It has been a little over a year since we last checked in with member Carol Borchardt. Carol owns A Thought For Food Personal Chef Service in the Memphis, Tennessee area and also has a thriving food blog called From A Chef’s Kitchen.

Carol told us all about how she began her food blogging venture in this How I Fell Into Food Blogging post. We asked Carol to give us an update on how everything was going with developing a food blog as an additional source of income and the other creative avenues she’s pursuing in addition to her personal chef business.

As you recall, I had a slow start and at first hit some roadblocks with my food blogging endeavor. However, I feel everything is now coming together rather nicely.

To recap my journey, I became intrigued with the idea of having a food blog after reading Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write for Food. I read her book because I was doing a biweekly food column for our local daily newspaper that involved recipe development, writing and photography.

After a fall in a client’s kitchen three years ago put me out of commission for a six-week period, I decided that was a good time to start my food blog.

However, my original concept, which was based on my love of cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework and republish cookbook recipes. I got worn out explaining that wasn’t all I did so I decided to rebrand and change direction two years ago to my current focus, From A Chef’s Kitchen.

Earlier this year, my newspaper column was discontinued due to budget cuts and layoffs at the newspaper. I was a little relieved about that because it enabled me to spend more time on my blog and now I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor:

  • My traffic is increasing nicely. I have just over 70,000 unique visitors (an important metric brands use that indicates new visitors) to my site each month.
  • The competition is fierce, however I’ve been able to work with a number of brands on sponsored posts.
  • Ad revenue I receive each month has replaced approximately three cookdates and it continues to grow. This is passive income I earn just by having people visit my blog. I still love my personal chef business and clients, but it’s wonderful not to have to stand on my feet all day for that income!
  • I’m now a paid contributor to Parade Magazine’s website, Community Table. I was fortunate to be accepted because they generally like contributors to have at least 10,000 Facebook followers. My From A Chef’s Kitchen page is just over 7,300, but they liked what they saw on my blog. I’m able to post articles and recipes but have been doing mainly collections of recipes such as:

There have been some real eye-openers since I began blogging. I really didn’t pay that much attention to food blogs until I read Dianne Jacob’s book. However, the fact that food blogging is an entire industry and can be very lucrative was an eye-opener such as:

  • There are several paid membership websites by food blogging pros where they share their knowledge and resources.
  • There are countless food blogging conferences around the country, which, I’ve attended several. At one of the conferences, I had the privilege of taking a workshop with one of the best food photographers in the business, Helene Dujardin.
  • Brands work with food bloggers as a cost-effective way to “influence” their readers to buy their product. These are referred to as “sponsored posts.” The brand pays the food blogger to develop a recipe and post for the product. This can be extremely lucrative for food bloggers–especially if their blog is popular.
  • There are ad networks that manage ads on your website enabling you to receive passive income. I’m with MediaVine.
  • There are affiliate sales programs where you earn a commission if someone clicks on an affiliate link on your blog and buys the product.

However, two of the biggest eye-openers were, the amount of time required to be successful and that as a food blogger, you wear many hats. If you want to be successful, you have to treat it like a business and build your brand. Obviously being a good cook is important, but you have to be everything else including the writer, the photographer, the programmer and the promoter. As the promoter, you have to be on top of all the social media trends and how to stand out in a sea of food bloggers. I’m at a point where I’m considering hiring a virtual assistant to help me with the social media.

My biggest challenge has always been and continues to be social media; I’m not a very outgoing person. However, the only way to grow your blog is through social media so I just do it and try not to think about it. There is still more I could be doing to grow my blog such as doing food videos, but my personal chef business still takes up a significant amount of my time.

I really love that as a food blogger, I can be as creative as I want to be. I always enjoyed developing recipes prior to becoming a personal chef and then developing them for my clients. Food blogging is a way to share them with the world and it has solidified my identity as a personal chef.

Becoming a publisher and photographer has taken a lot of time and there have been numerous struggles along the way. Shortly after writing How I Fell Into Food Blogging, I went through a particularly discouraging period because my traffic was not growing. I really wondered if I should keep doing this. Some of my photos never get to my blog because I don’t consider them good enough and I’ve wasted an entire day. However, I get right back at it and remake the dish or photograph it again. It’s all about not being a quitter.

As far as what’s next, I’ll continue working as a personal chef, however, I’ve scaled back to working three days a week when possible. I’d love to do a cookbook of my own or be the photographer for one.

Seven years ago when I shot my first food photo for the newspaper, I never dreamed a well-known food photographer would tell me my photos were good. Anyone can do what they set their mind to.

Are you doing anything professionally to augment your personal chef business? It doesn’t have to be writing. It could be studying to be a nutritionist or becoming a recipe developer for restaurants or corporations. What makes your heart sing?

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!

As we all know, there’s no way to prepare 100 percent for surprises in our businesses or personal lives, but giving some thought to “what if” certainly doesn’t hurt. Things happen. It could be an injury to you or serious family illness. You just never know what may suddenly pull you away from your work.

