Given the size of our national APPCA membership, Candy had suggested years ago that members gather regionally to better get to network and share information. The MidAtlantic Chef Chapter, or MARC, has long been an active and tight-knit group with a membership currently at 19. In April they announced a new slate of officers:

Keith Steury

President: Keith Steury of The Food Sherpa

Treasurer: April Lee of Tastefully Yours

Secretary: Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table

The first agenda item will be identifying a date to meet for their fall gathering–a potluck at member Iva Stanic’s home in Olney, Maryland. Then, of course, if the big two-day Spring meeting for 2018 that Steury hopes will include a trip to a pick-your-own working farm in Virginia.

Why join a member chapter? Well, Steury, whose business is based in Arlington, Virginia, explained that he joined the MARC chapter a few years ago.

“Before that I was a member of the APPCA, but I did not really have any meaningful personal connections to other chefs who were also running their own PC businesses,” he said. “Joining this group has helped me to make these connections and has proved very valuable to me. I am hopeful that we will continue to provide support to both current and potential new members during my tenure as chapter president.”  

Katie Enterline

In his own words, Steury’s plans for his tenure as president include:

  1. Providing cross-referrals for new business: This is something that we already do a lot within our chapter and it is really a great thing. There are ebbs and flows in everyone’s businesses and times when we could all use a new client. Referrals are an excellent way to accelerate this process. This is also a very nice feature for new members and those new to the personal chef industry, because it gives them an immediate connection to potential new clients and the support of other chefs in the process of acquiring them.
  2. Supporting each other and helping each other to succeed:  The APPCA provides a solid foundation and frame-work for how to run a successful PC business, but there is also room for each individual chef to modify things to fit their unique preferences. The chapter provides a great forum for discussing ideas, tips, pitfalls, and related information about running a PC business. There are a lot of smart people with creative ideas in the chapter, and they are open and willing to share this information with their fellow chefs.  This helps everyone to improve their businesses and be more successful. 
  3. Being aware of market changes and how to differentiate ourselves as personal chefs:  I am amazed at how much things have changed since I started my PC business back in 2007. Back then, the concept of a PC was still pretty novel (at least here in Northern VA). Now, not so much. In addition, there is a lot more competition in the marketplace, so I think that makes our job more challenging. Now more than ever, I think it is important to be educated about the market and to take the time to identify and explain how we as PCs differentiate ourselves from these other options. We save our clients valuable time, we provide a custom experience/solution (to often complex problems), and we do it all while cultivating a meaningful relationship with a focus on excellent customer service.

April Lee

We wish the MARC chapter a productive and fulfilling year! If any of you would like to start a chapter in your region, please reach out to Candy and she can help you get it up and running!

Do you know any fellow APPCA members in your community or region? How do you network with other personal chefs–or do 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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

When I interviewed Katie Enterline and Mary Stewart of The Grateful Table for a post in May, I learned that Katie, with a Master’s Degree in Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science and Policy from Tufts University, has spent years engaged in building healthier food systems and making connections between food, people, and environmental health. So, when Candy and I discussed doing a blog post that addressed how personal chefs can bring more local and sustainable ingredients to their clients, Katie was the one I turned to for expertise. And, she readily agreed to help out. Here’s her take on why and how personal chefs can be the go-to resource for a better way to eat.

Photo by Connie Bowman

Photo by Connie Bowman

How to Get More Local and Sustainable Ingredients Into Client Meals
By Katie Enterline

As more people are starting to think about and care about where their food is coming from and looking for healthier, more sustainable food options, we as personal chefs have a unique opportunity to support our client’s desire in this area. Oftentimes, more sustainable ingredients are higher quality as well, allowing you to prepare the freshest seasonal meals for your clients. Whether this is already something of importance to you or you are looking to give your business a competitive edge, there are many ways you can start providing these options to clients.

Coming from the sustainable agriculture and food systems sector prior to launching The Grateful Table, purchasing sustainably produced and local products was very important to me and something I knew I wanted to incorporate into our business model. Eating sustainably produced whole foods is an investment in our health and the health of our planet. When we purchase local ingredients, we invest in our local farmers and the local economy and help to preserve family farms. We believe it is important to be mindful of the effects our food system has on the environment, public health, communities, and animal welfare and it is our mission to purchase organic and local products whenever possible.

