Little Chef Izzy

If you’ve ever enjoyed watching the food competition shows that feature children–Top Chef Junior, Kids Baking Championship, Chopped Junior, and MasterChef Junior, just to name a few–they might just take you back to your days as a child in the kitchen. Or not. While it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch kids wield the kind of culinary technique most adults can only dream of, many of us who grew up cooking had much more modest skills that were honed only later in life.

If you’re on Instagram you might also have come across a precocious British three-year-old named Little Chef Izzy, who has actually been on the platform since September 2019. According to a story about her in MyRecipes, she’s been baking cupcakes, gingerbread men, pizza, and more since before she was two.

Little Izzy may have talents way beyond what we had at that age but it does make you think about what kids are capable of and how we should encourage them in the kitchen. After all, isn’t that what molded us?

“My mom had me at the counter watching and helping at three,” recalls APPCA member Christine Robinson. When asked how she helped and what was the first dish she made by herself, it wasn’t quite up to Instagram’s Little Chef Izzy, but instead more relatable to those of us whose adventures in the kitchen were more, well, childlike. What I love about Christine’s cooking adventure was just how resourceful she was.

“Um…that was the ill-fated creamed potato experiment,” explains Christine. “I was under specific instructions to never turn on burners nor the oven and to never use the sharp knives. So my mom made the best creamed potatoes. All I knew was that there were potatoes, sour cream and butter. But how to make them on my own without breaking my restrictions? I got out a small stainless saucepan and cut the (not peeled) potato with a butter knife, dumped sour cream in with a stick of butter and climbed on the counter to utilize the only heat source I was allowed to use, the metal toaster. I set the pan atop the toaster and proceeded to turn it on to its highest setting, hit the switch, and stirred furiously with a metal fork. I chose all conductive metal for the project. Every time the toaster would, pop I would press the switch down again and resume stirring.

“This went on for a good 15 minutes,” Christine continues, “until my mom walked in and started screaming I was going to electrocute myself. Needless to say, it was a failed experiment. I lost toaster privileges and we moved on to supervised baking after that.”

Okay, pull yourself together and stop laughing. Christine was just more creative than most kids.

Yes, we all have stories. Here’s mine. I was about three–and this is my first memory period–when my dad decided to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. Yes, I was way behind Izzy… Instead of putting me on a step stool, he held me over the stove and gave me the spatula to let me stir the curds into what would become breakfast. I was never a science geek but watching the runny yolks and whites solidify into soft pale yellow buttery mounds was transformative. I ended up learning how to make all sorts of dishes from my parents, from meatloaf (how much fun is it to sink your clean hands in a bowl with cold ground beef, a couple of eggs, ketchup, matzo meal, and spices and mush it all together), roast chicken, flank steak spirals, and lamb chops. I made salads and set the table. I made coffee in the morning for my parents and still recall the pop of opening a new can of MJB and the heady aroma that burst out. Or arguing with my siblings over who got to lick the spoon and the bowl from the cake or brownie batter and cookie dough we made with our mom. Yes, we three were raised in the kitchen.

As soon as APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel was tall enough to reach the stove, she recalls making spaghetti and meat sauce. And, like many of us, there were what we now call “dump cakes.”

“My mom used to keep boxed cakes in the house for my friends and me to make,” Shelbie says. “She said it was good for us to read the directions and learn to measure… this was probably fourth to fifth grade.”

Jennifer Grawburg asked her mom to teach her at age 13. The dish was Jiffy Blueberry Muffins. “My grandma and my mother were good home cooks and inspired me to be the chef I am now.

Grandparents make learning how to cook and bake special. Anne Blankenship says that she was probably seven or eight years old when she made “kitty kat pancakes (two circles and ears) with her grandfather. “I was lucky to have a mother, grandfather and two grandmothers from whom I learned to cook,” she says.

So, what are you doing to help a new young generation of children to learn how to cook? Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, there are all sorts of dishes you can teach them to prepare–at the level they’re at. It could be starting with measuring ingredients or stirring them together, learning how to read a recipe, or just offering tastes to get them interested in new flavors. Older kids can learn knife skills, how to sauté or fry or bake a loaf of bread. Teach them favorite family recipes and recipes that are deeply part of their heritage.

Teach them how to feed themselves and those they love and gain a skill that helps them be independent.

And then teach them how to do the dishes.

How old were you when you first learned to cook? What did you make?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

Breakfast tacos for dinner! Some chorizo with carrots mushrooms and chard, avocado, red onion, backyard eggs: Contributed by The Quarantined Kitchen member Trish Watlington

One of the phenomena that the pandemic has brought to social media is the rise of sharing in the quarantine kitchen. In fact, a private group I joined when it launched last March on Facebook is called The Quarantined Kitchen. Already it has 2.3 thousand members.

It’s by no means the only one. Another Facebook Group, Quarantine Meals, is even larger. Enormous, in fact, since it’s a public group, with 45.2 thousand members.

