One  of the things we have tried to reinforce for personal chefs as a way to increase business is raising your profile in your community. Now this can happen in a variety of ways–public speaking, chef demos, and teaching cooking classes, for example. But it can also take the form of media participation. If you’re doing something unusual, like helping an organization raise money you could send out a press release to local newspaper editors. You could also send out releases based on your professional expertise, such as a personal chef’s tips for how to manage holiday cooking. These could lead to stories written about you or inclusion in a larger piece. Just being out in the community could lead to media attention you weren’t even anticipating. Or you could strive to get a regular column in a local publication or website or contribute to a blog (like this one).

Three of our members have gotten some media love recently, and we thought we’d share each with you as inspiration for what you can do in your community–and to give them some blog love!

Heike Ashcroft

Heike Ashcroft runs Just for You Personal Chef from Boston’s South Shore. She was featured in Wicked Local Hanover in November. The story highlighted her personal training license and background in nutrition, how she runs her business, and even interviewed one of her clients, Catherine Hummel and her husband Andrew Danieli of Marshfield, who have been utilizing Ashcroft as their personal chef for a year and a half.

“’Heike is unbelievable in her caring, her creativity and professionalism…we have gained our life back,’ said Hummel.

“Hummel said the couple is saving about 15-16 hours a week by not having to cook themselves, and creating more quality time with each other.

“’It is absolutely the best decision we have ever made,’ said Hummel. ‘It saved our health, our energy… even saved our relationship.’”

Heike isn’t really sure how the local newspaper’s interest in her and her business came about. All the reporter could do was tell her she got the request to write the piece from her editor. But, Heike’s best guess is something you should keep in mind as you decide how to market your business:

“I catered for a local fundraising event in a town nearby; the fundraiser was advertised in the town’s paper and it mentioned me as the caterer,” Heike recounted. “A friend of mine actually sent me a photo of the ad and, funnily enough, two days later I received a request for the interview.”

Note to self: Accept fundraising catering gig. You never know what will come of it later in the form of publicity and business.

April Lee

April Lee is a long-time personal chef in Baltimore. She was included in a recent round up of food-related activities in The Baltimore Sun. The piece highlighted her business, Tastefully Yours Professional Chef Services by Chef April Lee, and focused on her in-home cooking classes.

“’When I teach people in their homes, they’re the ones who do the hands-on work, using whatever equipment they have,’” she says. “’During the lesson, I will make recommendations on how they can best use what they already own.’”

Like Heike, April still doesn’t know how the story came to be. “This is a local lifestyle magazine and they were doing an article about interesting things families could do together. I don’t know whether someone referred my name to them or whether they just googled me,” she said.

Carol Borchardt

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis, however, knows exactly how she got her gig with Community Table by Parade Magazine. Carol, who had written a regular column for her local newspaper until earlier this year when the paper had to make cuts, has also branched out with a successful blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. She has a huge social media presence that helps feed traffic to the site.

“Community Table by Parade Magazine invites people to apply to become paid contributors,” she explained. “That’s all I did!  They do like for people to have an active social media following such as 10,000 FB “likes.”  I’m only at about 7,800, however, they liked what they saw on my blog and saw my potential for growth so accepted me.”

Carol has been writing for Parade since last March. Recently, she wrote a round-up of Breakfast Casseroles from food bloggers, noting, “I can pretty much do anything food related.”

So, what’s the secret to getting this kind of attention?

April gives a lot of credit to having a robust and well maintained website. “I will say that it’s important to keep your website current and do what it takes so that your name/site comes up as one of the first few for your particular county/area … all that SEO stuff.”

Carol would advise anyone who is looking for media attention to get active in their local food community–going to events, helping out at events. She said that’s where the local news media is going to be and it’s prime time to get noticed.

“The way I got the newspaper gig was to become more visible and I met a local food columnist who in turn worked with the newspaper to get me the gig,” she said.

And, when one gig goes away–like that local column did for Carol–consider it an opportunity to take up something else. For Carol the time she spent on the column instead went into developing her blog, which, in turn, led to the Parade gig.

Heike is making the most out of the local story on her. She’s put a link to the article on her Chef Heike Facebook page and her website. And, guess what–following the article’s publication, she received business inquiries and is in the process of following them up.

“I am thinking of re-publishing the link on FB at the beginning of the new year as people will get back into their daily routine after the holidays and may have renewed interest,” she added. “I am also hoping to have the budget next year to re-design my website for it be to more interactive so that I can easily post recipes; links to news articles; or write short blog entrees. I am learning step by step to market my business on social media, and for now try to balance my time between cooking and posting and keeping a presence on FB and Instagram.”

She’s working it! And it may lead to future articles–or writing for publications herself, like Carol.

The big takeaway? Be out there, talk up your business and your achievements, and take advantage of opportunities–or create them yourself.

