Jim Huff at the Women's Club of Forest Hills

Jim Huff is a longtime personal chef in New York City as well as a longtime APPCA member. Several years ago the International Studies Committee of the Forest Hills, New York Women’s Club invited him to give a talk on the influences of different international and ethnic cuisines on typical American comfort foods, given the availability now of diverse ingredients in local food stores. Along with his speech, he provided food for their monthly Tea.

“We had a savory table, a sweet table and a table for me to promote my business with recipes and other printed materials about my services,” Jim recalled.

It was the first “official” talk he had given that was related to his business. Over the years he’s conducted seminars and training sessions in the retail industry so he had some background in public speaking. And he’s also helped APPCA executive director Candy Wallace with APPCA seminars.

“In my presentation I challenged the group to start thinking about “melding” ingredients from other cultures into their own comfort zones. I gave several ideas on how I might accomplish the melding and peaked their interest when I told them a few examples that they would soon be tasting with their Tea,” he wrote in his blog.

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“While they were enjoying their tea and my tastings I manned a separate table where I provided them with information about my business and  a few recipes. It went very well and so many of the members said it was the best Tea yet. I gave out lots of counter cards, business cards and recipes and lots of advice.  I spoke to several possible clients for gift certificates, dinner parties, and regular service. It was a very successful event!  What a great way to connect with the community!”

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If this sounds like something you’d like to do, APPCA member and personal chef Leslie Guria of Fresh from Your Kitchen Personal Chef Service in Chicago has some suggestions for getting started. Before she launched her current business she used to book public speaking engagement for her marketing clients. Here are some tips you can use:

  • Book with an organization of prospects or influencers, but offer to speak on something other than being a personal chef.  Your audience wants to learn something, not be sold. For example, speak to a moms group on cooking for a month, getting kids to eat, sneaking in veggies. It could be a hands on event.
  • I used to introduce myself via telephone and follow up via email.  That may be different now because of social media.  Its easy to find organizations with calendars and meeting planner contacts online.
  • Always be prepared with a flexible list of topics and something professional looking, a speaker kit that tells who you are, what you do, why you should speak to their group, etc. It should include your bio, a list of topics with a brief outline or paragraph, references, and a photo from your website. If you set up a speaker kit on your website, it’s easy to send the link. If I were booking for a client, I’d make sure they had articles or blogs post dedicated to their topics to show credibility. Provide references if possible.
  • If the organization will allow it, send a media release as appropriate to announce the event.  Include your web address and all contact info.

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APPCA member Kelly Yorke of A House Call Chef in Evergreen, Colorado not only does public speaking, she appears on TV doing live cooking segments on network television. Kelly says she has to market constantly. “And it’s not just about being a chef and honing our craft. It’s about being sales people and marketing people. Public speaking is helpful to bring various aspects of media aware of our business,” she says.

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Kelly has been a personal chef for about 12 years. Prior to that she was a corporate chef–basically she’s had a culinary career for about 30 years. She says that the public speaking has developed to market her TV cooking show series, personal chef business, and brand she’s developing in therapeutic cuisine with her sister, a physician who practices integrative medicine.

Kelly suggests starting by offering to do cooking demos in your local grocery store, which can market your talks on their website and social media. But, she says, you have to be an expert in something before you can go out and speak.

“It involves a lot of learning and experience,” she says. “If you’re a personal chef, you have to have done it and learned those hard lessons about what works for you, your customer, your local area before you can talk about it.”

Are you concerned about that first foray of talking to a group of strangers? Kelly says to relax and just do it.

“Know you’ll get better at it. You won’t be as good at it in the beginning. You have to practice and do it in smaller, local groups without getting paid to hone your craft.”

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Like Leslie, she says you don’t want to overtly sell your services. People impressed with your knowledge and skills will want to work with you. So impress them with that in an area you are expert in–lifestyle changes, food for healthy living, disease-specific diets, whatever it is that you have a strong skill set.

How do you find the groups to speak to? Kelly says it’s all about networking.

“Talk to people in groups who have common expertise with what you work in. People you know in your community. People who you do sports activities with. Talk to them and find out what they do and if your interests overlap. Maybe they want to invite you to speak to their business. Be out there and talk to people. Yes, you can Google organizations, but face-to-face connections and interactions that you have are always better in gauging if people want to do business with you.”

For Jim Huff, networking was key in getting his Women’s Club gig. “A close friend, who has always promoted my business, including using my services, got me involved in donating my services for the annual silent auction,” he explains. “I donate my services for dinner for four; the winner pays for groceries. My friend introduced me explaining who I was and briefly spoke about my services, reminding them of my donations. Several of the attendees have either won the dinner service I donated or attended one as a guest! I have gained several repeat clients for dinner parties via this venue.”

Are you already doing public speaking? What are the lessons you’ve learned? How has it helped your business?

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!

Fresh From Your Kitchen’s Leslie Guria has a plan–and that’s to launch a food blog to complement her personal chef business. “I’m going to start with a few topics… recipes, farmers markets, cookware reviews, organization, then ultimately focus on the areas that bring in the most traffic,” she explains.

Like many aspiring bloggers, this APPCA member is interested in developing a passive stream of income and Leslie’s studying food photography and monetizing to make that happen. Unlike many who have these dreams, she has a background in small business marketing, so she’s confident that she can make a go of it.

Food blogs can serve a number of purposes for personal chefs. They can help promote your business. They can promote you as an expert and even a brand. They can allow you to go off into areas of interest that feed your soul even if they aren’t directly related to what you do day to day. And, if you’re very smart, very talented, a workhorse, and lucky, they can create a new revenue stream.