Focusing on sustainable and local ingredients is a defining characteristic of our business model, which has at times been a deciding factor in why some clients choose us, and gives us a competitive edge while serving an ever-growing need.

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At the same time, while it is a priority for us, it may not be one for our clients initially, but becomes an opportunity for us to help encourage and educate them on how to source and incorporate more healthy sustainable products that they might otherwise not do on their own. When it is not our client’s priority, we will work with them to stay within their budget and still try to purchase local and organic whenever we can.

Some ways we do this is to avoid purchasing fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues organically as indicated on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List. Additionally, we cost compare organic options vs. non-organic, which can sometimes be the same price or lower, and buy organic nuts, grains and beans in bulk sections by only purchasing the amount needed for a cook date. In addition, we can focus on either organic/local produce, or meat and seafood, whichever is most important to our client.

In the Washington, D.C. area, we have a few small- to mid-sized natural foods grocery chains that carry all or mostly organic produce and products with a large focus on local produce during the height of the growing season. We try to search for farms stands open daily in the summer close to our clients’ homes before heading to larger stores. We have also noticed many of the larger chain grocery stores increasing their organic offerings and at times local produce as well.

Additionally, through CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and farm-to-home delivery businesses, we have found new creative ways to bring local products directly to our clients. Recognizing the growing movement toward local and organic, grocery delivery businesses such as Hometown Harvest are helping local farmers bring their vegetables, dairy, meats, and other grocery staples to consumers in our area. We can order their products online to be delivered directly to our clients’ homes the day of or day before our cook date.

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Incorporating our clients CSA share into their menu planning has also been successful for us. This has worked very well with clients who like to support local farmers and they particularly love when we create something from vegetables that are unusual and they would have no idea what to do with, such as Pickled Japanese Turnips.

The demand for healthier, more sustainably produced foods is only going to continue to grow. Personal chefs can take advantage of this and make sure to offer these products to their clients. As demand continues to increase, there will also be many more ways to provide these products to our clients.

Are you helping your clients eat meals using more local, sustainable ingredients? If not, why not? And, if so, what are your strategies?

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.

Mary and Katie2

Photo by Connie Bowman

Family businesses are always risky. It requires careful choreography between parents and children or siblings or spouses for everything to go just right. Not only money is at stake, but also family relationships. But when it works, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of sharing responsibilities and joys and the craziness with a family member.

For Mary Stewart and Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table, a personal chef business based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the idea came from daughter Katie, who had been working long hours for nonprofits in the food and agriculture sector and had a Master’s Degree in Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science and Policy from Tufts University. It seemed a natural since the two had cooked together for a long time for big family meals.

Fish on beans

Photo by Katie Enterline

“I wanted to start a family and wanted something more flexible,” she recalled. “I told Mom she should cook for a living and that I knew people would pay us to cook for them. She loved the idea. Even in grad school I used to think I wish I could just cook for people.”

Katie had a colleague who had been a personal chef and through talking with her realized that there was a name for what she wanted to do, an actual profession. She searched Google and found the APPCA. “We got training. There were answers for how to do this. That’s what made it real.” And in May 2013, they launched their business after an April APPCA training.

Mary, a self-taught cook with a passion for fresh, mostly unprocessed ingredients, and Katie developed a business plan and gradually figured out how logistically it would work with two of them as chefs.

“Initially we worked together nonstop as we were learning, but as the business grew and we got more clients it made more sense for us to separate. So now we each see four clients a week,” Mary explained.

But the team tries to go on initial consultations with new clients together so clients can meet both women and they can cover for each other if necessary. In the past year, that did become necessary when Katie gave birth to her first child.

Photo by Connie Bowman

Photo by Connie Bowman

They also have business division of labor. “Katie is wonderful doing the website and Facebook,” Mary said. “By default I do the finances. We bounce ideas off each other. This can be a very solitary profession. We love the support we get through the APPCA and our Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC), but it’s great to have a partner to share with.”

To that end, they have rules as business partners. “It’s really important,” said Mary. “We have to separate business issues from family issues. We have to know when to compartmentalize. I have other kids so we don’t want to be at family gatherings and just talk business.”

