April Lee

Don’t you love the revealing moments people share about themselves that make you admire them all the more? I saw a post APPCA member April Lee shared on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that made me rush out a note to her asking if I could use it as the basis of a post here. Not only did April, owner of Tastefully Yours in the DC-Baltimore area, agree, but she shared even more information for me to put together here for you. I’d like to think of it as the inspiration we all need to do what we can in our communities during this pandemic. So, this is from April:

During this pandemic when it’s become extremely dangerous for older people to go out, I’ve been boxing up meals and delivering them to the senior citizens I know who can benefit from some well-made, nutritious meals. While I and many here are professional personal chefs, anyone can set aside an extra portion or two to offer to others. I have friends who are nurses and first responders. They also need ready-to-eat meals. So, consider reaching out to people you know (this is important as you cannot cook out of your home for strangers because of liability issues and health department regulations). But cooking for friends or acquaintances is fine and very much appreciated now. Just please be extra vigilant in following food safety guidelines when cooking, cooling and storing food. And maintain social distancing.

I wear a mask and gloves always when going out. I call the person to let them know when I’m coming. I call/text again once I arrive (just to make sure they are at home) and then leave the boxed meals in a bag at their front door. I will not leave food if they cannot bring it inside their home as I wave from inside my car.

I’ve been giving free meals to low-income senior citizens and families in my county every week since February of 2017. Because I work out of a leased commercial kitchen, I am able to do this. I would NOT encourage personal chefs who don’t have a commercial kitchen to even try this because it is in violation of all sorts of codes and regulations. Even if you’re giving the food away, you can’t cook out of your own residential kitchen. It’s been a good project for me, a way to use up extra ingredients and not waste anything. Many of my clients found out what I was doing and pay me a little extra to help offset my expenses for the groceries and containers for my “guests” (versus my paying clients). People like the idea of helping their community in a very direct way.

My suggestion for others to set aside portions of their home-cooked meals is because there is such a great need right now for ready-to-eat meals. Senior citizens, especially those who are elder orphans, are particularly vulnerable now because they don’t have family members checking in on them. And, as I said, first responders, nurses, doctors, hospital staff workers (think about all the minimum wage workers who are doing all the janitorial and housekeeping work in these hospitals), all need to eat after working days and shifts on end.

Again, I don’t want to give the impression that people can start providing meals to strangers. They absolutely cannot. HOWEVER, they can set aside a couple of portions of the dinners they are making for friends and acquaintances they know who could benefit from a tasty, nutritious, well-prepared meal. Many of the moms and dads who are still out there working because they must, would appreciate having dinner delivered for their families. Parents who are home with their young children now because daycare and schools are closed are struggling to balance getting their work done, taking care of the kids, helping them with online classes, and tending to household chores. You’d be amazed at just what a batch of freshly made chocolate chip cookies can do for a friend or acquaintance who’s overworked, over stressed, and sleep deprived. There are so many ways we can help and, now is the time for us to share our bounty and our talents with those in need.  Not everyone knows a first responder, but everyone knows someone (probably many someones) who are pushed to their max right now. A prepared dinner is manna from heaven for these pandemic weary folks.

What kinds of service are you providing your community or your extended family these days? Send us your story!

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!

 

 

 

In the coming weeks, Candy and I will be working to developing suggestions for ways in which you can keep yourselves whole during this coronavirus shutdown. We know many of you are worried about how to make ends meet. Here’s what Candy had to say this week:

First things first. I suggest that APPCA members file for a Small Business relief loan immediately. Here’s how to get the information. Contact all of your monthly financial obligations including cellphone carriers, internet providers, all utilities, car loan holders, landlords/mortgage lenders, and student loan lenders, for example, to see what kind of disaster relief they are offering.

On our Facebook group page, member Holly Verbeck shared her experience with contacting every business she has bills with:

“DROP your personal and business expenses QUICKLY!

I’m adjusting NOW to the fact business/income will be down for 90 days or so.

I just got off the phone with every company I pay a bill to.

– Verizon ‘suspended’ my account for 30 days (=ZERO due this month w/ no changes to my service!!)

– NY Times dropped my paper subscription by HALF for one YEAR!

– my utility company dropped my bill by 20% for one YEAR!

– Sirius XM dropped my bill by 30% for one YEAR!

The list goes on…

I’m dropping all my expenses and haven’t reduced services!

This makes it a helluva lot easier to pay the mortgage!

Call…call now…call everyone, chef. Ask them what they can do to help reduce your payments while your business is impacted! And SHARE your results with other chefs!!”

Then, how best can we serve our current client base and/or secure new income stream sources? With all the restaurant closings chefs all over the country and restaurants have converted to production cooking and either pick up or delivery from licensed commercial kitchens.

However, your client base relies upon and appreciates the personal commitment and custom designed programs designed by and provided by their personal chef. Members with access to commercial space can convert to 100 percent delivery to avoid exposure for their clients and for themselves. Come up with promotions you can afford to do to spark more interest. Perhaps an extra dish with meals? A discount on a future catering gig?