And, then there’s the more intimate private Facebook culinary lockdown group launched by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston. She calls her group ChefDemic. It  currently has 520 members.

What the three have in common is that members are encouraged to share photos and videos of the foods they’re preparing, share recipes, ask questions, and generally be a culinary gathering place. Or as Jenn Felmley, a San Diego chef who started The Quarantined Kitchen said, “My goal is to make this an online kitchen where everyone can gather.”

For Robinson, there was also a practical issue that needed solving.

“As things closed down for the pandemic emergency, we found ourselves looking in our freezers and pantries wondering what runs on grocery stores would look like, the panic buying,” she explains. “On a whim I turned to social media and created a Facebook group, ChefDemic. All the people included in the initial invitation seemed to like the name and the idea. The premise was to have a place where friends could come on and say, ‘Hey? I have such and such and no idea how to cook it, but it was all the store had.’ We also wanted to concentrate on what people had at hand in their homes and how they could utilize those items to minimize food waste.”

Initially Robinson thought there would be 20 to 40 people talking back and forth about shredded pork over some odd grain they found and what to do with half a bag of greens. What happened, along with that, she saw, was the building of a supportive community, free from virus talk and politics, dealing only with the food they were making at home, sharing ideas, photos, troubleshooting.

“Dennis [her partner] and I started some short, informative videos, posted what we were eating at home, a few instructions on cuts of meat and freezing. After a week or two, we had people asking to add friends. Then we noticed that conversations were taking place between members who were jumping in to help others with questions. Talk about a wealth of talent and information.

“I have always despised the term, ‘safe place,'” says Robinson, “but during this whole time I have embraced it as we have provided a safe place for over 500 friends and family members, including every level of talent out there, and for ourselves. And the posts have been creative, funny, supportive, informative, and people have stuck to the rules. I have received many private thank you notes via text and Messenger which confirms that there are people craving distraction.”

Most recently on ChefDemic a group member was wondering what to do with quail eggs–and four days later triumphantly posted several photos of her Angus burger with edam cheese, quail eggs, tomatoes, butter lettuce, salt and pepper on toasted, sprouted rye. There are photos of seared polenta cake, pulled pork, and coleslaw; photos of fish markets; photos of chicken and mushroom asparagus crepes with a mushroom dill sauce; shrimp zoodle pad thai; and Bibimgooksu (Korean Cold Mixed Noodles)–and so much more.

And here’s where you can find ChefDemic’s YouTube channel.

 

I know a lot of the folks who post on The Quarantined Kitchen and find myself posting on it pretty regularly. It’s filled with chefs and food writers, and, as you’d expect, a lot of dedicated home cooks–many of whom share dishes they’ve made with food they’ve grown.

To join the private groups, simply head over to the group page and request to join. Once you’re a member you can also invite your friends. These are wonderfully quirky groups and places where you can not just show off your own creations, but get inspired by what others are making and learn how they do it–all while getting out of your head a bit if you’re still in lockdown at home.

Do you belong to a Facebook culinary group? What have you gotten out of 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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Last week APPCA member and friend Christine Robinson wrote a Facebook post that articulated what so many of us are feeling these days–boredom with the routine at home, irritability with the constraints, and yet a total understanding that it was all necessary. So, I asked Christine who, with her partner Dennis Nosko, operates A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston, Massachusetts, if she’d like a different challenge, guest writing a post for her fellow personal chefs. I’m so glad she embraced this because what she wrote below is so meaningful!

I had heard from a lifelong friend sometime in mid January that she was concerned about this virus popping up in China and had I heard. I researched the rumblings and decided that it would be a good idea to just prepare a little bit (anyone knows my least little bit is over the top) because we all know when you prepare and over plan, nothing happens.

Spanish-Style Chicken Thighs

Needless to say, here we are. We have been in business for 20 years and have seen downturns, trends, situations, busy times, lean times, but everything always balanced out. This, this is one for the history books as we navigate the biggest challenge our world has faced in recent history.

When everything started hitting we made sure to let clients know how vigilant we were and that we understood their fears. We have had about five clients hang on for the duration, all people who stay at home under most circumstances, have some special needs, and have spacious enough homes that we can practice safe distancing and bring in as few items as possible. Cleaning frantically has become the norm and taking our temperatures and announcing numbers has become second nature. We keep in touch with other clients who have taken this time off to email, trade some recipes and just check in with no mention of business concerns, rather human concerns. We love our people and want to see everyone on the other side.

Right now is the time for our best ideas to be put forth, to brainstorm, to get creative.

I started a Facebook page almost a month ago called ChefDemic—we are just over 250 members. We became concerned with people’s abilities to cook from what they had available in their freezers and pantries, and also wanted to address food waste and using what you have on hand. Our intent is to amp up on demo videos (our son bought us a tripod to use for videos) and to move over to a YouTube platform and continue this. The sense of community on the page is very strong and we have regular posts from members showing off their own creations. When we have not been available to offer advice in a timely manner, 10 odd people will address a member’s concern. Much more than the food advice, is the distraction, the humor, and the support for our members has built a wonderful, creative group.