Have you been featured in your local publication? How did it happen and what did you then do with it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

We hope that you APPCA members were able to take advantage of the special 50 percent off deal we arranged with Fagor. Up until October 24, members in good standing could order Fagor portable induction cook tops and electric multi-use cookers (pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker all in one) at half price. (Thanks for organizing this, April Lee!)

Like the hugely popular Instant Pots, these electric multicookers can be a little intimidating until you get used to how they work. And while you may initially limit yourself to the obvious–stock, soup, beans, yogurt, you’ll want to broaden your mindset and learn about the many additional ways you can use these machines.

So, for all of us novice multicooker owners, I thought I’d offer up some essential resources to get you started. Bookmark them and return again and again because invariably yet another cool way to use these machines will come up. And perhaps you’ll think of some yourself. If so, please share!

  • Hip Pressure Cooking: Founder Laura Pazzaglia has written two books on pressure cooking and her site is filled with all sorts of great information. Beyond the many recipes, she writes pieces on nutritional information, best cuts of meats, machine reviews, even tips for how to open the machine effectively (it makes a difference). There are videos, forums, filling guidelines, and time charts.
  • Facebook Instant Pot Community Public Group: If you’re on Facebook, this is an invaluable group to join. Check out recipes, get cookbook recommendations, ask questions. You’ll be totally surprised by the dishes people make in the electric multicookers. Something go wrong? Troubleshoot it with members. While you’re on Facebook, also check out Instant Pot Recipes.
  • Pressure Cooking Today: Need to figure out how to get started with your multicooker or, specifically, Instant Pot? Here’s a great site to help. You can also get help with how to convert a recipe to pressure cook, which buttons to press, learn the difference between quick pressure and natural pressure release, and get a boatload of indexed recipes from breakfast to sides to dessert.
  • How to Use an Instant Pot: The New York Times has created this indispensable page, written by Melissa Clark (who has a new book out, Dinner in an Instant). Consider this your ABC primer. Clark breaks down every component of the multicooker and how you’d want to use it, as well as how to experiment with it. Just as important, she tells you what not to cook in this machine and why. Plus Clark offers some recipes from her new book.

  • Instant Pot Videos: Love a good YouTube cooking video? Then subscribe to Instant Pot on YouTube. You’ll find a wealth of recipes as well as equipment instruction that will get you up to speed. Learn how to make chicken stock, pork roast, unsoaked beans and grains, and chicken and pancetta risotto.
  • Instant Pot Recipes on Pinterest: Finally, the circus that is Pinterest can lead you to some interesting resources for using your multicooker. There are plenty of links to recipes, cheat sheets, cooking time lists, and mistakes to avoid.

While we’re at it, check out Fagor’s site for recipes to create using their (and perhaps your) multicooker.

Are you an Instant Pot or Fagor Multicooker user? Do you have a blog with recipes? Please share it here! And let us know if you have other great online resources we should know about.

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’s MidAtlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC, held their annual fall meeting September 24 at the Olney, Maryland, home of Iva Barrerra-Oro. The nine attendees had a packed day, starting with a light breakfast and meet and greet, followed by basic old and new business issues to address.

Then came the meat of the gathering: first a Fagor Pressure Cooker Demo, conducted by April Lee. As you know from an earlier blog post, APPCA members are able to get a 50 percent discount on selected Fagor equipment until Oct. 24. So April did a demo on Fagor’s electric 8-quart multi-cooker.

She likes the model because it frees up a burner and at high pressure is more than adequate to quick cook a variety of foods. According to April, she uses the multi-cooker all the time for stews, stock, long braises, corned beef, and more. As she pointed out, using the pressure cooker allows her to start a dish and let it cook unattended while she takes care of other tasks. As part of her demo, April prepared a Thai Chicken Green Curry with Kobucha Squash and Eggplant. She shared the recipe, which follows below.

Following April’s demo, the group held a business round table that allowed the participants to discuss how they’ve faced business challenges or grown their business and get help on a major challenge they need to resolve. That was supposed to be followed by a SCORE presentation from this year’s chapter president Keith Steury that described the nonprofit agency that helps small business and explained its various offerings–from mentors to a library filled with business templates, articles and e-guides, and videos and podcasts. Due to time constraints, Keith is sending the information from the presentation to the participants to review on their own.

Following a potluck lunch, Bernard Henry gave a knife sharpening demo, during which he demonstrated using a wet stone, which he noted, is time consuming but gets the best result because it’s more gentle on the knife. He also explained how to use a manual sharpening machine and gave an overview of the best types of knives to buy.

Following Bernard’s demo, Keith did a wrap up of the day and the group came up with proposed dates and locations for a spring 2018 meeting before the event concluded at 3 p.m.

 

THAI GREEN CURRY CHICKEN w/KABOCHA SQUASH & EGGPLANT

(adapted by April Lee from Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
One (14-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cubed skin-on kabocha squash (about half of a small 4-pound squash, washed skin)
1 medium (12-ounce) eggplant, cubed (about 4 cups)
4 pounds chicken (I prefer boneless chicken thighs)
Kosher salt for seasoning chicken and veggies
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into large chunks and season with salt. Also season cubed eggplant and squash.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat (“brown” setting on Fagor multicooker) until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add curry paste and cook, stirring another 2 minutes. NOTE: You can actually just put all the ingredients in the pot and pressure cook on high for 13 minutes without browning first. Browning brings out a deeper flavor in the spices, but it’s not nec-essary.

