If you’re working with clients who have type 2 diabetes, hopefully you’ve consulted with nutritionists and learned what a well rounded diet is to keep them healthy and happy. All the experts say the best foods for T2 diabetics—the “free” foods—are the green foods. Lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and the like. This isn’t to say they shouldn’t eat carrots, squashes, beets, string beans, radishes, sweet potatoes, or other vegetables. They absolutely should eat a rainbow of vegetables to get all the nutritional benefits. But many—like carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes—have higher carb counts so they can’t enjoy a free for all with them.
But if you think vegetables, especially greens = salad, stir fry, steaming, or boiling but nothing more imaginative, you couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some alternatives to the same old, same old.
Roasting vegetables could become your best weapon to beat veggie boredom. Your client may wince at the thought of eating Brussels sprouts, for instance, but roasting them brings out a whole other set of caramelized flavors. You can do the same with baby artichoke hearts in the spring and summer—just strip off the outer leaves till the light green ones appear. Broccoli, string beans, and asparagus also benefit from roasting, as does cauliflower. In fact, you can make “steaks” with cauliflower. Cut the head into thick slices, rub with olive oil and herbs, and roast. Red bell peppers are terrific roasted, skinned, then marinated in olive oil, herbs, and salt for an appetizer. Try steaming, then marinating eggplant in olive oil and garlic for an appetizer.
Soup can be a terrific way to eat greens. Add Swiss chard or kale to a mushroom barley soup or bowl of lentils. Or feature greens in its own soup. Don’t love the texture of broccoli? Want to change up asparagus? Chop it up and place it in a pot with low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock just to cover and a couple of chopped red potatoes. Add herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are softened. Then either put the mixture in a blender or use a stick blender to create your own low-cal, low-carb creamy soup.
In the heat of the summer make a chunky gazpacho soup. Nothing could be better for you nutritionally and it’s packed with the bright flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, chiles, cilantro, and garlic. Want some protein with it? Add roasted shrimp or fresh crab.
Use greens as wraps instead of bread. It works at In ‘N Out. It’ll work for you. Slice roasted chicken or turkey, add some marinated veggies or pickles, wrap in Romaine and you’ve got a crunchy “sandwich.”
One of my favorite dishes to teach to kids in the kitchen is zucchini pancakes. But what we always do is list off other vegetables you can make the focus of pancakes. How about spinach or other greens? Or carrots? Or broccoli? Or turnips? Or a combination of favorites? The key is to shred them so they’ll incorporate into a pancake.
Are you clients missing potato chips? Try kale and Swiss chard chips. Here’s a way to mix your greens and get your crunch. Wash and thoroughly dry the greens. Then strip leaves from the tough ribs and roughly chop the leaves. Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees until crisp.
You know you can sub spaghetti squash or spiralize zucchini for pasta. But what about a substitute for rice or couscous? Cauliflower comes to the rescue. This is a neat trick I learned. Cut up the florets, putting aside the stems to snack on. Then put the florets into a food processor and pulse, pulse, pulse until the pieces look like little grains of rice. (Be careful that you don’t just run the food processor and it turns to mush.) You can use it raw, like a grain, tossed in a green salad. Or sauté the “cauliflower rice” in a little oil, then top it with tomato sauce for an extremely low-carb dish. You can freeze the raw “rice” to use later.
And don’t forget the smoothie. Most people assume smoothies are fruit based, but I like to mix it up with spinach and low-carb berries (frozen in the off season)—and a little banana. This is a perfect breakfast and for someone trying to make sure the day doesn’t go by without vegetables, you’ll know at minimum you packed in a couple of cups first thing in the morning.
How do you make sure your diabetic clients get enough greens? Share your favorite dishes!
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 regularly feature member chefs in this blog and when we do, we like to have photos of both them and their magnificent food. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have what we consider to be one of the most essential marketing tools for a food business. It made us think that it was time to remind our members that to grow their business there are certain basics they need to invest in–whether it requires time, money, or both. They won’t guarantee that you get new clients, but not having them certainly puts you at a disadvantage.
We asked members via Facebook what their most essential marketing tools were and we got three answers: car magnet, word of mouth, and a great website. We can’t speak to the effectiveness of a car magnet but certainly a good website is a must. As for word of mouth, well, there’s nothing better. But word of mouth is a result of good marketing and great delivery; it’s not something you can generate on your own.
So, here are the five marketing tools we think are essential for personal chefs to employ–and these are just the minimum.
A good photo of yourself and a variety of beautiful photos of your food. If a reporter or blogger gets in touch and wants to do a piece on you, unless they can send over their own photographer you have to have photos available that they can publish. If you’re teaching a cooking class or doing a demo at a store, they’ll want photos for promoting the event. The food photos have to be sharp, well lit, and well composed.
You must have a photo or two of yourself that is also sharp and well lit and shows you off as a professional and who you are. And the photos must be large enough/have high enough resolution so they don’t look fuzzy when enlarged. Need a primer on shooting good photos? We have you covered in this guest post by APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food.
Business cards. Attractive, professional-looking business cards must be on you at all times when you’re out and about. Keep them in your wallet, keep them in the pocket of your chef jacket, keep a bunch in your car. Just keep them with you. They must include your name, your business’ name, contact information (including your website URL and Facebook page URL), what you do, and the region you serve. Don’t be shy about using both sides of the card.
A Facebook page. Let us rephrase this, an active Facebook page. We’re all about social media, but we recognize that time can be an issue. If you can, use Twitter, use Instagram, use LinkedIn. But above all, use Facebook and post regularly (at least a couple of times a week) because it’s both a more intimate and expansive way to let potential clients see what you’re doing and learn more about you. It’s an opportunity to reach out to others and show off your talents, brag about your work, and learn how you can help others. Join a group and network. And what do you need for a good Facebook page? See above. Good photos.