Chef Carol Borchardt, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Chef Carol Borchardt

For Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, it was getting her foot hooked in the strap of one of her grocery bags that sent her flying to the floor and fracturing her right knee. At the home of a woman who was the recipient of a gift certificate. While Carol didn’t need surgery, she had to stay off her feet for six weeks, using either crutches or a “saddle stool” her hairstylist loaned her. She clearly couldn’t even drive.

How did she handle her client load? “I notified my clients by telephone,” she says. “I didn’t feel e-mail or texting was appropriate. I generally have about 15 to 16 clients and called one or two per day, depending upon when I was scheduled to cook for them. They were all GREAT. Fortunately, this happened at the end of May 2014 so many were taking vacations anyway. The doctor told me I’d be out for six weeks, so most only missed one cook date as most of my clients are monthly.”

To keep on schedule, Carol went back to work while still in a brace, with the help of a friend, but got back to her routine pretty quickly after that. And while on enforced rest, she stayed productive, studying food photography and launching her blog, A Cookbook Obsession.

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist has had these health surprises happen twice in his career. The first was after emergency surgery in Arizona at the end of a vacation. His wife called all his clients to explain the situation, which turned from one week off to three weeks away. He was able to return in the fourth week with the help of an assistant. “All my clients were happy to wait for me and ate whatever was stored in their freezers, ate out, and cooked some,” he says.

The second time was also for surgery, but this time, Jim had time to plan.

“I approached each client and asked what they would prefer: Me to cook extra and fill their freezers or arrange for another chef to cover,” he explains. “Coincidentally, two clients were traveling for much of the planned time off and two preferred me to fill the freezer and one just cooked or ate out for the duration.  All were very happy to have me back to good health. That time my wife was working with me as she was between jobs, so my return to work was smooth.”

Jim has filled in for other chefs on occasion. In these situations, the chefs communicated with their clients regarding menus, payments, and other issues. “This worked well, since the chefs I worked for kept control and I accepted a reduced rate from them as I wasn’t doing the menu planning, etc., and I was helping them in a time of need.”

ChefKathy Kathy Dederich

Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please is dealing with this issue now. In early July, her husband Dan suffered a  traumatic brain injury at work. After being airlifted to a nearby hospital for surgery, he is now recovering in a rehab facility four hours from their home. She expects to be there at least another couple of weeks and then Dan will move to a more intensive rehab facility where family members are not allowed to reside–meaning Kathy will return home to work.

“As luck would have it, I received more calls/emails from new/prospective clients than what I had gotten in the last six months,” she says. “Fortunately, two families have indicated they will wait until I am ready to come back to work. They have both expressed their concern for both Dan and me and send their best…mind you, I have yet to meet them.

“My regular clients have been extremely supportive as well,” Kathy adds. “They call on a regular basis to see how we both are. We sort of have an understanding that as soon as I can, I will be back to cook for them. My plan is to ask for a list of their favorites that they’d like me to make my first week back.”

For those potential new clients who had immediate needs for various functions, Kathy referred them to a friend of hers who is a full-time chef at a senior facility. She says there aren’t many legitimate personal chefs in her region so she didn’t have many referral options.

For Kathy, not working has been the right decision for her. But she encourages others to review both their finances and legal documents. “We had these completed when we were still in Illinois, but wanted to make sure we were compliant with the state of Arkansas,” Kathy says. “We finally did this in early spring. It has been a God-send because everything is in place.”

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If you’re lucky enough to plan for enforced time off because you’re pregnant, you can consult with clients to figure out the best approach. That’s how Elizabeth Prewitt of Silver Plum Personal Chef has been handling her future. With a due date of August 23, she scheduled clients through the 12th with the understanding that the last couple of dates might have to be unexpectedly cancelled if he showed up early (he didn’t and as of now, they’re still waiting).

Beth started telling clients in person about three to four months ago. She hired an assistant toward the end of her work period, but it was clear that the assistant was to help her. She wasn’t a Beth clone.

“So as the due date got closer, and I realized that I was simply going to have to take time off with no replacement/contingency plan for my clients, I let them all know, again, in person,” Beth explains. “My plan is to take two to three months off, and start scheduling again when I’m ready. (I have yet to secure child care, which will probably dictate exactly when I can start working again—my next huge stressor!)  Since I’ve never done this ‘having a kid’ thing before, I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep, so I haven’t given anyone a firm return date. As most of my clients are families with young kids, and I primarily communicate with the ladies of the households, they have all been very understanding with this. This doesn’t mean I’m not worried about client retention, though. The longer I’m away from them, the more likely they are to find other solutions that work just fine for them.”

So, what are the takeaways from these chefs’ experiences?

“Kathy Dederich said it when she told us, “I encourage others to do a review of their finances as well as legal documents,” says Candy Wallace, the APPCA‘s founder and executive director. “Knowing where you are can save a lot of time and angst in a crisis.

“Jim Huff and Carol Borchardt turned to family and friends for physical assistance in their abbreviated operation of businesses, and ALL of the chefs did the smart thing in contacting their clients immediately and including them in the decision-making process of keeping their businesses viable during their recuperation processes as well as allowing the clients to take part in the planning process of their return to operations,” Candy observes.

