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.

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