No matter how confident you are in yourself, your cooking abilities, and your business skills, sometimes the personal touch can make the difference. That’s why we regularly hold weekend Personal Chef Seminars. It allows Dennis and me to meet new members just launching their businesses and give them hands-on guidance in the business of being a personal chef. Yes, we have wonderful printed and online materials available to you–and you shouldn’t have any problem getting started with them alone. But gathering with a group of like-minded people for a weekend of learning and sharing just clarifies the process that much more. And it gives you compadres and commadres with whom you can share questions and issues long after the weekend is over.

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What takes place? Whether we travel to cities like Chicago and Baltimore or hold the seminars at our home in San Diego, the basics are the same. We review the training program and manual one bite at a time, taking it at your pace and answering your  questions. We talk about business plans, finances, and marketing. And we answer your questions. We delve into things like website SEO, advertising, and media exposure. And we answer your questions. We introduce you to Personal Chef Office and the Personal Chef Forums. We even talk recipes and cooking methods. And we answer your questions. We love answering your questions.

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Last month, we held an intimate seminar with four remarkably talented women: Mary Ziebart of Chicago, Jackie Buesa of Carlsbad, Rochelle Schofield of Los Angeles, and Valerie Cathell of Virginia. Each came to us with a desire to not just to cook for a living but to help change their communities. It was inspiring to be with each of them, as well as watch them spur each other on and, ultimately, bond.

Mary, for example, is just entering her career as a personal chef, having attended culinary school and spent time as a private chef and then an educator–even winning the 2012 Foodservice Educator Network International (FENI) award for Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award. “I loved teaching but I wanted to get back into the kitchen again and make people smile,” she says. “This seminar took the fear out of starting my own business.”

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Then there was Jackie, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu with highest honors. She has been employed at a high-end coastal resort and has worked as a line cook, banquet chef, caterer, and healthy cooking teacher. Now she’s interested in focusing her talents on a smaller scale, emphasizing fresh and simple foods for a clientele that appreciates the value of local and organic.

“The weekend seminary was such a great experience,” she says. “You and Dennis are so knowledgeable and also very patient. You really took the time to make sure everyone in the class had a clear understanding of the material. You shared so much about your extensive experience in the business. I gained valuable insight of the business and challenges I might encounter. And, you shared the many rewards of becoming a personal chef.”

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I’m blushing. And, yet, that’s what Dennis and I strive for with these seminars because we want you to return home and feel empowered to get your business going with confidence. We want your takeaway also to be that we’re here for you every step of the way to help you grow your business–whether we do it by email, phone, or over a cup of coffee.

Val, who grew up the child of fabulous cooks, bonded with her family in the kitchen. Like many personal chefs, she hasn’t had formal culinary training, but was always cooking for friends, who asked her to cater events and urged her to go into business for herself. Now she wants to take this ability to feed people and serve others. “I am a very maternal thinker and I do believe we show love with our food,” she says. She writes about food, wants to teach others cooking skills, and loves that she can share her talent with others professionally.

But that doesn’t mean that launching a business automatically leads to success. That’s why she joined APPCA and why she signed up for the seminar. “It was invaluable in helping me understand the important business aspects of being a personal chef. Your instruction was thorough and so entertaining. Your personal stories were wonderful and provided great insights and tips on things to do and not do, like never shop on your own money and always get the fee up front.”

It also gave her the confidence to get the most out of Personal Chef Office and the manual so she can better control and grow her business. “And now that you taught me about the Personal Chef Forum I also know where to look when I have questions.”

On that beautiful Sunday afternoon as everyone was packing up to head home, Val gave me the best compliment I could hope for, “You are an amazing woman. I can see that it comes from the heart. It’s what I aspire to.”

My passion for this work and for helping our members attain their goals does come from the heart. And I hope that Dennis and I can meet more of you in person at our weekend seminars so we can help you take your talent to your community in a way that brings you success and deep satisfaction. Stay tuned for our announcement of our next weekend seminar and be sure to sign up! We can’t wait to see you!


Green screen dreams

For APPCA member Nicole Gaffney, week six of Food Network Star wasn’t a dream experience. This week she and her fellow  contestants were charged with turning their POV into a packaged food product. They each had one hour to cook their product and then had to “sell” it in a commercial featuring a 360-degree green screen and virtual production stage. Each was assigned a theme and our New Jersey girl Nicole got the Wild West.

We knew that could be an issue once we saw her face drop. After all, how does a chef with a coastal point of view sell a product in the desert?

Nicole decided to make a tomato onion jam that she explained to the judges jibed with her coastal POV since it goes great with fish and is a good base for a dish with mussels or clams. Using her nickname, she named the product “Coley’s Coastal Tomato Onion Jam,” and her sales pitch was essentially, “You don’t need to live by the ocean to get the laid back flavors of the shore.” But when she opened her commercial with, “It’s drier out here than Death Valley in Prohibition,” and Bobby Flay’s smile turned into kind of a snicker, we knew she was in trouble and so did she.

Fortunately, her jam was delicious and the judges all gave her raves. But they were honest about her star power going AWOL. Giada De Laurentiis gave her sage advice. “You’re wound up so tight. Let go. Be who you want to be.”

For the first time Nicole was in the bottom three–but she wasn’t eliminated. So, phew. And we’ll see her in Las Vegas next week for week seven!

Have a question about starting up your own personal chef business? Have you been to one of our seminars? Let us know what you learned that weekend! Leave a comment!

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



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