What is a recipe? According to the ginormous reference on one of my bookshelves, The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, recipe is first defined as “A set of directions with a list of ingredients for making or preparing something, especially food.”

But the second definition is just as interesting: “A formula for or means to a desired end.”

The question is are recipes written in stone or a template for a concept for a dish? Let’s set aside baking–which requires fairly strict adherence to a recipe to result in a bread with the right texture, a cake with the right crumb, etc. How closely do you adhere to a recipe you got from your grandma, chose in a cookbook, or found online?  Do you stick to it the first time to see how it works and riff from there? Based on your expertise, can you see flaws in the ingredient amounts and make adjustments? And how do you expect others to use your recipes?

What does a recipe mean to you?

Eater recently ran an article by Navneet Alang that wrestled with this. Alang points out that cooking is an act of care and that following a recipe can be ritualistic, “the practice of repeating established, sequential steps a comfort when the world feels uncertain.” He likens it to received wisdom or repositories of knowledge. And,  he explains, “There is a reason recipes are passed down from generation to generation.”

APPCA member Lola Dee says, “I have a very difficult time sticking to recipes, I tend to tweak everything and substitute ingredients, using what I have. I think if you use the recipe as a guideline and apply correct methods you can come up with some delicious breakthroughs. However, if you’re cooking institutionally or for a restaurant, you do have to stick to the recipes for consistency, costing, etc.”

I know I can relate to this. I, too, am a recipe tweaker, although with recipes using a technique unfamiliar to me, I tend to follow them precisely the first time to learn.

But an experienced, confident home cook or chef can take the essence of a recipe and turn it into a dish that doesn’t just make do with the ingredients we have or can source–an issue we’ve faced through the pandemic. Their massage of the recipe can be an act of creativity, a way of imprinting oneself on a dish. Or, of course, a adaptive way to address dietary restrictions. We look at a recipe’s construction to learn where to build flavor, how to build body, how to transform texture. We are taking a basic melody and essential instruments and coming up with our own orchestration.

Essentially, the recipe transforms from a directive to a template. A happy guidepost to our own destination.

As personal chef, food blogger, and recipe developer Gina Bean explains:

“Recipe writing is a skill… A good recipe has its place, for sure. But, cooks should make dishes the way they, and their diners, like them.”

What is your approach to using recipes and writing them? Are they set in stone or a template for creativity?

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!

 

It’s been a few months since the country locked down. That means we’ve had some time to rethink how we go about serving clients–and if we’re serving clients.

Brian Kasten of the Supper Solution in Vermont and an APPCA member explains, “When I saw this coming I secured a commercial kitchen that was unused and have done a temporary transition for those clients I have that are immune compromised. One day a week I work out of this kitchen to cover those clients and I am the only one allowed in… Plus I spend two hours re-sanitizing before any equipment is moved in. And then afterwards.”

Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please! in Arkansas and also an APPCA member recounts, “We have a man here who was in the process of opening a restaurant…his plans are on hold, but he’s cooking in a church kitchen for the community. The church pays for the food, but they accept donations. In a twist of fate, the American Legion hall decided to sell their building and, rather than build out the initial space he had selected, he’s hoping to take over the hall…which is a much nicer facility. Talk about serendipity!”

On June 3, 2020, Eater published a story about how New York’s fine dining chefs have done a 180 and have been starting entrepreneurial home businesses. Alejandra Nicolon, laid off as a pastry chef from Eleven Madison Park, is now making bagels with her husband Andre Lev Pavlik, formerly sou chef at Tom Colicchio’s FiDi restaurant Temple Court. Daniel Burns, from closed, Michelin-starred restaurant Luksus, is making meals. Kate Telfeyan, formerly the chef de cuisine at Mission Chinese Food is not only making dishes like cumin-spiced lamb and kimchi stew, but she’s delivering them herself by bike.

As a personal chef, you probably find this sounds familiar and perhaps not quite kosher.

“We developed the personal chef concept almost 30 years ago specifically to provide a legitimate alternative career path for professional culinary workers who found it difficult or impossible to work in traditional commercial kitchen situations yet chose to support their families using their culinary skill and expertise,” explains APPCA founder and executive director Candy Wallace. “We worked with state and city governments to develop a template to assist chefs and cooks in setting up and operating legitimate, successful businesses as personal and private chefs which meant operating within the safety and licensing requirements of their particular municipalities so the industry could grow and contribute to the benefit of clients who required or desired the service and the financial stability of the chef owner/operator.”

Candy points out that food preparation in residential kitchens being delivered to client’s homes or businesses is illegal in all 50 states in the U.S. Operating with a municipal or State business license, specific local Food Sanitation certification and Specific General Liability Insurance coverage is also required.

So, if you’re not already a personal chef and certified, please, she says, pay attention to these important requirements before you proceed.

“In our current reality of the Covid-19 virus, cooking for clients in your home or their home at this time is dangerous from a potential virus transfer standpoint but also from a legal vulnerability standpoint. If any of your clients or their extended family members become sick, you are a big target,” Candy emphasizes. “If you have no liability insurance coverage, you are cooked. If the health department or city administration departments in your city or state choose to pursue you, they will, and you will find yourself in a morass of red tape that will prevent your being able to open another business.

“Please think before you act.”

Candy suggests that instead you locate a licensed commercial kitchen and deliver safely and legally from it. Protect yourselves by being aware of local requirements and cover your bases.

“I have been a professional chef, author, educator and advocate for many years, and have dedicated my life to the industry I love,” Candy says. “Please be careful, keep safe, be strong, and be kind, support your colleagues, and most of all, be proud of your craft.”

What have you been doing with your business since the lockdown? Have you discovered some useful workarounds to serve clients?

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!

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