Your chef’s coat. We’ve written about this before. Your chef’s coat tells the world who you are. Wear it into a market and people will ask what you do. Wear it on public transportation and it’ll generate conversation. In short, it’s a no brainer to wear it in public when appropriate–and, of course, keep the pocket filled with business cards to hand out to fellow customers or the butcher or fish monger or farmer.
A good website. Yes, we finally got there. But what does “good” mean? According to APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, it’s “Ease of use, key word driven on search engines, no ads, not mucking it up…all info transparent and straightforward….pricing, etc right on there…this may be an East Coast thing, but people don’t want the back and forth…we tend to move quickly and if info is vague, we move on to the next….”
For Carol Borchardt, it means thinking about who the customer is going to be.
“The customer/client of a personal chef is most likely going to be affluent, sophisticated, well-traveled and educated. I cringe every time I see typos on a PC website in addition to incorrect capitalization/lower case usage,” she says. “A website in late 2015-2016 needs to look clean, modern and flow well. Even the colors and fonts have to say 2016! Many of our clients probably have their own business websites, so they know what works, what doesn’t work and what looks good. Music is nice when you’re serving a dinner for two, however, music on a website can be a dead giveaway and startling if someone is doing a little web surfing to find a personal chef while at work. Websites also need to be “mobile-friendly,” as the vast majority of people no longer sit down at a computer to search for something–they do it on their phone or tablet. Google now penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly. My site is not “mobile-friendly” at this point and I’m not worried about it because I stay busy. If a new PC can not afford to have a website professionally built, there are simple platforms such as WordPress or SquareSpace to put together a nice-looking website.”
We actually have even more basic requirements–because, surprisingly, they are often missing. They include your name, where you are located geographically, what services you provide, a simple way to contact you, and the mention that you are an APPCA member and inclusion of the logo (to give you credibility). You are asking people to invite you into their home. They must know who you are and have confidence that you are legit.
These five marketing tools are the building blocks for getting attention and getting hired. Do a great job and at that point, you gain good word of mouth from clients. And get featured in media. And asked to do cooking classes or demos. And all the other things that make up your own aspirations. It’s all about being the quintessential professional who takes pride in his/her skills and accomplishments.
What are your essential marketing tools? How are you promoting yourself and your business?
As we all know, there’s no way to prepare 100 percent for surprises in our businesses or personal lives, but giving some thought to “what if” certainly doesn’t hurt. Things happen. It could be an injury to you or serious family illness. You just never know what may suddenly pull you away from your work.
For Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, it was getting her foot hooked in the strap of one of her grocery bags that sent her flying to the floor and fracturing her right knee. At the home of a woman who was the recipient of a gift certificate. While Carol didn’t need surgery, she had to stay off her feet for six weeks, using either crutches or a “saddle stool” her hairstylist loaned her. She clearly couldn’t even drive.
How did she handle her client load? “I notified my clients by telephone,” she says. “I didn’t feel e-mail or texting was appropriate. I generally have about 15 to 16 clients and called one or two per day, depending upon when I was scheduled to cook for them. They were all GREAT. Fortunately, this happened at the end of May 2014 so many were taking vacations anyway. The doctor told me I’d be out for six weeks, so most only missed one cook date as most of my clients are monthly.”
To keep on schedule, Carol went back to work while still in a brace, with the help of a friend, but got back to her routine pretty quickly after that. And while on enforced rest, she stayed productive, studying food photography and launching her blog, A Cookbook Obsession.
Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist has had these health surprises happen twice in his career. The first was after emergency surgery in Arizona at the end of a vacation. His wife called all his clients to explain the situation, which turned from one week off to three weeks away. He was able to return in the fourth week with the help of an assistant. “All my clients were happy to wait for me and ate whatever was stored in their freezers, ate out, and cooked some,” he says.
The second time was also for surgery, but this time, Jim had time to plan.
“I approached each client and asked what they would prefer: Me to cook extra and fill their freezers or arrange for another chef to cover,” he explains. “Coincidentally, two clients were traveling for much of the planned time off and two preferred me to fill the freezer and one just cooked or ate out for the duration. All were very happy to have me back to good health. That time my wife was working with me as she was between jobs, so my return to work was smooth.”
Jim has filled in for other chefs on occasion. In these situations, the chefs communicated with their clients regarding menus, payments, and other issues. “This worked well, since the chefs I worked for kept control and I accepted a reduced rate from them as I wasn’t doing the menu planning, etc., and I was helping them in a time of need.”
Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please is dealing with this issue now. In early July, her husband Dan suffered a traumatic brain injury at work. After being airlifted to a nearby hospital for surgery, he is now recovering in a rehab facility four hours from their home. She expects to be there at least another couple of weeks and then Dan will move to a more intensive rehab facility where family members are not allowed to reside–meaning Kathy will return home to work.
“As luck would have it, I received more calls/emails from new/prospective clients than what I had gotten in the last six months,” she says. “Fortunately, two families have indicated they will wait until I am ready to come back to work. They have both expressed their concern for both Dan and me and send their best…mind you, I have yet to meet them.
“My regular clients have been extremely supportive as well,” Kathy adds. “They call on a regular basis to see how we both are. We sort of have an understanding that as soon as I can, I will be back to cook for them. My plan is to ask for a list of their favorites that they’d like me to make my first week back.”
For those potential new clients who had immediate needs for various functions, Kathy referred them to a friend of hers who is a full-time chef at a senior facility. She says there aren’t many legitimate personal chefs in her region so she didn’t have many referral options.
