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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how do you protect yourself?

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

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

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

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

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

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

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

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

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

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

Dennis and Christine

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of Boston’s A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have long focused on creating healthy meals for their Massachusetts clients. That includes working with families living with dementia. As the population ages and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, Vascular dementia, and others are on the rise, personal chefs like Christine and Dennis can provide a foundation for enabling patients to stay healthy and stay home longer, while also helping caregivers, who live with the stress and anxiety of constantly caring for a declining spouse or parent, with nutritious meals and one less responsibility.

We asked Christine and Dennis to share their experience of serving clients with dementia and their advice is spot on.

Over the years we have had several clients with memory impairment. One of the main concerns of the family is generally how to keep a loved one in their own home for as long as possible, as long as the care level is up to par. 

Food and proper nutrition is a huge component in a dementia patient’s quality of life. Balanced meals can allow physical and emotional health to improve. That’s where personal chefs come in. But it is NOT an easy task and it may not be for you. However, for those who feel up to the challenge, you can make a huge difference in the life of a family dealing with dementia. 

When clients contact us to work with their family members with dementia, it is usually the children, hoping to keep their parents in their own home. Many times they’re out of state and this can pose some logistical questions. You need to figure out who is the “point” person and make one source of contact so that there is less confusion. We find that there is usually a family member who has good information about the physical health of the actual client and that is generally the person with whom you want to deal.

We always try to make the food all about the client recipient, following any dietary restrictions but making food they seem to enjoy. Keeping them fed is most important.

Not every job works out. You can have a spouse who does not want the service, or the person with dementia does not want other people around. In these cases, you have to evaluate if you are doing more harm than good. While there is no clear cut answer for every case, you want to err on the side of what will keep the client the happiest, even if it means ending the cooking relationship, recommending someone else, or even cooking at a close relative’s home for them to deliver.

Here’s what we recommend when taking on a family with a member who has dementia:

1) Establish whether another person coming into the home is going to be a benefit or a distraction. In-home meal service can either be a huge help or a stranger in the house can cause the family member with dementia extra stress…find out how they would respond. Many times a new person in the mix doing something different can be a welcome thing…but don’t be afraid to ask up front. Also test the waters to make sure how the other family members living in the house, usually a spouse, are going to feel about more help…the dignity and wishes of both parties are equally important.

2) Conduct a thorough client assessment, hopefully in person, and with a caregiver or family member other than the spouse present. Learn what type of dementia the loved one has–it could be Alzheimer’s, but it could also be any number of other types of dementia, which have different symptoms and progression. You can learn more about them on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Find out about medications and other health conditions that can be helped or exacerbated by certain foods. Cranberry juice, leafy greens, and flaxseed, for instance, do not go well with coumadin and other blood thinners. Make sure that any family members seeking your service are provided with copies of the assessment. Seeds, nuts, gassy vegetables, onions, and acidic foods should be explored on paper and in reality. Repeat favorites and get rid of textures that are not working. As the disease progresses and medications change, you will have to revisit this to make adjustments. 

3) Pay close attention to textures and tastes. Something as simple as a blueberry skin can be a distraction and texture issue for a patient. Have any caregivers/family members keep track of favorite items, but especially items that are not being eaten. Sometimes a switch from a ground meat to a solid piece can make all the difference. Sometimes, as the disease progresses swallowing becomes more difficult and textures become crucial so patients don’t aspirate food. But each person is different. Keep notes and be amenable to changes. This is not a time to be the creative chef, but to listen closely to a client’s needs.

4) Pay attention to the spouse and his/her likes and dislikes. Many times the person without dementia is the lesser focus. They are going through a difficult time seeing the love of their life slip into unknown territory. Ask about their favorites. Make a treat just for them. Talk to them. So much conversation is focused on the patient that the other person can feel left out, especially if the kids are spearheading the need for the personal chef. Everyone counts and should be part of the experience.

5) Expect that these cook dates will probably take extra time. Plan for it and expect to talk. Take advantage of the moments of lucidity and talk to the client about stories and what they may suddenly be remembering. Be prepared for the opposite as well, when they ask the same question repeatedly or talk to you as if you were a family member no longer with them. Ask their caregiver the best way to respond. Often, it’s just to go along with them and their conversation without correcting them.

