We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this post by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine, who owns the business with partner Dennis Nosko, posted a picture of the cake on Facebook so I had to ask her for the recipe and the backstory. She, of course, provided both.

Nothing sets the tone of a theme party more than an original creation made for a specific crowd…Designing a dessert just for your client is appreciated and remembered.

Cocktail theme-based desserts allow you flavor layers and combinations you may not have thought about. Dissect the components and you can come up with a unique ice cream, cake, mousse, or sauce.

We were lucky enough to get a request from a woman wanting to celebrate her husband and his 30th birthday with an “End Of The 20’s,” party, with theme dress and décor. Her husband’s family happens to own a vacation home in a town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, chock full of period furniture, antique Spode china, etched crystal goblets, sterling service, and flutes that go back several generations. The hosts and guests showed up in tuxedos and evening gowns. They sipped cocktails and champagne and listened to music from the Gilded Age.

After I got her email requesting the theme, I had to plunge into Google searches for food of the Roaring Twenties and what was popular. There were a few references to The Great Gatsby so I narrowed the search and two themes came up:

Lemon Poundcake/Tea Cakes

Mint Juleps

In Fitzgerald’s classic, Nick Carraway had hosted a tea for Gatsby and Daisy, for which he served 12 lemon cakes. Daisy Buchanan, being from Louisville, loved a mint julep. How to tie the two together?

The dessert we created was a lemon zest and buttermilk pound cake, served with lemon curd mascarpone cream, a mint julep and honey syrup with Knob Creek bourbon, and fresh whipped cream, topped with candied lemon peel.

I started with a classic lemon pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart and tweaked it slightly to add more lemon and more salt, with salted butter.

We call this Jay’s Gatsby….
Lemon Pound Cake
Yield: Each cake serves six

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
Zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour three 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.
    2. In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
    3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    4. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth
    5. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly). Cool 15 minutes in pan. Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool completely.

Note: The cakes can be frozen to serve later.

Lemon Curd Mascarpone Cream

1 cup fresh lemon curd
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend well with a hand mixer until fully incorporated and chill until dessert assembly.

Mint Julep Syrup With Lemon & Knob Creek

2 cups water
1 cup bourbon (we used Knob Creek)
½ cup unbleached cane sugar
½ cup dark raw honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of mint leaves, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons whole butter
1 large bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. In a large sauce pan, add the first 6 ingredients over medium heat and reduce to half. Strain out mint leaves and return to low burner. Add more lemon or honey to taste.
  2. Whisk in the butter and chopped mint into the sauce. Keep warm, not hot.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into slices about ¾-1 inch thick.
  2. On a dessert plate, fill the recessed area with mint julep syrup. The cake will absorb most of the liquid.
  3. Place the cake one side down in the syrup.
  4. Top the cake with 2 T of the lemon curd mascarpone, spreading it evenly.
  5. Add syrup to the bottom of the plate.
  6. Top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  7. Garnish with fresh mint and/or candied lemon peel.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the dinner we served included Baby Crab Cakes with Cajun Remoulade and a Small Cheese Plate to start. We made a Chilled Fresh Pea Soup with Rosemary Cream, followed by Swordfish with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, and Garlic accompanied by Roast Baby Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach with Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Corn.

Have you had to create a theme-based menu for catering a client party? How did you go about it?

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!

All too often on our private forums and our Facebook pages, we hear from chefs about sketchy and downright fraudulent communications they receive that seemingly inquire about personal chef services. In reality, these missives are almost always phishing scams.

Here’s a typical one that several chefs around the country received about five years ago:

Hello,
I’m in need of a professional chef to handle surprise birthday party i’m planning for my Husband upon our return from Quito, Ecuador. We’re here right now on vacation and my husband will be turning 45 on 28th of this month while our return is slated for 27th but we’re looking at planning the party between 28th Nov and 8th Dec. As you would see, there’s hardly any time for me to make all the plans myself so i want to hire a professional chef on standy for that day who would cater for at least 20 friends/family members for a sit down dinner party style. Kindly respond back to let me know how much you charge and if you’re able to accept payment in form of check so we can finalize plans long before our return.
Thanks.
(Tee Marcy)

As member April Lee of Tastefully Yours explained, these phishing scams have many things in common, “most noticeably is poor English, poor grammar or improper use of capital letters and punctuation (although I’ve noticed that the scam emails have gotten a little better about this over the years).”