3. Stir in coconut milk and fish sauce. Add half the squash and eggplant. Add chicken and top with the remaining squash and eggplant. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 13 minutes.

4. Release pressure, remove lid, and stir in chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Softened vegetables will thicken stew upon stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into serving bowls and garnish with a few whole Thai basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges on side.

Do you live in a part of the country that has several APPCA members? Contact us if you’d like to start up a chapter!

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!

This past weekend, MARC (the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter) held its annual meeting with Keith Steury as president. In preparation for it, member April Lee of Tastefully Yours Personal Chef Services contacted housewares manufacturer Fagor to learn about any new products and asked if they could give our members a good deal on their equipment.

Fagor Induction Pro Cooktop Black

Well, April got the deal. Fagor is giving all APPCA members in good standing a 50% discount on their stovetop pressure cookers, their electric multicookers (pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker all in one), as well as their portable induction cooktops, with free shipping (offer is limited to two items per person).

Fagor LUXTM Multicooker: 4 qt Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker , Rice Cooker and Yogurt Maker.

The sale is only good through October 24th.

To place an order, you’ll need to use this order form. Click on the form, download it, and complete it. Then send your order to:

FAGOR AMERICA,  INC.
1099 Wall Street West, Suite 387
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071

Attn:  APPCA  50% Offer

Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. There’s a limit of 2 items of each per order and one order per person.

 

Fagor Duo 8 qt Pressure Cooker

Is this a good deal? Well, here’s what April has to say about the electric pressure cookers:

“The biggest point I made is that using these big, 8-quart electric pressure cookers is a godsend for personal chefs because they free up burners on the stove. Plus, they automatically come to the proper pressure so you don’t need to babysit the units. I may use three of these at once which takes care of three entrees (e.g., Corned Beef Brisket, Thai Green Curry Chicken, and Moroccan Lamb Stew) while I focus on other dishes. In one hour or less, I can have three main dishes done that would have taken 3 to 4 hours if cooked conventionally on the stovetop or in low, slow oven. The Fagor 50% off deal with free shipping is very sweet!”
What’s your favorite cookware line? Are you an electric pressure cooker user?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how do you protect yourself?

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

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

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

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

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

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

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

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

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Given the size of our national APPCA membership, Candy had suggested years ago that members gather regionally to better get to network and share information. The MidAtlantic Chef Chapter, or MARC, has long been an active and tight-knit group with a membership currently at 19. In April they announced a new slate of officers:

Keith Steury

President: Keith Steury of The Food Sherpa

Treasurer: April Lee of Tastefully Yours

Secretary: Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table

The first agenda item will be identifying a date to meet for their fall gathering–a potluck at member Iva Stanic’s home in Olney, Maryland. Then, of course, if the big two-day Spring meeting for 2018 that Steury hopes will include a trip to a pick-your-own working farm in Virginia.

Why join a member chapter? Well, Steury, whose business is based in Arlington, Virginia, explained that he joined the MARC chapter a few years ago.

“Before that I was a member of the APPCA, but I did not really have any meaningful personal connections to other chefs who were also running their own PC businesses,” he said. “Joining this group has helped me to make these connections and has proved very valuable to me. I am hopeful that we will continue to provide support to both current and potential new members during my tenure as chapter president.”  

Katie Enterline

In his own words, Steury’s plans for his tenure as president include:

  1. Providing cross-referrals for new business: This is something that we already do a lot within our chapter and it is really a great thing. There are ebbs and flows in everyone’s businesses and times when we could all use a new client. Referrals are an excellent way to accelerate this process. This is also a very nice feature for new members and those new to the personal chef industry, because it gives them an immediate connection to potential new clients and the support of other chefs in the process of acquiring them.
  2. Supporting each other and helping each other to succeed:  The APPCA provides a solid foundation and frame-work for how to run a successful PC business, but there is also room for each individual chef to modify things to fit their unique preferences. The chapter provides a great forum for discussing ideas, tips, pitfalls, and related information about running a PC business. There are a lot of smart people with creative ideas in the chapter, and they are open and willing to share this information with their fellow chefs.  This helps everyone to improve their businesses and be more successful. 
  3. Being aware of market changes and how to differentiate ourselves as personal chefs:  I am amazed at how much things have changed since I started my PC business back in 2007. Back then, the concept of a PC was still pretty novel (at least here in Northern VA). Now, not so much. In addition, there is a lot more competition in the marketplace, so I think that makes our job more challenging. Now more than ever, I think it is important to be educated about the market and to take the time to identify and explain how we as PCs differentiate ourselves from these other options. We save our clients valuable time, we provide a custom experience/solution (to often complex problems), and we do it all while cultivating a meaningful relationship with a focus on excellent customer service.