For Kathy, not working has been the right decision for her. But she encourages others to review both their finances and legal documents. “We had these completed when we were still in Illinois, but wanted to make sure we were compliant with the state of Arkansas,” Kathy says. “We finally did this in early spring. It has been a God-send because everything is in place.”
If you’re lucky enough to plan for enforced time off because you’re pregnant, you can consult with clients to figure out the best approach. That’s how Elizabeth Prewitt of Silver Plum Personal Chef has been handling her future. With a due date of August 23, she scheduled clients through the 12th with the understanding that the last couple of dates might have to be unexpectedly cancelled if he showed up early (he didn’t and as of now, they’re still waiting).
Beth started telling clients in person about three to four months ago. She hired an assistant toward the end of her work period, but it was clear that the assistant was to help her. She wasn’t a Beth clone.
“So as the due date got closer, and I realized that I was simply going to have to take time off with no replacement/contingency plan for my clients, I let them all know, again, in person,” Beth explains. “My plan is to take two to three months off, and start scheduling again when I’m ready. (I have yet to secure child care, which will probably dictate exactly when I can start working again—my next huge stressor!) Since I’ve never done this ‘having a kid’ thing before, I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep, so I haven’t given anyone a firm return date. As most of my clients are families with young kids, and I primarily communicate with the ladies of the households, they have all been very understanding with this. This doesn’t mean I’m not worried about client retention, though. The longer I’m away from them, the more likely they are to find other solutions that work just fine for them.”
So, what are the takeaways from these chefs’ experiences?
“Kathy Dederich said it when she told us, “I encourage others to do a review of their finances as well as legal documents,” says Candy Wallace, the APPCA‘s founder and executive director. “Knowing where you are can save a lot of time and angst in a crisis.
“Jim Huff and Carol Borchardt turned to family and friends for physical assistance in their abbreviated operation of businesses, and ALL of the chefs did the smart thing in contacting their clients immediately and including them in the decision-making process of keeping their businesses viable during their recuperation processes as well as allowing the clients to take part in the planning process of their return to operations,” Candy observes.
“Carol was able to use much of the enforced time off to learn a new craft, food styling and food photography, which has become an enriching part of her culinary business plan,” adds Candy. “And Beth Prewitt is settling into a new home and getting ready to be a new mom. I think you could say they used ‘down time’ to forward the action for their futures.”
But Candy does emphasize the importance of getting to know and befriend colleagues to get learn one another’s specialties and levels of experience so you can refer business back and forth to each other–and back each other up in case of emergencies like the ones above. And she relates a story that hits close to home.
“Many years ago I was out training two new members in San Diego when I arrived at home to find all of my neighbors standing on my front lawn. When I got out of the van I was told that my husband Dennis had had a heart attack and had been taken to a local hospital. I took off immediately for the hospital and did not return home until around 3 a.m. when the cardiologist told me Dennis was going to live and sent me home. I arrived and found all the lights on in the house and the doors open. I thought, great, Denny is in the hospital, and now it looks as if we have been robbed…I walked in and found a group of local personal chefs I had worked with over the years waiting for me. They had cleaned our house, filled the fridge and freezer with heart-healthy meals, and had gone through my file info and contacted all of my clients to let them know I would not be available for the next three months while I helped Den recuperate, and that they would be providing service on their regular schedule.
“There was nothing I could say. I sat down on the couch and burst into tears. That night the APPCA was officially created to support the chefs we trained through the original Personal Chef Institute. The association was created so that all members could experience the genuine support and respect for one another we experienced as a result of Denny’s heart attack. Talk about a silver lining.
“Please make an effort to get to know your local colleagues. Offer to go along with one another on occasion as an unpaid guest chef so you can know one another’s skill level and get to know one another on a personal as well as a professional level. Refer appropriate business leads back and forth to one another. I say it often, and I’ll say it here again, ‘We are all in this together as personal chefs, and it simply makes sense to take care of one another and take care of the personal chef career path so that we all win at the career and life path we have chosen.'”
What plans have you made for your business in case of a health or other emergency?
Fresh From Your Kitchen’s Leslie Guria has a plan–and that’s to launch a food blog to complement her personal chef business. “I’m going to start with a few topics… recipes, farmers markets, cookware reviews, organization, then ultimately focus on the areas that bring in the most traffic,” she explains.
Like many aspiring bloggers, this APPCA member is interested in developing a passive stream of income and Leslie’s studying food photography and monetizing to make that happen. Unlike many who have these dreams, she has a background in small business marketing, so she’s confident that she can make a go of it.
Food blogs can serve a number of purposes for personal chefs. They can help promote your business. They can promote you as an expert and even a brand. They can allow you to go off into areas of interest that feed your soul even if they aren’t directly related to what you do day to day. And, if you’re very smart, very talented, a workhorse, and lucky, they can create a new revenue stream.
But you’re up against a lot of competition. It’s impossible to know just how many food blogs are out there, but there are millions and the numbers keep growing. The trick is to find your niche. Is it recipes, cocktails, vegetarianism, special diets, produce, regional food, restaurant reviewing, your grandma’s traditional Italian cooking?
For APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food her blog is named for her passion, A Cookbook Obsession. Carol has put more research and effort into the care and maintenance of her blog than most. She began with having it attached to her business website, but didn’t see a lot of traffic coming in–mostly, she deduced, because another blogger had already established his blog with the same name as her business using .net instead of .com. He already had sewn up the “athoughtforfood” social media handles, too. (Lesson #1, if you can, purchase as many suffixes for your beloved business name as you can afford.)
So, after suffering a knee injury last year that put her out of commission for several months, she spent her time studying food photography. She also realized that her business was taking a physical toll on her and that she might have to give it up someday. At that point Carol decided that, “it would be nice to have something food-related to fall back on or already have in the works if that time ever comes, and A Cookbook Obsession was officially born.”