Mixed Vegetable with Cabbage, Peppers, and Broccolini

This has also spurred talk of online cooking class parties or instruction.

We are taking this time at home to rest our minds, deal with our own health, get out and walk, and allow ourselves to fear the uncertainties, while taking some time to regroup mentally. Menus for clients are being revamped, we are cooking for ourselves, concentrating on balanced meals rooted in foods that boost immunity. I have managed to maintain a 20-pound weight loss I started on shortly after my surgery at the end of October and so has Dennis. Documenting this journey could be another direction we explore.

Filling for Burrito Bowl with Bison and Spinach

As far as the future, our plans are to focus on the very cornerstone of the personal chef industry, something we all know, to sense and execute customized food in the safety of the client’s home with attention to quality personally managed for them. I see a trend of gatherings being more special and possibly more frequent as we are all learning to celebrate the little things, as no one wants to miss out on any moment with loved ones  ever again. I envision a time when the RSVP lists are going to be packed with ‘YES! We will be theres,” and fewer, “Can’t make its.” While that may take time, we are willing to rework our model to fit the client needs.

Be well and be safe. You are our people and we love you, too.

How are you coping with sheltering at home. How are you thinking about adjusting your business for the future?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

 

Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

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!

 

Ask a personal chef for his or her pet peeve and the answer may just be the irritation of people calling them caterers.

“It’s over 20 years in and people still refer to me as a caterer,” said longtime APPCA member Phyllis Segura. “For 20 years I’ve been correcting them. A personal chef, a private chef, is not a caterer.”

“Happens to me too,” said Jodi Giroux. “Same person over and over, ‘How’s your catering business?’ My same response, ‘My personal chef business is going well, thanks!’ I may/may not give another explanation of the difference. Also, people refer me as a caterer on the local Advice site pages. STOP…I’m a personal chef! I’ll just add my website.”

If you’re a personal chef and this aggravates you, too, maybe we should have some definitions at the ready. You, as a personal chef, prepare custom meals for clients in their homes or in a rental kitchen for them to reheat and enjoy throughout the week or whatever your arrangement is. You often create menus tailored for specific needs–from cancer diets, anti-inflammatory diets, low fat or gluten free diets to cardio, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of you are trained dietitians or nutritionists. Others of you have developed an area of specialization. But the word “personal” is there for a reason.

Catering may be a service under your personal chef umbrella but it’s altogether different. It’s preparing food and drink for a one-time event.

As chef Renee DuBose explained, “Catering is a whole other beast that requires offsite kitchens, special licenses, permits, and a crew of many talents. Plus, you get into the rental arena for tables, dinnerware, etc. You need multiple contracts…..who’s liable for specific situations, set up, break down, clean up, trash hauling, the list goes on. It is a much more intense job, but you also get volume which can balance costs.

“My mind gets all tangled up thinking about it all,” she added. “I don’t think people, in general, really take into consideration all the things needed to make a large party gig happen. I have much respect for caterers, but personally am not equipped to handle it as a solo chef.”

Of course, not all catered events are massive. Perhaps you have a personal chef client who wants you to cater a special anniversary dinner party or a holiday brunch. We have members who include that kind of service, along with others, such as teaching cooking classes.

APPCA members Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have actually come up with a way to clarify the distinctions between their personal cheffing and in-home catering.

“Most view caterers as those who service parties or dinners rather than those who prepare off-site and finish when they arrive so we say we cater small parties,” said Nosko. “I tell them we are not full-service caterers and explain. We also send out IHC How it Works.”

He explained that the IHC is a word document they send out to people along with their menus. “We have one document designed for our personal chef side and another for our In Home Catering. The IHC How it Works document will let them know about a deposit… what part of the process that we do and what is the responsibility of the client. After this, we will direct clients to rental companies and waiter/bartender service providers if necessary.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Of course, Robinson often has to address a very different irritating issue: sexist assumptions.

“Dennis and I are partners in life and in business ….there are still those who hire us who assume I am the assistant and I have heard many people say in 20 years, ‘Thank you Chef Dennis….and Christine….,'” she said.

She’s not the only one. “happens to me ALL the time!,” said Carol Crikelair Taradyna of The Occasional Chefs. “My new husband and I just laugh now. I started the business 12 years ago down here in Forida. He joined me a few years back when we first met. I could be at a job for hours. He walks in and they swarm all over him saying, ‘Hello, Chef!'”

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

As member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service joked about the personal chef versus caterer confusion, “I get it! But, hey… we could be called worse!”

Chefs, have people referred to you as a caterer? What’s your response?

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

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

We like to touch base with members to learn their best practices for getting new clients. We’ve written on this subject several times over the years, mostly because marketing is one of the most critical aspects in any business for developing new business.

