APPCA member and personal chef Anne Blankenship has pretty much served as our reporter on the ground for personal chef transitions. The owner of Dallas’ Designed Cuisine a Personal Chef Service, Anne is working her way toward retirement and has written about that process for us. This week she outlines the process of hiring and working with an intern, the idea being that she could eventually refer incoming potential new clients. 

If you’re looking for help and a way to pay forward the help you received when you were just starting out–or if you’re a culinary school student searching for some practical internship experience–you’ll want to ready this guest post by Anne:

They say too much of anything is not a good thing. When you have more business than you can handle, what do you do? I have recently found myself in the position of turning away clients on a weekly basis for the first time since I started my personal chef business. While I am thrilled that potential clients are calling, it is also frustrating to be unable to accommodate potential new business.

When I sat down to ponder this issue, a light bulb went off in my head. Recalling my days in culinary school I knew that there were required internships of students. I so “fondly” recall working for $5.85/hour, scrubbing fish scales out of the sink around midnight, and then mopping the floor! However, it was a great experience and when you are the “low person on the totem pole” you never say “that’s not my job.”

I contacted my alma mater (a local community college with an outstanding and highly rated culinary program) and sent a message to the head of the Food and Hospitality Institute at the college. The school’s culinary program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation, and I of course knew that the “CPC” (“Certified Personal Chef”) designation was available through the organization. I told the chef that I wanted to hire a student for an internship as well as provide them with insight into a different area of the culinary world—that of a personal chef. I also reminded him that the “CPC” designation was a viable option, as many culinary instructors are unaware of this classification. He responded and said he would mention my internship to his classes and that the best option was for me to post it on the online job board for students, which I did at the end of August when school started. In addition, I contacted my clients to let them know I was considering hiring an intern. I wanted to check  whether or not it would be alright with them that this person would accompany me on future cook dates.

I received a response to my ad within a week from a promising young student. However, I had neglected to post the days/hours that I needed the applicant, and his school schedule was such that he would not be available. After I amended the posting to include the hours, I received a second response at the end of September. This time I knew I had potentially found the right candidate in Tina, who is in her first semester. Like me, she had been in the corporate world for 20 years and wanted to change careers, had always wanted to be a chef, loved to cook, and had planned and executed dinner parties for friends with various cuisines and interesting dishes. We exchanged e-mails and as she told me more about herself I became certain that if she was interested, I could help her pursue becoming a personal chef as well as have someone viable to whom to refer new business.

We met for lunch a few days later and after three hours of discussion we made plans for her to accompany me on upcoming cook date at the beginning of October. Once at the client’s home I showed her the menu and recipes for that day and we divided up the tasks and who would make which menu item. Although I was watchful, I knew she was competent and I truly didn’t have to worry about the way she cooked the food. Everything she has done thus far has been excellent (and made me think I’ve been a little careless in the way I cooked some of my recipes!). Even better is that when we review the menu for the day and divide up tasks, she usually has a good idea of how to execute the recipes but always asks if she is not sure.  Truly, she is the best person I could have gotten for the job!

The “end game” is that if she decides to pursue being a personal chef, I would help her get started and hopefully be able to refer any incoming potential new clients to her as I am quite satisfied with the client base I now have. I told her that it wasn’t all “philanthropical” on my end—she would be helping me so that I wouldn’t have to turn away business and she would benefit by having her own clients. I have been very honest with her about how clients come and go in the personal chef business, that you have to be flexible, manage your finances well and be prepared for what could happen. However, I also told her that being your own boss, making your own schedule, and truly enjoying what you do for a living is beyond compare to working in the corporate world. I still love what I do every day and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

She will be with me until the middle of December but has until the end of December to decide whether or not to go back to the corporate world or pursue her dream of being a chef.

I did not change my liability insurance policy as I did not know how long Tina would be with me.  Since my insurance premium is due in December, I will take a look at everything at that time. When we talked she asked me what the “big picture” was and I said that I wanted to try and retire in 2020 and if the right person came along, I would consider turning my business over to them.  I was working out details about possibly taking a percentage of the client fees for awhile when I turned over the business.  I am still mulling over that idea. If Tina does not want to go forward with this then I will start over again next semester and possibly hire someone else.  If I cannot find the right person, I will just keep on doing as I am now and turn business away.

