I grew up in a restaurant. I also grew up in a large Eastern European family that believed in growing much of its own food, preparing, preserving, and sharing fresh seasonal meals together.

It’s that background that inspired me to make food my career. I’ve been in the culinary industry for more than four decades–as a restaurant chef, a private chef, a caterer/event planner, and a culinary educator. Over the years I’ve watched many talented, competent culinary pros forced to leave the industry because of their inability to be on the line nights, weekends, and holidays. There were too few career options until recently. You were either the restaurant owner, on the line, or out of the business if you were cooking for a living. That was always especially true for women chefs. It’s impossible to be the heart of a household and raise a family if you can’t be there to provide them with care and attention.

Taking a quick break at our recent Chicago seminar

Taking a quick break at our recent Chicago seminar

And, if you’re older? What’s your option then? Teaching, perhaps, but not all chefs are good teachers or even want to teach. Then there are those second-career folks, who chuck previous work to follow their passion in culinary school only to find they’re not welcome on the line because of their age.

There are all sorts of variations on this. But, what they have in common is that many people want to have a culinary career, but not necessarily a conventional one. So I decided to start what I call a big recycling project for culinary pros who wanted to support themselves and their families by cooking, but not in a traditional commercial situation, like a restaurant, hotel, catering company, or country club. A profession that would allow these pros to control their own destiny, cook for a living, but not have to have a commercial space, commercial equipment, staff, and a giant bowlful of stress.

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

Enjoying lunch and some San Diego sunshine at a recent weekend seminar

And so the personal chef career path was born to serve hungry, time-pressed clients who want Monday through Friday meal support in the form of custom-designed, palate-specific meals prepared from fresh ingredients in their own kitchen in one day, safely stored and labeled with heating/handling instructions.

Twenty years later this has become a legitimate culinary career path and the APPCA is the recognized leader in representing personal chefs. The people we’ve trained have helped their clients segue into healthier living and eating. They provide delicious meals that address the variety of medical issues their clients have–from heart disease and diabetes to celiac disease and cancer. They help seniors stay independent in their homes, professional athletes reach peak performance through nutrition, and families enjoy nightly meals together.

A recent seminar at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas

A seminar at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas

One of the APPCA activities I enjoy most is teaching weekend seminars, whether they’re in San Diego, where I live, or cities across the country. I learn so much from our participants and marvel at their accomplishments. I want to share with you some of their stories to give you a sense of the power of personal chefs in their communities.

A new APPCA member is married to a busy OB/GYN and is in the process of establishing a personal chef business to provide healthy meal support for his spouse’s patients so they can enjoy healthy meals from fresh, local, organic ingredients throughout their pregnancy. Part of his service fee is designated for a similar program to be offered through a local free clinic in a challenged neighborhood to support the clinic’s pregnant patients.

Another member is not only a registered dietician and nutritionist, but also a trained chef who provides meal support specifically for her diabetic clients. Other member/chefs with similar skills are supporting clients with special needs, such as food allergies, cardiac incidents, and chemotherapy.

Many of our member/chefs are deeply involved in wellness and nutrition programs, teaching healthy cooking classes in local schools, offering school gardening classes and services to support students and parents who wish to learn how to safely grow part of their food source at home and at school.

Personal chef and APPCA member Patrick Lacaille of Colorado teaching a healthy cooking demo

Personal chef and APPCA member Patrick Lacaille of Colorado teaching a healthy cooking demo

One of our Northern California members, Dane Mechlin, is not only a successful personal chef, he also plans, plants, and maintains the school garden at his children’s elementary school and participates in the planning of the school lunch program to include produce from the garden.

Dane Mechlin of Nadine & Dane's Personal Chef Services in Northern California--a former yacht chef/restaurant owner who became a personal chef so he could help raise his three little boys

Dane Mechlin of Nadine & Dane’s Personal Chef Services in Northern California–a former yacht chef/restaurant owner who became a personal chef so he could help raise his three little boys

In March, our seminar for start-up personal chefs revealed three new personal chefs who had achieved safe, significant weight loss and planned to offer their culinary and coaching services to clients and community groups seeking support and assistance toward the goal of safe weight loss through lifestyle and nutritional modification. Teaching what you know to assist others in achieving their goals is a common theme for personal chefs.

Finally, we have a number of veterans in our organization who have transitioned from active duty into the civilian world. They’re our heroes and we offer several programs, including financial discounts on training programs and scholarships, to support their professional culinary goals.

Our first four military chef scholarship winners with kitchen coach Mial Parker

Our first four military chef scholarship winners with kitchen coach Mial Parker

So, everything is possible in the personal chef world. You’re limited only by your imagination.

For more than 20 years, APPCA chefs have been answering the “What’s for dinner” question with nutritious, delicious food made just for their clients, based on their unique palates and needs. Are you wowed by what you’ve read about our members? Imagine how proud I am of them and how satisfying it’s been to have both launched a career path that fulfills their professional desires and to have created an organization that helps these amazing professional personal chefs realize their dreams and serve their communities. In fact, the APPCA is the only award-winning, culinary professional-owned professional trade association in the industry. If this is your dream, you should join us!

If you’re a personal chef, how are you making an impact on your clients and your community? Tell us your stories!

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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