 

Your strategies tend to break down into a couple of categories. See where you fit it:

  • It’s who you know: Carol Tipton Wold explained, “I’ve gotten more business through relationships and word of mouth than anything else I tried. Belonging to service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Soroptomist, etc.) and volunteering at their events has paid off 10 fold because you make friends who tell their friends. Of course, you always give them the “Because we’re friends” deal. Website, Chamber of Commerce, ads, never worked out.
  • Website: Member Christine Robinson, as well as Katie Muente Losik and Kitchen Kalibur agreed with Tipton Wold about word of mouth–but also added website. In fact, your website is your front door to your business, opening up to a world of information–if you give it the love and care it deserves. It’s also a point of impression. It can either deliver a terrific first impression or turn someone away. Be sure you have the basics (your name, service area, and services, along with contact info), as well as beautiful photos, menu samples, and other information a potential client would want to know. Make it easy to navigate and make sure it’s linked to your social media platforms.

Four additional marketing practices we advocate include some very simple concepts:

  • A professional-looking business card with all contact information. Take advantage of both sides, with one listing your contact info and the other your services–or a mouth-watering photo of a classic dish you prepare. And, please, have them with you at all times! You never know who you’ll meet, even at the market, even at church, even at your kid’s soccer game or on line at the checkout at Old Navy! (That means you also have to be sociable and strike up conversations with strangers.)
  • Up-to-date social media, with beautiful photos. You may not actually get a client via social media, but that account of yours could reinforce a decision to hire you–or turn someone away. Post beautiful photos of food you’ve prepared. Note events you participate in, new types of services you offer, new ingredients you’re working with. Ask questions (the answers can help you identify new approaches to your business or new service areas). Make social media work for you.
  • Networking. Get involved in your community. It doesn’t even have to be a food-oriented organization–just anywhere you’re going to meet people, like your kids’ school, your church or synagogue, a beach clean up group, or a political organization. Volunteer to help put together a meeting or event–or host one–to demonstrate your chops. It’s all about widening your circle and then showing off your skill set.

Cooking Classes

  • Teach classes. Offer cooking classes to clients or others you know to which they can invite friends and family. The classes put you and your skills–and charm–into the spotlight.

What are your most successful strategies for building your client base? What lessons have you learned?

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

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

 

 

As a personal chef your goal is to make your clients happy with food that not only tastes good but perhaps also addresses health issues they face.

But what do you do when their health issues conflict with yours? What if, like APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle, you have celiac disease and yet still make baked goods and dishes you can’t taste?

This is neither a small issue or a rare one. Think of all the people in your life with gluten allergies, seafood allergies, and other random food allergies. Just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean they’re immune to them.

Chef Dakota Weiss of Sweetfin, an L.A.-based chain of fast casual poke shops, told Forbes back in 2016 that she can’t even touch fish without reacting. She explained that her throat will close up, her tongue gets itchy, and it gets difficult to speak. So, how does she do her job? When scaling fish she dons two sets of gloves and wraps a bandanna around her face so that a scale doesn’t fly into her eye. It’s not always successful and failure results in her eye swelling shut.

Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag discovered she has an intense allergy to hazelnuts. She told Cooking Light that she worked with her allergist to create a plan and gather the right tools. “On the set of Chopped, I’m a regular. They know about my allergy. Hazelnuts are never on set when I’m there. They’re not usually on set at all. Any guest judge appearances I make, I let them know before I come in that I’m allergic to hazelnuts. That’s my first step. Second step is to always have an EpiPen.”

APPCA member Christine Robinson has issues with green peppers and gluten. “I can take digestive enzymes for small amounts of wheat and we use an Italian non-GMO flour that does not cause me to react…we tell clients ahead of time that we use every color of pepper except for green bell, as I can’t taste it…in nearly 20 years no one has minded…”

Similarly APPCA member Shelby Wassel addresses her watermelon allergy by leaving it out of dishes. “It’s not a big deal, but I never offer watermelon, feta and mint salad to my clients as I’m allergic to watermelon! No one has ever missed it.”

If food allergies dog you, your first responsibility is to your health and well being. Here are four tips for staying safe while still making delicious meals for your clients:

  1. “Just do the best you can, protect yourself first and if you can get someone to help that you trust then have them help you out,” Zirkle advised. That could mean hiring an additional person with you to handle the ingredients you’re allergic to–not just for prepping, cooking, and packaging, but also shopping for the ingredients so you don’t have to handle them at all, tasting the dish, and even cleaning up.
  2. Carry Benadryl and at least one EpiPen on you at all times. Double up on gloves and wear a mask if you absolutely have to work with an ingredient you’re allergic to.
  3. Be honest with your clients. Let them know that you have specific allergies and can’t prepare dishes with those ingredients in them at all or unless someone else you bring in handles them. Ask that anything you’re allergic to that they may have in their kitchen either be removed or stored away and well labeled so you can avoid it.
  4. Depending on the level of your reaction following exposure, don’t even offer it. It’s not worth the potential medical emergency that could land you in the hospital or worse.