If you are in a position to hire an assistant for your personal chef business, consider your local community college, as many of them now have excellent culinary programs. You have the ability to mentor someone (probably younger) and show them that there is so much more to the food industry than working at a restaurant. I feel it is one way for me to “pay it forward” for someone who wants to be a personal chef. I have the Internet presence, the knowledge and 12 years of experience to assist her in getting started. I believe she feels as strongly as I do about the “personal” in being a personal chef and how we interact with our clients’ families, children and lives. As a result, my tagline has now become “Personal Chefs – We Make a Difference in Peoples’ Lives.”

Have you considered working with an intern? What are your concerns about the hiring and collaboration process?

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!

APPCA members never fail to amaze me. It’s so exciting to read both our website forums and our Facebook business and group pages to learn about how creatively you’re running your businesses and marketing them. So, I when I saw that Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas recently had a radio interview experience I wanted to learn more–and figured you would, too. Not only did Anne come through with her story about the interview, she has included a wealth of great tips on preparing for it and–even more important–serving it up as a way to promote her business. You’ll want to take notes!

Recently I was contacted by a company called All Business Media FM, which is a subsidiary of I Heart Radio. At first I was skeptical, since I receive so many “spam” calls on a daily basis. My philosophy is “if they don’t leave a message, it’s not important.

But I did receive a voice mail from this company and it sounded fairly legitimate so I returned their call. When I spoke to the lady I queried her with my usual questions to verify their intent/legitimacy. How did you find me? Why did you select me/my business? And most importantly, “How much is this going to cost me?” She was a “fast-talking New Yorker” (apologies to all of you in the NYC area!) but as I listened, she was able to answer my questions. She said that she had visited my website (and cited some sample menu items I have listed) and had seen the reviews on my business on Google and Facebook, so I felt comfortable that she had at least done some research on me and wasn’t just a “scam artist.” She was very honest about the fact that there would be a follow-up call and that it would probably involve a marketing pitch, although there was no obligation after the interview.

The company specializes in small businesses and since I am not only an entrepreneur but a female in what is still (unfortunately) a fairly male-dominated profession of being a chef, this was an “enhancement” for them contacting me and wanting to do an interview. Once I said “yes” she put me through to their scheduling department and we verified all of my information and e-mail address. We scheduled a date and they sent four questions to me via e-mail that I answered and returned to them prior to the show. She had given me information about the fact that it would be an eight-minute interview, who my host would be on that day, and how to retrieve the interview afterwards from their website so I could post it on social media.

I created an “event” on my business Facebook page so everyone could see when the interview would be and posted the information on my personal Facebook page as well, since I knew some of my friends would listen in. In addition, I took the time to listen to a few of their other live interviews to get a feel for what would be the experience. I happened to listen to a woman who is a massage therapist and focused on Reiki as well, which was interesting to me, so I ended up listening to the whole eight minutes.

To prepare for my interview I reviewed the answers to the questions they had sent me and highlighted some important points. I knew it would go quickly and having been in Toastmasters at one time, I also knew the importance of no slang, no “uhs, ers, and ums,” as well as not starting sentences with “OK” and “So.”

They called me at the set time and the host chatted briefly with me about some simple instructions. I was nervous but truly most of the information is in my head since I’m always ready with the “elevator speech” and how to condense what I do in a few short paragraphs. Although I repeated myself a few times, overall it went well and they were very complimentary (which I’m sure they tell everyone!) A week later I was able to retrieve the interview and posted it everywhere on social media, as well as sent the link via e-mail to clients, friends, and family. (You can listen to it here.)

My joke with everyone was “Well, I got through my radio interview and at least I didn’t use the “F” word – except for “Food!” It’s just one more thing to be able to add to my repertoire of marketing tools. The power of social media is amazing and the more you can post in various places, the more your traffic will increase. I have had my website for some time, but constantly review and try to change something on it at least once a month (new menu items, videos, this radio interview link, etc.) I have also created accounts everywhere in the name of my business, “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” This includes Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, and as “Anne Blankenship” on LinkedIn. I review my traffic every week on all of these entities and have seen it increase dramatically in the past two years, thanks to consistent postings.

I thought no one really listened to the radio much anymore, but Caron Golden pointed out that podcasts are a huge thing now (something I had totally forgotten) so doing this radio interview and promoting it through social media is a terrific way to keep “oiling that marketing machine.”

What kind of marketing are you doing to promote your business? Do you have a gap you need help with?

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!