April Lee

We wish the MARC chapter a productive and fulfilling year! If any of you would like to start a chapter in your region, please reach out to Candy and she can help you get it up and running!

Do you know any fellow APPCA members in your community or region? How do you network with other personal chefs–or do you?

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!

Candy and I have been talking about all the various issues that crop up for personal chefs over the holidays. So we have several posts planned to help you get through the season and do some planning for the coming year. For this post, we look at catering over the holidays.

“If you’re a personal chef who includes catering under your business umbrella–or you’re making the leap this year–then the holidays can be a time when you’re booking fewer Monday through Friday meal service cook dates and instead booking more cocktail and dinner parties through the end of the year,” said Candy. “There’s no more critical time to have a plan and strategy for catering these very special events. Perhaps your clients don’t have optimal kitchen facilities for prepping the dishes. Then you need to book commercial space. No doubt you’ll need special equipment. You’ll have to come up with a formula to have the right amount of food–and know what kind of food works best in a buffet and how to plan portions. You need to know how to display and present your dishes and tables.”

predit

Candy realized that the best source for all this advice was already pulled together by Chef April Lee of Tastefully Yours. Some of you who attended the 2013 Personal Chef Summit probably heard her make this presentation. But for those of you who weren’t there–or want a refresher–here it is. Many thanks to April for updating her presentation for this post–especially given the busy holiday season!

Let the holiday season begin! Happy Delicious Holidays from Candy, Dennis, and me!

Buffets and Banquets: How to Please a Crowd
By April Lee

Planning and Organization: More than just date, place, time, and number of guests
Here are the basics you need to address:

  • Client’s budget (add 5 percent overage for unexpected expenses)
  • Additional help (sous chef, assistants, bartender, etc.)
  • You must have everything spelled out in the contract, including what you are NOT providing, because you don’t want any surprises the day of the event, such as your client asking you if you brought table linens, champagne glasses, or other party supplies/equipment.For large events, you need to include the expense for renting a commercial kitchen, which may include extra fees for refrigerated storage of prepared food.
  • Onsite visit is mandatory. Here’s what to look for:
    • Availability of equipment/rental of equipment
    • Access, layout and flow
    • Where to set up staging and holding areas
    • Where to store supplies
    • Where electrical outlets are located
    • Access time
    • Parking availability

antipasti6
Equipment: Another key component of planning and organization

  • Insulated Food Carriers (Cambro) – food safety first and always
  • Instant-read thermometers
  • Chafers/Steam Tables and chafing fuel
  • Warming Trays
  • Buffet Servers
  • Insulated coolers
  • Freezable ice sheets
  • Folding 6-foot banquet tables
  • Platters & Bowls (all sizes, shapes): White ceramic is best
  • Butane lighters
  • Table sign holders
  • Extras! You need to bring extras of everything so make sure you’re able to transport not only all the food, but all of the equipment.

 

grillveg4

What Kind of Food: What works and doesn’t work on a buffet?
What Works:

  • Long braised or slow cooked meats (e.g., Beer Braised Short Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Osso Buco, etc.)
  • Casseroles (e.g, Lasagna, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Strata, Moussaka, etc.)
  • Meats with gravies or glazes
  • Sauced meats with rice, mashed potatoes, pasta (Moroccan Lamb Stew, Beef Stroganoff, Coq au Vin, etc.)
  • Contrasting textures from different cooking methods
  • Contrasting colors
  • Balance between cold and hot foods
  • Balance between expensive and inexpensive foods (always place more expensive dishes toward the end of the buffet)

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Fried foods, in general (e.g., tempura veggies, fries, etc.)
  • Foods which are runny (e.g., au jus, brothy dishes, etc.)
  • Foods which require extra utensils (e.g., seafood forks)
  • Clashing cuisines and overpowering, unbalanced flavors
  • Foods of the same color
  • Foods of the same texture
  • Rare to medium rare beef or delicate seafood in chafers (these items will always overcook just sitting in food warmers)

How Much Food: These are the standard minimums for buffets ranging from 25 to more than 100 people.

  • 2 to 3 Entrées (meat, poultry, seafood)
  • 1 Non-Meat Entrée
  • 1 to 2 Hot Starches (potatoes, pasta, rice or other grain)
  • 1 to 2 Hot Vegetable (one green, one non-green, 2 textures)
  • 1 to 2 Salads
  • Bread/rolls (optional, dependent on menu)
  • 2 to 3 Desserts
  • Beverages and Coffee Station

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Biggest Question: Portion Size and Number of Portions

This is, by far, the most important question I get asked all the time: How much of each dish? This is also a most critical aspect to understand; otherwise you could end up (1) underestimating the cost and having to eat the extra expense yourself or (2) overestimating the amount needed and ending up with an enormous excess of food which is not just a waste of resources but will be seen as a waste of the client’s money and unprofessional on your part for grossly miscalculating what was needed for the event.