She added that the context of scams also follow certain themes:

  • Vacationing in “fill-in-the-blank” area with family and needing meals for everyone for one to two weeks (or more)
  • Need to throw a surprise party/dinner with little advance notice, but inquirer is impossible to contact directly via telephone (because s/he is in the military and overseas, or s/he is deaf and doesn’t communicate by telephone) and they cannot give a physical address of the venue
  • Wanting to hire you for the event without even talking to you
  • Requesting a bizarre menu, ranging from 100 wrapped chicken salad sandwiches to everything that’s listed on a deli menu somewhere
  • Offering to send a driver to pick up the food and/or deliver a check. Many times they offer to send you a big check and will ask you to pay the driver when they get there.

Seasoned email recipients who have endured their fair share of banking requests from Nigerian princes will immediately see that these emails that are too good to be true are. But all too often personal chef newbies, eager for new gigs, are vulnerable to these scams. And, as Lee pointed out, they can stand to lose thousands of dollars to rip-off artists.

How do they do it? APPCA Executive Director Candy Wallace explained that once they lure you with the full service for an extended time, ask you to submit menu plans, and basically befriend you, they then go for the close.

“What they want is the chef’s banking information so they can clean out the chef’s account,” Candy said. And, she added, while that letter above is typical, they are growing more sophisticated.

“You could at one time spot these right off the bat because the scammers use of the English language was so bad, or their lack of knowledge of food was also a tip,” she said, “but they have done their homework and present a much more believable scenario.”

So, how do you protect yourself?

Christine Robinson, who with partner Dennis Nosko, owns A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service, suggests several tactics: “Google the person contacting you; ask questions, pointed questions; use common sense; and, if you doubt what is sent, use the APPCA Forums, ask, run it past people you know.”

Candy has offered some tips of her own on our forums:

  • Watch out for “phishy” emails. The most common form of phishing is emails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization, or government agency. The sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed, an order for something has been placed in your name, or your information has been lost because of a computer problem. Another tactic phishers use is to say they’re from the fraud departments of well-known companies and ask to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft! In one case, a phisher claimed to be from a state lottery commission and requested people’s banking information to deposit their “winnings” in their accounts.
  • Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that looks just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. If you follow the instructions and enter your personal information on the Web site, you’ll deliver it directly into the hands of identity thieves. To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call it directly or go to its Web site (use a search engine to find it).
  • Beware of “pharming.” In this latest version of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you’re taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
  • Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company’s, organization’s, or agency’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you against pharming and other techniques that phishers use. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer – which is especially important if you have a broadband connection because your computer is open to the Internet whenever it’s turned on. Look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches that manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems. Go to www.onguardonline.gov and www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to keep your computer secure.Also check out Microsoft Phishing Info page: http://www.microsoft.com/secur…ishing-symptoms.aspx
  • Only open email attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain. Even if the messages look like they came from people you know, they could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal your personal information.

You can report internet scams to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and to Consumer Fraud Reporting:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

Oh, and are you tempted to reply with a scathing little letter of your own? Yeah, it’s almost irresistible to give them a taste of their own medicine and some of our chefs have responded with rather brilliant responses. But a word of warning. Often these scammers will send emails to test if the email address is live (not unlike those annoying telemarketing calls you also get). Don’t respond, just trash the email and move on in your life.

But not before checking in on our Forum. Yes, we have one specifically dealing with Internet frauds issues. If you’re an APPCA member, this is a benefit you should take advantage of.

Have you gotten fraudulent, phishing emails? How did you handle it?

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!

Dennis and Christine

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of Boston’s A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have long focused on creating healthy meals for their Massachusetts clients. That includes working with families living with dementia. As the population ages and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, Vascular dementia, and others are on the rise, personal chefs like Christine and Dennis can provide a foundation for enabling patients to stay healthy and stay home longer, while also helping caregivers, who live with the stress and anxiety of constantly caring for a declining spouse or parent, with nutritious meals and one less responsibility.

We asked Christine and Dennis to share their experience of serving clients with dementia and their advice is spot on.

Over the years we have had several clients with memory impairment. One of the main concerns of the family is generally how to keep a loved one in their own home for as long as possible, as long as the care level is up to par. 