And, if food allergies are an issue for you, let that be an opening into turning your compassion for potential clients who may also have food restrictions into new business opportunities. It may lead to your developing a new set of recipes that compensate for the ingredients you can’t work with, a new culinary specialty, and even new segment of clients who will appreciate how your limitations mirror theirs.

Do you have a food allergy you’re dealing with when cooking for clients? How have you addressed 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!

 

Part tradition, part cliché, New Year’s resolutions are inescapable. We vow to eat healthier, exercise, and in general seek self-improvement–and often lapse. But there’s something cleansing, optimistic, and inspiring about resolutions. And they help guide us to better decisions–whether personally or professionally.

In that spirit, we asked several APPCA members for their resolutions. And what we got back is indeed inspiring. We hope you’ll read these thoughtful remarks, then weigh your plans for 2018 and how you can make your life richer, happier, and more meaningful.

Anne Blankenship
Designed Cuisine

It has been a good year for me and it is SO ironic that when I finally get my business to where I want it, I’m having to slow down.  Very happy with my current client base and have room for 1 more but have a lot to consider.

My knees have gotten pretty bad and I found out this summer that I will have to have BOTH knees replaced when the time comes.  That will be April, 2019, after I receive Medicare.  Simply waiting for that to happen right now and trying to get by as best I can.  What’s so funny to me is that I can stand and prep/cook for 4-5 hours but trying to get off a curb is another story!

Therefore, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to start making plans for when I have to slow down.  I have a colleague/good friend who is interested in the personal chef business and is an outstanding cook.  We went to the same culinary school (although at different times) & have worked together in catering over the years.  So my resolution is to help her really improve her business Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as her LinkedIn profile.  I’m going to work with her on creating a Yelp business page and Google as well.  Short of creating a website for her, I am going to try and help increase traffic for her so that she can grow her business.  I refer a lot of inquiries to her that are for parties, since I only do up to 20 people.  (That was a big decision this year).

Since I am interested in teaching when I retire (March, 2020) I worked on that this year (wrote that article for A La Minute for you about that) and am keeping in touch with the community college where I plan to teach.  In addition, I signed up to help the American Culinary Federation with a project for exam questions for Certified Culinarians (I just did my due diligence this year to keep my certification).  I have done the paperwork part and will be participating in a webinar in January to help with that project.  This was a good refresher for me on the basics and is helpful for me if I am going to teach in the future.

I will have to take a break for rehab when I get the knees fixed in 2019, then hopefully back to my clients for 6  months and then retirement in March, 2020.  So helping to get my friend’s business strengthened and keeping up with continuing education are going to be on the front burner for me next year.

Javier Fuertes
The DinnerMaker

I have already started on some “resolutions”.   I have a newer, updated web site that I need to really concentrate on more for 2018 and get it to where it needs to be. Increase more traffic to it. Perhaps start a blog for it (Ohh Carol, I need some help…..  haha!)

Overall, I did get complacent in recent years with the business and, well, 2018 will be a year to get back to where I was a few years ago.

Besides that, I have my fitness side of business to work on some more. I am putting an income figure as a goal for that. A 3 month , a 6 month, and by next year.

Personal goals…. to get back to running a full marathon. I am currently committed to running the Marine Corps Marathon next October. With all the injuries I had this 2017, I can really use a good, healthy injury- free 2018.

Nancy Cordi
Mediterrania Chef Services

In 2018, I am looking forward to attending the Food and Wine festival in Aspen and New York as well as graduate from Escoffier International Culinary Academy! Hope you have a prosperous 2018!

Gloria Bakst
Chef Gloria B

My resolutions for this year are to give more speaking engagements and to do more consulting. I have been honored to speak/consult at the National Institutes of Health in May of 2018  for a rare form of cancer. It is their annual conference and will be in Maryland for the weekend. I’m coordinating with the director of the program and the chef at the conference a healthy food menu (hearty appetizers)with food stations all having cancer-friendly foods. I will also be doing individual consulting with some of the guests regarding their food concerns.  I will be doing a food demonstration  too.  There will be international guests, doctors, and patients with this form of cancer attending.  I’m very excited about doing this. It is the direction I’d like to move at this stage in my life. I am still happily cooking meals for my clients who have health issues. But as we get older standing on our feet all day is more challenging to our bodies!

April Lee
Tastefully Yours, Personal Chef Services

Resolutions: (1) To honor and guard private, sacred space/time for my Self and keep firm boundaries regarding time spent between my personal and business lives. (2) To expand the reach of the charitable side of my business, the Stone Soup Project which prepares and delivers free weekly meals to food-insecure seniors and families (by cutting back the number of regular meal service clients I have), and (3) To get to bed before 1 or 2 a.m. every night! (The last one will be the hardest to accomplish.)