Carol has collected about 1,200 cookbooks over the years and uses these and new ones coming in as the source of inspiration for blogging. “It’s where I share recipes from my cookbooks that inspire me along with my original recipes. Because of copyright laws, you can not reprint or republish recipes as printed, so I always state ‘inspired by’ or ‘adapted from’ and write the recipe as I made it. My plan is to become more of a ‘cookbook resource’ for readers. I’ve added doing cookbook reviews through Blogging for Books, which is great because I can now get free cookbooks in exchange for the review.”
It’s no coincidence that these talents have helped her writing a biweekly food feature, Dinner for Two, for the local Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Now in its fourth year, she’s written more than 100 pieces for the paper.
Chef Natalie Lewis launched Natalie’s Daily Crave on her business website about five years ago. “I started it simply because I want to share all of my food experiences with other people. I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the food I’m tasting and the recipes I create or find! Food is way more fun when it’s enjoyed with others. I would describe Natalie’s Daily Crave as a blog for the home cook with recipes that are approachable and straight forward. It’s geared towards people who enjoy cooking and I like to provide recipes you can keep in your back pocket for those special days when you want to make something just a little different than the norm.”
For Natalie, blogging takes a lot of time because she does it all herself–both recipe development and taking photos. A friend who is a professional photographer has helped her with tips along the way, but it can sometimes take hundreds of photos to get just that right shot–and that’s after figuring out staging and making the dish look appetizing.
“That fork resting on the side of the table? The perfectly folded napkin tucked under the plate? All of that is carefully thought out to achieve a desired look,” she notes. “I admire food photographers who do it for a living and I’ve learned so much about the effort it takes. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual writing and posting yet. Let’s just say it’s definitely a labor of love!”
Some bloggers post daily, some post weekly or twice a week. Natalie tries to post monthly or at least around holidays, knowing that she’s developed enough of a history for people to find recipes when looking for something specific. For her, it’s a way for her to express herself and have a platform. “Making others happy and getting them excited about food is exactly what fuels my passion. I also think it’s a great way for clients and potential clients to see what I’m up to on a personal level.”
Given Carol’s intention of monetization, her approach is much more driven. Like Natalie, she’s immersed in cooking dishes, photographing them, uploading and editing photos and writing the post–she estimates it can take four to six hours. And she does this twice a week.
The killer is the promotion.
“This is one thing that totally took me by surprise,” she says. “The amount of time to promote a food blog is staggering. First, you need to make sure Google can find your post and recipe so a little knowledge about SEO is helpful. I use a WordPress plug-in that keeps me on track for that. I then send out an e-mail to my subscriber list, pin it to Pinterest, Yummly, StumbleUpon, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, and photo sharing sites such as FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie, Dishfolio, Healthy Aperture, Finding Vegan, and, if I’m using some type of hot pepper, Jalapeno Mania. I don’t do Twitter yet because it’s already difficult to keep up with social media.”
She also posts to Pinterest group boards–which, in turn, requires you to pin others’ content to your various boards. And she has her own Facebook pages, as well as participates in several Facebook groups and sharing groups.
Monetizing is also something Carol’s working on.
“I recently began placing ads on my site through a few ad networks. But, there too, you have to have some traffic to speak of and they have to like what they see. Most bloggers start with Google or Amazon. I won’t be retiring on the income anytime soon, but ads are one of the first steps in monetizing a blog. You can also add ‘affiliate links.’ This is where a person or company has a product to sell and you place a link to purchase that product on your blog. If someone buys the product through your site, you get a commission. I have two affiliate links on my website: MasterCook recipe management software and the Tasty Food Photography book mentioned earlier.”
Down the road? Perhaps writing sponsored posts for brands or selling her own e-book or e-cookbook.
So, what tips do Natalie and Carol have for aspiring food bloggers?
1. Have good photography.
2. Join food blogger Facebook groups to ask questions and get support.
3. Do your research to decided which blogging platform to use, whether Blogger (Google-owned), WordPress, SquareSpace, or something else–including just adding it to your website. Will you do it yourself or hire a website developer? In either case, you need to have an idea of a look you want and how you want to organize your content.
And, says Natalie, “My number one tip is to just be yourself and don’t worry about anyone else. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of the world, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you cook, there is always someone who won’t like what you have to say. Be true to yourself and do your own thing!”
Do you have a food blog? Why did you launch it and how have you promoted it?
We’re very proud of the efforts made by our Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) to bring our members in the area together as an additional resource to network and share information. This year, Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Owings Mills, Maryland is the chapter president and she organized and hosted their recent spring meeting. Shelbie has written a wrap up of the meeting and Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis supplied us with photos. Thank you both for your contribution!
Our MARC group celebrated the arrival of spring with a two-day meeting based at my home, but with a number of outings and speakers.
We began with dinner Friday night at a funky little restaurant called Alchemy in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. The next morning the meeting went into full swing with over 20 attendees from New York down to Virginia. We also had Chef Carol Borchardt visit us from Memphis!
After a breakfast that featured homemade gravlax with bagels ( a special thank you to Judy Harvey for making the tuna stuffed eggs, when I ran out of time) and a beautiful breakfast cake made by Chef Peggy Haser, we held a short business meeting. Laura Knight (A Knight’s Feast) reviewed our bank account and we elected Keith Steury (The Food Sherpa) as our new secretary. We also had the group quite excited when we announced the current planning of a trip to Alsace, France to be hosted by MARC member, Chef Bernard Henry.
