January is a time of new beginnings and one of them can include jump-starting your business. It’s essential for personal chefs just launching a business, but even a seasoned professional can use a new tip or two. Getting in front of potential customers can open up new opportunities and there are a myriad of successful ways to approach it.

The most obvious would seem to be paid advertising, but that’s actually not something we endorse. As Chef April Lee has said, “Think about how you go about hiring a professional service provider. Do you hire anyone off a flyer? Does anyone? Do you pay attention to paid advertisements?”

What you should invest money in are professionally printed business cards and a professionally designed and written website filled with mouth-watering photos (and no “selfies”). As you know, we can help you with the website.

The rest of your investment should be in time and creativity. Find ways to get out into the community. Make yourself visible and meet as many people as possible who are either in a position to hire you or to refer business to you—or invite you to speak or participate in any of their business or community activities.

Huff1078

Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York, who was awarded our top prize in marketing at our October APPCA Chef Summit, has more than a dozen quick tips to offer:

  • ·      Polish your elevator speech and use it at every opportunity possible. Family, friends, neighbors, etc.
  • ·      Wear your chef coat while shopping for yourself as well as when shopping for clients.
  • ·      Introduce yourself to the department managers of the produce, fish, and meat departments in the stores where you shop. Use you elevator speech in your first meeting.
  • ·      While waiting for the butcher, fishmonger, etc., to prepare your order chat them up about what you are cooking, etc. Oftentimes other customers will hear you and you’ll have an opportunity to use your elevator speech and present them with a business card.
  • ·      Have a website linked to your name in the APPCA Find a Chef Directory.
  • ·      Use social media, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to connect with people from your past, present, and future. Create discussions about your business.
  • ·      Write a blog that connects to your website and all social media. Write about recipes, events, and menus you have created. Quality pictures are a must!
  • ·      Send out press releases—when you start up, anytime you do anything for  a charity event, whenever you want to talk about a new food trend, about whatever is popular with your clients, to feature recipes for an upcoming holiday. Try to get the copy deadlines for these holidays.
  • ·      Send thank you cards to clients when you provide dinner party service or when you fulfill a gift certificate.  (Remember a gift certificate gives you two clients to market to.)
  • ·      Write catchy Craigslist ads and post pictures when advertising.
  • ·      About four to five times a year I mail postcards to all clients, past and present. You can use a variety of topics—for instance, you can remind them that school is starting and that your service helps with the tight schedule families deal with or that Valentine’s Day is coming up and that you can prepare an intimate dinner party, or suggest random dinner party ideas (e.g., recipes from any Julia Child cookbook around her b-day). 
  • ·      Buy car magnets and bumper stickers that promote your service.
  • ·      Print materials describing all the services you provide to be presented to clients when you are performing an assessment. 

Additionally, be sure your email always goes out with a signature offering your business contact information (website, email, phone number, and social media links). And your website, your Find a Chef Directory listing, and any other showcase for you should always have the basics, including your full name, your location, the services you provide, and your background. Personal chefs offer a personal service. Don’t make it difficult for people (or the media) to find you or learn specifically what you do.

And be bold! We had a member some years ago who decided he wanted to reach as many potential clients as possible as quickly as possible. He put on his chef wear and tall toque, put a doily on a silver tray, spread his business cards out on the tray, and set off for the local commuter railway station where he “served up” his cards to hungry, tired commuters at the end of the busy work day. These folks wanted to get home, have an adult beverage, and a good meal. His image and business card went a long way in delivering his message.

Do you have a way with the video camera? Create quality cooking demo YouTube videos that link to your website and social media outlets. Use them to try to get a regular gig on your local television station’s morning show. Are you a good writer? Offer to write a column for your local newspaper. This is especially helpful to the publication if you have an area of specialization like cooking vegetarian or vegan meals or if you combine your chef skills with a degree as a dietician or nutritionist. Chef Donna Douglass of What’s Cooking has done this successfully. She also teaches cooking and nutrition classes and appears at health fairs.

And, if you do have an area of specialization, research organizations that could help direct your services to their clients. Providing meal services to people on special diets can be so rewarding and impactful. New member Chef Lori Himmelsbach of A Chef of My Own in Kentucky googled “hospice,” “oncology support,” “holistic healing of…,” and “gluten-free support” in her area. Then she called the organizations listed, asked for the director of operations or the office manager, and explained who she was and how a personal chef could help their clients.

“I asked if I could send an email giving them more information about my services (including my website), as well as a request to pass this information on to their staff so they are aware of what a personal chef can do,” she explains on one of our forums. “Then I asked if they would like brochures (which I printed at home) to give to their staff or clients. One of my callers has already requested 30 brochures to pass out to her social workers.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” Lori says. “As I’m starting my business I ask myself everyday what I can do to increase my income—and then do it!”

Everyone eats, so that means everyone is a potential client. It’s just up to you as to how you want to reach out to them. The only thing that limits us as personal chefs is the limits of our own imagination.

What have been your most successful marketing strategies? Please leave a comment and share with your colleagues across the country.

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.

This is the week we traditionally take a look over our shoulder to consider all that happened in the past year before we fill a glass with bubbly and toast the year about to emerge.

For us, it’s been a year of transition, with all the good stuff that accompanies change.

Earlier in the fall we debuted our first mobile app, Find & Hire a Chef, for iPhone. Just last week we launched the Android version. Now it’s even easier for potential clients to find you. Help yourself get found by making sure your profile in our database is complete and lists everything about you and your services that you want to promote.