“Carol was able to use much of the enforced time off to learn a new craft, food styling and food photography, which has become an enriching part of her culinary business plan,” adds Candy. “And Beth Prewitt is settling into a new home and getting ready to be a new mom. I think you could say they used ‘down time’ to forward the action for their futures.”

But Candy does emphasize the importance of getting to know and befriend colleagues to get learn one another’s specialties and levels of experience so you can refer business back and forth to each other–and back each other up in case of emergencies like the ones above. And she relates a story that hits close to home.

“Many years ago I was out training two new members in San Diego when I arrived at home to find all of my neighbors standing on my front lawn. When I got out of the van I was told that my husband Dennis had had a heart attack and had been taken to a local hospital. I took off immediately for the hospital and did not return home until around 3 a.m. when the cardiologist told me Dennis was going to live and sent me home. I arrived and found all the lights on in the house and the doors open. I thought, great, Denny is in the hospital, and now it looks as if we have been robbed…I walked in and found a group of local personal chefs I had worked with over the years waiting for me. They had cleaned our house, filled the fridge and freezer with heart-healthy meals, and had gone through my file info and contacted all of my clients to let them know I would not be available for the next three months while I helped Den recuperate, and that they would be providing service on their regular schedule.

“There was nothing I could say. I sat down on the couch and burst into tears. That night the APPCA was officially created to support the chefs we trained through the original Personal Chef Institute. The association was created so that all members could experience the genuine support and respect for one another we experienced as a result of Denny’s heart attack. Talk about a silver lining.

“Please make an effort to get to know your local colleagues. Offer to go along with one another on occasion as an unpaid guest chef so you can know one another’s skill level and get to know one another on a personal as well as a professional level. Refer appropriate business leads back and forth to one another. I say it often, and I’ll say it here again, ‘We are all in this together as personal chefs, and it simply makes sense to take care of one another and take care of the personal chef career path so that we all win at the career and life path we have chosen.'”

What plans have you made for your business in case of a health or other emergency?

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.

Fresh From Your Kitchen’s Leslie Guria has a plan–and that’s to launch a food blog to complement her personal chef business. “I’m going to start with a few topics… recipes, farmers markets, cookware reviews, organization, then ultimately focus on the areas that bring in the most traffic,” she explains.

Like many aspiring bloggers, this APPCA member is interested in developing a passive stream of income and Leslie’s studying food photography and monetizing to make that happen. Unlike many who have these dreams, she has a background in small business marketing, so she’s confident that she can make a go of it.

Food blogs can serve a number of purposes for personal chefs. They can help promote your business. They can promote you as an expert and even a brand. They can allow you to go off into areas of interest that feed your soul even if they aren’t directly related to what you do day to day. And, if you’re very smart, very talented, a workhorse, and lucky, they can create a new revenue stream.

But you’re up against a lot of competition. It’s impossible to know just how many food blogs are out there, but there are millions and the numbers keep growing. The trick is to find your niche. Is it recipes, cocktails, vegetarianism, special diets, produce, regional food, restaurant reviewing, your grandma’s traditional Italian cooking?

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For APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food her blog is named for her passion, A Cookbook Obsession. Carol has put more research and effort into the care and maintenance of her blog than most. She began with having it attached to her business website, but didn’t see a lot of traffic coming in–mostly, she deduced, because another blogger had already established his blog with the same name as her business using .net instead of .com. He already had sewn up the “athoughtforfood” social media handles, too. (Lesson #1, if you can, purchase as many suffixes for your beloved business name as you can afford.)

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

So, after suffering a knee injury last year that put her out of commission for several months, she spent her time studying food photography. She also realized that her business was taking a physical toll on her and that she might have to give it up someday. At that point Carol decided that, “it would be nice to have something food-related to fall back on or already have in the works if that time ever comes, and A Cookbook Obsession was officially born.”

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Carol has collected about 1,200 cookbooks over the years and uses these and new ones coming in as the source of inspiration for blogging. “It’s where I share recipes from my cookbooks that inspire me along with my original recipes. Because of copyright laws, you can not reprint or republish recipes as printed, so I always state ‘inspired by’ or ‘adapted from’ and write the recipe as I made it. My plan is to become more of a ‘cookbook resource’ for readers. I’ve added doing cookbook reviews through Blogging for Books, which is great because I can now get free cookbooks in exchange for the review.”

It’s no coincidence that these talents have helped her writing a biweekly food feature, Dinner for Two, for the local Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Now in its fourth year, she’s written more than 100 pieces for the paper.

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Chef Natalie Lewis launched Natalie’s Daily Crave on her business website about five years ago. “I started it simply because I want to share all of my food experiences with other people. I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the food I’m tasting and the recipes I create or find! Food is way more fun when it’s enjoyed with others. I would describe Natalie’s Daily Crave as a blog for the home cook with recipes that are approachable and straight forward. It’s geared towards people who enjoy cooking and I like to provide recipes you can keep in your back pocket for those special days when you want to make something just a little different than the norm.”

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

For Natalie, blogging takes a lot of time because she does it all herself–both recipe development and taking photos. A friend who is a professional photographer has helped her with tips along the way, but it can sometimes take hundreds of photos to get just that right shot–and that’s after figuring out staging and making the dish look appetizing.