Our keynote speaker was Joan Norman, owner and operator of One Straw Farm, one of the largest farms in the state. The farm not only services many of the finest restaurants in town, but also runs a huge CSA. Joan shared stories of her 30 years in the farming business and discussed the use of biodegradable mulch film and how that distinguishes her farm from those that claim to be 100 percent organic.
Our next speaker was Dara Bunyon, a local Baltimore food blogger, whose business, Dara Does It, dabbles in all things food. She shared interesting tidbits from her blogs, such as the top items that people steal from restaurants! (Not just salt shakers!)
Our third speaker for the morning, MARC’s very own, Lettie Lavalle (Leave Dinner to Lettie), is also a social media expert. Lettie walked us through the confusing maze of various sites and helped to demystify the ever-growing world of social media and how it relates to personal chefs.
Lunch time provided an opportunity to chat with friends and enjoy an all-salad buffet that featured a duck confit salad over baby greens and spinach with dried cherries and a curried chicken salad with homemade mango chutney as an accompaniment.
After lunch, Mary Stewart and her daughter Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table presented a kitchen demo for us. Mary prepared individual lemon curd soufflés, similar to chocolate lava cakes. Katie demonstrated her whipped cream, using coconut milk in lieu of heavy cream. OMG! I guarantee that this will become my dinner party dessert of choice! Beautiful and delicious!
Our next event, included a lovely drive through horse country to reach Bastignati Winery. We sampled five wines…some very nice, some not my thing! However, several of us purchased bottles to go.
Our evening concluded with a potluck dinner, prepared by the attendees. If you have never attended a potluck prepared by personal chefs, then you are missing a treat! Amazing starters included Jim Huff’s bacon jam, Sharon and Bruce Cohen’s Tuscan tomato bread soup, and Mary Stewart’s risotto cakes. Dinner followed with Ayisha Jones’ fig jam tenderloin and Keith Steury’s Asian pork BBQ. Sides included Laura Knight’s asparagus salad and Marta Mirecki’s fennel radicchio salad. April Lee generously provided an amazing collection of wine, including a lovely chocolate dessert selection.
Our next meeting is scheduled for October 2 to 3, 2015. MARC meetings are open to members of the APPCA in good standing!
Why do we do this? Well, we’re a group of people who truly enjoy each other’s company. We’re brought together through our membership in APPCA and have much in common. Personal chefs are people who love food and travel, and therefore have a zest for life. I think chefs by nature are passionate, artistic people who have a nurturing desire to please others by feeding them. Put all those qualities together in one room and you are bound to have a good time! The meetings we hold allow us to recharge our professional batteries and share work experiences with those who understand the ins and outs of the profession.
Doesn’t this sound like a great opportunity in your area? If you’re an APPCA member, let us know if you’d like assistance in forming a chapter in your part of the country.
Websites are your business’ virtual office, the place where potential and current clients, media, and–let’s face it–your competition stop by to evaluate what you do and how well you do it. Your site is likely the first impression you make, especially if visitors come to you via Personal Chef Search or a search engine. And yet I’m constantly surprised at how little attention many people pay to theirs. You may spend a small fortune on design or almost nothing at all, but some of the most critical mistakes I find have nothing to do with budget. They have to do common sense and basic marketing principles. In other words, you’re not paying attention.
Because we want you to succeed and use all the tools available to you to do this, well, I’m going to be blunt about the top 10 website mistakes you’re making. And, if you’re rolling your eyes because you don’t think this applies to you, check your website to be sure. Congrats if you’ve escaped this cudgel, but in all likelihood you have at least one or two issues you need to resolve–and, most are so simple you’re going to be embarrassed. The good news is that they’re easy fixes. (I’m not going to get into complex navigation issues here, but ask your friends and family to test your site to identify if getting around your site is also an issue.)
1. You don’t identify yourself by name. You’re asking people to invite you into your home but nowhere on your site do you do more than call yourself Chef John or Chef Kim. That just won’t fly. Tell people who you are.
2. You don’t identify the geographic area you serve. Are you based in Seattle? Philadelphia? Dallas? Who is going to get in touch with you if they don’t know where you are? And don’t rely on your phone number’s area code to give it away. You may have moved but kept your old number on your cell phone. Or your region’s phone numbers have been repeatedly divided into new area codes that people aren’t necessarily familiar with.
3. Your “Contact Me” page only contains a form for potential clients to complete, not actual contact information. Don’t make people work to get in touch with you. Be as accessible as possible.
4. You don’t include enough photos of your food. If you are offering sample menus or recipes, you must have photos to accompany them. Food is a visual medium and potential clients want to see what your food looks like.
5. Your photos are lousy. If you’re creating a virtual billboard that represents your talent, show it at its best. Photos that are poorly lit or out of focus are the worst culprits. Photos that are too small are also problematic. Either learn how to take quality photos or hire someone who can style and shoot you and your food to their advantage.
6. You have included a blog on your website, but haven’t updated it in months, perhaps years. You may have had the best of intentions but are too busy to keep up with writing a blog. If that’s the case, the call is easy. Remove that page from your website. Don’t give the impression that you don’t follow through.
7. You don’t identify yourself as an APPCA member. Potential clients and media are looking for evidence that you provide a legitimate service and that you are trained and expert in what you do. Using the APPCA logo and noting your affiliation in your “About Me” (or the equivalent) page goes a long way in proving that.
8. You have clickable logos on your website for various social media platforms, but they aren’t actually linked to social media accounts. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social media platforms (and you should be), insert the links to make the most of those logos to get people to where you can interact with them. If you’re not engaged in social media, remove those logos.
9. You haven’t updated your website after making changes in your life or your business. I recently wrote about a member and, based on what she wrote on her website, noted where she was based. She sent me a note saying she no longer lived there. I had to change what I wrote to reflect her actual home base. She had to go back to her website and update the old information. I wonder how many people might have contacted her if the information had been current.