6) Don’t try to become the savior. At the stage you are entering their lives, there is rarely a turnaround and no special meatloaf or spice combo is going to be the cure all. Enhance for nutrients where you can, and ask the family if there are any holistic things they want to try, such as cooking with coconut oil, or grassfed meats. As long as it does no harm, take their lead.

7) Expect that you will cry after more than one cook date.

8) Expect that you will get some great, funny, wonderful stories when they talk to you.

9) Don’t be offended by anything that the client may say to you. Dementia works in odd ways and people who would never use coarse language can come up with some doozies. It is part of the condition and please realize it is NOT directed at you.

10) Be flexible and compassionate. Anticipate that things can change on a daily basis and you may be making more or less food as needs fluctuate.

This is a hard job, not for everyone. But cooking for these families can be the most rewarding job. You really can make a difference but don’t enter into it without realizing that a part of your heart will forever hold these families as very dear.

Have you been cooking for clients with dementia? What has your experience been?

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 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.

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

 

Chef Carol Borchardt's Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Chef Carol Borchardt’s Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

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.

eprewitt

 

IMG_0891

Shelbie Wassel

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.

Brown Bag

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.

Angela Rose

Natalie Lewis

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.”

A Thought for Food

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?

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.

APPCALogofinalhires

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
  • Mentoring
  • Job listings
  • Industry best practices
  • Scholarships

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?

DSC01811

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.

photo 2

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.

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

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.

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

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.

DSC01926

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?

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.

This is the week we traditionally take a look over our shoulder to consider all that happened in the past year before we fill a glass with bubbly and toast the year about to emerge.

For us, it’s been a year of transition, with all the good stuff that accompanies change.

Earlier in the fall we debuted our first mobile app, Find & Hire a Chef, for iPhone. Just last week we launched the Android version. Now it’s even easier for potential clients to find you. Help yourself get found by making sure your profile in our database is complete and lists everything about you and your services that you want to promote.

APP screen2

We’ve developed an active social media presence this year on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We have twin goals with our activity: to share interesting information with you and to promote what you do. We want to spur conversation, show off your achievements, and give you resources for helping your business. Okay, sometimes, we want to provide a smile or good laugh, too. Please like our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and join our Linkedin group—and participate! It’s fun and it’ll help you, too.

Along with social media, our Personal Chef Forums have been bursting with good conversation and useful sharing—as well as some needed venting and bragging. These forums are just for members so they’re a safe place to ask critical professional questions among colleagues or share successes.

We held a rocking Personal Chef Summit in Baltimore in October, along with a number of Personal Chef seminars in cities including Chicago, San Diego, for getting your business up and running quickly. Thank you to speakers April Lee, Bernard Henry, Mark X. Dowling, Randall Sansom, Scott Faber, Thomas P. McNulty, Dr. Fred Mayo, Lou Garcia, Carol Borchardt, Javier Fuertes, Jim Huff, and Cheryl Frazier-Trusty. And congratulations again to chefs Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, who received the Personal Chef of the Year 2013, to Javier Fuertes of The Dinner Maker for Life Balance, and to Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist for Marketer of the Year! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

This month I was the guest columnist for CafeMeetingPlace.com (the Center for the Advancement of Food Service Education). It gave me an opportunity to advocate why culinary teachers should consider operating a personal chef business as an adjunct career.

These are just some of the highlights of the year about to end. We’ve got plenty planned for the coming year, including more Personal Chef Seminars and a totally new website. All of this is to serve you, so if you have any suggestions or ideas for how we can do it better, let us know!

Dennis and I are your biggest supporters. We believe in the importance of the work you do and want to help you achieve your goals. Let’s lift a glass to the year we’re leaving and toast 2014! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

What were your 2013 successes? What do you want us to do for you in 2014? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase, what else, New Year’s resolutions. Please check our Private Discussion Forum — General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what your personal chef resolutions are and why so you can appear here.

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

Last updated by at .