Are You Readying for Retirement?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 2, 2017

Are you a person who plans ahead? Well, if you’re heading towards retirement–or at least slowing down a bit–coming up with a strategy for what to do when you retire should be on your to-do list.

That’s something APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas has been doing. She sent us a note to tell us about her plans and we asked her to share it with the rest of our members. Take a look:

I looked up the other day and realized that my upcoming birthday would put me another year closer to Medicare and only 2 years from retirement – Yikes! I absolutely love being a personal chef and having come into it so late in life (at 50+), that I really treasure every day in a career that is so rewarding and satisfying.

It made me start thinking about what would I do when I retired? Never been the kind of person to sit on my behind, and I enjoy staying active as much as possible. I attended culinary school for the experience but in the back of my mind was the thought – “well, when my body starts to give out, maybe I can teach cooking if I have some type of certification.” The certification aspect of finishing culinary school kept me going as much as the knowledge and experience I gained. Proudly graduating as a “Certified Culinarian” was a big day!

As retirement looms closer I started researching about what people do when they retire, why some people are happier in retirement than others, and that if one PLANS for their “golden years” they are well-prepared and more satisfied when this life-changing event occurs. Ah, that word “plan” caught my eye, as all my friends know that I am the one in the group that takes charge, plans events, and am affectionately called “She Who Organizes.” Activities such as volunteering, substitute teaching and other jobs for those who are retired came up in my reading and it started to sink in – I really could teach culinary school when I retired. So my planning/strategy of finishing culinary school had paid off with that little voice in the back of my head saying “finish school so you can teach someday.”

 

Putting some action into all the research I had done, I took a deep breath and decided to contact a community college in the area where I plan to spend 6 months of the year. The worst they could do was to say “no.” My plan is to spend 6 months in the mountains in northeastern Arizona where it is so beautiful and cool in the summer months, with plenty of hiking, fishing and similar activities available. There are many retirees in the area and I was thinking these people would be my potential students. The college responded quickly (a pleasant surprise) and put me in touch with the HR person. Since I knew I would be out there in August of this year, I asked if I could meet with her, explaining my idea and that although it would be a few years away, teaching culinary classes at the college was my interest.

Wanting to be prepared, I had sent ahead by e-mail all the information I could about my certification, my memberships in the American Culinary Federation, Texas Chef’s Association, etc. I was lacking information about my membership in APPCA, so made a call and spoke with Candy. She graciously volunteered to write a letter of recommendation for me and the college was quite pleased to receive it. A super bonus to being an APPCA member!

I had a very nice interview with the college administrator/HR person during my vacation there in August. During my meeting, she explained that once I was vetted, I could set my own schedule for the classes, curriculum, class size and fee (the college takes a percentage). This sounded like heaven! At the end of our meeting she said she would start a file on me and to please stay in touch. They currently have one culinary instructor and are considering building a kitchen at one of their campus locations in the future. I am hoping they vote “yes” on funding for a new kitchen!

So if you are approaching retirement and need some ideas as to what to do with yourself, consider sharing your knowledge and talents with others who want to learn about cooking. I always advocate that teaching cooking is teaching a life skill, and feel like I am “paying it forward” when I do so.

Are you getting close to retirement? What plans are you making for when you’re done with working?

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!

APPCA member Anne Blankenship is a long-time APPCA member. She recently posted on Facebook about an achievement in marketing to registered dietitians. What she did was so cool we asked her to expand on it for our blog. Take a read and try this in your community!

I am a personal chef in the Dallas, Texas, area and have been for 10 years now as “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” As with many personal chefs, I have cooked for a variety of clients over the years and do dinner parties and other such events. Normally my events are no greater than 20 people as I much prefer those to larger functions. Clients come and go so I never stop marketing and this article details my latest idea.

As personal chefs, we are constantly marketing and trying to come up with new and different areas to promote our business. Marketing to registered dietitians (RDs) is an idea I had when trying to “think outside the box” for promoting my business. I happen to have a friend who is a registered dietician at the University of Texas in Austin so I had someone I could approach who was a “friendly face.” She put me in touch with a contact in the Dallas area whom she knew but only on a professional level, so it was up to me to take it from there.