10. You don’t brag about your accomplishments. Have you won an award? Been featured in a newspaper article? Been a guest on a local radio show? Asked to cater a major event? Add a “News” page that allows you to tell website visitors what you’ve been up to. And be sure to keep it up to date.
These 10 mistakes don’t just apply to your website. Pull out your business card. What information have you included? Remember, you can use both sides of the card. It should contain your full name, the name of your business, the communities you serve, any specialization you have, and the services you offer. And, of course, it should have your contact information (phone, email), your website URL, and your social media platforms (including your personalized Facebook business page URL).
Your email signature should be just as robust. Include your full name, your business name, your phone numbers, your web URL, your social media account names/URLs. Have a business logo? Include that, too.
The takeaway is that with every point of contact you need to be memorable (in a good way), be easy to find, be irresistible. Your website is a reflection of you and what you can provide. If you create a situation in which people leave your site scratching their heads because they can’t figure out what exactly you do, who you are, or how to reach you–well, why even have a website? You can do better.
What mistakes do you find on websites that you wish people would address?
With the New Year upon us this week, we’re facing the inevitable feast of resolutions. Well, we don’t want to be left out of the fun. And we’re always keen on trying to help our members thrive in business and life. So, we’ve come up with strategies that we believe will help with both. And, if you’ve got any to suggest, please include them in the comments section below!
So, in the spirit of stepping right up to the future, generating new business, keeping current business, and just all around embracing life, we hope you will:
1. Jump start your business marketing in innovative ways that attract the people you want to work with. Dive into social media and really engage people with a mix of what you’re doing, useful information about food/diet, and showcasing what you admire in others (generosity is a winning character trait on social media that attracts others). Join professional or volunteer organizations that will help you network beyond your usual circle. Contact us about guest blogging in this space or to ask Caron Golden to write a feature post about you. Let us know your area of expertise so we can call on you as a resource. (And then promote the heck out of the published piece!) It all helps you get your name out into the wider world!
2. Refresh your website and be sure to include the most important information about yourself, specifically your name, service geographies, and contact info (you’d be surprised at how many people seem to keep this a secret). Keep your site up to date and informative. Brag on yourself! And, be sure to get someone else to give new copy a once over to catch typos and grammatical mistakes. Make it as professional as you can.
3. Improve your food photography. The difference between a mediocre photo and a mouthwatering one is often as simple as lighting and focus. Don’t display muddy shots of brown food. Make every dish glow. That’s what you’re selling! Take a photography class. Buy a food photography book like Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin and study it. Read our past posts by member/photographer Carol Borchardt and learn from them. Study photos you admire and learn how to style from them.
4. Focus on learning a couple of new cooking techniques or a new cuisine to reignite your passion for cooking and so you can introduce new recipes into your client repertoire.
5. Conduct regular client assessments with longtime clients–perhaps every six months. It’s good to have ongoing conversations about where they are in their health, diet, and preferences. It’s also an opportunity for you to introduce new dishes to them and encourage them to give you referrals.
6. Set aside a budget to go out to eat at new restaurants, ethnic restaurants, anything that gets you out of your rut so you experience new tastes and new approaches to food and cooking. It’s research and it’s fun.
7. Get out and ask questions. What do people need in your community that you can provide? Does a community college need cooking teachers? Does a cooking school need someone who is able to teach kids or elders or people with specific dietary issues in which you have expertise? Does a local business need a regular caterer? Does a dietician with special needs clients need a chef to refer them to?
8. Identify gaps or deficiencies in how you run your business and find ways to improve them so that you’re more efficient and can earn more money. We have plenty of materials and software that address the business of being a personal chef. I can help and if you need other tools, we can direct you to them. Or come to San Diego and take a Personal Chef Seminar to recalibrate your business. Or take a class to learn a new skill set (in accounting, marketing, public speaking) at your local community college.
9. Add a new related revenue stream to your business. This can range from teaching cooking classes and doing food demos at events to providing small markets with take0ut foods or catering meetings for businesses.
10. Set aside time once a month to get out of the kitchen and away from your business and do something fun. We all need to clear our heads and just enjoy life. We chose this industry so we could earn a living doing what we love on our terms. Set your priorities so you can lead a balanced life and be with those who are important to you.
January is traditionally a time for activating a new approach to life. We may not need to diet or exercise more, but who couldn’t improve on what we already do well or simply learn something new that will enhance our business or life?
With the economy improving, 2015 is bound to be a terrific year! What can you do for yourself and your family to fulfill that promise?
Dennis and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
What are you planning on doing to make 2015 a banner year?
Look up professional organizations in the Encyclopedia of Associations and you’ll have to go through quite a long list–some 23,000 national and international organizations. If you have a job or a business, it’s likely there’s a professional society or trade association you can join.
But why? You pay an annual membership fee and what does it give you? Most experts agree on six basics:
- Industry information and professional development opportunities
- Networking opportunities
- Professional credibility
- Job listings
- Industry best practices
Not all organizations offer everything, of course. You have to read up on the organization you’re considering and learn what they offer and if that’s meaningful for your goals. And, you should try to talk to those who are already members to learn about their experience with the group.
At the risk of sounding self-serving, as one of those groups, we’ve worked with thousands of members over the years. As the profession of personal chef has grown and evolved, we like to think our perspective has evolved with it (not to mention what we offer). And while it feels like everything you need to know about your profession is available to track down online–that joining a professional association is irrelevant these days–in fact, we feel that it’s more important than ever. All of us are searching for community, whether it’s via Facebook or what we used to call chat rooms (remember AOL?). All of us are looking for critical business information–how to deal with clients, how to add a new service, what are the latest trends. Having a group of people to call on who are part of a community, who are familiar with the issues you’re going through, and who can help you grow in your profession is invaluable. So is access to information. The question is, though, is the group you’re considering going to be the right fit?
