Every year our friends in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) of APPCA gathers in the spring to share stories, business insights, and a cooking demo followed by a potluck lunch. This year, the meeting was held on April 13 at Lettie Lavallee’s home near Annapolis, Maryland, and attended by Keith Steury, April Lee, Katie Enterline, Mary Stewart, Laura Knight, Lettie Lavallee, Shelbie Wassel, and Iva Barrera-Oro.

The meeting first addressed old business–reviewing the Treasurer’s report and member dues) and then nominated chapter officers for a tw0-year term. Keith Steury will hand over the presidential reins to Lettie Lavallee. Treasurer Laura Knight nominated Mary Stewart for her job, which was accepted. And Secretary Katie Enterline accepted a second term.

April Lee let the attendees know about a new Zavor (formerly Fagor) equipment promotion she helped organize for APPCA members. (Note: we’ll have all the info about this great discount for equipment in an upcoming post.)

Next, the group spent some time discussing Personal Chef Kits. Photos were provided by many of the chefs to demonstrate the items and equipment that they take with them to a typical cook date. The discussion provided the participants with some useful tips for improving efficiency when packing materials in support of their cook dates for clients.

The next portion of the meeting was reserved for the very robust topic of “Maximizing Profits,” including alternative income streams and tips for increasing overall business efficiency. This section of the meeting included a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Executing “Pop-Up” Demo Dinners
  • Transitioning to a commercial kitchen space
  • Tips for how to differentiate ourselves from the glut of meal delivery service providers now active in the marketplace
  • Exploring less traditional methods for marketing/extending our services:
    • Cozymeal 
    • TryHungry 
    • Publishing regular newsletters to provide useful content to clients/potential clients about our services (e.g., ConstantContact, MailChimp, etc.)
    • Considering “partnerships” between chefs to accommodate and support larger jobs or client requests that we might not consider if working alone.
    • Increasing community involvement to help generate goodwill for your business and get your name out to a broader group of people.
    • Exploring summer camp and/or summer course meal preparation and/or cooking class opportunities for school-aged children
  • A discussion of recipe management software options to help improve product consistency and efficiency of service, including:

    • Bigoven

    • Mastercook

    • Modern Meal

Iva Barrera-Oro

The meeting continued with a demonstration of a Vegan/Plant-Based recipe by Iva Barrera-Oro of Chef Iva’s Kitchen. Iva prepared a delicious Indian-Style Mung Bean Soup for the group. The chefs exchanged their own plant-based recipes for the benefit of the group. The demo was followed by a delicious sit-down pot-luck lunch prepared by the members of the chapter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several of the participants extended their stay and traveled to Great Frogs Winery for a wine tasting before breaking for the day.

The next meeting, which will be hosted by member Laura Knight, has been tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2019.

Now, you may ask, why get a group of personal chefs together–let alone organize a chapter? I asked Keith Steury and he responded, “For me the MARC group provides a networking opportunity with fellow chefs who understand the unique challenges of running their own businesses. It is an opportunity to see what others are doing. What is working for them, as well as what is not. All of the members are very open, supportive, and willing to share both their successes and failures with the group. This exchange helps to make us all better business owners, because being a personal chef is about so much more than being a good cook. We have to wear many hats in order to make our businesses successful and keep them that way. Since I started my business back in 2007, this has become an increasingly more difficult task. Many of us work alone or rarely with other chefs, so this time together helps to recharge or batteries and re-focus our efforts on the tasks and activities that are likely to yield the best results for us moving forward. I always come away with at least one great idea for my business – typically many more. This is why I look forward to our meetings and so value the benefits that the chapter provides to me and my business.”

