As a national organization APPCA has members serving clients across the country. We know that the  coronavirus has hit different regions with different intensity over the past five months. That makes it challenging to determine on a national level what the appropriate approach is for serving clients–beyond CDC recommendations and ServSafe guidance. Each member is bound to be guided by local and state health regulations. For some, there’s more flexibility due to fewer outbreaks. For others, there may not be any real options in a total shutdown.

It’s a confusing time.

We’re seeing a variety of approaches being taken by personal chefs. While there are some who just don’t feel comfortable going into other people’s kitchens Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Services in Boston are going full speed ahead:

“We are cooking for a select number of clients and have maintained the same routine since March, with a couple of add-ons,” says Christine. “We cook in their homes and have established a ‘safety plan’ for each household…we dress out of the dryer, we are masked and carry sanitizers, cleaners, and just got a new UV wand…depending on the house we use their cookware or ours, or a combo…we maintain distancing, take our temps several times a day and have remained healthy…our habits were formed early in the pandemic, and we have modified and enhanced them as needed…some clients have not come back yet, a couple have, and we have added new people…we clean everything when we arrive and again when we leave…honestly, I like the routine and the attention to detail…we spend most of our downtime at home and do not venture out where crowds may be, and have eaten at home since March 15th except for three take outs from Chipotle…so far so good but we are not letting our guard down…”

Another chef is choosing to cook at his home for clients and then making a delivery at the client’s front door. This chef keeps the food in an ice chest and texts the client to make sure they’re home before leaving.

Similarly, we have heard from a chef who is making “to go” meals for clients from a commercial kitchen.

Another potential piece to puzzle out is payment. Anyone who ventures out to shop for food or other provisions knows that retailers prefer not to take cash or checks these days. Likewise, you are probably not eager to take anything other than virtual payments. Here’s a link to a site called Clockify, which lists 16 payment methods for small businesses, along with the features that they say are important, including transaction fees, processing times, payment methods, and transfer limits.

As difficult as this year has been, you all know how important you are to your clients. In some cases, you’re probably a lifeline to normalcy–something we’re all seeking these days. And you’re providing people with exactly what they need: delicious, healthy food that is an important factor in fending off disease. Perhaps, like Christine adds, you’re even doing a little bit extra for your clients.

“We go out of our way with the precautions but try to normalize this unfathomable situation as much as possible for our clients with humor and sensitivity…we have a standing rule with all clients that we are out in the stores more often than they are and are happy to pick stuff up, so have running lists with most of them as we know the local stores really well and can be in and out quickly…”

Who wouldn’t appreciate that!

Are you serving clients in your region? How are you going 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!

Breakfast tacos for dinner! Some chorizo with carrots mushrooms and chard, avocado, red onion, backyard eggs: Contributed by The Quarantined Kitchen member Trish Watlington

One of the phenomena that the pandemic has brought to social media is the rise of sharing in the quarantine kitchen. In fact, a private group I joined when it launched last March on Facebook is called The Quarantined Kitchen. Already it has 2.3 thousand members.

It’s by no means the only one. Another Facebook Group, Quarantine Meals, is even larger. Enormous, in fact, since it’s a public group, with 45.2 thousand members.

And, then there’s the more intimate private Facebook culinary lockdown group launched by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston. She calls her group ChefDemic. It  currently has 520 members.

What the three have in common is that members are encouraged to share photos and videos of the foods they’re preparing, share recipes, ask questions, and generally be a culinary gathering place. Or as Jenn Felmley, a San Diego chef who started The Quarantined Kitchen said, “My goal is to make this an online kitchen where everyone can gather.”

For Robinson, there was also a practical issue that needed solving.

“As things closed down for the pandemic emergency, we found ourselves looking in our freezers and pantries wondering what runs on grocery stores would look like, the panic buying,” she explains. “On a whim I turned to social media and created a Facebook group, ChefDemic. All the people included in the initial invitation seemed to like the name and the idea. The premise was to have a place where friends could come on and say, ‘Hey? I have such and such and no idea how to cook it, but it was all the store had.’ We also wanted to concentrate on what people had at hand in their homes and how they could utilize those items to minimize food waste.”

Initially Robinson thought there would be 20 to 40 people talking back and forth about shredded pork over some odd grain they found and what to do with half a bag of greens. What happened, along with that, she saw, was the building of a supportive community, free from virus talk and politics, dealing only with the food they were making at home, sharing ideas, photos, troubleshooting.

