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!

Marticza’s Salmon Ball Recipe

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , April 24, 2017

Hey all, Candy’s weighing in with a delightful appetizer recipe she wanted to share with you. I’ll let her explain its background:

My sister, Marticza, aka Marti, and I developed this tasty spread over 40 years ago for family gatherings and celebrations because everyone in our big crazy Eastern European family loves horseradish, salmon, and being together.

I provided these salmon balls for many a  personal chef client over the years because they could keep them frozen and be able to pull them out, defrost them, roll them in chopped nuts and parsley, and have something delicious, beautiful, and different to offer their guests in a jiffy.

It is seldom that a friend or guest who samples this treat does not request the recipe, and we make certain they don’t leave the house without one.

Providing frozen appetizers and simple desserts like pre-sliced frozen cookie dough for clients was a service many requested pre-holiday time so they could entertain spur of the moment, or enjoy homemade treats any time they wanted.

It is ultimately all about service.

And keeping it personal!

Marticza’s Salmon Ball

Ingredients

  • 1, 15-ounce can of pink salmon
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese (low fat is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion (or ¼ teaspoon onion powder)
  • 2 Tablespoons horseradish*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hickory Smoke Liquid
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or chopped toasted pecans
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • favorite assorted crackers

Directions

Mix together all ingredients EXCEPT the walnuts and parsley. Roll into ball and wrap in waxpaper. Refrigerate the ball for at least an hour, overnight is better. Remove waxpaper and roll the salmon ball in the chopped walnuts and parsley. Refrigerate until time to serve, or freeze (without nuts and herb coating) for future use. Serve with a selection of crackers or small breads.

* Marti often doubles the recipe and uses a drained 5-ounce jar of horseradish

Do you have a go-to appetizer your clients love? Let us know if you’d like to share it on our blog.

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!

Well, we’re at the precipice of month three of 2017. What actions did you lay out in your 2017 business plan to build your personal chef skills? Have you acted on them yet?

Now, you’re probably assuming we’re talking about cooking. And, yes, that’s a part of it. But being a successful personal chef involves more than cooking skills. It involves marketing yourself and your business. Gaining financial literacy so you actually make a profit. Broadening your social skills to be able to engage with clients and potential clients. Maybe it’s developing a specialty and attaining the critical knowledge of that area of specialization to deliver on it to clients.

With this in mind, here are five ways to build your personal chef skills:

  1. If you’re feeling that your cooking skills need a boost so you’ll feel more confident and able to expand your repertoire of recipes, enroll in cooking classes. They can be local classes or you can get certified by a cooking school. Our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy offers self-paced Culinary and Pastry Arts programs. In fact, several of our members are graduates.
  2. Amp up your visibility by building a social media presence. Figure out where your potential people are. Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? You don’t have to tackle them all but two, maybe three platforms will start to build your reputation among potential clients. Make sure you take great, well-lit photos of your food and reach out to others (including us) to build connections who can help share your posts.
  3. Where you live can make a difference in how you shape your business. So, why not reach out to other APPCA members in your city to network? You can exchange marketing tips, resources, and maybe collaborate on projects–catering large special events or backing each other up with gigs you can’t take on.
  4. Set yourself apart with an area of specialization. Some people focus on dietary specialties–gluten-free or vegan, heart-friendly diets, building athletic strength, disease oriented. Others like to cook for new moms and young families or busy executives or older adults. If there’s a type of diet or a type of client that really excites you, build a business around that–but make sure you have the special skills and insights you need to put you in demand. And that’s a combination of cooking skills and human interaction skills.
  5. Reinforce what you’ve learned and may have forgotten or weren’t ready to act on. When you joined APPCA did you attend our weekend Personal Chef Seminar at Candy’s home in San Diego? If you didn’t, this intensive course will give you a vast array of information, tools, and insights into running your business that you’ll leave excited and energized. If you did attend years ago, how about going back for a refresher course? With some experience behind you, you may discover some gaps you’re ready to fill. And Candy can offer you suggestions within the context of the seminar based on your evolved needs. The next seminar is March 11-12 and the following one will be held in May.