We thought we’d help you figure out this path with some questions for you to ask yourself that should help you decide.
1. What do you wish to accomplish by joining a professional association?
We know that membership in a national or international trade association can give stability and credibility to a new business and elevate the professional impression of that business through the strength and reputation of the association. There’s also strength in numbers. A solid membership base means more opportunities to locate and interact with peers who can contribute to your success. At a basic level it shows you have a certain level of expertise. At a deeper level it also gives you connections to tap into.
2. What type of benefits and support are you looking for?
Some people join an organization just to put it on their resume or website. It gives that immediate credibility we’ve already cited. But others appreciate a specific list of benefits. These could be access to an online knowledge base, materials like business forms that help with better managing the business, the opportunity to attend continuing education conferences or webinars, support groups via online forums, business visibility through a website or mobile app, professional coaching, access to professional insurance, software systems, website construction, links to industry information sites… The list can go on and on. You need to evaluate what’s most important to you.
3. What are your expectations of the group?
You have to dig deep for this one–especially since this is one of those things that tends to depend on how much you’re willing to participate. Most association members will say that the more they put into a group by using its resources, participating in events, and interacting with other members the deep their level of satisfaction and the more positive the impact on their businesses and careers.
4. What are you willing to give back to increase the value of the organization?
Initially, your expectations will probably run to “what can they do for me?” But in all honesty, much of those benefits comes from other members who feel such a close connection with the organization and fellow members that they’re doing a lot of the giving. Do you need advice to clarify how to respond to an uncomfortable situation with a client? Certainly whoever is running the organization can respond, but it’s just as likely if you’re asking this on a forum that a fellow member will help–or two or three or more. Perhaps members in your community are teaching classes or mentoring colleagues. In time, one of those members could be you–if that’s important to you. And you know the old saying, the more you give, the more you receive.
We’ve had this experience with many of our members. Our forums are filled with people who are eager to ask questions and eager to offer help and advice. Our conferences are populated with members who offer to teach colleagues in their area of expertise. Many of these members have bonded over the years.
One business is A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef, whose chef/owners are Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson. The Lexington, Mass.-based duo is one of the longest-running personal chef businesses in the greater Boston area. They joined in May 1999 and, as Christine says, “Fifteen years later, when you look forward to renewing membership, that speaks volumes. We are home.”
Christine believes that even though she and Dennis aren’t “joiners” their APPCA membership has given them a wealth of support. “We’ve gotten business guidance in the form of education and support, peer support, access to special benefits like liability insurance, leaders who understand what we do and how it works.”
Christine and Dennis also have thrived on the opportunity APPCA has given them to share experiences so that “we can learn from each other. They’ve built a community to support its members–giving longtime members recognition and allowing them to help guide newer members. From minute one we were invited in to ask questions, compare notes, build the business, receive educational materials, get continuing education, keep up on business and food trends, and get to know colleagues.”
As an organization member, Christine advises people who are newly joining a professional group to make their presence known on forums, ask questions, and keep asking until you get the answer you need. “Get to know the people who do what you do! We’re an eclectic bunch but we really understand each other. Solitary business owners can be lonely. This is our office!”
Indeed, the pros call it networking–but with the right group, what you’re nurturing are long and warm friendships that are both professional and personal.
So, what is it you’re looking for? If by answering these questions you locate a professional trade association that meets your needs–and you join–you could be embarking on a life- and career-changing journey that gives you the opportunity constantly learn about your industry and how to improve your business. Even more, it will provide the means to meet, interact, support, and enjoy a whole new world of people who appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish and are looking for the same from you.
What are you looking for in a professional association? How can we best meet your needs?
For the home cook, leftovers can mean another meal or two. But how about if you’re a personal chef and you have bits of treasure from dishes you’ve made? You don’t want them to go to waste. And they could probably lend themselves to some stunning new dishes.
Food that’s been safely handled, prepared properly, and stored correctly is simply good food. Most personal chef clients find their custom-designed meal support programs keep leftovers to a minimum but if you find yourself in a leftover-heavy position–as the chef or the client–you might find some of these tips helpful.
Let’s look at the easy stuff first–ingredient leftovers. If you have unused herbs or proteins–such as chicken, beef, sausage, fish or other seafood–or grilled vegetables, you can certainly use them in an omelet or frittata, or as a filling for ravioli or wontons, or in soups or salads. Quesadillas and tacos are also great ways to use extra fresh ingredients. Leftover pasta can also go in a frittata–or soup. Got mashed potatoes? Make mini shepherd’s pies or use it to top a casserole.
Prepped but unused onions, tomatoes, peppers, lemons, watermelon, or anything else coming from the garden can enhance and complement any number of dishes. The watermelon pieces that were part of dessert the night before can be tossed with sliced heirloom tomatoes, pieces of feta cheese, olives, and arugula for a sweet and savory salad.
Our colleague Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food and her new blog, A Cookbook Obsession, recently wrote about turning vast amounts of leftover grilled sweet corn into smoky sweet corn puree, which she paired with seared scallops. After heating some butter and a little bacon fat from cooking up four slices of bacon, she sauteed chopped scallions, then added the corn kernels, cream cheese, and half and half. Then she added cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper before pureeing half the mixture. Pieces of cooked bacon and chives are added to the mixture and served with seared scallops.