“Dennis [her partner] and I started some short, informative videos, posted what we were eating at home, a few instructions on cuts of meat and freezing. After a week or two, we had people asking to add friends. Then we noticed that conversations were taking place between members who were jumping in to help others with questions. Talk about a wealth of talent and information.

“I have always despised the term, ‘safe place,'” says Robinson, “but during this whole time I have embraced it as we have provided a safe place for over 500 friends and family members, including every level of talent out there, and for ourselves. And the posts have been creative, funny, supportive, informative, and people have stuck to the rules. I have received many private thank you notes via text and Messenger which confirms that there are people craving distraction.”

Most recently on ChefDemic a group member was wondering what to do with quail eggs–and four days later triumphantly posted several photos of her Angus burger with edam cheese, quail eggs, tomatoes, butter lettuce, salt and pepper on toasted, sprouted rye. There are photos of seared polenta cake, pulled pork, and coleslaw; photos of fish markets; photos of chicken and mushroom asparagus crepes with a mushroom dill sauce; shrimp zoodle pad thai; and Bibimgooksu (Korean Cold Mixed Noodles)–and so much more.

And here’s where you can find ChefDemic’s YouTube channel.

 

I know a lot of the folks who post on The Quarantined Kitchen and find myself posting on it pretty regularly. It’s filled with chefs and food writers, and, as you’d expect, a lot of dedicated home cooks–many of whom share dishes they’ve made with food they’ve grown.

To join the private groups, simply head over to the group page and request to join. Once you’re a member you can also invite your friends. These are wonderfully quirky groups and places where you can not just show off your own creations, but get inspired by what others are making and learn how they do it–all while getting out of your head a bit if you’re still in lockdown at home.

Do you belong to a Facebook culinary group? What have you gotten out of 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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Last week APPCA member and friend Christine Robinson wrote a Facebook post that articulated what so many of us are feeling these days–boredom with the routine at home, irritability with the constraints, and yet a total understanding that it was all necessary. So, I asked Christine who, with her partner Dennis Nosko, operates A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston, Massachusetts, if she’d like a different challenge, guest writing a post for her fellow personal chefs. I’m so glad she embraced this because what she wrote below is so meaningful!

I had heard from a lifelong friend sometime in mid January that she was concerned about this virus popping up in China and had I heard. I researched the rumblings and decided that it would be a good idea to just prepare a little bit (anyone knows my least little bit is over the top) because we all know when you prepare and over plan, nothing happens.

Spanish-Style Chicken Thighs

Needless to say, here we are. We have been in business for 20 years and have seen downturns, trends, situations, busy times, lean times, but everything always balanced out. This, this is one for the history books as we navigate the biggest challenge our world has faced in recent history.

When everything started hitting we made sure to let clients know how vigilant we were and that we understood their fears. We have had about five clients hang on for the duration, all people who stay at home under most circumstances, have some special needs, and have spacious enough homes that we can practice safe distancing and bring in as few items as possible. Cleaning frantically has become the norm and taking our temperatures and announcing numbers has become second nature. We keep in touch with other clients who have taken this time off to email, trade some recipes and just check in with no mention of business concerns, rather human concerns. We love our people and want to see everyone on the other side.

Right now is the time for our best ideas to be put forth, to brainstorm, to get creative.

I started a Facebook page almost a month ago called ChefDemic—we are just over 250 members. We became concerned with people’s abilities to cook from what they had available in their freezers and pantries, and also wanted to address food waste and using what you have on hand. Our intent is to amp up on demo videos (our son bought us a tripod to use for videos) and to move over to a YouTube platform and continue this. The sense of community on the page is very strong and we have regular posts from members showing off their own creations. When we have not been available to offer advice in a timely manner, 10 odd people will address a member’s concern. Much more than the food advice, is the distraction, the humor, and the support for our members has built a wonderful, creative group.

Mixed Vegetable with Cabbage, Peppers, and Broccolini

This has also spurred talk of online cooking class parties or instruction.

We are taking this time at home to rest our minds, deal with our own health, get out and walk, and allow ourselves to fear the uncertainties, while taking some time to regroup mentally. Menus for clients are being revamped, we are cooking for ourselves, concentrating on balanced meals rooted in foods that boost immunity. I have managed to maintain a 20-pound weight loss I started on shortly after my surgery at the end of October and so has Dennis. Documenting this journey could be another direction we explore.