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

We can help you with any of these five tips. Get in touch with Candy to discuss the Escoffier culinary program. Get in touch with me to get some help with social media (or take a look at past posts here and here and here). If you’re looking for local APPCA members to network with, go on our forum to reach out or our APPCA group page. Or ask Candy for a list of local members to contact. Get input from colleagues on specializing in both of these groups–or, again, Candy. We’re here to help you succeed!

What steps are you taking to rev up your business? How can we help 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!

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This is it! The last week of 2016. We hope it’s been a busy year, filled with exciting challenges, plenty of new clients, and a satisfying work/life balance.

But we also hope you’ve been thinking ahead to 2017 and how you can implement the changes you want to make in all aspects of your life. To do that takes some organization so you don’t get bogged down in the frustrations of the mundane.

We’ve come up with a six-point year-end checklist to help. They’re a mix of big things you can’t afford to ignore, modest but still very important, and things we hope Mom or Dad taught you growing up that are just as valuable in the professional environment as the personal. The idea is to create a foundation of success by taking advantage of the arbitrariness of the end of a calendar year to reinforce the good stuff you should be doing for yourself.

  1. Review and update your business plan: This is more than going over a checklist. This requires deep thought about where you’ve been, where you are, and what you want for next year. What are your priorities now? Have they changed? How do you go about meeting them? Do they involve new marketing strategies? New skills development? A new direction or emphasis in your service offerings? What can you do to implement them? Putting down some concrete steps to achieving your 2017 goals gives you a running start come January.
  2. Change over your annual file system: It’s so much easier to go through life having your essential documents organized–especially anything related to taxes and business records. Everyone has their system. Some still using paper. Some on the computer or in the cloud–or a combination of both. Just take the time to start your 2017 files so you have what you need easily at hand.
  3. Organize financial records for taxes: Fourth quarter taxes are due next month and perhaps your accountant, if you have one, has already sent you forms to complete before you meet to get the 2016 lowdown. This is the time to go through those well-organized files and gather your documents so you can pull everything together to file your taxes. If you’re new to having your own business, ask your accountant what expenses are deductible, how to track mileage, and how to write invoices. If you use Quickbooks, you can print out a record of your income and expenses and use that as a blueprint.
  4. Review your equipment: As a chef, your tools are among the most essential investments you make in your business. Do you need anything new or repaired? Are there utensils you lug around unnecessarily that load you down and you can get rid of? Could you use a better system for hauling your equipment? Do your knives need sharpening? Do your uniforms need refreshing? Hey, does your car need a tune up or new tires? That counts, too!
  5. Review your menus: How regularly do you update your menus? Certainly, clients will have favorite dishes you’ll need to keep in your repertoire, but it’s a good idea to refresh dishes so no one–including you–gets bored. It’s also an opportunity to challenge yourself with new skills and flavor combinations, not to mention wow potential new clients with your versatility.
  6. Say thank you: Before the year ends, get out some nice stationery and send thank you notes to clients. They’re the reason you have a business. Your letter of appreciation is an old-world gesture that will go a long way in letting them know how much you value them and their business.

We’re looking forward to an exciting 2017 and hope you are, too! Candy, Dennis, and I wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

What is on your end-of-year checklist we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2017?

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!

 

Turkey Roulade

For many of us Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. Why? Most likely because we gather with people we care about over a great meal–without the pressure of exchanging gifts.

That’s not to say there aren’t other pressures, especially if you’re a personal chef and catering the holiday. Over the years we’ve written a lot on Thanksgiving–offering tips and recipes. So, for this Thanksgiving week post how about we revisit a few of these posts? Below are links to our best Thanksgiving tips and recipes. And at the end is a recipe for a multi-grain salad that can be a great side dish for the holiday meal–and easily be adapted for the vegetarians and vegans at the holiday table.