With Texas Academy of Nutrition Dietetics NE Region, Ft. Worth

When I sent an e-mail to the Dallas contact, I used some of the language from my website and LinkedIn profile as it was written to say as much as possible in about two sentences, describing what a personal chef does and giving the basic details. The contact responded within a day and I knew I had hit a home run, as she immediately “got” what I was wanting to do. She volunteered to put my information and website link on her group’s Facebook page, which is the DFW Area Nutrition Entrepreneurs (I didn’t even have to ask!). She copied her Ft. Worth colleague with my information and said she would get back to me about making a presentation at a group meeting. I also heard from the Ft. Worth contact who was interested in having me speak to her group as well and who put my information on her group’s page, which is the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, N.E. Region.

About a month later both contacts gave me dates in March for the presentations. As time for the meetings approached, they put notices on their respective group’s Facebook pages which I then shared on my business Facebook page and even my personal Facebook page, as well as an update on LinkedIn. The power of social media!

The presentation was an outline of the basics of what a personal chef does and how it works (planning client-specific menus, shopping, cooking in the clients’ homes, etc.). I tried to think what I would have in common with an RD and it dawned on me that educating the public about nutritional food was something we both faced on a regular basis. An RD works in various capacities such as consulting with a chef or chefs at a restaurant chain, in a hospital system to devise healthy meal plans for various requirements (gluten-free, strict calorie limit, etc.), as well as in private practice and a myriad of other positions. Since I had taken Nutrition in culinary school, I spoke briefly about how helpful it has been to have that knowledge and it enhanced my presentation since I could “speak their language.”

The biggest issue for me was how could I benefit THEM? I was honored to be asked to speak and they were all very interested to learn about what I do and how I do it, but I am always conscious about the “mutually beneficial relationship” aspect in a given business situation.

Many of the RDs to whom I spoke have private clients and they are in a position to refer those clients to me, if they choose. In some cases we could then work together to devise a meal plan or plans for the client and could pass any costs incurred along to the client. So I had my answer as to how we could both benefit with our relationship. Since some RDs work in hospitals, I touched on gift certificates that I offer, particularly for those who have recently had surgery, pregnant ladies, and new mothers. I could see that they really took to this idea and could pass along my information to their clients who might need my services or to family members who could give my service as a gift to a relative or friend. In speaking with them I was also inspired to start completing a project I had been working on for some time, which is to put complete sample menus on my website that reflect a specific amount of calories so that those interested in a low-calorie meal plan as an example, could see what I had to offer. One of the questions asked was whether or not I saw a trend in people wanting to eat a more healthy diet and I said absolutely, since many potential clients want to hire a personal chef for this reason. The RDs said that the majority of private clients they work with ask for the same information.

I followed up with the individuals in both groups within a few days after each presentation and have since connected with many of them on LinkedIn and asked them to follow me on Instagram, as well as encouraging them to “like” my business Facebook page. Since there were about 12 people at each meeting, I now have almost 24 new business contacts.

One lady was so excited because she said a member of their group was about to become one of the RDs for the Dallas Cowboys and that I would be a perfect fit in that situation. Time will tell, but I surely do love football and as a native Dallasite, always root for my home team!

How are you marketing your services? Have you also reached out to RDs?

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!

WS-5

You’ve met APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine. We’ve written about this Dallas-based personal chef before. She recently sent us a note about a client whose dietary needs posed real challenges to her skill set. But instead of turning them down, she turned it around, did a lot of research, and ended up having a learning experience that she says has made her a better chef. We thought you’d be interested in her dilemma and how she solved it–along with a couple of recipes she created for them. 

I have started cooking for the most difficult client (menu-wise) that I have ever had in all the time I’ve been doing this.  They are delightful people (thank heavens!) and enjoy everything I cook for them.  Personally I think it’s as much about the service as it is the food with this client, but just my thought.

Here’s what they do not eat:

  • No sugar
  • No onions, beets, carrots, etc. – no root vegetables
  • No pasta, potatoes, rice, wild rice, quinoa, farro, barley, or grains of any kind (but they eat about 1 to 1 1/2 pieces of bread a day) – no bread crumbs, panko, etc.
  • No beans or lentils
  • No mayonnaise or yogurt
  • No honey, agave, etc.
  • Very little cheese – some fresh mozzarella, ricotta, etc.
  • Very little soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce

They will eat a little butter, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, artichokes, sour cream, olives, and miso. And a bit of salt. They’re not on the Paleo plan, or gluten-free, but just have consulted with a nutritionist and are going by those recommendations. This couple is probably in their 60’s and they look great, so I guess it’s working.

