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!

 

If you’re a personal chef who is starting to get requests from clients for vegan meals, chances are you freaking out just a little. Because while there are plenty of meat- and dairy-free dishes out there in the world that would be considered vegan—salads, sautéed or roasted vegetables, pasta and tomato sauce just for starters—that’s not the stuff of a well-rounded diet. People need protein, for starters, and they want complex flavors that are so easy to come by when you add in animal-based proteins.

So, where do you start?

A brief survey of some of our members yielded some favorite websites. And I’ve also included some I’ve found.

  • You might want to start at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, which has a list of the Top 50 Began blogs. This directs you to blogs that will teach you how to make vegan yogurt to nut-based “cheeses.” Their top pick? Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows. Their favorite recipe? Sundried Tomato, Mushroom and Spinach Tofu Quiche.

  • Member Jennifer Zirkle of The Ginger Chef in Michigan likes Forks Over Knives. This plant-based diet website evolved from the documentary of the same name. The site offers a meal planner, cooking course, articles, and, of course, recipes—435 of them. They also have an app you can download. So, you can be inspired by Smoky, Saucy Black-Eyed Peas; Pesto Penne; Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese; or a Festive Vegetable Pot Pie.

  • Member Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services in Northern California is a fan of the blog Vegan Richa. Richa Hingle is its author. She’s been featured on Oprah.com, Huffington Post, Glamour, VegNews.com, The Kitchn, and many others. She’s also the author of Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. On the day I visited her site it featured Peanut Butter Cauliflower Bowl with Roasted Carrots. She includes Instant Pot cooking, as well. And check out her Indian Butter Tofu Paneer. It looks divine.
  • The Vegan Society is committed to making veganism easily adopted. They publish a magazine, The Vegan—and if you subscribe, you also get access to a website that addresses nutrition and health, food and drink, recipes, shopping, travel, and more.
  • Cooking for vegan kids? Check out the list on Hummasapien. They include a range of kid-friendly recipes like Zucchini Tater Tots, Vegan Carrot Dogs, Vegan Broccoli Cheeze Chickpea Burgers, and Summer Vegetable Lasagna Rolls.

  • Chickpea Magazine is a vegan food and writing quarterly. Love the idea of Cauliflower Wings? Get the recipe here!
  • Chefs like Jamie Oliver have developed vegan recipes. Oliver has well over 100, from Whole Wheat Maple Cinnamon Buns and Sweet Potato & White Bean Chili to Homemade Mustard and Spiced Plum Chutney. He also has videos that will teach you how to make vegan gravy, chocolate pots, and raw “spaghetti Bolognese.”

Because vegan eating has gone so mainstream, you’ll also find plenty of resources on conventional food websites, like Food Network, Serious Eats, Food and Wine, and even Good Housekeeping.

Finally, we have a lovely recipe for you to try from member Carol Borchardt’s blog From a Chef’s Kitchen. This Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup will surely make your clients warm and cozy in these chilly winter months. (Note that Carol offers a choice of chicken broth or vegetable broth. Use the latter, of course, to make this dish vegan.)

Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup
from Carol Borchardt
Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red curry paste (or to taste)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2-inch cubes)
1 can (15-ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups red lentils, picked over
1 can (14.5-ounce) coconut milk, light or regular
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish if desired

Instructions

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until onion begins to soften.

Add the garlic and red curry paste, give it a quick stir, then add the broth, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and lentils. Bring to a boil, cover slightly and simmer until potatoes and lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and heat through.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in cilantro.

MAKE AHEAD: Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool thoroughly. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave for individual servings. FREEZER-FRIENDLY: Cool thoroughly and package as desired. Freeze up to 2 months.

 

Do you have vegan clients you cook for? What dishes are in your repertoire? What were your biggest challenges?

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!

Stew3

With all the buzz in the last six months or so, you’d think that the Instant Pot was a brand new piece of kitchen equipment. In fact, Instant Pot Company, a Canadian-based company, was founded in 2008. The appliance itself debuted in 2010. Thanks to social media and huge deals from Amazon, though, Instant Pot has more recently become a sensation. There are user clubs on Facebook, bloggers who post Instant Pot-specific recipes, and vast numbers of postings on places like Pinterest and Instagram. 

With that in mind, we thought we’d ask one of our members who uses Instant Pot to explain why she does and how it’s working for her. Jennifer Zirkle, who runs The Ginger Chef in Michigan, loves hers. Read on to learn what it helps her with. And enjoy her GF Beef Stew Recipe:

Following social media these days can be an adventure but if you’re following food trends on your favorite sites you’ve no doubt seen mention of an Instant Pot. These electric pressure cookers seem to be the biggest trend launching 2017 and home cooks are in love with them. They’re part slow cooker, part pressure cooker, part rice cooker and part saucepan. As a personal chef, they can be incredibly versatile and free up some much needed stovetop space.

stew2

I have been using my Instant Pot since September with amazing results. I’m working to become an expert in all of its many uses and I have found it to be such a time saver. My clients have reveled in the results of tender meats and stews that taste like they’ve been cooking all day. I’ve used it to make tender Osso Bucco, Wild Rice Chicken Stew, Beef Tips in Gravy, perfect Homemade Chicken Stock and even quick items like steamed green beans that turn out perfect. These little pots of magic combine the convenience of a crock pot with the speed of stovetop cooking. Perfect mac and cheese can be done in 15 minutes rather than 4 hours in a crock pot or even the multi-pan inconvenience of stove-top morney sauce and noodles.