There are several factors that can affect portion size. These include the purpose of the event (e.g., art exhibition reception versus wedding reception), the age and gender of the guests (younger people eat more), the time of day and length of the event, and any pre- or post-event functions. Mid-afternoon or late evening receptions which aren’t meant to serve as a meal require less food than events which are meant to include full meals (this includes heavy hors d’oeuvres buffets).

AP versus EP: This is a crucial concept to understand. In order to make accurate cost estimates, “as purchased” (AP) versus “edible portions” (EP) calculations must be made before you make a formal job quote to your client. AP refers to how you buy any particular ingredient (e.g., whole, untrimmed beef tenderloin). EP refers to the finished product result after you have prepped and cooked it. So, with a whole beef tenderloin, for example, you’ll lose a great deal due to waste/trimming plus shrinkage from cooking, perhaps losing as much as 20% of the total raw weight to get to the finished product. This means that the yield (the EP) is only 80% of the total raw weight of the meat. If you want to serve 100 people 4 oz. of tenderloin, then you will need 400 oz. or 25 pounds EP (which is after it is prepped and cooked). But you will need to buy about 31 pounds AP of untrimmed whole tenderloin in order to get your yield of 25 pounds EP (31 x 0.80 = 24.80). Obviously, other proteins which don’t require much trimming, e.g., boneless, skinless chicken breasts, will have a smaller percentage of loss, maybe 10%, so your calculations will depend on the type and cut of protein.

AP versus EP calculations affect everything, however, not just proteins. If you buy 1o pounds of romaine lettuce heads, you will end up with about 8 pounds or less after you discard the outer leaves and the tough ribs. With grains and pasta, the numbers go the other way: 10 pounds of dry pasta will yield almost 18 pounds of cooked pasta. It is essential that you use the food production charts (sample charts below) to help you estimate the amount of each type of food to buy in order to meet the needs of your client’s event without miscalculating either the cost or amounts. There are very detailed and definitive AP vs. EP charts available in catering handbooks and food production textbooks. (References listed below Food Portion/Quantity Chart below)

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

 

Microsoft Word - GRAINS YIELD CHART.docx

When preparing entrée buffets (lunch or dinner), you’ll need half-size portions for all entrees (3 to 4 ounces per person EP) and half-size or smaller portions for sides, depending on the number of sides offered (2 to 3 ounces per person EP) and whether there will be dessert as well. Most guests want a taste of everything so will tend to take half-size portions (or smaller in some cases, like lasagna).

Hors D’Oeuvres and Appetizer Dinner Buffets

These, of course, are the most time-consuming and labor-intensive food. They’re the most difficult food to transport safely and the most space-consuming food to store. So, choose time-efficient recipes–not just easy ones. It’s okay to use purchased products as part of the display, but remember that quality is first and foremost, the end product must be top notch, and use high-end resources.

The number of selections and number of pieces per person is dependent upon the type of event being catered:

For one-hour receptions: 4 different foods, 6 to 8 pieces per person

For longer lunch or dinner receptions (2 to 3 hours): Minimum of 6 different tastes, 10 to 12 pieces person or 12 to 15 pieces with desserts

For food not in pieces, such as soft cheeses, spreads, dips, terrines, and pates, plan on 1 ounce per person.

 

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Display and Presentation: We eat with our eyes first!

Delicious food is one component of catering. Making it look not just appealing but irresistible is another. Here are some things to keep in mind as you design your presentation:

  • Think color: Contrasting food colors and boldly colored fabrics, not just tablecloths. Fabric remnants are wonderful display accessories.
  • Think height: Vary the height of platters and trays; use vertical containers or displays for food; tilt cold trays/platters on two corners towards guests. Glass blocks (used for showers and basements) from the hardware store make beautiful and stable risers for heavy bowls and platters. Wrap sturdy boxes in brightly colored or iridescent wrapping paper to use as risers for lighter platters and baskets.
  • Think textures: Vary cooking methods for differently textured foods; use different fabric textures on the table(s)
  • Think space: Don’t crowd food; leave 18 inches for each dish; set off food against white space for a clean and uncluttered display

Think WOW! Here are some resources for getting inspired to make your presentation pop!

Take a look at websites which feature beautiful hors d’oeuvres or small plate foods. These can include your favorite tapas restaurant or catering industry supply vendors, because seeing professionally designed small ware or miniature food items (chocolate shells, baked cones, etc.) will inspire you. You’ll get an instant idea of what your own creations will look like, presented in creative and eye-catching ways. They may even give you new ideas for appetizers that you can offer to your clients. The following companies have particularly well-designed sites with great photos which will excite and motivate you:

  • Albert Ulster Imports (www.auifinefoods.com): Edible food vessels (savory and sweet), decorations, glazes, personalized chocolates, molecular gastronomy supplies, etc.
  • Restaurant Ware (www.restaurantware.com): “Fashion for Food” – specializing in small ware: plastic, bamboo, glass in every shape and size. There’s no way you will peruse this site without coming away with new ideas!
  • Appetizers USA (appetizersusa.com): Over 200 different hors d’oeuvres from which many hotels, caterers, country clubs, and other foodservice companies order. Can order by tray, not by the case.

