Lately, we’ve been discussing the option of renting a commercial kitchen to be able to grow your personal chef business. Last week, we focused on the pros and cons of renting space, as well as what to look for. Well, this week we have a completely different and wonderfully original approach to the “kitchen issue.” Welcome APPCA member Adreeanna Black of Bistro from Home in Idaho, who, in a guest post below, will introduce us  to her solution: her way cool commercial kitchen trailer.

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Bistro at Home owner Chef Adreeanna Black (front) with general manager Alyssa Lucero in their commercial kitchen trailer

While trying to search for a commercial kitchen because business has been overwhelmingly busy and cooking for all my clients in one day is much easier then going to each home, I, too, ran into the same issue. We had two incubator kitchens in our city. One unfortunately shut down due to inactivity and the other was so costly I was hardly meeting my profit margins. I thought perhaps we could turn our garage into a commercial kitchen and just choke down the cost and time that would be needed to build it. I knew we needed a kitchen to maintain the business, but at what point does the expense out weigh the need?

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While I  was crunching numbers and frantically trying to figure this all out, I was approached by a family friend to look into a food trailer. I was rather concerned with the idea and was convinced creating a commercial kitchen in the home was our only option. While I did not think I would have wanted anything mobile or want to deal with all the problems that may come with something like a kitchen trailer, we went ahead and looked at this other option.

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Let me tell you, this was the best decision I have made in my entire life! We purchased this trailer which turned out to be almost fully equipped, extremely functional, and with two days work into fixing some plumbing and gas line issues, she was up and running and ready to be thrown into the personal chef grind. The very same week, last week, we had a catering job for 350 people. Even though the work load was much more then preparing meals for my clients, the overall experience was the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. This week meal planning and preparing has been such a difference in comparison to the previous months. Being able to prepare ahead of time, store, and assemble has been the biggest money saver. I am now a proud owner of a commercial kitchen trailer. The best part about having one of these is free advertisement! The kitchen is a licensed mobile commercial kitchen. 

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You may be wondering what the cost of the trailer has been thus far. It is a 14-foot trailer with five sinks, diamond steel plated floors and back splash, a 24-inch flat top, a 30-inch sandwich station, a 20-pan dual door food warmer, 50-gallon fresh water reserve, 75-gallon gray water reserve, and ample storage space.  

Trailer: $13,750

Licensing: $150

Exterior improvements: $60

Interior- plumbing and gas line: $45

We will be needing a small range which is about $1700.

While the numbers may seem steep we’ve made $2318 off this week alone. 

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If you weigh the costs, the trailer was a “small” fee to pay to be able to free up time and make money through convenience. I understand the need for a commercial kitchen and having something available to be able to keep up with your work load. Maybe something like this would be worth looking into. I can have the trailer parked anywhere. Because we do not use it for resale or retail and only for food production there are really no limitations–also another reason why I can hang a banner on the side. Plus, the previous owners of this trailer had bought it when it was a utility trailer. The cost of mobile commercial kitchens can be very expensive if bought through kitchen companies. Something that is custom built is usually cost effective and will be approved for state licensing if guidelines are followed for a “standard” commercial kitchen. 

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Prior to becoming an APPCA member I worked in restaurants for years. So having the experience of working “the line” I know how tight yet functional a kitchen can be. This commercial kitchen trailer is no different except it’s way more functional in the aspects of mobility and convenience! Here in Sandpoint,  Idaho the market for personal chefs is untouched. Given the reputation and experience I’ve had with the local restaurants, word is getting out and a couple of fantastic sous chefs I’ve had the pleasure of working with are very interested in what I have going on. With that in mind we–my newly appointed general manager Alyssa Lucero and I–have decided that we can make this commercial kitchen trailer a benefit to our community. We’re creating a mobile incubator commercial kitchen. We’ve been able to team up with a lot of other community establishments and have big plans for the future. My biggest goal for this kitchen for the coming months is to be able to share the value and convenience with other personal chefs and collaborate with our local restaurants to do cooking classes and venues.

I truly feel that if personal chefs from all around only knew how simple and efficient this concept is, their profits and convenience would quadruple in a matter of a couple of months. Currently I work at a Starbucks part time (the benefits are great!), am attending Escoffier Online (Thanks, APPCA, for the great discount! ), am a mother of two boys, and am able to run my business (Bistro At Home) efficiently, effectively, and successfully! Having the convenience of a mobile commercial kitchen and being within my reach with hardly any overhead cost is so fantastic.

