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No doubt you’re seeing an explosion of advertising from easy meal prep businesses and your eyes are rolling or perhaps you’re even panicking just a little. Well, Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, is going to talk you off the ledge– if you’re on it. Read why she is adamant that these businesses are no challenge to you:

Here we go again…Almost 10 years ago personal chefs were concerned with potential competition from the “Easy Prep” meal preparation locations such as Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, Dinner Studios, to name a few, popping up all over the U.S.

APPCA said, don’t worry; these franchised “assemble your own dinners” and take them back to your home don’t provide the level of customized meal service prepared from all fresh ingredients to the client’s taste, often in the safety of the client’s own kitchen. In fact, the easy prep meals were assembled from components that came right off the back of a big food service delivery truck and were more often than not pre-prepared components that contained fillers, stabilizers and preservatives, soups that were re-constituted, and sauces that came in cans. NOT the guarantee of all fresh ingredients supplied and shopped for daily by personal chefs and prepared from scratch for their client’s enjoyment.

The easy prep fad came and went fairly quickly and the personal chef career path continued to grow and thrive. This year will mark the 24th year of the introduction of the personal chef career path in the culinary industry. APPCA is proud to have been responsible for its growth, validation as a legitimate culinary career path by the ACF, for having published the definitive textbook for the industry, and for having co-created professional certification for private and personal chefs through the third-party certification partnership with ACF. It has been an exciting time for personal chefs who had the courage to leave the traditional career choices and strike out on their own to build a culinary business of their own that allowed them to support their families and loved ones by cooking, but also allowed them to create a business of their own with the ability to control their own professional destiny.

Now we have several new players on the field and it will be interesting to see how they play out.

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The first new twist is similar to the easy prep premise, but differs in that the components for the recipes that are provided are delivered to the client’s doorstep. Some of these new delivery companies are Blue Apron, Fresh Direct, and Plated. The customer gets most of the ingredients, but still has to prep and prepare each meal using the supplied recipe; the only difference between this business and your customer’s everyday life is simple; they don’t have to shop at the grocery store for ingredients.

I am trying to see the big advantage to the customer since this delivery system actually doesn’t altogether eliminate the need to go to the market. They expect them to have some basics–and they still need to shop for other items, like toilet paper, dog food, laundry soap, milk, yogurt, bottled water, ice cream, and wine on a regular basis, so where is the benefit?

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Unlike the service provided by a personal chef, the “easy prep but delivered to your door” services do NOT customize recipes to the customer’s wants and needs, and the customer must still prep, assemble, and clean up after each dish is prepared at the end of a busy and often stressful workday. Adding to the stress, sometimes the recipes don’t work. Where is the benefit?

The other new kid in town is something described as “Uber for private chefs”…

OK, I’m curious, so I asked the person who called to say they would be supplying clients for all of our chefs in the new future, what Uber for private chefs was, and was he certain he meant private chefs?

It quickly became clear he did not know the difference between private and personal chefs, but he made it clear he didn’t care about knowing what that difference was.

His premise for the business is to supply an app like Uber where a hungry client could go to the app and order a chef to immediately appear on command on site to prepare a meal…

I asked if these “chefs” were really trained chefs, whether they had business licenses, general liability insurance, culinary training, those kinds of fun things, but he said he couldn’t tell me any of that because it was secret. OK…secret…got it.

Next, we have the Airbnb version of the business. This time, the customer is able, through an app, to locate an individual in any city who is willing and purportedly capable of cooking them a meal that the client would go and enjoy in the cook’s home…

Some of these folks, who turned out to be home cooks of varying degrees of skill, have been calling APPCA wanting to get liability insurance through us. Apparently, the start up folks are directing them to us and telling them they can just call and we will cover them. It breaks my heart to turn them away because many of them are truly earnest in their desire to cook for clients, but most of them have no sanitation training, no training at all, no business licenses, no inkling of local regulations and licensing requirements. Someone is going to get hurt or get sick. I could not glean any criteria they must meet to protect the clients that use their service.

I know the internet was supposed to simplify our lives, but this does not appear to be well thought out.

Not everything we do needs to be ordered up on an app, and if all of those fun Silicon Valley start up geniuses are going to continue to create business apps, I wish they would make certain that the business is well conceived, provides a genuine service to the potential customer, and is safe and legitimate.