But you’re up against a lot of competition. It’s impossible to know just how many food blogs are out there, but there are millions and the numbers keep growing. The trick is to find your niche. Is it recipes, cocktails, vegetarianism, special diets, produce, regional food, restaurant reviewing, your grandma’s traditional Italian cooking?

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For APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food her blog is named for her passion, A Cookbook Obsession. Carol has put more research and effort into the care and maintenance of her blog than most. She began with having it attached to her business website, but didn’t see a lot of traffic coming in–mostly, she deduced, because another blogger had already established his blog with the same name as her business using .net instead of .com. He already had sewn up the “athoughtforfood” social media handles, too. (Lesson #1, if you can, purchase as many suffixes for your beloved business name as you can afford.)

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

So, after suffering a knee injury last year that put her out of commission for several months, she spent her time studying food photography. She also realized that her business was taking a physical toll on her and that she might have to give it up someday. At that point Carol decided that, “it would be nice to have something food-related to fall back on or already have in the works if that time ever comes, and A Cookbook Obsession was officially born.”

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Carol has collected about 1,200 cookbooks over the years and uses these and new ones coming in as the source of inspiration for blogging. “It’s where I share recipes from my cookbooks that inspire me along with my original recipes. Because of copyright laws, you can not reprint or republish recipes as printed, so I always state ‘inspired by’ or ‘adapted from’ and write the recipe as I made it. My plan is to become more of a ‘cookbook resource’ for readers. I’ve added doing cookbook reviews through Blogging for Books, which is great because I can now get free cookbooks in exchange for the review.”

It’s no coincidence that these talents have helped her writing a biweekly food feature, Dinner for Two, for the local Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Now in its fourth year, she’s written more than 100 pieces for the paper.

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Chef Natalie Lewis launched Natalie’s Daily Crave on her business website about five years ago. “I started it simply because I want to share all of my food experiences with other people. I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the food I’m tasting and the recipes I create or find! Food is way more fun when it’s enjoyed with others. I would describe Natalie’s Daily Crave as a blog for the home cook with recipes that are approachable and straight forward. It’s geared towards people who enjoy cooking and I like to provide recipes you can keep in your back pocket for those special days when you want to make something just a little different than the norm.”

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

For Natalie, blogging takes a lot of time because she does it all herself–both recipe development and taking photos. A friend who is a professional photographer has helped her with tips along the way, but it can sometimes take hundreds of photos to get just that right shot–and that’s after figuring out staging and making the dish look appetizing.

“That fork resting on the side of the table? The perfectly folded napkin tucked under the plate? All of that is carefully thought out to achieve a desired look,” she notes. “I admire food photographers who do it for a living and I’ve learned so much about the effort it takes. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual writing and posting yet. Let’s just say it’s definitely a labor of love!”

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Some bloggers post daily, some post weekly or twice a week. Natalie tries to post monthly or at least around holidays, knowing that she’s developed enough of a history for people to find recipes when looking for something specific. For her, it’s a way for her to express herself and have a platform. “Making others happy and getting them excited about food is exactly what fuels my passion. I also think it’s a great way for clients and potential clients to see what I’m up to on a personal level.”

Given Carol’s intention of monetization, her approach is much more driven. Like Natalie, she’s immersed in cooking dishes, photographing them, uploading and editing photos and writing the post–she estimates it can take four to six hours. And she does this twice a week.

The killer is the promotion.

“This is one thing that totally took me by surprise,” she says. “The amount of time to promote a food blog is staggering. First, you need to make sure Google can find your post and recipe so a little knowledge about SEO is helpful. I use a WordPress plug-in that keeps me on track for that. I then send out an e-mail to my subscriber list, pin it to Pinterest, Yummly, StumbleUpon, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, and photo sharing sites such as FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie, Dishfolio, Healthy Aperture, Finding Vegan, and, if I’m using some type of hot pepper, Jalapeno Mania. I don’t do Twitter yet because it’s already difficult to keep up with social media.”

She also posts to Pinterest group boards–which, in turn, requires you to pin others’ content to your various boards. And she has her own Facebook pages, as well as participates in several Facebook groups and sharing groups.

Monetizing is also something Carol’s working on.

“I recently began placing ads on my site through a few ad networks. But, there too, you have to have some traffic to speak of and they have to like what they see.  Most bloggers start with Google or Amazon. I won’t be retiring on the income anytime soon, but ads are one of the first steps in monetizing a blog. You can also add ‘affiliate links.’ This is where a person or company has a product to sell and you place a link to purchase that product on your blog. If someone buys the product through your site, you get a commission. I have two affiliate links on my website: MasterCook recipe management software and the Tasty Food Photography book mentioned earlier.”

Down the road? Perhaps writing sponsored posts for brands or selling her own e-book or e-cookbook.

So, what tips do Natalie and Carol have for aspiring food bloggers?

1. Have good photography.

2. Join food blogger Facebook groups to ask questions and get support.

3. Do your research to decided which blogging platform to use, whether Blogger (Google-owned), WordPress, SquareSpace, or something else–including just adding it to your website. Will you do it yourself or hire a website developer? In either case, you need to have an idea of a look you want and how you want to organize your content.

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And, says Natalie, “My number one tip is to just be yourself and don’t worry about anyone else. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of the world, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you cook, there is always someone who won’t like what you have to say. Be true to yourself and do your own thing!”

Do you have a food blog? Why did you launch it and how have you promoted 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.