Good luck and have fun wowing your clients and their guests this holiday season!

Are you making the leap into catering for the holidays this year? What are your biggest concerns? If you’re experienced, what are your tips for newbies?

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.

Photos courtesy of April Lee

About a year ago APPCA member and personal chef Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Baltimore got a call from a gentleman who asked her if she remembered him from one of her classes that he had attended with his wife. “I did remember them,” she says. “He was asking what I was planning on teaching the following semester and told me that my class had changed his life! He and his wife began cooking at home and had subsequently changed his diet for the better, and had become passionate about cooking! It was an activity he could share with his wife and it brought them closer. He has become one of my biggest fans! Wow! It makes me feel like a rock star!”

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Need a reason to teach cooking classes? That pretty much sums it all up, don’t you think?

Okay, let’s stipulate up front that teaching is not for everyone–for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people and feel cooking for others by yourself in a kitchen is enough. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe the idea of showing others how to do what you have perfected is not your idea of a pleasurable experience. You all can move on.

However, if you’ve been toying with the idea of teaching cooking classes but weren’t sure of what is involved and need gentle encouragement from colleagues, we’ve got some tips for you to help you make that satisfying leap.

Our experience is that many personal chefs have developed multiple income streams which complement their personal chef services, one of which is teaching cooking or demo classes since we believe personal chefs are by their very nature teachers. After all, we teach our clients how to use our services effectively and efficiently. We also teach them how to make healthy choices and to pass that information on to their children so they can grow up to be healthy adults. We answer client’s questions about food sources, cooking techniques, and recipes regularly. So, to my mind it makes sense to teach officially and be paid to pass along that knowledge–or donate that expertise and support to a non-profit group that needs our skills and expertise to help people in need.

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These classes or demonstrations can take place in the client’s home, at a local venue, a vocational cooking school, a community college, or a demonstration kitchen facility. The size, layout, and facilities will determine whether the class will be a demonstration or hands on.

Think about it, you could hold cooking class dinner parties or luncheon’s in a client’s home. You could do event demos at fairs or market openings–or market tours followed by a demo. You could hold classes in a community center, a farmers market, a rental kitchen–even your own kitchen. You can certainly teach adults, but you can also teach kids and teens–or families. One woman I know holds brunch cooking classes on her boat in the San Diego Bay.

Member April Lee of Tastefully Yours, also in Baltimore, has been teaching cooking classes for 30 years, starting with after-school cooking classes for kids with the county government. “I’ve taught everything from basic cooking skills to cuisine-based classes to customized classes dealing with special diets,” says April. “I’ve also taught classes dealing with party appetizers, holiday dinners, and theme dinners. I teach because I love sharing my passion for cooking with others and I don’t want people to think that cooking is mysterious or to be intimidated by it.”

April Lee lorez

April Lee

April’s venues have ranged from using commercial kitchens in county-owned facilities to teaching in client homes or a commercial kitchen she rents. Marketing the classes for the county is done through the county’s course catalogs. For private classes, she says it tends to be word of mouth. “I taught a series of Asian cooking classes several years ago, starting with a tour of Asian markets and introducing students to various produce, sauces, and other ingredients. From that point on, word got out about my classes and I’ve had a steady following ever since. I’m currently developing a new set of fun classes and will market them to my personal chef clients as well as my students in about a month–just in time for people to buy gift certificates for the holidays.”

Beth Volpe of Savory Eats by Beth in L.A. is relatively new to the business but she’s been teaching grilling classes to adults and teens in client homes. “I actually love teaching because I love to share what I know and what I learn,” says. “I started the grilling class because a client I do dinner parties for wanted to learn to grill. I don’t market. They come to me through my website, referral, or Thumbtack [a site that lets you find professionals to handle various jobs].”

Beth charges an hourly rate with a minimum of two hours, plus the cost of food. If you’re teaching for a local government organization or community college, the rates are likely to already be established and are probably not very high. Shelbie, who has been teaching cooking classes for more than 20 years often teaches a class or two every semester at the local community college, which dictates the prices. But, she points out, each student pays her directly at each class for the cost of the groceries. She charges students of her private classes–dinner party classes, demos for women’s groups, etc.–based on the number of students, the menu, and the location. “A class of 12 could begin at $60 per person and go up,” she explains. “A private class for one could be $250.”

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie uses Facebook to promote her group classes. The community college handles marketing for her cooking classes with them–although she also promotes them on Facebook. “I also keep a running email list of interested students and alert them to upcoming classes. Occasionally, I receive inquiries through my website from folks wanting private classes or dinner party classes and I keep a Word document handy that I can send them with some examples of classes I’ve taught in the past.”