“That fork resting on the side of the table? The perfectly folded napkin tucked under the plate? All of that is carefully thought out to achieve a desired look,” she notes. “I admire food photographers who do it for a living and I’ve learned so much about the effort it takes. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual writing and posting yet. Let’s just say it’s definitely a labor of love!”

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Some bloggers post daily, some post weekly or twice a week. Natalie tries to post monthly or at least around holidays, knowing that she’s developed enough of a history for people to find recipes when looking for something specific. For her, it’s a way for her to express herself and have a platform. “Making others happy and getting them excited about food is exactly what fuels my passion. I also think it’s a great way for clients and potential clients to see what I’m up to on a personal level.”

Given Carol’s intention of monetization, her approach is much more driven. Like Natalie, she’s immersed in cooking dishes, photographing them, uploading and editing photos and writing the post–she estimates it can take four to six hours. And she does this twice a week.

The killer is the promotion.

“This is one thing that totally took me by surprise,” she says. “The amount of time to promote a food blog is staggering. First, you need to make sure Google can find your post and recipe so a little knowledge about SEO is helpful. I use a WordPress plug-in that keeps me on track for that. I then send out an e-mail to my subscriber list, pin it to Pinterest, Yummly, StumbleUpon, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, and photo sharing sites such as FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie, Dishfolio, Healthy Aperture, Finding Vegan, and, if I’m using some type of hot pepper, Jalapeno Mania. I don’t do Twitter yet because it’s already difficult to keep up with social media.”

She also posts to Pinterest group boards–which, in turn, requires you to pin others’ content to your various boards. And she has her own Facebook pages, as well as participates in several Facebook groups and sharing groups.

Monetizing is also something Carol’s working on.

“I recently began placing ads on my site through a few ad networks. But, there too, you have to have some traffic to speak of and they have to like what they see.  Most bloggers start with Google or Amazon. I won’t be retiring on the income anytime soon, but ads are one of the first steps in monetizing a blog. You can also add ‘affiliate links.’ This is where a person or company has a product to sell and you place a link to purchase that product on your blog. If someone buys the product through your site, you get a commission. I have two affiliate links on my website: MasterCook recipe management software and the Tasty Food Photography book mentioned earlier.”

Down the road? Perhaps writing sponsored posts for brands or selling her own e-book or e-cookbook.

So, what tips do Natalie and Carol have for aspiring food bloggers?

1. Have good photography.

2. Join food blogger Facebook groups to ask questions and get support.

3. Do your research to decided which blogging platform to use, whether Blogger (Google-owned), WordPress, SquareSpace, or something else–including just adding it to your website. Will you do it yourself or hire a website developer? In either case, you need to have an idea of a look you want and how you want to organize your content.

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And, says Natalie, “My number one tip is to just be yourself and don’t worry about anyone else. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of the world, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you cook, there is always someone who won’t like what you have to say. Be true to yourself and do your own thing!”

Do you have a food blog? Why did you launch it and how have you promoted 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.

We’re very proud of the efforts made by our Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) to bring our members in the area together as an additional resource to network and share information. This year, Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Owings Mills, Maryland is the chapter president and she organized and hosted their recent spring meeting. Shelbie has written a wrap up of the meeting and Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis supplied us with photos. Thank you both for your contribution!

Our MARC group celebrated the arrival of spring with a two-day meeting based at my home, but with a number of outings and speakers.

Sipping margaritas

We began with dinner Friday night at a funky little restaurant called Alchemy in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. The next morning the meeting went into full swing with over 20 attendees from New York down to Virginia. We also had Chef Carol Borchardt visit us from Memphis!

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Judy Harvey's tuna-stuffed eggs

After a breakfast that featured homemade gravlax with bagels ( a special thank you to Judy Harvey for making the tuna stuffed eggs, when I ran out of time) and a beautiful breakfast cake made by Chef Peggy Haser, we held a short business meeting. Laura Knight (A Knight’s Feast) reviewed our bank account and we elected Keith Steury (The Food Sherpa) as our new secretary. We also had the group quite excited when we announced the current planning of a trip to Alsace, France to be hosted by MARC member, Chef Bernard Henry.

Presentation

Our keynote speaker was Joan Norman, owner and operator of One Straw Farm, one of the largest farms in the state. The farm not only services many of the finest restaurants in town, but also runs a huge CSA. Joan shared stories of her 30 years in the farming business and discussed the use of biodegradable mulch film and how that distinguishes her farm from those that claim to be 100 percent organic.

Our next speaker was Dara Bunyon, a local Baltimore food blogger, whose business, Dara Does It, dabbles in all things food. She shared interesting tidbits from her blogs, such as the top items that people steal from restaurants! (Not just salt shakers!)

Our third speaker for the morning, MARC’s very own, Lettie Lavalle (Leave Dinner to Lettie), is also a social media expert. Lettie walked us through the confusing maze of various sites and helped to demystify the ever-growing world of social media and how it relates to personal chefs.