Filling for Burrito Bowl with Bison and Spinach

As far as the future, our plans are to focus on the very cornerstone of the personal chef industry, something we all know, to sense and execute customized food in the safety of the client’s home with attention to quality personally managed for them. I see a trend of gatherings being more special and possibly more frequent as we are all learning to celebrate the little things, as no one wants to miss out on any moment with loved ones  ever again. I envision a time when the RSVP lists are going to be packed with ‘YES! We will be theres,” and fewer, “Can’t make its.” While that may take time, we are willing to rework our model to fit the client needs.

Be well and be safe. You are our people and we love you, too.

How are you coping with sheltering at home. How are you thinking about adjusting your business for the future?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

 

Ask a personal chef for his or her pet peeve and the answer may just be the irritation of people calling them caterers.

“It’s over 20 years in and people still refer to me as a caterer,” said longtime APPCA member Phyllis Segura. “For 20 years I’ve been correcting them. A personal chef, a private chef, is not a caterer.”

“Happens to me too,” said Jodi Giroux. “Same person over and over, ‘How’s your catering business?’ My same response, ‘My personal chef business is going well, thanks!’ I may/may not give another explanation of the difference. Also, people refer me as a caterer on the local Advice site pages. STOP…I’m a personal chef! I’ll just add my website.”

If you’re a personal chef and this aggravates you, too, maybe we should have some definitions at the ready. You, as a personal chef, prepare custom meals for clients in their homes or in a rental kitchen for them to reheat and enjoy throughout the week or whatever your arrangement is. You often create menus tailored for specific needs–from cancer diets, anti-inflammatory diets, low fat or gluten free diets to cardio, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of you are trained dietitians or nutritionists. Others of you have developed an area of specialization. But the word “personal” is there for a reason.

Catering may be a service under your personal chef umbrella but it’s altogether different. It’s preparing food and drink for a one-time event.

As chef Renee DuBose explained, “Catering is a whole other beast that requires offsite kitchens, special licenses, permits, and a crew of many talents. Plus, you get into the rental arena for tables, dinnerware, etc. You need multiple contracts…..who’s liable for specific situations, set up, break down, clean up, trash hauling, the list goes on. It is a much more intense job, but you also get volume which can balance costs.

“My mind gets all tangled up thinking about it all,” she added. “I don’t think people, in general, really take into consideration all the things needed to make a large party gig happen. I have much respect for caterers, but personally am not equipped to handle it as a solo chef.”

Of course, not all catered events are massive. Perhaps you have a personal chef client who wants you to cater a special anniversary dinner party or a holiday brunch. We have members who include that kind of service, along with others, such as teaching cooking classes.

APPCA members Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have actually come up with a way to clarify the distinctions between their personal cheffing and in-home catering.

“Most view caterers as those who service parties or dinners rather than those who prepare off-site and finish when they arrive so we say we cater small parties,” said Nosko. “I tell them we are not full-service caterers and explain. We also send out IHC How it Works.”

He explained that the IHC is a word document they send out to people along with their menus. “We have one document designed for our personal chef side and another for our In Home Catering. The IHC How it Works document will let them know about a deposit… what part of the process that we do and what is the responsibility of the client. After this, we will direct clients to rental companies and waiter/bartender service providers if necessary.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Of course, Robinson often has to address a very different irritating issue: sexist assumptions.

“Dennis and I are partners in life and in business ….there are still those who hire us who assume I am the assistant and I have heard many people say in 20 years, ‘Thank you Chef Dennis….and Christine….,'” she said.

She’s not the only one. “happens to me ALL the time!,” said Carol Crikelair Taradyna of The Occasional Chefs. “My new husband and I just laugh now. I started the business 12 years ago down here in Forida. He joined me a few years back when we first met. I could be at a job for hours. He walks in and they swarm all over him saying, ‘Hello, Chef!'”

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

As member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service joked about the personal chef versus caterer confusion, “I get it! But, hey… we could be called worse!”

Chefs, have people referred to you as a caterer? What’s your response?

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!

Part tradition, part cliché, New Year’s resolutions are inescapable. We vow to eat healthier, exercise, and in general seek self-improvement–and often lapse. But there’s something cleansing, optimistic, and inspiring about resolutions. And they help guide us to better decisions–whether personally or professionally.

In that spirit, we asked several APPCA members for their resolutions. And what we got back is indeed inspiring. We hope you’ll read these thoughtful remarks, then weigh your plans for 2018 and how you can make your life richer, happier, and more meaningful.