Chef Suzy Brown's roasted Thanksgiving goose

Chef Suzy Brown’s roasted Thanksgiving goose

Straddling the Holiday Service Dilemma: Can you possibly take on a catering gig or do extra cooking for Thanksgiving for clients and not fall asleep at your own holiday table? It’s a classic personal chef tug of war but APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has some pointed suggestions for making this work so you can get the best of both worlds–provide your clients with service and enjoy the holiday yourself.

Prepping

Beth Volpe’s Thanksgiving Turkey Two Ways: Undecided about how to prepare your turkey/s or how to get the dinner on the table so you can enjoy it with your loved ones? APPCA member Beth Volpe of Savory Eats figured out a way to make her Thanksgiving meal two days before so that she would have the holiday to enjoy with her family. “I make a brined, butterflied turkey, the gravy, the dressing, and the cranberry sauce the day before. Come Thanksgiving Day, all I do is slide my turkey in the oven and pour myself a glass of wine.” Beth offers her method of brining the turkey and has an additional recipe for a sensational turkey roulade.

Turkey Stuffing Muffins-small

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. What a cool idea! You could certainly do with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, but take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

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Now how about a Thanksgiving dish that’s also healthy? Grains are always a favorite of mine and grain salads are a no brainer–but have you thought of combining grains in a salad?

Creating a multi-grain salad means you get a more interesting combination of flavors and textures, not to mention colors. It all depends of what you mix together. I love the chew of red wheat berries. They’re perfect with robust vegetables like winter squash and thick-cut portobello mushroom. Quinoa is more delicate and colorful and works well with fruit, red peppers, cheese, beans, and cucumbers. Farro’s nuttiness fits somewhere in the middle. I enjoy combining it with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, and lots of herbs.

I decided to mix these three up together and add fruit in the form of fuyu persimmons and some beans–garbanzo and edamame–for color, texture, and sweetness. I got some crunch from toasted walnuts and pecans.

A word of advice, here. Combining grains doesn’t at all mean cooking them together. It’s a little extra work, but you must cook each grain type separately. If you don’t, you risk getting mush instead of the individual textures and flavors you’re after.

Also feel free to mix together your own combinations of whole grains. Consider barley, brown rice, kamut, and spelt, among others. And all sorts of other seasonal vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs will work well, too. This recipe should be inspiration to create a dish based on what you enjoy and what you find in the markets.

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Three-Grain Salad with Persimmons, Beans, and Nuts
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth for vegetarians)
1/ cup red onion, diced
2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1 cup cooked edamame beans (available at Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 tablespoon Mexican tarragon, chopped

Sherry Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch sugar
pinch salt
pinch ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook each grain according to directions. For the farro and quinoa, the proportions are like rice: 2 to 1 water to grain. Bring the stock or water to the boil, add the grains, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. You’re looking for the stock or water to be absorbed and the grains to still have a little chewiness. For wheat berries, it’s more like 3 to 1 with a longer cooking time, more like 35 to 40 minutes. It’s okay if the water isn’t fully absorbed as long as the grains are cooked and are a little al dente.

In a large bowl combine the grains with the rest of the salad ingredients.

To make the vinaigrette, mix together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Pour enough into the salad to coat the ingredients, but not so much that in drenches it. Serve at room temperature.

Wishing all of our members and friends the happiest of Thanksgivings! We are so grateful to you!

What will you be doing for Thanksgiving? Catering? Enjoying time with friends and family? Both?

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

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

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Can you believe that Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks? In Southern California, it may be November but as of this writing we’re sweating it out in a heat wave–and turkey and all the fixings seem like a strange meal to be preparing. But it’s here and maybe the grill is better than the oven for the big bird.

If you’re catering your first Thanksgiving and feeling a little dread, relax. Do what you’re so good at as a personal chef: prepare. APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace is a firm believer in streamlining holiday gigs to keep them from becoming overwhelming. You’ve already done your client assessment, so you know what foods your client and their guests can eat or need to avoid before you planned your menu. And, we’re going to assume that if the meal needs to be vegetarian or vegan, you’ve got experience in that milieu.