I did a cooking class for this couple’s children and spouses, and they started talking to me that night about cooking for them. I told them I needed to do some research before I could commit. I didn’t want to start cooking for people on such a special regimen unless I had at least a good handful of recipes in my “arsenal,” especially since it would be a once a week gig. And she told me they liked to eat beef (usually a steak) out, so for me to focus on ground turkey and chicken recipes, along with side dishes. Also some fish dishes, although they like to grill salmon. Thankfully it’s summer, so lots of great veggies abound now.

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I started going through all my side dish recipes, chicken recipes and the few ground turkey recipes I have.  Then I hit the Internet, combing through recipe after recipe, and communicating with the client to double-check on permissible ingredients. After three days (almost solid) of research, I was pretty proud of the fact that I had come up with about five pages of possible entrees and side dishes for them. My brain was fried, though! I also talked to a fellow personal chef here in town for whom I’ve worked with on some dinner parties, and who probably has more experience with special diets than I do. Even she was stumped!

Here are some of the things I have come up with:

  • Zucchini Lasagna: Made with slices of zucchini for the noodles, ground turkey, fresh herbs, tomato sauce and paste, and a little fresh mozzarella
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables
  • Marinated chicken: They like to grill so I’ve found some good recipes using garlic, olive oil, fresh citrus juices, and some that are “rubs” to put on the chicken. I also suggested chicken thighs, as they can be more flavorful. I have some more Asian-oriented marinades as well, since Asian food tends to be more healthy (sometimes) and uses things like fresh ginger, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Sriracha, etc.
  • Baked Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks with Lemon
  • Baked Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Caramelized Onions
  • Roasted Multi-Color Cherry Tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic

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  • Baked Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Cumin and Mint
  • Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Turkey Lettuce Wraps with ground turkey, spices & Sriracha, wrapped in lettuce leaves to eat
  • Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken: a whole chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper
  • Trout in Foil with Jalapeños and Lemon: A big hit!
  • Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
  • Steamed Green Beans with Toasted Pecans
  • Cucumber, Onion and Fresh Dill Summer Salad

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For fish, I prepare it and they like to bake it off, so I do fish in foil, and fish in parchment paper. They were eating tilapia (which, I’m sorry, is “starter fish” to me) so I made them some snapper and halibut and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world!  Parchment is great because you can layer aromatics like fennel, lemongrass, etc. and just use a bit of olive oil and  lemon with maybe something like capers and you   can’t go wrong.

When a recipe calls for onions, I use green onions. I double-check the recipe to see if green onions would be a good substitute and in most cases I can use them, but have to use a lot to make up for the quantity of what would be ½ cup of chopped onion, as an example.

That’s just a few ideas. I also thought about roasting plain chicken breasts or thighs but making flavorful sauces to go on top of them. I have an “Aji Verde” sauce with cilantro, jalapeño, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, cumin and sour cream that is really good. And using ingredients like fresh lemon juice/sliced lemons, mustard (Dijon and regular), miso and similar type things helps flavor up chicken.

The best part of all this is that it has truly made me a better chef. Most of the recipes I have made for them are new to me, but I can tell pretty much whether or not it will be at least somewhat tasty. All that research I did is really good to have and may help me in the future. I am sure there are some APPCA chefs who might think this is a piece of cake but it was really a “let’s raise the bar” moment for me. Guess a lot of my clients have been more “comfort food” oriented, and even the healthy eaters weren’t this strict.

I am more confident each time I cook for them and they are terrific about feedback. They have liked pretty much everything I have cooked and I’m not even halfway through my five-page list yet!

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Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey and Vegetables

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded, and chopped
1 pound dark meat ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In skillet over medium heat, cook turkey, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until turkey
is evenly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in same skillet and cook onion, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, and chopped pepper tops until tender. Add drained canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add spinach and cook until spinach is sufficiently wilted. Stuff green peppers with skillet mixture.

Put peppers in oven and cook approximately 40 min.

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Pistachio-Crusted Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, finely ground
3/4 teaspoon salt (DIVIDED USE)
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grind nuts in food chopper. Mix nuts in pie plate with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If chicken breasts are large, pound to thin them.

Dredge chicken breasts in egg mixture, then pistachio nuts. Press nuts firmly into chicken with hands. Place chicken breasts on plate or tray and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer (helps “set up” the nut mixture to adhere to chicken better).

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and cook chicken breasts, 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken from
pan.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté diced onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Sauté onions until browned.