Food and proper nutrition is a huge component in a dementia patient’s quality of life. Balanced meals can allow physical and emotional health to improve. That’s where personal chefs come in. But it is NOT an easy task and it may not be for you. However, for those who feel up to the challenge, you can make a huge difference in the life of a family dealing with dementia. 

When clients contact us to work with their family members with dementia, it is usually the children, hoping to keep their parents in their own home. Many times they’re out of state and this can pose some logistical questions. You need to figure out who is the “point” person and make one source of contact so that there is less confusion. We find that there is usually a family member who has good information about the physical health of the actual client and that is generally the person with whom you want to deal.

We always try to make the food all about the client recipient, following any dietary restrictions but making food they seem to enjoy. Keeping them fed is most important.

Not every job works out. You can have a spouse who does not want the service, or the person with dementia does not want other people around. In these cases, you have to evaluate if you are doing more harm than good. While there is no clear cut answer for every case, you want to err on the side of what will keep the client the happiest, even if it means ending the cooking relationship, recommending someone else, or even cooking at a close relative’s home for them to deliver.

Here’s what we recommend when taking on a family with a member who has dementia:

1) Establish whether another person coming into the home is going to be a benefit or a distraction. In-home meal service can either be a huge help or a stranger in the house can cause the family member with dementia extra stress…find out how they would respond. Many times a new person in the mix doing something different can be a welcome thing…but don’t be afraid to ask up front. Also test the waters to make sure how the other family members living in the house, usually a spouse, are going to feel about more help…the dignity and wishes of both parties are equally important.

2) Conduct a thorough client assessment, hopefully in person, and with a caregiver or family member other than the spouse present. Learn what type of dementia the loved one has–it could be Alzheimer’s, but it could also be any number of other types of dementia, which have different symptoms and progression. You can learn more about them on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Find out about medications and other health conditions that can be helped or exacerbated by certain foods. Cranberry juice, leafy greens, and flaxseed, for instance, do not go well with coumadin and other blood thinners. Make sure that any family members seeking your service are provided with copies of the assessment. Seeds, nuts, gassy vegetables, onions, and acidic foods should be explored on paper and in reality. Repeat favorites and get rid of textures that are not working. As the disease progresses and medications change, you will have to revisit this to make adjustments. 

3) Pay close attention to textures and tastes. Something as simple as a blueberry skin can be a distraction and texture issue for a patient. Have any caregivers/family members keep track of favorite items, but especially items that are not being eaten. Sometimes a switch from a ground meat to a solid piece can make all the difference. Sometimes, as the disease progresses swallowing becomes more difficult and textures become crucial so patients don’t aspirate food. But each person is different. Keep notes and be amenable to changes. This is not a time to be the creative chef, but to listen closely to a client’s needs.

4) Pay attention to the spouse and his/her likes and dislikes. Many times the person without dementia is the lesser focus. They are going through a difficult time seeing the love of their life slip into unknown territory. Ask about their favorites. Make a treat just for them. Talk to them. So much conversation is focused on the patient that the other person can feel left out, especially if the kids are spearheading the need for the personal chef. Everyone counts and should be part of the experience.

5) Expect that these cook dates will probably take extra time. Plan for it and expect to talk. Take advantage of the moments of lucidity and talk to the client about stories and what they may suddenly be remembering. Be prepared for the opposite as well, when they ask the same question repeatedly or talk to you as if you were a family member no longer with them. Ask their caregiver the best way to respond. Often, it’s just to go along with them and their conversation without correcting them.

6) Don’t try to become the savior. At the stage you are entering their lives, there is rarely a turnaround and no special meatloaf or spice combo is going to be the cure all. Enhance for nutrients where you can, and ask the family if there are any holistic things they want to try, such as cooking with coconut oil, or grassfed meats. As long as it does no harm, take their lead.

7) Expect that you will cry after more than one cook date.

8) Expect that you will get some great, funny, wonderful stories when they talk to you.

9) Don’t be offended by anything that the client may say to you. Dementia works in odd ways and people who would never use coarse language can come up with some doozies. It is part of the condition and please realize it is NOT directed at you.

10) Be flexible and compassionate. Anticipate that things can change on a daily basis and you may be making more or less food as needs fluctuate.

This is a hard job, not for everyone. But cooking for these families can be the most rewarding job. You really can make a difference but don’t enter into it without realizing that a part of your heart will forever hold these families as very dear.

Have you been cooking for clients with dementia? What has your experience been?

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!