Featured salads

Lunch time provided an opportunity to chat with friends and enjoy an all-salad buffet that featured a duck confit salad over baby greens and spinach with dried cherries and a curried chicken salad with homemade mango chutney as an accompaniment.

After lunch, Mary Stewart and her daughter Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table presented a kitchen demo for us. Mary prepared individual lemon curd soufflés, similar to chocolate lava cakes. Katie demonstrated her whipped cream, using coconut milk in lieu of heavy cream. OMG! I guarantee that this will become my dinner party dessert of choice! Beautiful and delicious!

Lemon Curd Souffle demo

Our next event, included a lovely drive through horse country to reach Bastignati Winery. We sampled five wines…some very nice, some not my thing! However, several of us purchased bottles to go.

Winery

Our evening concluded with a potluck dinner, prepared by the attendees. If you have never attended a potluck prepared by personal chefs, then you are missing a treat! Amazing starters included Jim Huff’s bacon jam, Sharon and Bruce Cohen’s Tuscan tomato bread soup, and Mary Stewart’s risotto cakes. Dinner followed with Ayisha Jones’ fig jam tenderloin and Keith Steury’s Asian pork BBQ. Sides included Laura Knight’s asparagus salad and Marta Mirecki’s  fennel radicchio salad. April Lee generously provided an amazing collection of wine, including a lovely chocolate dessert selection.

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Our next meeting is scheduled for October 2 to 3, 2015. MARC meetings are open to members of the APPCA in good standing!

Why do we do this? Well, we’re a group of people who truly enjoy each other’s company. We’re brought together through our membership in APPCA and have much in common. Personal chefs are people who love food and travel, and therefore have a zest for life. I think chefs by nature are passionate, artistic people who have a nurturing desire to please others by feeding them. Put all those qualities together in one room and you are bound to have a good time! The meetings we hold allow us to recharge our professional batteries and share work experiences with those who understand the ins and outs of the profession.

Doesn’t this sound like a great opportunity in your area? If you’re an APPCA member, let us know if you’d like assistance in forming a chapter in your part of the country.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

For the home cook, leftovers can mean another meal or two. But how about if you’re a personal chef and you have bits of treasure from dishes you’ve made? You don’t want them to go to waste. And they could probably lend themselves to some stunning new dishes.

Food that’s been safely handled, prepared properly, and stored correctly is simply good food. Most personal chef clients find their custom-designed meal support programs keep leftovers to a minimum but if you find yourself in a leftover-heavy position–as the chef or the client–you might find some of these tips helpful.

Salad bowl

Let’s look at the easy stuff first–ingredient leftovers. If you have unused herbs or proteins–such as chicken, beef, sausage, fish or other seafood–or grilled vegetables, you can certainly use them in an omelet or frittata, or as a filling for ravioli or wontons, or in soups or salads. Quesadillas and tacos are also great ways to use extra fresh ingredients. Leftover pasta can also go in a frittata–or soup. Got mashed potatoes? Make mini shepherd’s pies or use it to top a casserole.

veggies for garlic scapes pesto pasta

Prepped but unused onions, tomatoes, peppers, lemons, watermelon, or anything else coming from the garden can enhance and complement any number of dishes. The watermelon pieces that were part of dessert the night before can be tossed with sliced heirloom tomatoes, pieces of feta cheese, olives, and arugula for a sweet and savory salad.

Our colleague Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food and her new blog, A Cookbook Obsession, recently wrote about turning vast amounts of leftover grilled sweet corn into smoky sweet corn puree, which she paired with seared scallops. After heating some butter and a little bacon fat from cooking up four slices of bacon, she sauteed chopped scallions, then added the corn kernels, cream cheese, and half and half. Then she added cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper before pureeing half the mixture. Pieces of cooked bacon and chives are added to the mixture and served with seared scallops.

Seared Scallops with Smoky Corn PUree

Photo courtesy of Carol Borchardt

Risotto is another one of those leftover dishes that never tastes quite the same warmed up the next day. So, how about making risotto pancakes with sauteed mushrooms and onions and strong meltable cheese, like gruyere? Add a binder, like a beaten egg, then form a ball just a bit larger than a golf ball with the risotto. Flatten it into a oval in the palm of your hand. Make an indentation in the middle and add the mushrooms and cheese. Then close it up over the filling. Repeat until you’ve used up the risotto. Saute the pancakes in butter or olive oil on both sides until crisp and serve.

Making pies and have leftover dough? Roll it out and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, then get out the cookie cutters. You’ve got cookies to bake.

There are numerous web resources for you to get ideas as well.

