Holidays—and Thanksgiving in particular—are supposed to be joyous occasions filled with family and friends. But clearly households across the U.S. have yet to figure out how to do it without having nervous breakdowns. Witness the scads of articles that appear this time of year with advice on how to cope. The title of this piece in Serious Eats sums it up: The Food Lab’s Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, 2013.

Funny, nowhere in the piece does it mention, “hire a personal chef.” And yet our clients are clamoring for help from us.

Now some of us have the ability to take time off. Chef Sarah Robinson of Forever Feasting in Concord, New Hampshire tells us, “I don’t work close to holidays. One of the reasons I love this job is making my own schedule and being able to make my family a priority. The work will be there when I’m well rested.”

Chef Carol Borchardt's Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Chef Carol Borchardt’s Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis also feels no compunction about turning down work to be with family, referring clients to other personal chefs who are okay with working on that day.

But it doesn’t mean she doesn’t help—she just does it ahead of time. And, interestingly, she says that most of her client requests around the holiday are for things other than the traditional Thanksgiving meal. “They’re brunch items to have while their guests are in town and appetizers. A few request side dishes but because I’m doing them ahead they have to be freezer friendly.”

Every personal chef business is unique, and each of us has to determine whether or not to offer holiday service, but before you turn down requests, here are some options for how to help clients and still enjoy a holiday of your own:

  • Offer a complete holiday meal featuring a glazed stuffed turkey or goose, side dishes, and dessert—delivered to the client’s home along with specific instructions for the morning of the holiday for roasting, warming, and serving. Of course, if you want to take on more work, you can offer to prep and serve the meal.
  • Offer your client support and assistance with meal planning, shopping, and prepping, or prepare side dishes in advance, like Carol does, that can be defrosted, heated, and served on the day of the holiday.
  • Create a limited menu of desserts and appetizers ahead of time that you can present to clients. This should offer choices that allow you some control and them some variety.

For many years I would write a letter to all of my clients, thanking them for allowing me to serve them during the past year and offering them a list of items they may choose to order in advance to enhance their holiday` entertaining experience.  Orders were to be placed by November 15th for delivery on November 22nd.

The selections ranged from selected appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts that were prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen and delivered to the client’s home in advance of the holiday to be warmed and served at the client’s convenience so the client could entertain drop in guests or invite friends and family over for a celebration.

Chef Suzy Brown's roasted Thanksgiving goose

Chef Suzy Brown’s roasted Thanksgiving goose

Ten flavors of cookie dough were also offered in 24-ounce rolled logs for both Thanksgiving and Christmas which could be sliced and baked by the client for that holiday cookie aroma throughout the house or delivered baked off and plated.

Service is the backbone of the personal chef industry and those of us who operate individual personal chef businesses are committed to accommodating our clients. The trick is becoming adept at doing so while maintaining a strong commitment spending time with our own families on important holidays.

And, in that spirit, I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving!

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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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