Every December Candy and I put together posts designed to help you address the big looming change in the calendar and get a fresh start on the new year. Some people want to build their business, some want to expand services. Others want to identify new ways to help their clients—perhaps bringing health or nutrition expertise to a specific range of people or simply deciding they want to be more efficient and rent commercial kitchen space for prep. And some chefs are looking to find more life/work balance for themselves.

Whatever your new ideas are for 2018, we want to help. We can start with the basics, getting you more focused with business plans that will help guide you through the year as well as a checklist for prepping for what’s coming. We can help you figure out marketing, if that’s an issue. We can provide you with inspiration from fellow members if you’re interested in specializing in a specific type of client or healthcare issue.

You get the idea. Since we’ve written about all these over the years I thought I’d put together a round up of these posts for you that are just as fresh and relevant now as when they were first written.

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.


Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.


Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

These are just some of the many posts we’ve written over the years to help you go further in your business and meet your life and professional goals. We have search capability so if you’re looking for more information, put it in the search engine and see what else comes up.

And if you have any questions or concerns about running your personal chef business, give Candy a call or shoot her an email. She loves to hear from you!

What have you got planned for 2018? Anything we can help you with?

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

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


Cooking for Seniors

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 1, 2016

Dad at dinner 3-28-14

Why do seniors use personal chefs? For some, it’s no different than any other client. They don’t cook or don’t have the time or interest. Or, they have a specific health issue they need nutrition assistance with.

A senior client explained to her personal chef that while she and her husband could well afford to dine out every night at fine dining restaurant it meant she would have to dress for dinner, put on make-up, style her hair and drive to and from the restaurant, which meant no cocktail before dinner for the driver.

She and her husband had traveled extensively and were excellent cooks themselves who chose to continue to dine adventurously, but chose only to dine out on occasion. Her request to the personal chef was for a program where they could “dine out” at home.

Other senior clients request personal chef service because they want to eat healthy delicious meals without having to see the inside of their grocery store any time soon, and to have as little kitchen and meal preparation time as possible getting in the way of their busy, active, retirement lifestyle.

The security of knowing their meals are prepared in accordance to their wants and needs from all fresh ingredients by a scratch cook is important to many senior clients who choose to stay healthy and active well into their senior years.

That may not sound any different from your other clients, so how do senior clients differ from them?

For many seniors, it’s a necessity if they want to remain in their homes as they age. They need to develop a support system to provide services that would otherwise only be offered at a senior living facility. Cleaning services, yard services, shopping services, and a custom-designed, palate-specific meal program prepared from fresh ingredients can make aging in place a pleasant experience. As people age, their ability to experience flavor diminishes, so personal chefs are able to infuse flavors their clients can discern and enjoy.

Additionally, as our population ages, special medical challenges become a reason senior clients seek out the services of personal chefs, many of whom are former nutritionists and dietitians who chose to leave the health care industry to attend culinary school in order to obtain a skill set to be used to serve clients with special medical challenges.

Mom and me at Trish's lunch 3-12

One twist here is the increasing incidence of children of seniors seeking personal chefs for their parents.   More often than not, the children of the senior clients do not live in the city where their parents live, and are seeking support services to sustain their aging parents.

However, this situation comes with its own set of special challenges. It’s wonderful of the children, but it can cause the parents to feel a loss of independence akin to having their children come to their home and take away their car keys. We have found that unless the parents are in agreement and amenable to using the service and are willing to meet with the personal chef and provide information for a complete assessment of their needs, the relationship may be brief. If the senior clients do not actually invite the personal chef into their home to provide service, the relationship will not work.

Once you have been retained to cook for seniors, how do you make sure you’re meeting their needs? Well, let’s look at some of the things we’ve learned over the years.

Oftentimes, senior clients prefer entrees that are less crunchy or al dente and more on the soft or creamy side due to possible dentition issues. Clients may also request smaller portions.

Flor's lentils

Sense memory can enhance a senior client’s enjoyment of a dish. It is good policy to encourage clients to request and supply favorite family recipes. These may be dishes they’ve prepared and enjoyed for years but can no longer prepare themselves. Having you make them still allows them to experience that deep emotion connection through food, which can be deeply satisfying for the client.

Photo from Linda Berns

Photo from Linda Berns

Senior clients can be more time intensive for the personal chef since the cook date can sometimes be considered by the client to be an “event,” and they may wish to spend time visiting with you in the kitchen.

We know that one of your goals in the day-to-day operation of your business is to be efficient. To avoid being trapped into a chat-intensive cook date, it is important to develop and suggest a plan of some sort to which both parties can agree. One personal chef suggested they arrive 15 minutes early on each cook date so they could have a cup of coffee and a 15-minute visit with the clients prior to officially starting the cook date. I describe this additional service as my senior client’s “upscale meals on wheels service,” during which the personal chef can sit for a brief visit and check to ensure the client was making sense, that all clothing buttons were buttoned correctly and there were no visible bruises or injuries to be seen.

The personal chef also offered to take a break at lunchtime and serve a salad or soup and sandwich to the clients with another short visit before continuing and completing the cook date service.

The key is to be kind but firm. Explain to the client that on a professional cook date, the kitchen is the personal chef’s “office,” and that in order to avoid distractions that might result in a delicious entrée being ruined, or worse yet, a distraction that results in an injury, it is important for the personal chef to have the kitchen to themselves. In this case, the clients agreed and the relationship remained deeply satisfying for all parties for more than 10 years.

Here are some additional tips for working with seniors:

  • If adult children hire you on behalf of their parents, discuss with them the possibility that their parent/s may be resistant to the gift, and consequently will not be made happy no matter what you do. Make sure that the children resolve with their parents whatever objections the parents have prior to meeting with the parents for the first time so that your relationship with them has a good chance of blooming into regular client status. At that point, make sure that the senior client knows you are working for them and focus on what they want.
  • Determine what medications and or medical situations you’ll be dealing with so any food/medication incompatibilities can be addressed.
  • It may also be appropriate to meet with the potential client’s primary care physician or special medical situation educator or advisor  to ensure that appropriate medical/nutritional care plans are being followed and supported.

Cooking for seniors can be deeply satisfying. You’re helping to facilitate people staying in their own homes and eating delicious, nutritious meals that they might not otherwise be able to enjoy. You’re offering them the dignity of control over their lives. And, even if it is limited, you’re providing some companionship. For many of our personal chefs, it’s a way to honor their own parents and grandparents.

Are you cooking for seniors? What other advice to you have for colleagues?

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

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