Do You Need a Mentor?

Filed under: Business Strategies,Training , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 25, 2019

Throughout each phase of your career you no doubt will need advice, someone to bounce ideas off of, a role model, and inspiration. We think of mentors as older, experienced people who help young professionals with their wisdom and advice. But take a look at this definition by Oxford Dictionary of a mentor: “an experienced and trusted advisor.” It’s that simple.

If you’re just starting out as a personal chef, no doubt you could use a mentor to guide you through starting this kind of business and career. Advising you on how to get clients, how much to charge, how to market yourself, how to deal with cranky clients or those who don’t communicate well with you.

But it’s possible that even an experienced personal chef could use a mentor. Times change—and change quickly. If you’ve been in business for 20 years maybe you want to shift what you do and how you do it. Perhaps you want to add catering or food writing or food styling to your personal chef umbrella but don’t know how to get started. Or you’re happy with your business but think you could do more. You may need advice in how to market yourself in 2019 compared to what you did in 1999.

So, what should you look for in a mentor? What should you expect?

First, pinpoint what you need. Are you a newbie and need overall help in figuring out how to get started? Do you need coaching in marketing yourself? Do you need coaching in branching out into another aspect of being a culinary professional?

Now before you seek a mentor, consider what options you already have in gaining the information and coaching you need. If you belong to APPCA you have a leg up. You have Executive Director Candy Wallace to turn to, who is the queen of expertise in this industry. You have this blog, which we fill with helpful posts on a wide spectrum of business-related issues for personal chefs. And you have both our Personal Chef Forum and our Facebook Group.

Still need a mentor? Then consider what you’re looking for in that person. According to Forbes, it’s not about finding a mentor with the most years of experience or the biggest title or profile. It’s about finding someone with the knowledge and experience you need—someone who has been in a similar situation to you and has worked their way through it.

  • You want to find someone you can trust—since that person will be privy to what you share about your business. And you need to be just as trustworthy.
  • You want someone who will challenge you to improve, who may ask tough questions of you and will provide honest feedback.
  • You want someone who has the time to talk with you. Maybe it’s weekly or maybe it’s monthly. Or something else. Do you get together in person or by phone?

Now what should you expect? A mentor won’t solve your problems. That’s on you. A mentor is there for guidance and ideas, for reassurance and critique. Perhaps he or she could make introductions or referrals. Let’s say you want to do some public speaking or chef demos and this person is a pro at these skills. Perhaps that person can do a little instruction (not cooking) in social media or photography or public speaking. Make sure you aren’t too needy or demand too much time, recognizing that this person is bound to be quite busy. But if they put you off repeatedly you probably need to move on to someone else.

Then comes the most crucial part: how do you find the person?

Again, APPCA can be a great resource. There are so many talented people who are members. You no doubt could find someone through your membership. Post a request on our forum. Ask Candy for a suggestion and referral for someone in your area or even outside who has the expertise you’re looking for.

Scroll through our Facebook business and group pages or our Twitter feed to identify individuals who are addressing what you need and reach out to them with a note introducing yourself and your situation with a concise explanation of what you’re looking for. Ask if you can set up a call or meeting to discuss a mentor relationship. Try to come up with at least a couple of people and don’t be discouraged if they tell you they don’t have the time to help. It’s all about finding the right person.

And, remember to pay it forward. Once you push your way through your brick wall, bring someone else along who could benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Have you had experience with a mentor or as a mentor?

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!

 

 

As a personal chef your goal is to make your clients happy with food that not only tastes good but perhaps also addresses health issues they face.

But what do you do when their health issues conflict with yours? What if, like APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle, you have celiac disease and yet still make baked goods and dishes you can’t taste?

This is neither a small issue or a rare one. Think of all the people in your life with gluten allergies, seafood allergies, and other random food allergies. Just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean they’re immune to them.

Chef Dakota Weiss of Sweetfin, an L.A.-based chain of fast casual poke shops, told Forbes back in 2016 that she can’t even touch fish without reacting. She explained that her throat will close up, her tongue gets itchy, and it gets difficult to speak. So, how does she do her job? When scaling fish she dons two sets of gloves and wraps a bandanna around her face so that a scale doesn’t fly into her eye. It’s not always successful and failure results in her eye swelling shut.

Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag discovered she has an intense allergy to hazelnuts. She told Cooking Light that she worked with her allergist to create a plan and gather the right tools. “On the set of Chopped, I’m a regular. They know about my allergy. Hazelnuts are never on set when I’m there. They’re not usually on set at all. Any guest judge appearances I make, I let them know before I come in that I’m allergic to hazelnuts. That’s my first step. Second step is to always have an EpiPen.”

APPCA member Christine Robinson has issues with green peppers and gluten. “I can take digestive enzymes for small amounts of wheat and we use an Italian non-GMO flour that does not cause me to react…we tell clients ahead of time that we use every color of pepper except for green bell, as I can’t taste it…in nearly 20 years no one has minded…”

Similarly APPCA member Shelby Wassel addresses her watermelon allergy by leaving it out of dishes. “It’s not a big deal, but I never offer watermelon, feta and mint salad to my clients as I’m allergic to watermelon! No one has ever missed it.”

If food allergies dog you, your first responsibility is to your health and well being. Here are four tips for staying safe while still making delicious meals for your clients:

  1. “Just do the best you can, protect yourself first and if you can get someone to help that you trust then have them help you out,” Zirkle advised. That could mean hiring an additional person with you to handle the ingredients you’re allergic to–not just for prepping, cooking, and packaging, but also shopping for the ingredients so you don’t have to handle them at all, tasting the dish, and even cleaning up.
  2. Carry Benadryl and at least one EpiPen on you at all times. Double up on gloves and wear a mask if you absolutely have to work with an ingredient you’re allergic to.
  3. Be honest with your clients. Let them know that you have specific allergies and can’t prepare dishes with those ingredients in them at all or unless someone else you bring in handles them. Ask that anything you’re allergic to that they may have in their kitchen either be removed or stored away and well labeled so you can avoid it.
  4. Depending on the level of your reaction following exposure, don’t even offer it. It’s not worth the potential medical emergency that could land you in the hospital or worse.

And, if food allergies are an issue for you, let that be an opening into turning your compassion for potential clients who may also have food restrictions into new business opportunities. It may lead to your developing a new set of recipes that compensate for the ingredients you can’t work with, a new culinary specialty, and even new segment of clients who will appreciate how your limitations mirror theirs.

Do you have a food allergy you’re dealing with when cooking for clients? How have you addressed 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!

 

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