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So, really, the biggest things to do are advanced planning and shopping along with mindful prep. With that in mind, Candy offers seven tips to make your Thanksgiving week easier:

  • Make turkey stock to be used in multiple dishes in advance of your event. Roast vegetables and puree in advance to have for a gravy base.
  • Measure and prepackage everything to be used in assembling your recipes. You’ve got that down, of course. Personal chefs are the experts in food packaging and meal storage for clients. But this time, use your skills to set up efficient and smooth assembly of components used to prepare the holiday meal your clients are looking forward to.
  • Are you baking cornbread? Then be sure to pre-measure all dry ingredients, then package and label them. Do the same with the wet ingredients. Same with stuffing.
  • If you’re making cranberry relish, again, pre-measure the berries, dried cherries, etc. and package and label them separately from the liquid components, which you’ll also package. Assemble the relish on the day of service.
  • Vegetables can take a lot of prep. So get that done ahead of time, including any blanching, shocking, and cooling so you can store them and make the recipes with little fuss on the day of the meal. Do the same with your herbs and spices–prep, measure, and store them. If you’re using the same herbs and spices for different dishes, separate them for each dish and mark them.Haricot verte, Escondido FM
  • Clean and prep your bird ahead of time. If you’re dealing with a frozen turkey, be sure you give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. If you’re going to do a wet or dry brine, you’ll need to start that process within a couple of days of the holiday.
  • If space on the stove or in the oven is limited, identify the dishes that can be cooked in advance, frozen, and then reheated for the meal. Many pies–apple and pecan, for instance, as well as stuffing, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes–can be made ahead of time, wrapped well, and frozen to be reheated briefly in the oven or (except the pies) in the microwave.

Working a day or even several days ahead will save you time, and keep you sane and strong on Thanksgiving and other holiday service. Hey, do it right and you will still be able to enjoy the day yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What dishes are on your Thanksgiving menu for clients? What tips can you share to make holiday catering more manageable?

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!

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 24, 2016

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Time passes so quickly–and 2017 will be here before you know it. Hopefully, you’ve been thinking ahead about the next year and any changes you want to implement.

Like price increases. Yeah, that. Have your costs gone up? Many of you have clients pay for food directly, but for those of you who don’t, you need to take a look at your bills and figure out where you are today compared to a year ago. The same goes for expenses like gas, insurance, equipment costs, labor–anything you’re paying for that’s business related. Do your calculations and then inform your clients by the end of this month of your price increase.

No, this isn’t easy, but Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, says the best way to do this is in a letter. Be graceful about it, thanking your clients for allowing you to serve them during 2016. Then announce any changes in service or pricing that will be effective January 1, 2017.

Dom Petrov Ossetra and Hackleback (r)1

You can also take advantage of this communication, she adds, by announcing any special service or foods you’ll be offering during the holidays. This can be a wonderful way to bring in some additional income–through catering holiday parties, cocktail parties, brunches, or receptions or offering special holiday treats. Do you make amazing cooking? Offer to make them for your clients. You can prep cookie dough or appetizers, or desserts and have them frozen and ready to bake off at the last minute. Just price everything out, including how you’ll package them, and include a price card with your letter.

Try to get events booked by the end of October for November and early November for December. The same for any extra baking or cooking you’ll do for clients. You may need to hire extra labor for events and extra cooking so you’ll need time to book that as well as any unscheduled kitchen time if you rent kitchen space.

Kale and sweet potatoes

Kale and sweet potatoes

This is also a good time to think about changes in the focus of the service you want to provide in 2017. Have you developed any new passions for a specific type of food or an interest in serving a specific demographic? This could be young families, older adults with medical conditions, or special diets in which you’ve developed an expertise? If so, add that to your letter. It’s a good way to market your services with people you’ve known and who value what you do. Alternately, it could be a way to gracefully segue from one client base to another.