Place chicken in baking dish, top with sauteed onion, and bake 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 160 degrees and juices run clear.

Have you been faced with client dietary requests that knocked you out of your comfort zone? What did you do? Say no or figure it out?

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!

If you’re new to being a personal chef or looking for ways to bring in new clients to your long-time personal chef business, it’s time to get out in front of the public. That’s not as daunting an idea as it may sound. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of venues you may not have even considered as potential promotional opportunities. Some of our members are doing these already. We think you should consider these five–and hope that they’ll spark even more ideas for presenting yourself to your community.

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  • Urban infill new planned communities: Here you have busy people looking for resources for living in their new homes. Why not approach the community manager or marketing manager (with some freshly made eats, your business card, and menu list)? Give the person your pitch for helping new/potential residents learn how to grocery shop, menu plan, and cook ahead for themselves? Yes, that’s the service you want to sell, but a friend of mine refers to it as the butterscotch pudding theory of marketing. That luscious pudding is so good you want the recipe to make it at home–until you learn that candy thermometers and double boilers are involved. Then you just want to enjoy it at the restaurant. As a personal chef, it doesn’t hurt to explain how involved the shopping, menu planning, and cooking are so that new residents want to hire you to do it for them. Alternatively, make a pitch to the marketing manager to do monthly omelet breakfasts for residents. They pay for the food, of course, plus a small fee. One of our members, Sacha Quernheim of Red Zucchini Personal Chef Business has been doing this in her St. Louis community for a couple of years. You can read her tips here.
  • Service clubs: First, you should join clubs you feel an affinity for so you can network and give back to the community. Offer to do a cooking demo or provide light eats for a meeting or event. But be sure to bring your marketing materials with you–the business cards and fliers that have all your current info (including social media accounts) on them. 
  • Bridal shows: Check your local convention center website or city magazine to learn when the bridal shows are in town. Nab a booth and bring edibles to hand out, along with your marketing materials. Not only are these opportunities to sell your personal chef services, but you can also get catering jobs for bridal showers and even weddings–and down the line, baby showers. In fact, check out maternity trade shows, too. After all, who needs a personal chef more than an expectant and then new mom!
  • Wellness conferences and health fairs: If your personal chef business is oriented toward health and wellness, including special diets for special needs clients, you should have a booth at a conference or health fair that brings in people interested in those diets. It’s a ready-made audience. Depending on the costs, you could team up with other personal chefs in the area to split the costs and table time. And don’t just hang out at your booth. Go visit other vendors to network and hand out your marketing materials.
  • Avocational classes: If you live in an area where there are kitchenware retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, or mom and pop shops, find out how you can do cooking demos. Talk to a manager about putting in an application, just like Dallas-based member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine did at Williams-Sonoma. She’s been doing demos for awhile now. And this smart lady even had a friend come in and snap photos and take a video. You can read about her experience with chef demos here. As she said, “I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.”

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Chefs, as business owners you always have to be marketing yourself. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall or are lacking inspiration, look around your community for opportunities. Follow the lead of Sacha and Anne and find venues that are either untapped or totally suit your personality and goals. Then go for it!

Have you found a great venue for marketing your business in your community? Inspire us with your story!

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!

Among the many marketing tools you have available to incorporate into your personal chef marketing strategy is video–specifically YouTube. Food videos are huge. According to a 2014 story in BloombergBusiness, subscriptions to the 300 most-viewed food channels on YouTube more than tripled in 2013 over the previous year and views of videos on those channels jumped 59 percent, according to an analysis by Google.

And, let’s face it, the appetite, as it were for food videos, has only continued to grow. And it’s not just YouTube. If you’re on Facebook you can’t help but be blasted with food videos on your feed. As The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2015, “Indeed, if there’s a killer content category in these still early days of Facebook’s video platform, it’s food videos, say publishers and content creators.”

For APPCA member chef Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas, it took a conversation with another local personal chef who had been a graphic designer and is a wealth of information about “technie stuff” to inspire her. “Try as I might, it is so hard to keep up with all the stuff and understand it and how to use it,” Blankenship said. “But because of her suggestions, I got myself motivated to try and do some of what we discussed. She has only been in business two years so I know this is the type of thing that is helping her business. Things like creating an Instagram account (in the name of my business) and using it; updating my Facebook page as often as possible; doing a blog on my website; updating my keywords on my website; creating a Twitter account and using it; getting reviews on Yelp; doing a video, uploading it to YouTube (creating the YouTube account in the name of my PC business), and then imbedding that link in my website, etc.”