APP screen2

We’ve developed an active social media presence this year on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We have twin goals with our activity: to share interesting information with you and to promote what you do. We want to spur conversation, show off your achievements, and give you resources for helping your business. Okay, sometimes, we want to provide a smile or good laugh, too. Please like our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and join our Linkedin group—and participate! It’s fun and it’ll help you, too.

Along with social media, our Personal Chef Forums have been bursting with good conversation and useful sharing—as well as some needed venting and bragging. These forums are just for members so they’re a safe place to ask critical professional questions among colleagues or share successes.

We held a rocking Personal Chef Summit in Baltimore in October, along with a number of Personal Chef seminars in cities including Chicago, San Diego, for getting your business up and running quickly. Thank you to speakers April Lee, Bernard Henry, Mark X. Dowling, Randall Sansom, Scott Faber, Thomas P. McNulty, Dr. Fred Mayo, Lou Garcia, Carol Borchardt, Javier Fuertes, Jim Huff, and Cheryl Frazier-Trusty. And congratulations again to chefs Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, who received the Personal Chef of the Year 2013, to Javier Fuertes of The Dinner Maker for Life Balance, and to Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist for Marketer of the Year! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

This month I was the guest columnist for CafeMeetingPlace.com (the Center for the Advancement of Food Service Education). It gave me an opportunity to advocate why culinary teachers should consider operating a personal chef business as an adjunct career.

These are just some of the highlights of the year about to end. We’ve got plenty planned for the coming year, including more Personal Chef Seminars and a totally new website. All of this is to serve you, so if you have any suggestions or ideas for how we can do it better, let us know!

Dennis and I are your biggest supporters. We believe in the importance of the work you do and want to help you achieve your goals. Let’s lift a glass to the year we’re leaving and toast 2014! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

What were your 2013 successes? What do you want us to do for you in 2014? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase, what else, New Year’s resolutions. Please check our Private Discussion Forum — General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what your personal chef resolutions are and why so you can appear here.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go personalchef.com to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership and join.

2013 Personal & Private Chef Summit Pre-Summit Tour in Baltimore for October 10

PRE-SUMMIT TOUR (Optional)

Urban Gardens & Lunch at Waterfront Kitchen

Thursday, October 10, noon – 4:30 p.m.

Fee: $65

Meet at 11:30 a.m. for transport to restaurant. Limited to 22 participants on a first-come basis

Before you immerse yourself in two days of professional development designed to help you expand your personal-chef business, join your colleagues on a tour of two thriving urban gardens, preceded by a private lunch at one of Water Front Kitchen DockBaltimore’s hottest eateries known for its commitment to food sustainability.

The afternoon begins with a multi-course experience of the freshest flavors, expertly delivered via creative-yet-familiar dishes and paired with wines. We’ll gather in the Greenhouse of Waterfront Kitchen (www.waterfrontkitchen.com), a seed-to-plate restaurant featuring spirited American cooking that’s committed to sourcing ingredients as locally and seasonally as possible.

Chef Jerry Pellegrino

Our host will be nationally acclaimed chef, restaurateur and wine connoisseur Jerry Pellegrino, whose  cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients that work in concert with the restaurant’s wine offerings.

After lunch, we’ll visit two vibrant, productive farms—one small and one large—with tours led by Maya Kosok, a community fellow with Farm Alliance Baltimore (www.farmalliancebaltimore.org).

Hidden Harvest

Our first stop will be Hidden Harvest Farm (facebook.com/groups/hiddenharvestfarm), a half-acre urban farm owned by Tara Megos. Hidden Harvest’s goal is to create a beautiful and bountiful space in which flowers, fruit, vegetables, insects, birds and humans live harmoniously. Megos grows food out of a desire to be more connected with the earth and immediate environment, as well as to learn and teach.

Real Food Farm MontebelloNext, we’ll visit the largest urban farm in Baltimore, Real Food Farm (www.realfoodfarm.org)—Civic Works’ innovative urban-agricultural enterprise engaged in growing fresh produce on a 6-acre site. With the help of a handful of dedicated farmers, this farm operates an orchard of fruit trees, field crops, a hoophouse tunnel, herb garden and seed-starting house. An apiary enables crop pollination and creates local honey. Real Food Farm works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector.

Following our tour of Real Food Farm, we’ll transport participants to their respective APPCA host hotels in time for the 2013 Personal Chef Summit’s Welcome Reception at Stratford University.

NOTE: The $65 fee includes lunch with wines, tax, tip and transportation from Waterfront Kitchen to both farms, plus transportation to the APPCA’s host hotels upon the tour’s conclusion.

 Meet Chef Jerry Pellegrino, Waterfront Kitchen

The Baltimore Sun wrote: “Chef Pellegrino’s … food can be sensational, a reflection of what’s going on in the best American cooking.” His menus at Waterfront Kitchen are based on local, seasonal ingredients harvested from the restaurant’s own greenhouse and gardens as well as from such urban growers as Big City Farms. He works closely with the restaurant’s full-time gardener, Jo Cosgrove, directing each season’s planting and overseeing summer gardening classes at the greenhouse.

In partnership with Living Classrooms, a nonprofit organization, Pellegrino works with middle-school kids through BUGS (Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students) both in the garden and kitchen. He holds a certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers and has been Vice Chancellor Culinaire of the Baltimore Bailliage of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. He is often featured in cooking segments on local television and is co-host of WYPR-FM’s “Radio Kitchen.”