Anne Blankenship
Designed Cuisine

It has been a good year for me and it is SO ironic that when I finally get my business to where I want it, I’m having to slow down.  Very happy with my current client base and have room for 1 more but have a lot to consider.

My knees have gotten pretty bad and I found out this summer that I will have to have BOTH knees replaced when the time comes.  That will be April, 2019, after I receive Medicare.  Simply waiting for that to happen right now and trying to get by as best I can.  What’s so funny to me is that I can stand and prep/cook for 4-5 hours but trying to get off a curb is another story!

Therefore, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to start making plans for when I have to slow down.  I have a colleague/good friend who is interested in the personal chef business and is an outstanding cook.  We went to the same culinary school (although at different times) & have worked together in catering over the years.  So my resolution is to help her really improve her business Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as her LinkedIn profile.  I’m going to work with her on creating a Yelp business page and Google as well.  Short of creating a website for her, I am going to try and help increase traffic for her so that she can grow her business.  I refer a lot of inquiries to her that are for parties, since I only do up to 20 people.  (That was a big decision this year).

Since I am interested in teaching when I retire (March, 2020) I worked on that this year (wrote that article for A La Minute for you about that) and am keeping in touch with the community college where I plan to teach.  In addition, I signed up to help the American Culinary Federation with a project for exam questions for Certified Culinarians (I just did my due diligence this year to keep my certification).  I have done the paperwork part and will be participating in a webinar in January to help with that project.  This was a good refresher for me on the basics and is helpful for me if I am going to teach in the future.

I will have to take a break for rehab when I get the knees fixed in 2019, then hopefully back to my clients for 6  months and then retirement in March, 2020.  So helping to get my friend’s business strengthened and keeping up with continuing education are going to be on the front burner for me next year.

Javier Fuertes
The DinnerMaker

I have already started on some “resolutions”.   I have a newer, updated web site that I need to really concentrate on more for 2018 and get it to where it needs to be. Increase more traffic to it. Perhaps start a blog for it (Ohh Carol, I need some help…..  haha!)

Overall, I did get complacent in recent years with the business and, well, 2018 will be a year to get back to where I was a few years ago.

Besides that, I have my fitness side of business to work on some more. I am putting an income figure as a goal for that. A 3 month , a 6 month, and by next year.

Personal goals…. to get back to running a full marathon. I am currently committed to running the Marine Corps Marathon next October. With all the injuries I had this 2017, I can really use a good, healthy injury- free 2018.

Nancy Cordi
Mediterrania Chef Services

In 2018, I am looking forward to attending the Food and Wine festival in Aspen and New York as well as graduate from Escoffier International Culinary Academy! Hope you have a prosperous 2018!

Gloria Bakst
Chef Gloria B

My resolutions for this year are to give more speaking engagements and to do more consulting. I have been honored to speak/consult at the National Institutes of Health in May of 2018  for a rare form of cancer. It is their annual conference and will be in Maryland for the weekend. I’m coordinating with the director of the program and the chef at the conference a healthy food menu (hearty appetizers)with food stations all having cancer-friendly foods. I will also be doing individual consulting with some of the guests regarding their food concerns.  I will be doing a food demonstration  too.  There will be international guests, doctors, and patients with this form of cancer attending.  I’m very excited about doing this. It is the direction I’d like to move at this stage in my life. I am still happily cooking meals for my clients who have health issues. But as we get older standing on our feet all day is more challenging to our bodies!

April Lee
Tastefully Yours, Personal Chef Services

Resolutions: (1) To honor and guard private, sacred space/time for my Self and keep firm boundaries regarding time spent between my personal and business lives. (2) To expand the reach of the charitable side of my business, the Stone Soup Project which prepares and delivers free weekly meals to food-insecure seniors and families (by cutting back the number of regular meal service clients I have), and (3) To get to bed before 1 or 2 a.m. every night! (The last one will be the hardest to accomplish.)

Context: This year was particularly bad for my family as my 14-year old nephew died in January, having suffered more than 3 years of continuous hospitalization for a very aggressive form of childhood leukemia. My father was diagnosed in late July with terminal cancer; my mother suffered a stroke 10 days later (and is still disabled, in rehab, with no more insurance extensions after Dec. 24th); my father died in October, and here we are.

Life goes on. Life is sad, and life is sweet. Life is difficult and frustrating, and life is filled with blessings. There will always be fragrant herbs and happy flowers in my garden. There will always be good friends along with good food and wine to accompany great laughter … and tears. There will always be the hungry to feed, desperate lives that we can touch, because we can. Because we can, and isn’t that fantastic?