Anticipating a new year also is a good time to take stock of your happiness quotient. We advocate the personal chef career as a lifestyle as well as professional option. Are you a parent of young children who wants to take more time with them? Are you interested in pursuing more education or travel? Are you reaching a point in your life in which you don’t want to work as many hours? Whatever it is, again, this is the time to chart your course for 2017 and use this letter to let your clients know if those changes will impact them.

As we hurtle towards year’s end, taking the time to focus on business and life basics and implementing changes to help you meet your goals is top priority. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to Candy for help!

What are the professional changes you’re considering for 2017? 

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

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

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No doubt you’re seeing an explosion of advertising from easy meal prep businesses and your eyes are rolling or perhaps you’re even panicking just a little. Well, Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, is going to talk you off the ledge– if you’re on it. Read why she is adamant that these businesses are no challenge to you:

Here we go again…Almost 10 years ago personal chefs were concerned with potential competition from the “Easy Prep” meal preparation locations such as Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, Dinner Studios, to name a few, popping up all over the U.S.

APPCA said, don’t worry; these franchised “assemble your own dinners” and take them back to your home don’t provide the level of customized meal service prepared from all fresh ingredients to the client’s taste, often in the safety of the client’s own kitchen. In fact, the easy prep meals were assembled from components that came right off the back of a big food service delivery truck and were more often than not pre-prepared components that contained fillers, stabilizers and preservatives, soups that were re-constituted, and sauces that came in cans. NOT the guarantee of all fresh ingredients supplied and shopped for daily by personal chefs and prepared from scratch for their client’s enjoyment.

The easy prep fad came and went fairly quickly and the personal chef career path continued to grow and thrive. This year will mark the 24th year of the introduction of the personal chef career path in the culinary industry. APPCA is proud to have been responsible for its growth, validation as a legitimate culinary career path by the ACF, for having published the definitive textbook for the industry, and for having co-created professional certification for private and personal chefs through the third-party certification partnership with ACF. It has been an exciting time for personal chefs who had the courage to leave the traditional career choices and strike out on their own to build a culinary business of their own that allowed them to support their families and loved ones by cooking, but also allowed them to create a business of their own with the ability to control their own professional destiny.

Now we have several new players on the field and it will be interesting to see how they play out.

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The first new twist is similar to the easy prep premise, but differs in that the components for the recipes that are provided are delivered to the client’s doorstep. Some of these new delivery companies are Blue Apron, Fresh Direct, and Plated. The customer gets most of the ingredients, but still has to prep and prepare each meal using the supplied recipe; the only difference between this business and your customer’s everyday life is simple; they don’t have to shop at the grocery store for ingredients.

I am trying to see the big advantage to the customer since this delivery system actually doesn’t altogether eliminate the need to go to the market. They expect them to have some basics–and they still need to shop for other items, like toilet paper, dog food, laundry soap, milk, yogurt, bottled water, ice cream, and wine on a regular basis, so where is the benefit?

ingredients spread out

Unlike the service provided by a personal chef, the “easy prep but delivered to your door” services do NOT customize recipes to the customer’s wants and needs, and the customer must still prep, assemble, and clean up after each dish is prepared at the end of a busy and often stressful workday. Adding to the stress, sometimes the recipes don’t work. Where is the benefit?

The other new kid in town is something described as “Uber for private chefs”…

OK, I’m curious, so I asked the person who called to say they would be supplying clients for all of our chefs in the new future, what Uber for private chefs was, and was he certain he meant private chefs?

It quickly became clear he did not know the difference between private and personal chefs, but he made it clear he didn’t care about knowing what that difference was.

His premise for the business is to supply an app like Uber where a hungry client could go to the app and order a chef to immediately appear on command on site to prepare a meal…

I asked if these “chefs” were really trained chefs, whether they had business licenses, general liability insurance, culinary training, those kinds of fun things, but he said he couldn’t tell me any of that because it was secret. OK…secret…got it.