April Lee

Member April Lee, who founded the chapter, explained,”When I decided to create MARC eight years ago, the idea was to form a network of local personal chefs to get together a couple times a year to share ideas. What I didn’t know then is that I would meet not only talented chefs from this area, but we would form friendships that have lasted and grown over the years. I have been to every meeting (of course) since MARC’s inception and, even though I am one of the more veteran personal chefs in the area, I still come away from every meeting with at least one new idea, inspired and revitalized by the other members. There is nothing like the bonding and spontaneous brain-storming that goes on during our face-to-face gatherings, every member contributing with their experience and ideas to help support their colleagues. I suspect that even when I hang up my apron and retire as a personal chef, I will still want to be part of MARC just to be inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of my fellow PCs whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Katie Enterline

And for member Katie Enterline,”It is such a pleasure to get to meet with all the wonderful chefs in our area. I learn so much every time. It makes a mostly solo profession feel less lonely.”

If you would like to launch a chapter in your region, get in touch with our Executive Director Candy Wallace. She’d be happy to give you some tips on how best to get organized.

Chefs, are you interested in gathering fellow personal chefs into a local chapter? 

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!

APPCA’s MidAtlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC, held their annual fall meeting September 24 at the Olney, Maryland, home of Iva Barrerra-Oro. The nine attendees had a packed day, starting with a light breakfast and meet and greet, followed by basic old and new business issues to address.

Then came the meat of the gathering: first a Fagor Pressure Cooker Demo, conducted by April Lee. As you know from an earlier blog post, APPCA members are able to get a 50 percent discount on selected Fagor equipment until Oct. 24. So April did a demo on Fagor’s electric 8-quart multi-cooker.

She likes the model because it frees up a burner and at high pressure is more than adequate to quick cook a variety of foods. According to April, she uses the multi-cooker all the time for stews, stock, long braises, corned beef, and more. As she pointed out, using the pressure cooker allows her to start a dish and let it cook unattended while she takes care of other tasks. As part of her demo, April prepared a Thai Chicken Green Curry with Kobucha Squash and Eggplant. She shared the recipe, which follows below.

Following April’s demo, the group held a business round table that allowed the participants to discuss how they’ve faced business challenges or grown their business and get help on a major challenge they need to resolve. That was supposed to be followed by a SCORE presentation from this year’s chapter president Keith Steury that described the nonprofit agency that helps small business and explained its various offerings–from mentors to a library filled with business templates, articles and e-guides, and videos and podcasts. Due to time constraints, Keith is sending the information from the presentation to the participants to review on their own.

Following a potluck lunch, Bernard Henry gave a knife sharpening demo, during which he demonstrated using a wet stone, which he noted, is time consuming but gets the best result because it’s more gentle on the knife. He also explained how to use a manual sharpening machine and gave an overview of the best types of knives to buy.

Following Bernard’s demo, Keith did a wrap up of the day and the group came up with proposed dates and locations for a spring 2018 meeting before the event concluded at 3 p.m.

 

THAI GREEN CURRY CHICKEN w/KABOCHA SQUASH & EGGPLANT

(adapted by April Lee from Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
One (14-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cubed skin-on kabocha squash (about half of a small 4-pound squash, washed skin)
1 medium (12-ounce) eggplant, cubed (about 4 cups)
4 pounds chicken (I prefer boneless chicken thighs)
Kosher salt for seasoning chicken and veggies
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into large chunks and season with salt. Also season cubed eggplant and squash.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat (“brown” setting on Fagor multicooker) until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add curry paste and cook, stirring another 2 minutes. NOTE: You can actually just put all the ingredients in the pot and pressure cook on high for 13 minutes without browning first. Browning brings out a deeper flavor in the spices, but it’s not nec-essary.

3. Stir in coconut milk and fish sauce. Add half the squash and eggplant. Add chicken and top with the remaining squash and eggplant. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 13 minutes.

4. Release pressure, remove lid, and stir in chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Softened vegetables will thicken stew upon stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into serving bowls and garnish with a few whole Thai basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges on side.

Do you live in a part of the country that has several APPCA members? Contact us if you’d like to start up a chapter!

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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