Adding on or providing separate services like shopping for clients, if feasible in your city, could provide income.

The biggest challenge for personal chefs right now is securing product. You may find that your usual local markets are out of your usual items because of the panic run by customers. While this is likely temporary–officials stress there is no shortage of food–it can be inconvenient right now. Here are some options:

  • I found that shopping for produce with the closure of the farmers markets in our area was a challenge (although in San Diego the Little Italy Mercato just announced a limited market with stringent entrance rules).  I turned to Chefs Garden, which delivers fresh-picked, customer-selected amazing produce via FedEx in a cooled shipping carton.
  • Check in with local farms to learn if they are creating CSAs to sell their produce. If you haven’t heard of them, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Many farms have subscription CSAs. You sign up and then pick up or have delivered a box of the farm’s produce weekly or every other week. Farms that usually sell directly to restaurants are now instead opting to sell directly to customers. So find out if this is an option in your locale.
  • Contact farms directly or go to their Facebook page to learn if they are holding temporary farm stands.
  • If your city has a restaurant warehouse, a Costco Business Center, or wholesale markets–not just for produce but also seafood and other proteins–find out if you can buy from them.
  • I’ve seen on Facebook offers from people who participate in community gardens make offers to the general public to share produce. Check this out.

If you have encountered other options, please share them with us below! Or contact Caron at caron@goldenwriting.com so she can share them.

What changes are you making to your business to adapt? What could you use help 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!

We Can Do This!

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 16, 2020

How’re you doing? Coping with the chaos? Our chef members are the rocks of their communities. In times of disruption there may be nothing more important than to have focus, a strategy, pragmatism, and, yes, optimism. Every state and locale is experiencing this coronavirus pandemic differently so far but what we have in common is to critical mandate to protect ourselves and our society by following CDC guidelines and keeping up with federal, state, and local direction.

APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has been through tumultuous periods before–from recessions to 9/11 to other pandemics. Naturally, she has a great perspective on what we’re going through now and advice for member chefs.

I have been struggling with this situation, like you, for weeks, watching it evolve so that I could offer realistic recommendations and suggestions to support our personal chef members.

This is even more challenging than the financial challenges of 2008 with the gravity of a global pandemic. Safety from contagion is paramount. Peace of mind, professional leadership, and stability are vital to prevent panic. Personal chef clients hire us because they need/want our assistance and guidance, so how can we continue to be useful in the present situation?

Let’s address first what we are dealing with: A fear of food source instability that’s causing panic buying, fear of exposure, and a lack of comprehensive information and/or direction from our government to name a few. Let’s not forget anxiety and the collapse of our way of life when it comes to employment, healthcare, education, sports/entertainment outlets, and organized face-to-face religious support and worship.

Let’s be honest. We are in a state of chaos where the parameters change with the fluidity of liquid mercury so the ability to adapt service for clients while remaining safe is the quandary.

What do we know with certainty at this point?  Not much. But this is no time to panic. We’re smart; we’re resourceful. And we’re among the luckiest of our citizens. So, let’s make use of it. How? Think of this period as a time to prepare, do your best to help clients and your families, and plan for the future–because this will resolve and life as we knew it will resume.

I have no doubt that when the chaos settles and the fear factor is reduced, personal chefs are going to be a big part of the recovery process and an enormous asset for a population that wants to get well and maintain  a healthy lifestyle. So stay in touch with your current and past clients, offer services that don’t put you in any jeopardy, and be a resource of advice and tips on being safe in their home kitchens in an epidemic and they will rely on you in the future.

What do I advise?

  • Wait. Watch. Pay attention. Rest. Exercise. Eat well. Keep safe. Remain calm.
  • Prepare to react quickly when we have real and reliable information.
  • Use this opportunity to update your recipe files and develop new healthy recipes.
  • Help current clients by updating them on ways to stay safe and offer support through communication and information.
  • Use social media to communicate your presence and commitment to the well-being of your clients and your community. Post current information impacting resources that impact your specific area so they will turn to you as a reliable source of information and support.
  • Stay in touch with your professional colleagues to glean and share information, suggestions and support.
  • Stay in touch with us–we have our forums and Facebook page and group that are all great resources for sharing information and comparing notes.

Let’s face it, our world is changing. We are in what I refer to as a breakdown across the board of Epic Proportions, and yes, I intentionally capitalized those last two words. We must be part of the equally Epic BREAKTHROUGH that is on the other side of this dreadful current reality.

In order to survive as professional personal chefs and rebuild our businesses and industry we must choose to be part of the change, be able to adapt and address the realities that are in the process of revealing themselves, and act quickly implementing a new service model when we have enough real information to determine direction.

In the next week stay safe, rest, reflect and recharge your batteries. And be sure to let us know what you need from us and keep us posted on what’s happening in your community!

Are you still able to work with clients? What kinds of challenges are you facing and how are you resolving them?

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

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

Last updated by at .