Next, we have the Airbnb version of the business. This time, the customer is able, through an app, to locate an individual in any city who is willing and purportedly capable of cooking them a meal that the client would go and enjoy in the cook’s home…

Some of these folks, who turned out to be home cooks of varying degrees of skill, have been calling APPCA wanting to get liability insurance through us. Apparently, the start up folks are directing them to us and telling them they can just call and we will cover them. It breaks my heart to turn them away because many of them are truly earnest in their desire to cook for clients, but most of them have no sanitation training, no training at all, no business licenses, no inkling of local regulations and licensing requirements. Someone is going to get hurt or get sick. I could not glean any criteria they must meet to protect the clients that use their service.

I know the internet was supposed to simplify our lives, but this does not appear to be well thought out.

Not everything we do needs to be ordered up on an app, and if all of those fun Silicon Valley start up geniuses are going to continue to create business apps, I wish they would make certain that the business is well conceived, provides a genuine service to the potential customer, and is safe and legitimate.

I know the Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and easy prep instant delivery concept is exploding but the “right now” system isn’t automatically “right” for everyone. And, especially, when it comes to food preparation, the public needs to be careful about who is making their meals, what kinds of ingredients they’re using, how much–if any–expertise they have in meeting special needs diets, and, most important, how well trained they are in food safety.

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So, be very proud of the custom services you offer as personal chefs. You are trained, scratch cooks with
municipal business licenses, safe food handling certifications, and you are carrying $2 million in specific personal chef general liability insurance coverage. The service you provide regular clients is custom designed and palate specific to each client’s wants and needs, including meals specific to a client’s medical challenges. All of the meals are prepared from scratch using only the freshest and safest ingredients available in your locality. We can promise our clients a safe food source.

As personal chefs, you do the shopping for fresh provisions daily and prepare delicious custom designed meals either in the safety of the client’s kitchen or in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen.

Personal chefs truly provide convenience, delicious custom designed meals, and a degree of personal service and attention to the client’s preferences and desired level of culinary expertise seldom experienced outside the services of a full time private chef.

Let’s see how the new services on the block hold up or evolve…this should be fun to watch.

Personal Chefs ROCK!!!

Have clients been talking to you about these easy prep services? What are you telling 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.

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

CandyWallaceAPPCAheadshot (low rez)

For personal chefs just launching their businesses, money can be tight. If you’re in that position–or simply looking for a way to reduce costs–check out this post by APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace:

Looking to stretch your start-up budget?

Trade outs can help.

Need a logo design but don’t have the funds to hire a designer in your start-up budget?

Offer a trade out.

A trade out is a dollar-for-dollar even exchange of services. Trades have been around for centuries and are a way of providing equal value for both parties providing services.

When I started my business over 20 years ago I wanted advice on developing my reporting, accounting, and tax preparation systems so I could share them with other personal chef start up chefs who would be able to use those systems with confidence. I didn’t have a lot of cash at the time so I approached a tax accountant with an offer for a trade.

My offer was that I would provide personal chef services for three dinners per week during his busy tax preparation season (January through April 15) for him and his three colleagues for one year to match fees for bookkeeping/accounting, personal chef report forms, and tax preparation services. The accountant would pay for the food costs.

Both of us were well pleased with the agreement. It allowed me to receive services that would not otherwise be in my budget at the time.

Advertising was another one of those services where I felt a trade out would be effective and attractive to the trade out partner.

Weekly/monthly local publications are surprisingly well read by residents. These are usually dropped at the door of the residence, and stacked or racked in local coffee shops, grocery stores, car washes, and the local library branch. They do not usually have a food section, so I presented myself at the office of the publication in the area I wished to develop for my services and offered to provide a regular article or recipe featuring a seasonal local ingredient in exchange for a prominent mention of my business and contact information on each of my articles or recipes. The recipes always included the invitation to “Call or e-mail Chef Candy if you have questions about this recipe or ingredient.”

The consistent response to this arrangement provided a large portion of my initial and ongoing client base and actually resulted in a feature article in the business section of the local daily newspaper that generated almost 400 inquiries for service or information about the personal chef business. The business editor’s wife read my column and prepared each recipe. It didn’t cost me a penny.

Trade outs are clean, specific agreements to exchange services dollar for dollar and can be put in writing and signed for protection of both parties.