Context: This year was particularly bad for my family as my 14-year old nephew died in January, having suffered more than 3 years of continuous hospitalization for a very aggressive form of childhood leukemia. My father was diagnosed in late July with terminal cancer; my mother suffered a stroke 10 days later (and is still disabled, in rehab, with no more insurance extensions after Dec. 24th); my father died in October, and here we are.

Life goes on. Life is sad, and life is sweet. Life is difficult and frustrating, and life is filled with blessings. There will always be fragrant herbs and happy flowers in my garden. There will always be good friends along with good food and wine to accompany great laughter … and tears. There will always be the hungry to feed, desperate lives that we can touch, because we can. Because we can, and isn’t that fantastic?

Happy new year to all. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to explore your passions and dreams.

Carol Borchardt
A Thought for Food and From a Chef’s Kitchen

I don’t plan to do very many things where my personal chef business is concerned. After almost 16 years, I’ve got it down pretty good. However, I’ll be continuing to work heavily on my blog. The passive income I’m receiving just because people are viewing my blog is pretty lovely.

Suzy Brown
the Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

At the end of the year I will become a Certified Essential Oils Coach. With that my New Years resolution is I am starting to build the nutrition leg of my business.

The nutrition business will be called Thyme to Heal. I will be teaching classes and working with people one on one, showing them how to incorporate essential oils into their culinary creations and live a healthier life.

Shelbie Wassel
Shallots Personal Chef

For me, this coming year will be about giving back. I’ve reached a point in my business, where I’m actually happy with my client load and I’m enjoying working part time.  I would like to get more involved with helping the homeless and those who are panhandling in my community. And, on a more selfish note, I plan on lots of travel!  Starting with SE Asia this February… lots of cooking classes and fun eating in my future!

Jim Huff
Traveling Culinary Artist

My simple resolution for 2018: Stop saying I’m semi-retired….and actually ACT like I’m semi-retired!  Or should I say: Work less…play more?  I’ll pass on all the extra business that the trickle-down economics creates (tongue buried in cheek!)

Happy and successful New Year to All!

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosco
A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Where to start:

We are committed to organizing ourselves, honing in on more specialized menu plans and lists for Paleo, Primal, Keto, and Gluten-free menus—all areas of specialty but the lists and ideas are in mish mush lists…

Update and upgrade our website….well over due…I have already redesigned and ordered our new business cards…

Our own health and well being…after our loss in August of 2016 we were told by friends, family, and health care professionals that 2017 was for us…we got a taste of reality and had long and pointed conversations on our personal goals, as far as exercise and eating…we are currently on a cleanse for candida (revealed as a true problem for both of us—we finally landed on the right protocol,) and even in the face of holiday temptation, are doing very well and having the results we need.

Our time off…we are crazy with work and need to slow down, reorganize, learn to say “No,” and “When,” and “You have got to be kidding….”

Getting our house in order—2 years after moving we have curtains needing hanging, organizational stuff, spot painting, and all sorts of little stuff that we have put off…

So I guess the best summation is that we will be taking everything up a level or two, not in a ridiculous or unrealistic manner, but in a way that we will see results and then push forward…

The Merriest, Happiest, and Healthiest of holidays to each and every one of you…

Keith Steury
The Food Sherpa

2017 has been a solid year of business growth for me.  As is so often the case in life, it is a bit of mixed blessing.  More clients has been great for the bottom line, but it is quickly becoming apparent that I can’t continue to work at this pace for the long-term.  So, my over-arching resolution for 2018 is to figure out how to maintain/regain the balance between my professional and personal life (and amen to April’s comment about getting more sleep – lump me in on that one too)!

My big idea for 2018 is to block out time at the start of each quarter to identify concrete and achievable steps that I can take over each 3-month period to sharpen my focus as the year progresses and keep on track toward my over-arching resolution.  There is a lot of noise these days, so the more focus, the better!  Big initiatives I hope to tackle in 2018 (which are all very inter-related) include:

  • Business Expansion Plan
    • Documenting all business processes
    • Hiring a P/T Administrative Assistant
    • Updating my business plan for ongoing growth
  • Marketing Plan Review
    • Updating my website to ensure compliance with the latest industry standards
    • Refining my social media presence & usage
  • Networking/Mentoring/Professional Involvement
    • Establishing a relationship with the local Career Center, which provides technical/vocational programs for high school students in our County, including a culinary track.  I’d like to get more involved in this area, to potentially include giving presentations, demonstrations, or other related involvement with students who are interested in a career in the culinary arts.

Best of luck to everyone in 2018.  I hope business is good, life is balanced, and that you are all able to take some time to slow down and enjoy the holidays!

Heike Ashcroft
Just for You Personal Chef

Here is a quick response from Germany:

– I will be working on growing my regular client base
– I will be working on branching out into other directions to grow my business
– I will be working on my website and social media platforms
– and last but not least, I will be continuing to develop my culinary skills – obviously one of the most important aspects of my career.

