And, if you have any questions, you can post them here or on our forums.

******

Nicole Gaffney

If you’re watching Food Network Star, you know we’re rooting for our own Nicole Gaffney. And, she cruised through again! Well, perhaps cruising isn’t the best word. In this special Cut Throat Kitchen challenge, she and her fellow contestants were directed to make spaghetti and meatballs. Unfortunately, Nicole completely spaced on picking up a package of spaghetti during the shelf raiding, but she cleverly made up for that by making pan-fried breadcrumb gnocchi. Along the way, she got nabbed by fellow contestants who made her grind her meat with a spice grinder and then had her stomp grapes (don’t ask). But she did it and the judges passed her through to next week.

Speaking of next week, we’ll have a profile of Nicole in this space. Stay tuned!

Are you on Pinterest? If not, what’s keeping you from joining?

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.

Periodically we invite our members to contribute to this blog with their recipes or expertise. Several months ago Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food Personal Chef Service in Memphis gave us some wonderful tips on food photography. So when we saw her drop-dead gorgeous photo of these Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps we had to get the recipe–and share it with you. So, with thanks to Carol…

chef_borchardt

If your clients want to consume more vegetables and healthful foods, these Vietnamese-inspired beef lettuce wraps are a delicious, fun way for them to begin. A sweet-sour cucumber relish, gluten-free rice noodles, shredded carrots, fresh basil, and peanuts top a spicy beef filling wrapped in lettuce leaves, all accompanied by a tangy dipping sauce.

I like to think of recipes as a roadmap. A recipe provides the directions, but how I get to the final destination is up to me. So, inspired by a recipe from a magazine, I made numerous adjustments to it such as increasing the flavor and spiciness of the filling and adding elements such as the cucumber relish. At first glance, the recipe may look long and involved; however, it comes together fairly quickly. All the elements for a satisfying meal are here: protein, lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables, and starch in the form of rice noodles, so no extra sides are needed.

The filling can also be made with ground chicken, turkey, pork, and even tofu. Therefore the recipe is easily adapted to numerous dietary requirements. Using wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos will make the wraps entirely gluten-free.

There’s quite a bit of fresh ginger in this dish. I find grating ginger to be wasteful and time-consuming—so much stays on the grater. Instead, I like to peel and coarsely chop it, then process in a mini food processor with just enough water to create a puree. The puree is similar to prepared ginger products that are available in the produce section but without the additives. If you make too much puree, freeze the excess in a snack-size zipper top bag to use another time. It’s a great time-saver to have the ginger in your client’s freezer ready to go because they’ll ask for these wraps over and over!

By assembling each wrap as desired, kids of all ages can play with their food–and get away with it!

Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles and Cucumber Relish

VIETNAMESE BEEF LETTUCE WRAPS WITH RICE NOODLES AND CUCUMBER RELISH
Serves 4-6

DIPPING SAUCE
½ cup water
¼ cup soy sauce or tamari<
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

FILLING
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (or turkey, chicken or pork)<
2 tablespoons minced ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper

CUCUMBER RELISH
2 large English (hothouse) cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and light green part only, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

LETTUCE AND TOPPINGS
1 large head Boston lettuce (12 leaves)
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 cup shredded carrots
2 ounces rice noodles (maifun), soaked in hot water and drained well
½ cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
lime wedges

SAUCE: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.Divide into small bowls for each diner.

FILLING:Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Cook and stir onion and ginger 4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and beef, breaking into small pieces; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until beef is browned and no longer pink.Drain well. Stir in all remaining filling ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until evaporated, stirring occasionally.

RELISH: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Divide into small bowls for each diner.

TO ASSEMBLE: Spoon meat mixture onto lettuce leaves, top with basil, carrots, rice noodles, peanuts and lime wedges.Roll up and serve with dipping sauce.

Thanks, Carol! This looks and sounds delicious and like a perfect meal for clients!

*****

On a special note, we want to let you know that APPCA member Nicole Gaffney is a contestant on the new season of Food Network Star. Nicole, who runs her personal chef business in Atlantic City, New Jersey, did us proud on Sunday night’s debut episode. For that night’s Hollywood-style party competition she prepared sesame-crusted tuna with spicy soy glaze and introduced herself to the party guests as coming from a family of fishermen on the Jersey shore.

“I want to bring a splash of the ocean in to kitchens all over America and be your Food Network Star de la mar,” she said.

Nicole Gaffney

Judges Giada de Laurentis, Alton Brown, and Bobby Flay all found her pitch authentic, original, and compelling–and, more to the point, loved her tuna dish. She made it to the top three in the elimination segment. So, let’s root her on next Sunday! Team Nicole! We’re working on getting a chance to interview Nicole for à la minute.

What is your “Food Network Star winning recipe? How do you introduce yourself to clients?

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

 

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