  • Food52: Experts and home cooks contribute to this site. Here’s a blog post on creating refreshing summer rolls with leftover fish, plus links to 10 other recipes for leftover fish.
  • Foodinese: Leftover stir fried veggies can be soggy and unappealing after their initial debut on the table. Here’s a video on turning them into dumplings.
  • Epicurious: Got leftover grilled salmon? Flake it, Make a sandwich on ciabatta, per this recipe.
Photo by Marcus Nilsson

Photo by Marcus Nilsson

  • Food Republic: Wow, they must think you never finish a meal. Here are 15 recipes for using up what’s in the fridge.
  • Bakepedia: Are you a baker with leftover ganache or buttercream? Even dessert leftovers can get a new life with these ideas.
  • Tasting Table: Now we’re getting hard core. These “leftovers” are more like the trimmed off stuff you’d ordinarily toss, like stems, leaves, pods, and peels–even baguette ends. But they’re fantastic in all sorts of dishes. Here’s how to use them.
  • The Kitchn: Turn dinner leftovers into lunch. If it reheats well (or is good cold), easy to eat at your desk or the lunch cafeteria, and is easy to transport, you’ve got a delicious lunch. Here are 10 leftover ideas.

Any meal in which there are leftovers is simply another opportunity to make the most of your tasty, beautifully prepared ingredients–whether it’s reheating or reinventing.

What are your favorite leftover ingredients? Have you developed a repertoire of dishes based on leftovers?

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.

Don’t forget to sign up for our September Personal Chef Seminar Weekend!

 

 

 

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.

 

If you have an iPhone or iPad or some other breed of mobile phone or tablet that can download mobile applications you have the springboard for a robust portable reference library you can use on the fly. In the food category, the menu is extensive. Most celebrity chefs, from Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsey to Jamie Oliver and Catt Cora have their own apps. So do culinary schools like the CIAand Escoffier. And, if you have some bucks to spend you can even get the Modernist Cuisine at Home app for a robust $80.

But, if you’re just starting to build your app portfolio, we’ve got some terrific low-cost or free apps that are hugely useful—whether they’re geared toward recipes, shopping, or business/kitchen management. Some of you may have been introduced to these apps by Chef Carol Borchardt at her Personal Chef Summit in San Diego. She offered some ideas here, too.

Take a look and please leave your suggestions in the comments section so we can all fill up our devices with great resources! Note: The apps listed below are found on iTunes for iOS devices. Most, if not all, are also available for Android.

APP screen2

Find & Hire a Personal Chef:  Free. We’re starting with our own app first. The APPCA launched this app last year. We suggest you promote it within your own circles and make sure that you (members) are listed in the detail you want since this is geared toward promoting your services. The app is searchable based on geography and  includes videos that discuss who needs a personal chef, how to find and hire a personal chef, and features a day in the life of the Dinnermaker Personal Chef Service.

How to Cook Everything

How to Cook Everything: $9.99. From the bestselling cookbook by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, it features 2,000 recipes and 400 how-to illustrations. There’s also a separate app from Bittman called How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Epicurious

Epicurious: Free. Thousands of recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and other sources, a recipe box, shopping list, voice commands—and newly updated for iOS 7.

Ratio

Ratio: $4.99, From Michael Ruhlman’s best-selling cookbook Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It’s less about the recipes than the building blocks of creating them. So you’ll get 33 key proportions for fundamental  recipes and the app does the calculating and converting for you.

Specialty Produce

Specialty Produce: Free or $1.99 for Specialty Produce Pro. The product of a San Diego produce warehouse, the app has developed into a terrific database of produce history, cultivation, seasonal availability, and recipes.

Kitchen Calculator Pro

Kitchen Calculator Pro: $3.99. Perfect for scaling recipes.  recipe conversions for temperature, weight, volume, distance. Standard cooking fractions. And you can create a database with your favorite ingredients.

Seafood Watch

Seafood Watch: Free. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Helps you choose sustainable seafood and sushi with rankings of Best Choice, Good Alternative, and Avoid. Includes new project, FishMap.

Hello Vino

Hello Vino – Wine Assistant: Free. All-in-one app providing recommendations for meals and specific food pairings, for various occasions, by type and variety, and your own taste preferences.

iAnnotatePDF

iAnnotatePDF: $9.95. This isn’t specific to food but Borchardt swears by it for her business. Use it to read, mark up and share PDF, DOC, PPT, and image files. “With the assistance of Dropbox (yet another one!), you are able to make physical changes to PDF documents. When I meet with clients, I take my iPad with me and pull up my menu and the clients can ‘check off’ the ones that appeal to them with their fingertip. I’ve also used it to upload my shopping list, too,” she explains.

GroceryiQ

 

GroceryiQ: Free. Build a grocery shopping list with specific brands manually or by scanning barcodes or doing a voice search. Create a favorites list segmented by stores.

Asian Market Shopper

 Asian Market Shopper: $3.99. Demystifies Asian ingredients, focusing on the 100 most commonly used staples, along with how-to videos and recipes.

Pat LaFrieda's Big App for Meat

The Meat App: $4.99. Another app recommended by Borchardt, this is a butcher’s-eye view of cuts of meat and how to cook them, with butchering tutorials.

Carbs Control

 CarbsControl: $2.99. If you have diabetic clients, you can use this app to search specific foods and find out the carb count to build a recipe.

 Is That Gluten Free?

Is That Gluten Free?: $7.99. A great resource if you have gluten-free clients. More than 29,000 products and 1,077 brands listed.

Fooducate

 

Fooducate: Free. Useful for chefs who need to track product nutrition for clients, it features a product/brand scanner and nutrition trips.