Between us, we’ve come up with a handful of tips for aspiring cooking teachers:

  • You must be 1000 percent organized. Know your recipes and ingredients. Know what to do if something goes wrong–because inevitably it will and you’ll have to prove to your students that there are fixes.
  • You’ll always need more equipment than you think you do (i.e., sheet pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards) because you usually can’t stop to wash them while teaching.
  • Keep your recipes and jargon uncomplicated. You probably don’t know what level of cooking experience your students have.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse so you are comfortable talking in front of people while performing tasks. Be sure you time yourself so the class is completed within the time allotted.
  • Instead of providing printed recipes at the class, offer to send them to students later to keep them focused on what you’re doing.
  • Prep ahead of time to keep things during class moving. Call on volunteers to help and pass things around the group to keep them involved.
  • Have anecdotes relevant to what you’re cooking? Use them!
  • Know how to charge so you make money. If you’re volunteering or working for a non-profit with limited funds, accept the gig with the knowledge that you’re doing it for personal reasons. Otherwise you want the highest WOTDF (walk out the door fee) you believe you can charge. We tell chefs not to leave their homes for less than $250 per cook date, so you need to figure out how that translates for cooking classes. Remember to factor in the cost of groceries, and cost of extra labor (such as an assistant to help you clean up as you’re demoing).
  • If you’re on social media, use it tenaciously to market your classes, along with the rest of your business.
  • Most important: bring high energy and enthusiasm! If you can’t be enthusiastic about teaching, don’t do it. If you’re enjoying yourself, your students will, too. They’ll care, they’ll hear, they’ll feel empowered to go home and try it themselves. Which is the whole point of this, right!

And, remember, APPCA members are here for each other. We have lots of great conversations about teaching classes and other business-related issues on our forums. Feel free to log in and ask away–or offer your own input to others. I often chime in as well.

Do you aspire to teach cooking classes? What is your pressing question? Do you teach? Give us a tip or two based on your experience!

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 love that our members feel such an attachment to APPCA and kinship with one another that they find it beneficial to participate in regional chapters. One such is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC. They get together to exchange information, bring in speakers to learn about new concepts, and hold cooking demos.

Earlier this month, 17 APPCA members gathered for a MARC meeting at chapter president April Lee’s home. We’ll let her describe what transpired:

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) of the APPCA held its first meeting of 2014 this past weekend. We had a blast and great turnout with 17 people in attendance, including several new members. We had several speakers who inspired and motivated us with great ideas: Lynne D’Autrechy, President of Buzzquake.com, talked to us about Internet marketing, how to increase traffic to our websites, and reach more potential clients. Bernard Henry (star personal chef and APPCA member, but with a CFO background) spoke about basic financial and accounting tips and how to set up our own businesses. Rufus Knight (husband of member Laura Knight, of A Knight’s Feast) talked about how to enhance our websites visually and contextually, as well as how to make them more useful for our clients and for ourselves. Our to-do lists just got longer but with fantastic ideas!

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We also had two great cooking demos: Cindy Shepard (Cindy’s Home Cooking) showed us how to use sous vide circulators for our meal service and dinner party clients. This is a very popular cooking method being used in all the high-end restaurants now. Most of us were unfamiliar with how sous vide works, but were impressed with the results, especially with how proteins, which are easily overcooked (such as fish), can be cooked perfectly and held for hours at just the right temperature. Amazing!

Cindy Shepard's sous vide demo
Shelbie Wassel (Shallots Personal Chef Service) demonstrated one of her favorite go-to client entrees: Parchment Paper Salmon over Fennel, Leeks and Carrots. Her delicious pairing of the flavorful vegetables topped with salmon filets roasted beautifully in the oven and made a very pretty presentation in the parchment pockets. For those of you who know Shelbie, you can imagine how much fun we all had during her demo … hehehe!

Shelbie's parchment salmon demo MARC0414Dinner3
Everyone enjoyed the sous vide steaks, sous vide salmon, and the parchment salmon with vegetables as part of the potluck dinner which followed the meeting.

Potluck
Oh, yes … the potluck dinner that follows every MARC meeting. This is actually why we have the meetings:  so that we can have a great party afterwards with wonderful food and drink. Just take a look at the photos and you’ll know that a very good time was had by all! (On top of that, April says, several of the members got together the night before the meeting for dinner and then met the day after the meeting for dim sum. “Doesn’t take much to get personal chefs together to enjoy good food and drink,” says April.)

A HUGE THANK YOU to all the members who took precious time out of their busy schedules to spend a day (or two) with colleagues. This chapter is as active and vibrant as it is because of all of you! Big hugs all around!

For those APPCA members who are interested in joining MARC, please send me an email (chef.april@verizon.net).  I am so proud and happy to be associated with this group because it is comprised of wonderful people. We are a very lively, collegial, and supportive group and we care very much about helping each other … plus we LOVE sharing great food and wine, and having fun together!

What are some of the best tips or pieces of information you’ve received as an APPCA member? What could we help you 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.