Happy new year to all. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to explore your passions and dreams.

Carol Borchardt
A Thought for Food and From a Chef’s Kitchen

I don’t plan to do very many things where my personal chef business is concerned. After almost 16 years, I’ve got it down pretty good. However, I’ll be continuing to work heavily on my blog. The passive income I’m receiving just because people are viewing my blog is pretty lovely.

Suzy Brown
the Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

At the end of the year I will become a Certified Essential Oils Coach. With that my New Years resolution is I am starting to build the nutrition leg of my business.

The nutrition business will be called Thyme to Heal. I will be teaching classes and working with people one on one, showing them how to incorporate essential oils into their culinary creations and live a healthier life.

Shelbie Wassel
Shallots Personal Chef

For me, this coming year will be about giving back. I’ve reached a point in my business, where I’m actually happy with my client load and I’m enjoying working part time.  I would like to get more involved with helping the homeless and those who are panhandling in my community. And, on a more selfish note, I plan on lots of travel!  Starting with SE Asia this February… lots of cooking classes and fun eating in my future!

Jim Huff
Traveling Culinary Artist

My simple resolution for 2018: Stop saying I’m semi-retired….and actually ACT like I’m semi-retired!  Or should I say: Work less…play more?  I’ll pass on all the extra business that the trickle-down economics creates (tongue buried in cheek!)

Happy and successful New Year to All!

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosco
A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Where to start:

We are committed to organizing ourselves, honing in on more specialized menu plans and lists for Paleo, Primal, Keto, and Gluten-free menus—all areas of specialty but the lists and ideas are in mish mush lists…

Update and upgrade our website….well over due…I have already redesigned and ordered our new business cards…

Our own health and well being…after our loss in August of 2016 we were told by friends, family, and health care professionals that 2017 was for us…we got a taste of reality and had long and pointed conversations on our personal goals, as far as exercise and eating…we are currently on a cleanse for candida (revealed as a true problem for both of us—we finally landed on the right protocol,) and even in the face of holiday temptation, are doing very well and having the results we need.

Our time off…we are crazy with work and need to slow down, reorganize, learn to say “No,” and “When,” and “You have got to be kidding….”

Getting our house in order—2 years after moving we have curtains needing hanging, organizational stuff, spot painting, and all sorts of little stuff that we have put off…

So I guess the best summation is that we will be taking everything up a level or two, not in a ridiculous or unrealistic manner, but in a way that we will see results and then push forward…

The Merriest, Happiest, and Healthiest of holidays to each and every one of you…

Keith Steury
The Food Sherpa

2017 has been a solid year of business growth for me.  As is so often the case in life, it is a bit of mixed blessing.  More clients has been great for the bottom line, but it is quickly becoming apparent that I can’t continue to work at this pace for the long-term.  So, my over-arching resolution for 2018 is to figure out how to maintain/regain the balance between my professional and personal life (and amen to April’s comment about getting more sleep – lump me in on that one too)!

My big idea for 2018 is to block out time at the start of each quarter to identify concrete and achievable steps that I can take over each 3-month period to sharpen my focus as the year progresses and keep on track toward my over-arching resolution.  There is a lot of noise these days, so the more focus, the better!  Big initiatives I hope to tackle in 2018 (which are all very inter-related) include:

  • Business Expansion Plan
    • Documenting all business processes
    • Hiring a P/T Administrative Assistant
    • Updating my business plan for ongoing growth
  • Marketing Plan Review
    • Updating my website to ensure compliance with the latest industry standards
    • Refining my social media presence & usage
  • Networking/Mentoring/Professional Involvement
    • Establishing a relationship with the local Career Center, which provides technical/vocational programs for high school students in our County, including a culinary track.  I’d like to get more involved in this area, to potentially include giving presentations, demonstrations, or other related involvement with students who are interested in a career in the culinary arts.

Best of luck to everyone in 2018.  I hope business is good, life is balanced, and that you are all able to take some time to slow down and enjoy the holidays!

Heike Ashcroft
Just for You Personal Chef

Here is a quick response from Germany:

– I will be working on growing my regular client base
– I will be working on branching out into other directions to grow my business
– I will be working on my website and social media platforms
– and last but not least, I will be continuing to develop my culinary skills – obviously one of the most important aspects of my career.

Are you a dedicated culinarian seeking a career change? How’s this for a resolution: become a personal chef!

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!

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!

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