4-in-1 Kitchen Timer

4-in-1 Kitchen Timer: Free. A practical app to use when you need to time multiple dishes. Has four timers that you can identify by dish and even continues to count  when the app is closed.

What are your favorite, most useful apps? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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.

As personal chefs one way to market your business is by showing off your food in mouthwatering photography. But all too many of us wind up with blurry and poorly lit shots of dishes that in real life were spectacular. One of our APPCA members, Chef Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, took this challenge to heart and learned everything she could about quality food photography. If you check out her website you’ll see she’s become quite the expert. We asked her to share her insights with you and she generously wrote a guest post with seven tips for better food photography.

Seven Tips to Better Food Photography
by Carol Borchardt

1. Study Good Food Photos
First familiarize yourself with what really beautiful food photography is. Websites such as FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com feature some of the best food blog photography on the web. Any food blog that has earned a “Saveur Sites We Love” badge will have exceptional photography (Saveur.com/siteswelove).  Some of the most renowned food photographers have a portfolio of their work on their websites:

·      Matt Armendariz

·      Penny De Los Santos

·      Aran Goyoago

·      Lara Ferroni

·      Beatrice Peltrie

·      Helene Dujardin

·      Teri Campbell

·      Katie Quinn Davies

·      Sara Remington

When you come across a photo that really appeals to you, study it and determine what it is about that photo that moves you. When you can determine what a good food photo is, you can begin to move your photography in that direction.

2. Understand Camera Fundamentals

 ·      White Balance: It’s called white balance because whites should be white and it can affect the entire color balance of your photo, which in turn greatly affects its visual appeal. White balance settings include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy and fortunately, Auto, which is where I keep mine set. 

·      Exposure: Three camera settings determine the proper exposure:  Aperture (size of lens opening), shutter speed and ISO (a measure of sensitivity to light).  For highest quality, shoot with the lowest ISO possible.

·      Depth of Field: The portion of the image that is in focus and a purely stylistic and artistic decision. This depends on the aperture and can only be achieved with a dSLR/SLR camera.

·      Camera Modes: The easiest mode to begin shooting food is “Aperture Priority (A or Av on the dial).” The camera will control the shutter speed based on the aperture you choose.

·      If all you have is a smartphone camera, helpful apps to make the most of it are:  CameraPlus, VSCO Cam, PicTapGo and Tadaa. If you’re still using a flip phone, you may want consider upgrading.

3. Understand Lighting

The right lighting can take an ordinary photograph and make it extraordinary.  Making food look good in artificial lighting is tricky and requires additional equipment and skill. Fortunately, the best lighting for photographing food is natural light and it’s free!

Know where your light is coming from. Side lighting or back lighting is best.  Think of your plate of food as a clock. If the light is coming from 9:00 or 3:00, you are working with side lighting. Back lighting will be coming from 12:00.  Front lighting (6:00) would mean the light source is in back of the photographer, which means the photographer would be blocking much of the light.

Two major lighting rules apply:

·      Turn off the flash if you don’t have the proper artificial lighting. The flash causes glare and it gives food an unnatural look.

·      Never mix artificial and natural lighting; it throws off the color balance.

4. Establish a Photography Work Area

Study and locate the best source of natural light in your home.  Preferably, you want a north or south-    facing  window.  The set-up does not have to be permanent.  Once you’ve established an area in which to work, start gathering basic tools, supplies and props.

 Studio

   ·     Backgrounds: Fashion something, such as a piece of plywood or MDF,  that you can set up to block out what doesn’t belong in your photo such as your sofa. Paint one side white and the other a dark color such as black, brown or green. White lends softness while a darker background is dramatic.

·      Surfaces: Gather fabric remnants for soft surfaces (and backgrounds).  Repurpose old and distressed wood from pallets or fencing, use old cutting boards and metals with a weathered patina such as a well-loved cookie sheet.

·      Gather unique textiles, plates, old silverware, old serving pieces, platters, etc.  Use simple round matte (no gloss) plates and bowls. Avoid patterned plates; white is always a good choice. Square or rectangular plates are very difficult to make look good in a square frame.

5. Pay Close Attention to Cooking and Plating

·      A mouthwatering photo starts with quality ingredients.

·      Read the recipe and visualize the dish. Evaluate whether it will make an interesting subject to photograph. Any brown food is going to be difficult.

·      Make sure prep is meticulous and keep the finished product in mind throughout the entire cooking process.

·      Be realistic with serving sizes. Some food bloggers love to load up plates and bowls. That’s fine for a food blog; however, our clients are looking to us to help them eat better.

·      Go for height. Try to “lift” your food off the plate. Stack brownies and cookies, place proteins on top of the starch or the vegetable. Don’t spread food around the plate; it looks flat and boring.

Salmon & Lentils

·      Garnish, garnish, garnish! Use whole herb springs instead of chopped and sprinkled; it’s a cleaner look that makes a bolder statement. However, the herb sprig should not dominate the photo.

·      Use food as props if the food was used in the dish: A bowl of avocados, cloves of garlic still in the skins sprinkled around, herb sprigs half chopped, etc.