Risotto is another one of those leftover dishes that never tastes quite the same warmed up the next day. So, how about making risotto pancakes with sauteed mushrooms and onions and strong meltable cheese, like gruyere? Add a binder, like a beaten egg, then form a ball just a bit larger than a golf ball with the risotto. Flatten it into a oval in the palm of your hand. Make an indentation in the middle and add the mushrooms and cheese. Then close it up over the filling. Repeat until you’ve used up the risotto. Saute the pancakes in butter or olive oil on both sides until crisp and serve.
Making pies and have leftover dough? Roll it out and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, then get out the cookie cutters. You’ve got cookies to bake.
There are numerous web resources for you to get ideas as well.
- Food52: Experts and home cooks contribute to this site. Here’s a blog post on creating refreshing summer rolls with leftover fish, plus links to 10 other recipes for leftover fish.
- Foodinese: Leftover stir fried veggies can be soggy and unappealing after their initial debut on the table. Here’s a video on turning them into dumplings.
- Epicurious: Got leftover grilled salmon? Flake it, Make a sandwich on ciabatta, per this recipe.
- Food Republic: Wow, they must think you never finish a meal. Here are 15 recipes for using up what’s in the fridge.
- Bakepedia: Are you a baker with leftover ganache or buttercream? Even dessert leftovers can get a new life with these ideas.
- Tasting Table: Now we’re getting hard core. These “leftovers” are more like the trimmed off stuff you’d ordinarily toss, like stems, leaves, pods, and peels–even baguette ends. But they’re fantastic in all sorts of dishes. Here’s how to use them.
- The Kitchn: Turn dinner leftovers into lunch. If it reheats well (or is good cold), easy to eat at your desk or the lunch cafeteria, and is easy to transport, you’ve got a delicious lunch. Here are 10 leftover ideas.
Any meal in which there are leftovers is simply another opportunity to make the most of your tasty, beautifully prepared ingredients–whether it’s reheating or reinventing.
What are your favorite leftover ingredients? Have you developed a repertoire of dishes based on leftovers?
Don’t forget to sign up for our September Personal Chef Seminar Weekend!
Periodically we invite our members to contribute to this blog with their recipes or expertise. Several months ago Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food Personal Chef Service in Memphis gave us some wonderful tips on food photography. So when we saw her drop-dead gorgeous photo of these Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps we had to get the recipe–and share it with you. So, with thanks to Carol…
If your clients want to consume more vegetables and healthful foods, these Vietnamese-inspired beef lettuce wraps are a delicious, fun way for them to begin. A sweet-sour cucumber relish, gluten-free rice noodles, shredded carrots, fresh basil, and peanuts top a spicy beef filling wrapped in lettuce leaves, all accompanied by a tangy dipping sauce.
I like to think of recipes as a roadmap. A recipe provides the directions, but how I get to the final destination is up to me. So, inspired by a recipe from a magazine, I made numerous adjustments to it such as increasing the flavor and spiciness of the filling and adding elements such as the cucumber relish. At first glance, the recipe may look long and involved; however, it comes together fairly quickly. All the elements for a satisfying meal are here: protein, lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables, and starch in the form of rice noodles, so no extra sides are needed.
The filling can also be made with ground chicken, turkey, pork, and even tofu. Therefore the recipe is easily adapted to numerous dietary requirements. Using wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos will make the wraps entirely gluten-free.
There’s quite a bit of fresh ginger in this dish. I find grating ginger to be wasteful and time-consuming—so much stays on the grater. Instead, I like to peel and coarsely chop it, then process in a mini food processor with just enough water to create a puree. The puree is similar to prepared ginger products that are available in the produce section but without the additives. If you make too much puree, freeze the excess in a snack-size zipper top bag to use another time. It’s a great time-saver to have the ginger in your client’s freezer ready to go because they’ll ask for these wraps over and over!
By assembling each wrap as desired, kids of all ages can play with their food–and get away with it!
VIETNAMESE BEEF LETTUCE WRAPS WITH RICE NOODLES AND CUCUMBER RELISH
½ cup water
¼ cup soy sauce or tamari<
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (or turkey, chicken or pork)<
2 tablespoons minced ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 large English (hothouse) cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and light green part only, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
LETTUCE AND TOPPINGS
1 large head Boston lettuce (12 leaves)
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 cup shredded carrots
2 ounces rice noodles (maifun), soaked in hot water and drained well
½ cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
SAUCE: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.Divide into small bowls for each diner.
FILLING:Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Cook and stir onion and ginger 4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and beef, breaking into small pieces; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until beef is browned and no longer pink.Drain well. Stir in all remaining filling ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until evaporated, stirring occasionally.
RELISH: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Divide into small bowls for each diner.
TO ASSEMBLE: Spoon meat mixture onto lettuce leaves, top with basil, carrots, rice noodles, peanuts and lime wedges.Roll up and serve with dipping sauce.
Thanks, Carol! This looks and sounds delicious and like a perfect meal for clients!
On a special note, we want to let you know that APPCA member Nicole Gaffney is a contestant on the new season of Food Network Star. Nicole, who runs her personal chef business in Atlantic City, New Jersey, did us proud on Sunday night’s debut episode. For that night’s Hollywood-style party competition she prepared sesame-crusted tuna with spicy soy glaze and introduced herself to the party guests as coming from a family of fishermen on the Jersey shore.
“I want to bring a splash of the ocean in to kitchens all over America and be your Food Network Star de la mar,” she said.
Judges Giada de Laurentis, Alton Brown, and Bobby Flay all found her pitch authentic, original, and compelling–and, more to the point, loved her tuna dish. She made it to the top three in the elimination segment. So, let’s root her on next Sunday! Team Nicole! We’re working on getting a chance to interview Nicole for à la minute.
What is your “Food Network Star winning recipe? How do you introduce yourself to clients?