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Are you considering renting space in a commercial or other kitchen? What do you think of this concept? 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.

Our organization’s name is the Association of Personal and Private Chefs of America. It seems straightforward, yet there still remains confusion over the difference between personal and private chefs–and, to my chagrin–the terms are frequently used interchangeably.

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity here to make the distinctions because they are, in fact, quite different animals.

Let’s talk about private chefs first. Remember Rosie Daley, Oprah Winfrey’s private chef who got a lot of publicity in that role? Or Art Smith, who also worked as a private chef for Oprah for 10 years? These two are examples of a chef as an employee. Private chefs like Rosie and Art receive a paycheck and, hopefully, benefits.

Chef Art Smith with Chef Candy Wallace at FENI 2011

Private chefs satisfy the culinary needs of their employers, usually preparing three fresh meals daily, along with any other entertaining, creating menus for parties, perhaps business meals–essentially whatever the client, excuse me, employer–wants. Some private chefs travel with the boss, especially if he or she maintains multiple homes. Since they’re subject to their client’s business, social, and family schedules, it’s often necessary to disappear into service, with long hours and work schedules frequently par for the course.

And, don’t be surprised if you encounter the need for security clearances, drug testing, and confidentiality agreements. You’ll likely need to be well versed in etiquette and protocol. And you’ll be expected to have culinary training and experience, as well as rock-solid references.

Unlike private chefs, personal chefs are entrepreneurs operating their own small business. They don’t have a single employer but instead numerous clients. They determine their own level of service, pricing, location, and availability. They locate and schedule their own clients.

When we created the personal chef career path, it was with the goal of offering an alternative for culinary pros who chose to no longer cook in commercial situations. That included women chefs who wanted to have and raise children as the heart of the household, chefs who are also family caregivers and need flexibility in their schedules, chefs of a certain age who choose to extend their professional careers, and chefs who choose to own and operate their own small culinary business without the financial and time-intensive commitment of owning a restaurant.

As the profession has grown it’s also come to include culinary school grads who may or may not have worked the line in a restaurant. Others are adept home cooks who want to put their skills to use for others. Some have degrees in nutrition or are dieticians. They may specialize in gluten-free or low-carb diets, weight loss, paleo, cancer or other disease-related nutrition–or be generalists. They may have a full schedule of regular clients–or prefer to service just one or two. Their business. Their rules.

Hidden Harves

Unlike private chefs who are employees, personal chefs create their own income stream through their small business. And to generate that income, many personal chefs also have multiple revenue streams under their personal chef brand umbrella. They may cater parties or other events for clients and others. They may offer cooking classes or do cooking demos at local shops or events. They can be authors, speakers, and media personalities. One of our members, Nicole Gaffney, is currently competing on Food Network Star. (see below)

How do they learn how to run what can be a complex business? Well, that’s where we come in. We have honed our training process to help our members get started quickly so they can achieve success in the shortest amount of time. We have forums where you can chat with your colleagues to share and get information. We have seminars and videos. We have social media. All these together help personal chefs–and private chefs, too–get the information and support they need to make their business work for them.

Being a personal chef is hard work, but it has proven to be appealing on so many levels. Many personal chefs feel it’s a calling and that they’re serving their clients and their community through their food and knowledge about food. Others have wanted to find a culinary alternative to restaurants where grueling hours and low pay sap the life out of them. By creating their own business, they can make a living cooking what they want, when they want, and for whom they want. Being a personal chef allows you to be a culinary professional on your own terms.

You can hear more on my thoughts about what it takes to become a successful personal chef in this video I made for our partner Escoffier Online:

 

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Nicole Gaffney

APPCA member Nicole Gaffney did it again! In the first part of this week’s competition, she helped talk Alton Brown through the breading part of making chicken fried steak, something she acknowledged she didn’t make or eat since it’s not a dish popular in New Jersey. But she offered what Brown felt were good tips. Then came the elimination part of the show, in which the contestants had to prepare a dish out of random pantry ingredients in front of the camera with Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli serving as the “viewer” following them and simultaneously making the dish. Nicole created a couscous salad with arugula. Bobby Flay liked her salad and her kitchen tips. Alton Brown thought she was adaptable and offered cogent instructions. Yes, she needs to pump up the energy level, they said, but she was unquestionably in for another week. So tune in next Sunday night to cheer her own! 

Have you channeled your passion for food? Do you have any questions about becoming a personal or private 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.

 

 

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