Photo by Connie Bowman

Photo by Connie Bowman

The duo cooks what they describe as good, fresh, healthy meals that they personalize for clients, many of whom have special dietary needs. “We both have clients with dietary restrictions,” Mary said. “My initial client was on chemo but also wanted to stick with her Weight Watchers plan, so I needed to build recipes that were really personalized to deal with her health issues and preferences.

“I like that challenge of making the food really personalized to the client. I love the research part of it when I’m faced with cooking for special diets,” she added.

Photo by Katie Enterline

Photo by Katie Enterline

Their menus are seasonally oriented and Katie has even gotten clients to have farm-fresh produced delivered to their homes so she and Mary can cook with it. “One of our clients has a CSA and tells me what’s in the box so I can work with it,” Katie noted.

The partners recently attended the MARC meeting held nearby at the home of chapter president Shelbie Wassel. They were asked to demonstrate a dessert so they showed their colleagues how they make a lemon tart with coconut whipped cream. “We wanted to show a nondairy alternative to whipping cream,” said Mary, “and I wanted to show how easy lemon curd is to make.”

Lemon Curd Souffle demo

Photos by Carol Borchardt

Meyer Lemon Molten Lava Cakes
Adapted from Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Yield: 8 servings

Cakes

1/2 cup butter
1 (4-oz) white chocolate baking bars, broken into chunks
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 whole eggs
4 eggs (yolks only)
3/4 cup lemon curd (see attached recipe)
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Topping

1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Heavy Whipping Cream, sweetened, whipped or (see attached Coconut Whipped Cream recipe)
1 cup fresh raspberries
Mint sprigs, if desired

Preparation

Heat oven to 425°F. Grease 8 (6-ounce) custard cups. Place onto ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan; set aside.

Place butter and baking bar in 2-quart pan over low heat and melt, stirring frequently until smooth. Or microwave 1 minute; stir. Continue microwaving, stirring every 15 seconds, 60 to 90 seconds or until melted and smooth.

Stir in flour and powdered sugar; mix well. Add eggs, egg yolks, lemon curd and lemon zest; beat with wooden spoon or whisk until blended.

Pour evenly into prepared custard cups. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is puffy and just beginning to set. Let stand 10 minutes. Run tip of knife around edge of custard cup to loosen. Invert onto individual dessert plates. Shake to loosen. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar. Serve with whipped cream. Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint sprigs, if desired.

This is a great make-ahead dessert recipe. Batter can be refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking. Bake them when you are finishing dinner and they will be ready when you want to serve dessert.

Lemon Curd
From Gourmet Magazine

Yield: 1 1/3 cups

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 large eggs
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits

Preparation

Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6-10 minutes or until reaches 170 degrees F.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.
Cooks’ note: Curd can be chilled up to 1 week.

Tips for making lemon curd:
Most recipe involve either a double boiler or straining through a sieve or even tempering eggs. Others use a mixer and several pieces of equipment. However, it can be made more quickly and simply with less equipment and less mess.

1. Strain the egg yolks first. Add lemon juice to help push it through the sieve. This removes the white solids that adhere to the egg yolks and cause lumps.

2. Use lemon sugar. Rubbing lemon zest into granulated sugar helps release the oils–and it can be stored and used for cakes, lemon bread, and other dishes.

3. The key to avoiding curdled, lumpy or scrambled curds is to mix ingredients all together until smooth, cook slowly over low heat, and stir constantly until the mixture reach 170 degrees. Do not boil.

Coconut Whipped Cream
Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1, 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar – to taste
Optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

Preparation

Chill your coconut milk can in the fridge overnight.

Chill a large mixing bowl  and beaters 10 minutes before whipping.

Remove the can from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (can use in smoothies).

Note: If your coconut milk didn’t harden, you probably just got a dud can without the right fat content. In that case, you can try to salvage it with a bit of tapioca flour (1 to 4 tablespoons).

Place cream, powdered sugar and vanilla (if using) and mix until creamy and smooth – about 1 minute.
Use immediately or refrigerate. It will harden and set in the fridge the longer it’s chilled.

Will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.

lemon curd souffle with coconut whipped cream

Photo by Carol Borchardt

Are you considering launching a personal chef business with a family member? What are your concerns? How are you addressing 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.