January is a time of new beginnings and one of them can include jump-starting your business. It’s essential for personal chefs just launching a business, but even a seasoned professional can use a new tip or two. Getting in front of potential customers can open up new opportunities and there are a myriad of successful ways to approach it.

The most obvious would seem to be paid advertising, but that’s actually not something we endorse. As Chef April Lee has said, “Think about how you go about hiring a professional service provider. Do you hire anyone off a flyer? Does anyone? Do you pay attention to paid advertisements?”

What you should invest money in are professionally printed business cards and a professionally designed and written website filled with mouth-watering photos (and no “selfies”). As you know, we can help you with the website.

The rest of your investment should be in time and creativity. Find ways to get out into the community. Make yourself visible and meet as many people as possible who are either in a position to hire you or to refer business to you—or invite you to speak or participate in any of their business or community activities.

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Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York, who was awarded our top prize in marketing at our October APPCA Chef Summit, has more than a dozen quick tips to offer:

  • ·      Polish your elevator speech and use it at every opportunity possible. Family, friends, neighbors, etc.
  • ·      Wear your chef coat while shopping for yourself as well as when shopping for clients.
  • ·      Introduce yourself to the department managers of the produce, fish, and meat departments in the stores where you shop. Use you elevator speech in your first meeting.
  • ·      While waiting for the butcher, fishmonger, etc., to prepare your order chat them up about what you are cooking, etc. Oftentimes other customers will hear you and you’ll have an opportunity to use your elevator speech and present them with a business card.
  • ·      Have a website linked to your name in the APPCA Find a Chef Directory.
  • ·      Use social media, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to connect with people from your past, present, and future. Create discussions about your business.
  • ·      Write a blog that connects to your website and all social media. Write about recipes, events, and menus you have created. Quality pictures are a must!
  • ·      Send out press releases—when you start up, anytime you do anything for  a charity event, whenever you want to talk about a new food trend, about whatever is popular with your clients, to feature recipes for an upcoming holiday. Try to get the copy deadlines for these holidays.
  • ·      Send thank you cards to clients when you provide dinner party service or when you fulfill a gift certificate.  (Remember a gift certificate gives you two clients to market to.)
  • ·      Write catchy Craigslist ads and post pictures when advertising.
  • ·      About four to five times a year I mail postcards to all clients, past and present. You can use a variety of topics—for instance, you can remind them that school is starting and that your service helps with the tight schedule families deal with or that Valentine’s Day is coming up and that you can prepare an intimate dinner party, or suggest random dinner party ideas (e.g., recipes from any Julia Child cookbook around her b-day). 
  • ·      Buy car magnets and bumper stickers that promote your service.
  • ·      Print materials describing all the services you provide to be presented to clients when you are performing an assessment. 

Additionally, be sure your email always goes out with a signature offering your business contact information (website, email, phone number, and social media links). And your website, your Find a Chef Directory listing, and any other showcase for you should always have the basics, including your full name, your location, the services you provide, and your background. Personal chefs offer a personal service. Don’t make it difficult for people (or the media) to find you or learn specifically what you do.

And be bold! We had a member some years ago who decided he wanted to reach as many potential clients as possible as quickly as possible. He put on his chef wear and tall toque, put a doily on a silver tray, spread his business cards out on the tray, and set off for the local commuter railway station where he “served up” his cards to hungry, tired commuters at the end of the busy work day. These folks wanted to get home, have an adult beverage, and a good meal. His image and business card went a long way in delivering his message.

Do you have a way with the video camera? Create quality cooking demo YouTube videos that link to your website and social media outlets. Use them to try to get a regular gig on your local television station’s morning show. Are you a good writer? Offer to write a column for your local newspaper. This is especially helpful to the publication if you have an area of specialization like cooking vegetarian or vegan meals or if you combine your chef skills with a degree as a dietician or nutritionist. Chef Donna Douglass of What’s Cooking has done this successfully. She also teaches cooking and nutrition classes and appears at health fairs.

And, if you do have an area of specialization, research organizations that could help direct your services to their clients. Providing meal services to people on special diets can be so rewarding and impactful. New member Chef Lori Himmelsbach of A Chef of My Own in Kentucky googled “hospice,” “oncology support,” “holistic healing of…,” and “gluten-free support” in her area. Then she called the organizations listed, asked for the director of operations or the office manager, and explained who she was and how a personal chef could help their clients.

“I asked if I could send an email giving them more information about my services (including my website), as well as a request to pass this information on to their staff so they are aware of what a personal chef can do,” she explains on one of our forums. “Then I asked if they would like brochures (which I printed at home) to give to their staff or clients. One of my callers has already requested 30 brochures to pass out to her social workers.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” Lori says. “As I’m starting my business I ask myself everyday what I can do to increase my income—and then do it!”

Everyone eats, so that means everyone is a potential client. It’s just up to you as to how you want to reach out to them. The only thing that limits us as personal chefs is the limits of our own imagination.

What have been your most successful marketing strategies? Please leave a comment and share with your colleagues across 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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