Are you a dedicated culinarian seeking a career change? How’s this for a resolution: become a personal chef!

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

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

Last week, Christine Robinson wrote about creating a dish for a themed party. Well, we’re on a roll with this topic because I recently got an email newsletter from APPCA member Nancy Cordi of Mediterrania Personal Chef Services showing off her “Sandals & Sangria”party that she organized for the VeriDiva Business Group. The newsletter so intrigued me, with it’s beautiful food photos and interesting description that I asked Nancy if she could explain to members how to create these kinds of themed parties for clients. Here’s what she created for us. I hope it inspires you!

So it wasn’t long ago that I recently joined a local women’s club, Veridiva, a networking group in support of female entrepreneurs, in the Temecula area.  I was chosen as a member as well as their personal chef to represent the group. Rather than just showing up and being one’s personal chef, I decided to get even more creative and create themed parties and to really enjoy building fun and exciting menus around each theme.
Recently I hosted a “Sandals and Sangria” party which was the theme chosen to showcase one of our newest member’s products that she sells. At this party, it was very tropical and beachy so I decorated in bright floral prints using fabric I purchased on sale and used this material as my tablecloth, used real coconuts and pineapple for table décor, and broke out my tropical straws with various fruit on top which decorated each wine glass that would soon be filled with my homemade sangria. With great excitement, I created a tapas menu which consisted of bright, fresh flavors both savory and sweet, using fresh herbs mixed with fresh fruit topped on my open-faced empanadas with crab and chicken, cauliflower pancakes with fresh mint topped with a Saffron cream sauce and sweet and chewy Mejdool dates stuffed with Stilton blue cheese wrapped in smoked bacon.
And to swish all of this authentic Spanish food all down, I made a juicy fruity sangria which consisted of rose wines, Prosecco, peach brandy and a little bit of Grand Marnier that marinated overnight with chunky pieces of pineapple, strawberries, slices of orange and lime. Adding to that, I made beautiful mango and fresh raspberry purée ice cubes that beautifully enhanced and complimented my sangria in both flavor and presentation. And what ends a nice evening of savory tapas and juicy sangria? My creamy coconut flan topped with buttery caramelized pineapple.
Prior to this themed party, another that recently comes to mind is “Cocktails at Tiffany’s.” For this party, I also did finger foods which consisted of mint chicken and curry satay with a thai peanut sauce, garden fresh tomato, avocado and basil bruschetta on garlic crostini but the big hit of the party were my white and dark chocolate mousse and vanilla cake Tiffany cocktail desserts, each layer representing the classic Tiffany colors of black, Tiffany blue and white with edible silver pearls, and a black fondant bow on top.
And one of my MOST exciting events was my “A Journey to the Mediterranean.” This was my grand showcasing at my first themed part as a Veridiva member. I walked my guests through a culinary journey beginning with palate cleanser of a Moroccan black tea spritzed with orange blossom water. The guests then feasts on various dips, starting with Lebneh, a creamy, soft cheese made my draining the water from Greek yogurt over night, topped with excellent olive oil and fresh herbs, as well as made-from-scratch classic hummus with toasted pine nuts and roasted red pepper hummus. Then, they moved along the journey reaching for fragrant basmati rice made with cumin and cinnamon and fresh herbs which will soon be topped with braised beef and apricots, a succulent lamb meatball slider topped with a creamy whipped feta spread on a toasted brioche bun and a nice cooling side of fresh, citrusy taboulleh.

After they were done feasting on the savory food, I ended their journey with two authentic and decadent desserts, one from Italy, one from Greece and the Middle East. I wowed the guests with my lemon panna cota topped with chopped pistachios and pistachio oil and layers-deep of buttery baklava drizzled with chocolate ganache. I complimented these desserts with a strong Middle Eastern espresso with freshly grated cinnamon on top and even a hit of freshly grated black pepper.  This culinary journey through the Mediterranean was filled with many tantalizing surprises.

Doing themed parties is very exciting and it takes being a personal chef to a whole new level. It is so much fun to create a menu around a themed party as it is based on your inspiration and allows you to be as creative as you want with both food and decorations. It’s more than just showing-up and cooking. You get to experience the fun that you give your guests as well. I would suggest encouraging your client to do a themed party for the person they are celebrating or as a group to make the time and the culinary experience that much more memorable. You can increase your cost per person when doing this as you will provide fun, beautiful table décor and many other creative surprises, which you can provide at a very low cost to you.  Many of the items you can use for themed parties can be purchased at a grocery, fabric, thrift, or hobby store. Gather these party decorations and keep them to use over and over again for similar-themed parties.

When promoting these themed parties, aside from the promotion that comes from my women’s group, I also do email blasts through my website builder such as godaddy.com as well as share the events and details of each event via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I take many photos of each event, including the people enjoying themselves, décor, and especially the food, and promote them across as many social media outlets as possible. The response to these themed parties is so positive and people just love the experiences they see that I am providing my clients and want to know more about what I can do for them!