Electric pressure cookers have many preset settings to choose from. Settings vary from model to model but most have a stew setting, rice cooker setting, beef, chicken, etc. Some models even offer you a customization tool to add more or less pressure or to add more or less time to each setting. For example, when making chicken stock, I set it to the “soup” setting and increase the time from 40 minutes to 100 minutes.

Recipes are popping up everywhere from Pinterest to even more reputable sites like Tasting Table https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/national/instant-pot-recipes-pressure-cooker?utm_medium=email&utm_source=TT&utm_campaign=Weekend&utm_content=Editorial

I’ve taken several of my favorite crock pot recipes and cut the time by a quarter. I’ve even taken my gluten- free beef stew recipe and given it an Instant Pot twist. I’ve included the recipe below. I encourage you to schlep the extra equipment to your next cook day.

Stew1

Gluten-Free Beef Stew for Electric Pressure Cooker

Yield: 2 to 3 quarts

Ingredients

2 pounds stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup rice flour
2 medium carrots, diced
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
6 cups beef stock
¼ cup sherry vinegar
1, 10-ounce bag mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Season stew meat. Set Instant Pot to “sauté.”
  2. Add olive oil and stew meat. Brown meat to develop flavor.
  3. Add butter and rice flour. Stir to combine.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, stock, and sherry vinegar.
  5. Place cover and set Instant Pot to “Stew.”
  6. Let Instant Pot run. When finished cooking, let pressure release naturally.
  7. Uncover and add mixed vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let vegetables warm thoroughly and serve or freeze for later.

Stew4

Are you using an Instant Pot for client service? What difference has it made to your cooking routine?

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!

Overcoming the Summer Hiatus Jitters

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 26, 2014

Ah, the lazy days of summer! Boogie boarding at the beach. Sprawling in a hammock next to the cabin by the lake. Dipping toes in the pool while sipping lemonade or an icy margarita. It’s a dreamy scenario–except that it’s not your scenario. Instead, it’s your clients’. You’ve lined up a great schedule this year. You’ve finally got the workload you can manage and the income you need. And then June rolls around and your clients start telling you of their great vacay plans–and you’re not included.

We’ve all been there. Come summer and the winter holidays you may find that some of your clients may want to temporarily suspend services. This came up recently in one of our forums. Jennifer Zirkle of The Ginger Chef in Belmont, Michigan, was just hit with this by two of her clients and asked for advice from colleagues on how to go forward. She launched her business in 2012 and it’s taken her a year to get a regular client base. This development shook her up.

Jennifer Zirkle Cheese Board

“Wondering if I just go with the flow, or do I try to fill their spot with new clients? This is a huge hit to my income,” she said.

Summer vacation time can cause some downturn in the business of a personal chef, but it’s something you need to plan for so you can take it in stride. If you are in the habit of scheduling your regular clients in three-month cycles as I do, you’ll know in advance which of your clients will be traveling or taking the summer off from using their regular personal chef and fill that slot with a new client. As several of the chefs responded to Jennifer, go ahead and move forward to fill those slots and let clients know that you’ll try to fit them back in when they return.

But there are plan B options as well. As many of you know, we conducted a member survey earlier this year. One of our questions addressed what income streams you have under your personal chef business. We found that 75 percent of you also do catering/special events while 62 percent of you teach cooking classes. Another 37 percent of you are demo chefs. Some are writers. Some teach fitness nutrition or are nutritionists/dieticians. There are restaurant consultants and recipe testers, menu developers and on-call corporate chefs.

How do people get these gigs? Networking, of course, is key. You may need to advertise or market your services to get new clients or fill your free dates with casual business as a contract cook. Do you have a Facebook page for your business? Start letting people know your availability and your various skill sets.

And, even if you’re not doing regular meals for your current clients, you can let them know you’re available to facilitate their entertaining needs. Picnics, family reunions, graduations or birthday celebrations, 4th of July parties, and Labor Day cookouts all could use your expertise.

This issue can also come up at the end of the year. Figure out how to turn it into a professional advantage. We’re talking holiday receptions, dinners, brunches, and parties. How about sending a note to each of your clients in October, thanking them for allowing you to serve them over the course of the past year and then mention that you’re available to accommodate their holiday entertaining needs?

Some personal chefs develop a set of holiday menu offerings–both apps and entrees–that can be ordered in advance by the client by a predetermined order date. You can prepare the dishes in a commercial or incubator kitchen and deliver them to your client. You could also offer preset holiday dinners, prepared offsite and delivered to multiple clients on the holiday.

Or, hey, perhaps you want to take some pressure off and enjoy the holiday season with your own family and resume your regular schedule after New Year’s.

So, how is Jennifer dealing with the summer hiatus gap? Well, on June 4 at noon, she’s appearing on WZZM Channel 13 to do a healthy cooking segment. She’s gotten a gig doing cooking demos at Old World Olive Press, a local olive oil company. She’s picking up some seasonal vacationers as clients, and baking birthday and wedding cakes for clients.

Jennifer Zirkle cake2

So, no summertime blues. One of the joys of being a personal chef is being able to choose what works best for you.

Are client summer hiatus plans something you’re facing? How are you addressing this? How can we help you?

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.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Zirkle.

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