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No doubt you’re seeing an explosion of advertising from easy meal prep businesses and your eyes are rolling or perhaps you’re even panicking just a little. Well, Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, is going to talk you off the ledge– if you’re on it. Read why she is adamant that these businesses are no challenge to you:

Here we go again…Almost 10 years ago personal chefs were concerned with potential competition from the “Easy Prep” meal preparation locations such as Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, Dinner Studios, to name a few, popping up all over the U.S.

APPCA said, don’t worry; these franchised “assemble your own dinners” and take them back to your home don’t provide the level of customized meal service prepared from all fresh ingredients to the client’s taste, often in the safety of the client’s own kitchen. In fact, the easy prep meals were assembled from components that came right off the back of a big food service delivery truck and were more often than not pre-prepared components that contained fillers, stabilizers and preservatives, soups that were re-constituted, and sauces that came in cans. NOT the guarantee of all fresh ingredients supplied and shopped for daily by personal chefs and prepared from scratch for their client’s enjoyment.

The easy prep fad came and went fairly quickly and the personal chef career path continued to grow and thrive. This year will mark the 24th year of the introduction of the personal chef career path in the culinary industry. APPCA is proud to have been responsible for its growth, validation as a legitimate culinary career path by the ACF, for having published the definitive textbook for the industry, and for having co-created professional certification for private and personal chefs through the third-party certification partnership with ACF. It has been an exciting time for personal chefs who had the courage to leave the traditional career choices and strike out on their own to build a culinary business of their own that allowed them to support their families and loved ones by cooking, but also allowed them to create a business of their own with the ability to control their own professional destiny.

Now we have several new players on the field and it will be interesting to see how they play out.

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The first new twist is similar to the easy prep premise, but differs in that the components for the recipes that are provided are delivered to the client’s doorstep. Some of these new delivery companies are Blue Apron, Fresh Direct, and Plated. The customer gets most of the ingredients, but still has to prep and prepare each meal using the supplied recipe; the only difference between this business and your customer’s everyday life is simple; they don’t have to shop at the grocery store for ingredients.

I am trying to see the big advantage to the customer since this delivery system actually doesn’t altogether eliminate the need to go to the market. They expect them to have some basics–and they still need to shop for other items, like toilet paper, dog food, laundry soap, milk, yogurt, bottled water, ice cream, and wine on a regular basis, so where is the benefit?

ingredients spread out

Unlike the service provided by a personal chef, the “easy prep but delivered to your door” services do NOT customize recipes to the customer’s wants and needs, and the customer must still prep, assemble, and clean up after each dish is prepared at the end of a busy and often stressful workday. Adding to the stress, sometimes the recipes don’t work. Where is the benefit?

The other new kid in town is something described as “Uber for private chefs”…

OK, I’m curious, so I asked the person who called to say they would be supplying clients for all of our chefs in the new future, what Uber for private chefs was, and was he certain he meant private chefs?

It quickly became clear he did not know the difference between private and personal chefs, but he made it clear he didn’t care about knowing what that difference was.

His premise for the business is to supply an app like Uber where a hungry client could go to the app and order a chef to immediately appear on command on site to prepare a meal…

I asked if these “chefs” were really trained chefs, whether they had business licenses, general liability insurance, culinary training, those kinds of fun things, but he said he couldn’t tell me any of that because it was secret. OK…secret…got it.

Next, we have the Airbnb version of the business. This time, the customer is able, through an app, to locate an individual in any city who is willing and purportedly capable of cooking them a meal that the client would go and enjoy in the cook’s home…

Some of these folks, who turned out to be home cooks of varying degrees of skill, have been calling APPCA wanting to get liability insurance through us. Apparently, the start up folks are directing them to us and telling them they can just call and we will cover them. It breaks my heart to turn them away because many of them are truly earnest in their desire to cook for clients, but most of them have no sanitation training, no training at all, no business licenses, no inkling of local regulations and licensing requirements. Someone is going to get hurt or get sick. I could not glean any criteria they must meet to protect the clients that use their service.

I know the internet was supposed to simplify our lives, but this does not appear to be well thought out.

Not everything we do needs to be ordered up on an app, and if all of those fun Silicon Valley start up geniuses are going to continue to create business apps, I wish they would make certain that the business is well conceived, provides a genuine service to the potential customer, and is safe and legitimate.

I know the Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and easy prep instant delivery concept is exploding but the “right now” system isn’t automatically “right” for everyone. And, especially, when it comes to food preparation, the public needs to be careful about who is making their meals, what kinds of ingredients they’re using, how much–if any–expertise they have in meeting special needs diets, and, most important, how well trained they are in food safety.

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So, be very proud of the custom services you offer as personal chefs. You are trained, scratch cooks with
municipal business licenses, safe food handling certifications, and you are carrying $2 million in specific personal chef general liability insurance coverage. The service you provide regular clients is custom designed and palate specific to each client’s wants and needs, including meals specific to a client’s medical challenges. All of the meals are prepared from scratch using only the freshest and safest ingredients available in your locality. We can promise our clients a safe food source.