I know the Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and easy prep instant delivery concept is exploding but the “right now” system isn’t automatically “right” for everyone. And, especially, when it comes to food preparation, the public needs to be careful about who is making their meals, what kinds of ingredients they’re using, how much–if any–expertise they have in meeting special needs diets, and, most important, how well trained they are in food safety.

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So, be very proud of the custom services you offer as personal chefs. You are trained, scratch cooks with
municipal business licenses, safe food handling certifications, and you are carrying $2 million in specific personal chef general liability insurance coverage. The service you provide regular clients is custom designed and palate specific to each client’s wants and needs, including meals specific to a client’s medical challenges. All of the meals are prepared from scratch using only the freshest and safest ingredients available in your locality. We can promise our clients a safe food source.

As personal chefs, you do the shopping for fresh provisions daily and prepare delicious custom designed meals either in the safety of the client’s kitchen or in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen.

Personal chefs truly provide convenience, delicious custom designed meals, and a degree of personal service and attention to the client’s preferences and desired level of culinary expertise seldom experienced outside the services of a full time private chef.

Let’s see how the new services on the block hold up or evolve…this should be fun to watch.

Personal Chefs ROCK!!!

Have clients been talking to you about these easy prep services? What are you telling 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!

While chatting with Chef Bart Dorfman by phone today a topic came up that I have not addressed in the forums for some time, and Bart suggested I do so today, so here it is:

What is the difference between a personal chef service and other home meal replacement, meal delivery service; grocery store HMR pickup service; drive by restaurant pick up service and other HMR (home meal replacement) meals available in the market place today?

Thanks, Bart!

I’ve said many times for many years that what separates personal chefs from pick up or delivery service home meal replacements is the SERVICE aspect of our programs. Many times, personal chefs replace Mom or Grandma in the household from a standpoint of being that person who pays scrupulous attention to what the members of the family WANT and NEED to feel well and to feel supported.
Personal chefs are SCRATCH cooks using fresh ingredients. Personal chefs are giving their clients exactly what they want, exactly the way they want it to be enjoyed WHEN they want it.

Personal Chefs conduct an in depth assessment of each clients’ food preferences not only from a standpoint of what and how they like to eat, but also from a standpoint of allergies, sensitivities and flavor or ingredient prejudices. If a client dislikes an ingredient or is sensitive or allergic to an ingredient, we can guarantee that ingredient will never cross their threshold. I repeat, we can GUARANTEE it!

Delivery services pick up services and home meal replacements are designed and prepared for a broad-based palate and are intended to NOT offend clients who purchase them. In so doing, they actually manage to offend EVERYONE because the food tends to be bland in its makeup and its attempt to not offend anyone. Personal chef meals are palate specific to the client’s taste and the client’s requests.
Personal chef custom designed, palate specific meals taste exactly the way the client wants them to taste and reflect the client’s specific wants and needs. Further, their meals are most often prepared in the safety of the client’s kitchen where the personal chef is the guarantee of safe food preparation for the client’s peace of mind.

In today’s changing and aging population more and more people are being diagnosed with specific medical challenges or are simply reaching the realization that eating food that is NOT prepared from fresh ingredients or sourced from reputable NON GMO ingredients can have a negative effect on their health and well-being. A personal chef will do the research for the client’s needs and source ingredients from local purveyors who guarantee their safety. We are actively working to protect our clients from harm and contribute to their well being and the quality of their lives by providing nutritious, delicious meal support from safe food sources.

Many personal chefs work directly with local organic farms and CSA groups (community sourced agriculture) who provide weekly produce for residents of the community. Not every client will request this type of service, but for those who want to know where their produce, seafood and often meat are being sourced, personal chefs can tell them.

The world we live in is less than friendly sometimes. I have often said that if someone creates a “charm school” for retail clerks they will become very rich, because most retail clerks are surly, disinterested in the client’s needs or opinions and could really care less whether or not the client enjoys the experience of shopping in their establishment.

Personal chefs, on the other hand are actually asking their clients: What would you like, what do you need? I’ll get it and do it for you! Good grief, folks. We are a bright spot in their lives because we actually ask them want they want and then we GIVE IT TO THEM!!

Personal chefs ROCK, and our client’s are wise to be using our outstanding services to ensure their enjoyment of our custom designed healthy delicious meals in the comfort of their own homes and having the time back in their lives to enjoy dining with their family and loved ones.

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