Veg Filo Tart

6. Understand Composition

Think of composition as a group of ingredients required to cook up a good photograph:

·      Orientation  (Vertical or horizontal)

·      Balance (the visual harmony in the photograph).

·      Rule of Thirds is a good rule of thumb. Think of your photograph divided into a “Tic Tac Toe” grid (nine even sections). One of the points (off center where those lines intersect) is generally where you want to place your subject.

ruleofthirds

Chicken Chorizo Red Beans and Rice

·      Create “movement” with triangles. A great food photo keeps your eye moving around the photo in a triangle shape. The triangle can be the plate of food and two props or leaves of basil in a pasta dish.

·      Create “movement” with objects. Show something else going on besides the food just sitting there. Get a helper to hold a spoon of gooey macaroni and cheese being lifted out of the pan, the spatula still frosting the cake, etc.

·      Say it with color. Opposites on a color wheel always work together and a monochromatic look can be very dramatic.  Watch out for colors that clash.  If you wouldn’t wear the combination, don’t have it in your food photo.

·      Avoid “tight” or extreme close-up shots. Zooming in too tight can leave food unidentifiable. Your clients want to see your food as they would see it sitting down to the table, not how it would look two inches from their face.

·      Not every part of the photograph needs to be filled with props. Negative space or space that is left empty can make a very powerful statement.

7. Find a Good Editing Program to:

·      Correct exposure and brightness

·      Lighten shadows

·      Adjust highlights, contrast, color saturation and balance

·      Crop and straighten

·      Sharpen

·      Retouch

There are many free programs, such as Google’s Picasa, GIMP, Paint.NET, and iPhoto on Macs. Your camera probably came with software to do this.

Are you challenging to buy gifts for? If you’re a personal chef, probably not. There’s always one more great kitchen tool or gadget you’ve got to have to make your life easier—or at least more fun.

We asked personal chefs to identify some of their favorite kitchen toys, oops, equipment that they can’t live without and thought you’d enjoy as well. Some may not exactly fit into a stocking, but they’re all pretty reasonably priced so you can give them out to colleagues and friends—or hint around to those who love you that you’d like them. They can all be found easily on websites like Amazon.com, Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, and The Chefs’ Warehouse, but also check out interesting sites like this one that caught our attention—thegourmetgadget.com. And be sure to support your local housewares businesses. We love Great News! in San Diego.

So, with the help of some of your friends, here’s our stocking stuffer list:

Oxo Good Grips tools got a lot of love. Leslie Siegel Guria of Fresh From Your Kitchen in Illinois says that she put their can opener on her gift list. “I made the mistake of buying a fancier one and I’m NOT HAPPY! I also can’t live without my Oxo peeler.”

stocking stuffers3

Johanna Sawallisch Dadsyah and I both agree that an immersion blender is a “can’t live without” kitchen tool. “It would make blended soup so easy!,” she says. I agree. No more pouring hot soup into a blender and risking spills and/or explosions. Some people prefer the cordless version—and they are handy—but you risk running out of juice in the middle of pureeing. Corded immersion blenders also seem to have a bit more power.

Chef Steve Loeschner of Chef Steve Personal Chef Service in New Hampshire has a long list of can’t live without tools, including the immersion blender, but also a digital scale, digital thermometer, cooling fans, and an eight-inch chef knife. But what does he want to find in his Christmas stocking? Mario Batali crocs. “I love the color!,” he says. In fact, once he heard that Batali orderd 200 pairs of the orange plastic shoes because he’d heard they were being discontinued, Chef Steve ordered a pair, too. “Sorry, Santa, couldn’t take the chance!”

Stocking Stuffers2

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Tennessee touts Universal Knife Blocks. “My mother-in-law got us one of these last year for Christmas. They’re a bit large to put in a stocking, but I’ve been recommending them to every foodie I know. It took up less space than our big, chunky wooden knife block AND you can put whatever knife or kitchen shear you darn please into it. There are thousands of plastic ‘filaments’ or some such things that you can stick your knives into that won’t dull them.”

April Lee of Tastefully Yours in Maryland offered enough suggestions to fully outfit a kitchen. She, too, is a fan of the knife blocks—preferring the Kapoosh ones, which she says are bigger—but also included one of her favorite utensils, the Pampered Chef’s Mix ‘N Chop. “There’s nothing out there that chops and browns ground meats, fresh sausage, etc. so easily and into even small pieces. It’s a must have at home and in your PC kit.”

stocking stuffers1

Lee also loves the Joseph Joseph large colander scoop, saying she, “uses this baby for everything and it’s safe to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s great for frying, too.”  The Hamilton Beach 1.7 liter programmable electric kettle is another favorite of hers because tea drinkers can choose the temperature they want and it keeps it at that temperature for an hour. Coffee lovers will enjoy another item on her list, the Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker. “I love this! It makes the best coffee, quick, simple, easy to clean. I gave away my French press after getting this!” And, you’ve got to have the Thermopen instant thermometer. “It’s pricey, but worth every penny,” she says. We agree!

Have we missed something fabulous? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase inspirational cookbooks that you can gift others. Please check our Private Discussion Forum – General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what has moved you and why so you can appear here.

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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