I actually even traded out live copy radio advertising for my services which were provided for a morning drive DJ who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. He spoke about his personal chef, the delicious meals, and his weight loss progress on his show daily and the radio station paid for the food so we were matching advertising dollars to personal chef service dollars. Once again, the DJ lost weight and I gained local visibility and picked up clients.

Don’t be afraid to approach a vendor or service provider with the option to trade out. You don’t know what they might need, and the worst response you can receive is No, which we all know that is just a word.

Be creative.

What services could you use that you could turn into a trade 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!

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Social media is great. We love it and are avid users. I spend a lot of time creating and curating content for our accounts and are tickled that we’ve seen our following grow.

But Facebook and Twitter in particular are no substitute for the intimacy–and privacy–you get on our APPCA forums. Here is a place where you can speak freely without worry that you’re going to get flamed or spammed by strangers. It’s a place where you can interact with colleagues on a range of issues that are deeply important to you.

Our forums are divided into a variety of categories, including Private Discussion, Virtual Water Cooler, Recipes for Succe$$, Sources and Resources, Special Diets, Tips and Techniques, Marketing, Techie Stuff, and Serving Senior Clients. If you have a special issue, there’s a forum to address it. You can add attachments to your post and create tags. And it serves as a terrific archive of resources.

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But–and this is a big but–it only works if our members participate. So, here are six reasons you should make a habit of visiting and posting on the forums.

  1. You can get important questions about your business answered by your peers. Are you concerned about pricing or packaging? Has a client hit you with an issue that you don’t know how to respond to? Are you leaning toward moving your business from your clients’ kitchens to a commercial kitchen? Do you need to come up with a special menu for a client’s medical condition? Are you unsure how to figure out portions for a catering event? Are you going to teach a kids cooking class for the first time and need advice? You pose a question and your personal chef colleagues are bound to have feedback for you.
  2. You can network and really get to know colleagues in your area you may not have met or colleagues in cities across the country. We all know how beneficial networking is in general, but, for example, here it’s not uncommon for our members to reach out to others in their service area with referrals.
  3. You can totally brag on yourself to those who will appreciate your success. Did you just get a TV gig or an award? Did you score a great new client or catering gig? Are you bursting because one of your clients wrote the most flattering letter of recommendation? You have a built-in audience of support on the forums. 
  4. You can get a heads up on potentially fraudulent “clients.” We hate to talk about scams but there’s an underbelly of unscrupulous people (think Nigerian princes) who approach unsuspecting personal chefs with a too-good-to-be-true proposition. Experienced personal chefs have received these missives (typically someone overseas who is coming into town and wants to hire you as a personal chef but the money exchange is suspect) and can give you the low down on whether what you’ve received is legit or you’re being played. You want to tap into that on the forums.
  5. You can brainstorm marketing ideas and ways to get new clients. It can open new avenues you may not have previously considered and you can get help (or give it) to nail down the specifics.
  6. You can bitch and moan over whatever is bothering you in the company of sympathetic colleagues. You’ve had a bad day.  A client gave you a hard time for no good reason. Your kid and your mom are both sick and you’re wiped out. Whatever it is, you have the attentive ear of your peers and can get virtual hugs when you need them the most.
  7. You can be the expert. All of you who have been at this awhile can share your expertise with those who are newer to the career. Or if you come to being a personal chef from an arena where you have useful expertise in marketing or finances or media, you can provide expertise to colleagues who need a hand.

Chefs

We know how incredibly busy you are. Sometimes it feels like getting on the computer at the end of a long day is just one more task than you have the time or energy for. But using the APPCA forums is an investment in your career and a benefit we want you to take advantage of so that the hive mind can create more success for you and everyone else who is a part of our APPCA family. If you haven’t given it a try, get on and introduce yourself. If it’s been awhile since you’ve participated, Candy and I urge you to return. Let’s talk!

Have you signed up for the our Personal Chef Forums? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, what’s been the biggest help you’ve received from participating?

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

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

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