My Delicious Juicy Sangria
Serves 12-15
from Nancy Cordi
(please use quality wines)
2 bottles of good rose wine
1 bottle Dolce Vita Prosecco
1 750ml bottle of Christian Brothers peach brandy
1/2 cup of Grand Marnier
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 limes cut into thin slices
2 oranges cut into thin slices
Add all ingredients to large container or glass pitchers with lids and let sit overnight (at least 12 hours).  Serve with mango and raspberry ice cubes.
Mango and Raspberry Puree Ice Cubes
from Nancy Cordi
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of cubed mangos
1/2 cup of blackberries
3 cups water
1 cup of cane sugar
1 tspn of lemon zest
1 tspn of lime zest
4 silicone ice cube trays
2 baking/cookie sheets
In two sauce pots, separate the mangos and raspberries.  In the pot with the mangos, add lemon zest and the pot with the raspberries, add the lime zest.  Now add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar to each pot.  Stir separately on medium heat for about 10 minutes until mangos become soft and water turns yellow and until raspberries break apart and sauce becomes thick and red. Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cooled, for the raspberries, pour through strainer and press puree through with a spatula into another pot, removing all seeds. Now, add blackberries and stir.  In separate silicone ice cube trays placed on baking sheets, pour the mango and raspberry puree into each tray almost to the top of each block.  Carefully slide baking sheets into freezer and allow the puree to freeze for at least 6 hours.  Once cubes are frozen, twist ice cube trays and place in stainless steel ice cube bucket and serve with sangria!

Have you had requests from clients to create a themed party? How did you go about it?

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

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

We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this post by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine, who owns the business with partner Dennis Nosko, posted a picture of the cake on Facebook so I had to ask her for the recipe and the backstory. She, of course, provided both.

Nothing sets the tone of a theme party more than an original creation made for a specific crowd…Designing a dessert just for your client is appreciated and remembered.

Cocktail theme-based desserts allow you flavor layers and combinations you may not have thought about. Dissect the components and you can come up with a unique ice cream, cake, mousse, or sauce.

We were lucky enough to get a request from a woman wanting to celebrate her husband and his 30th birthday with an “End Of The 20’s,” party, with theme dress and décor. Her husband’s family happens to own a vacation home in a town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, chock full of period furniture, antique Spode china, etched crystal goblets, sterling service, and flutes that go back several generations. The hosts and guests showed up in tuxedos and evening gowns. They sipped cocktails and champagne and listened to music from the Gilded Age.

After I got her email requesting the theme, I had to plunge into Google searches for food of the Roaring Twenties and what was popular. There were a few references to The Great Gatsby so I narrowed the search and two themes came up:

Lemon Poundcake/Tea Cakes

Mint Juleps

In Fitzgerald’s classic, Nick Carraway had hosted a tea for Gatsby and Daisy, for which he served 12 lemon cakes. Daisy Buchanan, being from Louisville, loved a mint julep. How to tie the two together?

The dessert we created was a lemon zest and buttermilk pound cake, served with lemon curd mascarpone cream, a mint julep and honey syrup with Knob Creek bourbon, and fresh whipped cream, topped with candied lemon peel.

I started with a classic lemon pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart and tweaked it slightly to add more lemon and more salt, with salted butter.

We call this Jay’s Gatsby….
Lemon Pound Cake
Yield: Each cake serves six

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
Zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour three 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.
    2. In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
    3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    4. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth
    5. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly). Cool 15 minutes in pan. Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool completely.

Note: The cakes can be frozen to serve later.

Lemon Curd Mascarpone Cream

1 cup fresh lemon curd
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend well with a hand mixer until fully incorporated and chill until dessert assembly.

Mint Julep Syrup With Lemon & Knob Creek

2 cups water
1 cup bourbon (we used Knob Creek)
½ cup unbleached cane sugar
½ cup dark raw honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of mint leaves, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons whole butter
1 large bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. In a large sauce pan, add the first 6 ingredients over medium heat and reduce to half. Strain out mint leaves and return to low burner. Add more lemon or honey to taste.
  2. Whisk in the butter and chopped mint into the sauce. Keep warm, not hot.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into slices about ¾-1 inch thick.
  2. On a dessert plate, fill the recessed area with mint julep syrup. The cake will absorb most of the liquid.
  3. Place the cake one side down in the syrup.
  4. Top the cake with 2 T of the lemon curd mascarpone, spreading it evenly.
  5. Add syrup to the bottom of the plate.
  6. Top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  7. Garnish with fresh mint and/or candied lemon peel.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the dinner we served included Baby Crab Cakes with Cajun Remoulade and a Small Cheese Plate to start. We made a Chilled Fresh Pea Soup with Rosemary Cream, followed by Swordfish with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, and Garlic accompanied by Roast Baby Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach with Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Corn.

Have you had to create a theme-based menu for catering a client party? How did you go about 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!

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