As personal chefs, you do the shopping for fresh provisions daily and prepare delicious custom designed meals either in the safety of the client’s kitchen or in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen.

Personal chefs truly provide convenience, delicious custom designed meals, and a degree of personal service and attention to the client’s preferences and desired level of culinary expertise seldom experienced outside the services of a full time private chef.

Let’s see how the new services on the block hold up or evolve…this should be fun to watch.

Personal Chefs ROCK!!!

Have clients been talking to you about these easy prep services? What are you telling 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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Our organization’s name is the Association of Personal and Private Chefs of America. It seems straightforward, yet there still remains confusion over the difference between personal and private chefs–and, to my chagrin–the terms are frequently used interchangeably.

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity here to make the distinctions because they are, in fact, quite different animals.

Let’s talk about private chefs first. Remember Rosie Daley, Oprah Winfrey’s private chef who got a lot of publicity in that role? Or Art Smith, who also worked as a private chef for Oprah for 10 years? These two are examples of a chef as an employee. Private chefs like Rosie and Art receive a paycheck and, hopefully, benefits.

Chef Art Smith with Chef Candy Wallace at FENI 2011

Private chefs satisfy the culinary needs of their employers, usually preparing three fresh meals daily, along with any other entertaining, creating menus for parties, perhaps business meals–essentially whatever the client, excuse me, employer–wants. Some private chefs travel with the boss, especially if he or she maintains multiple homes. Since they’re subject to their client’s business, social, and family schedules, it’s often necessary to disappear into service, with long hours and work schedules frequently par for the course.

And, don’t be surprised if you encounter the need for security clearances, drug testing, and confidentiality agreements. You’ll likely need to be well versed in etiquette and protocol. And you’ll be expected to have culinary training and experience, as well as rock-solid references.

Unlike private chefs, personal chefs are entrepreneurs operating their own small business. They don’t have a single employer but instead numerous clients. They determine their own level of service, pricing, location, and availability. They locate and schedule their own clients.

When we created the personal chef career path, it was with the goal of offering an alternative for culinary pros who chose to no longer cook in commercial situations. That included women chefs who wanted to have and raise children as the heart of the household, chefs who are also family caregivers and need flexibility in their schedules, chefs of a certain age who choose to extend their professional careers, and chefs who choose to own and operate their own small culinary business without the financial and time-intensive commitment of owning a restaurant.

As the profession has grown it’s also come to include culinary school grads who may or may not have worked the line in a restaurant. Others are adept home cooks who want to put their skills to use for others. Some have degrees in nutrition or are dieticians. They may specialize in gluten-free or low-carb diets, weight loss, paleo, cancer or other disease-related nutrition–or be generalists. They may have a full schedule of regular clients–or prefer to service just one or two. Their business. Their rules.

Hidden Harves

Unlike private chefs who are employees, personal chefs create their own income stream through their small business. And to generate that income, many personal chefs also have multiple revenue streams under their personal chef brand umbrella. They may cater parties or other events for clients and others. They may offer cooking classes or do cooking demos at local shops or events. They can be authors, speakers, and media personalities. One of our members, Nicole Gaffney, is currently competing on Food Network Star. (see below)

How do they learn how to run what can be a complex business? Well, that’s where we come in. We have honed our training process to help our members get started quickly so they can achieve success in the shortest amount of time. We have forums where you can chat with your colleagues to share and get information. We have seminars and videos. We have social media. All these together help personal chefs–and private chefs, too–get the information and support they need to make their business work for them.

Being a personal chef is hard work, but it has proven to be appealing on so many levels. Many personal chefs feel it’s a calling and that they’re serving their clients and their community through their food and knowledge about food. Others have wanted to find a culinary alternative to restaurants where grueling hours and low pay sap the life out of them. By creating their own business, they can make a living cooking what they want, when they want, and for whom they want. Being a personal chef allows you to be a culinary professional on your own terms.

You can hear more on my thoughts about what it takes to become a successful personal chef in this video I made for our partner Escoffier Online:

 

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Nicole Gaffney

APPCA member Nicole Gaffney did it again! In the first part of this week’s competition, she helped talk Alton Brown through the breading part of making chicken fried steak, something she acknowledged she didn’t make or eat since it’s not a dish popular in New Jersey. But she offered what Brown felt were good tips. Then came the elimination part of the show, in which the contestants had to prepare a dish out of random pantry ingredients in front of the camera with Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli serving as the “viewer” following them and simultaneously making the dish. Nicole created a couscous salad with arugula. Bobby Flay liked her salad and her kitchen tips. Alton Brown thought she was adaptable and offered cogent instructions. Yes, she needs to pump up the energy level, they said, but she was unquestionably in for another week. So tune in next Sunday night to cheer her own! 

Have you channeled your passion for food? Do you have any questions about becoming a personal or private chef?

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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