Blankenship has been doing cooking demos at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma and got a friend of hers to video of one of the demos, which is now posted on YouTube.

Now she’s working on how to do with at home that looks professional. She paid 99 cents for an app called CP Pro to help edit videos. Her goal is to create seasonal pieces on YouTube to link to her website.

There are a few ways you can go with video. One is to be in it yourself, chatting to your audience as you demonstrate how to make a dish. Here’s a great example of this from APPCA member Nicole Gaffney, who has created a fab YouTube channel called Coley Cooks:

Gaffney is engaging and enthusiastic about her subject. This video, less than a minute, is part of her quick tips series. She does others at around two minutes to demonstrate recipes.

“I guess the best piece of advice would be to just go for it!” she said. “Just make videos and put them up there and see what happens – that’s pretty much been my strategy. That, and don’t make them too long. No one has the attention span to sit through a 10-minute cooking video. And try to make them as entertaining as possible, because again, people have short attention spans.”

How long? “I think a minute or two is best,” Gaffney said.

Then there’s the question of a script and basic logistics.

“I usually just wing it but sometimes I write it out before recording,” Gaffney explained. “I record everything myself with a tripod, but it’s rather challenging, so if you can have someone else do it, I recommend going that route.”

Another technique is something that’s become pretty huge on Facebook–those videos of recipes that seem to create themselves, using display and titles to explain how the recipes come together. Tastemade, a video network, has perfected this style.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Tastemade edits videos specifically with Facebook’s unique qualities in mind. “For example,” it noted, “since Facebook videos autoplay without sound, Tastemade uses graphics to identify and walk people through recipes. They also shoot food at specific angles, taking into consideration how clips will look on mobile devices, where the majority of Facebook users peruse their news feeds. And they try and grab people’s attention early, knowing that Facebook videos play automatically.”

White on Rice Couple has also got this down beautifully–which makes sense since they’ve been known for years in the food industry for their sumptuous food photography.

So, what do you need in terms of equipment and tools? According to Entrepreneur, you need to have good lighting, a good camera, and good sound. They suggest spending some money on a Lavalier microphone, for instance. Then run the recording through a good noise-removal filter. A softbox lighting kit–or even some desk lamps–placed strategically will create depth and visual interest. Your camera can be whatever  you have on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, or, if you’re really serious, a digital single-lens reflex camera, like a Nikon or Canon.

I would add one more thing for those videos in which you’re not in the frames or narrating–good background music that enhances but doesn’t distract from the atmosphere you’re trying to create.

Entrepreneur also suggests editing with jump cuts, which is a technique that pulls together dozens or more little clips. This is a perfect style for food videos focused on recipes, since there are natural breaks between steps.

Speaking of which, you may need some video software to help you through the editing process. Instagram, Vine, and Twitter have apps that let you edit and upload footage. And you can, of course, upload video to Facebook. But if you want to do something more sophisticated, Social Media Examiner suggests tools like Adobe After Effects, an industry-leading tool that helps you create motion graphics that costs around $30 per month or free tools like PowToonand Camtasia to create video footage. You should also check out this article on Filmora for their top 10 on video editors.

Are you creating YouTube videos to promote your business? If so, please share the links to your videos and tell us how you’ve been creating them.

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.

Often on Friday or Monday on Facebook, we’ll ask our members what’s on for the weekend or, afterwards, what they did that can inspire us. When Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas responded on a Friday that she had a gig at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma store doing a cooking demo, we just had to learn more. The demo went wonderfully and Anne sent us a wrap up of how it came to pass and how it went. More importantly, though, she also talked about why it was so important for her–and other personal chefs–to do this.

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On a recent day off I was wandering around Williams-Sonoma, finally getting around to spending some gift cards I’d been hoarding. I ran into a friend of mine who I thought still worked there. In the process of catching up she asked, “Didn’t you graduate from culinary school recently?” I said yes and she immediately pulled over the assistant manager and said, “You need to talk to her!” So, long story short, they asked me to put in an application to do cooking demos/teach classes on my schedule. I did it because I don’t have a full roster of PC clients and could use the money. Okay, and I was thinking, “STORE DISCOUNT!”

By the way, I didn’t know that Williams-Sonoma has a chef card you can register for online if you’re in the business. It offers a 20 percent discount. My friend told me about it when I went in, so tell everyone about this!

I chatted briefly with the assistant manager about some details and sent a follow-up e-mail a few days later, thanking her for her time. In fact, when I was there, they asked if I could do a demo the next day, but I was already booked to be a “sous chef” with a friend of mine from school who had a dinner party. But at least they were interested. When I didn’t receive a response to my e-mail, I called the assistant manager two days later and she apologized for them not getting back to me. They wanted me to meet the manager, and she had been tied up with reviews, etc. all week. But she made it clear that they were very interested.

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She then called me back, said their guest chef for the weekend had cancelled, and asked if I was available (I had a dinner party that cancelled) so I said YES and went in to chat about details. I then went home and put together a menu which I e-mailed to her.  They sent me home with one of their cool cookbooks, so I figured it would be prudent to try and use some of the recipes from it (“good PR”). So the chicken and the potatoes are from their book.

They left the recipe quantities to my discretion.  They said the store would be packed that day because of their Artisan Market (some local specialty vendors will have tables set up).  And it’s just a taste, so I doubled most of the recipes and quadrupled the asparagus dish, since it’s so cheap right now. They said not to go over $150; think I spent a total of $75, roughly.  And yes, the reimbursed me for the food cost. Here was my menu:

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Chicken & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry

Gratineed Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Roasted New Potatoes with Rosemary & Bay Leaf

“Fragole Al Marsala” (Strawberries in Marsala wine)

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Before the day of the event, I sent out an email to friends and family, inviting them to attend and noting the menu.

It went really well! I posted pictures on my Facebook page that a friend was kind enough to take for me. It got off to kind of a slow start because I’m not familiar with the store, so I had to keep going to the back for equipment and foodstuffs they had told me not to buy. But, I finally got it all together.

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And once I got rolling it was great!  Customers came and went. At one point I even had to reel them in by asking if they wanted something to eat. Once I got on a roll, though, I had them hooked. Everyone said how good the food was and that I was a good “Williams-Sonoma rep” by saying that two of the recipes had come from the book that was on display up front with me. I think I was responsible for selling three cookbooks. Some even bought some stuff in the store, and I made sure to tell the manager that. I did get to meet the actual manager (my contact being one of the assistant managers) and am hoping to hear from her about my application to teach cooking lessons. My contact did come up and say later that afternoon that everyone was noticing what a great job I was doing; that really made me feel good!

I couldn’t wear my chef jacket; it was just too hot and it’s very bulky. And I didn’t have a chance to get my menu printed and laminated; that would have been a great idea. I do that for dinner parties and such, but just ran out of time for this event. Since I wore my chef pants and black T-shirt, with Williams-Sonoma apron, I (luckily) thought at the last minute to paper clip (didn’t have anything else on me!) my business card to the front of my apron. People still thought I worked for W-S, but I was able to tell them no, that I am a personal chef.

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While it was still crowded I was able to pass out my business card to a good handful of people. I didn’t get anyone asking me much about my business so it wasn’t the greatest marketing day, but still, I was out front and chatted to a bunch of folks.

I think any PC who has the opportunity to do cooking demos (even if not paid) at places like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, or some other store should jump on it! It is a terrific marketing opportunity. Every opportunity I got, I would tell people that I am a personal chef. Surprisingly (to me) I didn’t get a lot of questions about “what is a personal chef.”  Maybe people were too busy shopping or didn’t want to stop. They were, however, interested in the food!

Any time a PC can be in the public eye like this is a golden opportunity and you can make the most of it. Having completed culinary school, I felt fairly confident in what I could do. Plus, I have done many cooking classes and demonstrations before, so confidence isn’t really an issue. You do have to put yourself out there and be gracious, smile, talk to folks, etc.  So, it’s also a good chance for someone who may be a bit on the shy side to get some experience talking in front of a group. I had to read a “culinary book” in school (not a cookbook) and I chose Paula Deen’s “It Ain’t All About the Cooking.” I think that is what applies here. So you can cook, right? We all can, as personal chefs, but when you run your own business, as we do, you have to be able to do it all– marketing, cooking, taking care of your books, figuring out technology and how it can help you, networking, etc.

I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.

I heard back from Williams-Sonoma afterwards and they were very pleased with my gig as guest chef. They said they’ll be in touch about my application to work there part-time as cooking instructor. Woo hoo!

Have you been thinking about different ways to market your business? Have you done demos at retailers like Williams-Sonoma?

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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