If you’re new to being a personal chef or looking for ways to bring in new clients to your long-time personal chef business, it’s time to get out in front of the public. That’s not as daunting an idea as it may sound. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of venues you may not have even considered as potential promotional opportunities. Some of our members are doing these already. We think you should consider these five–and hope that they’ll spark even more ideas for presenting yourself to your community.

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  • Urban infill new planned communities: Here you have busy people looking for resources for living in their new homes. Why not approach the community manager or marketing manager (with some freshly made eats, your business card, and menu list)? Give the person your pitch for helping new/potential residents learn how to grocery shop, menu plan, and cook ahead for themselves? Yes, that’s the service you want to sell, but a friend of mine refers to it as the butterscotch pudding theory of marketing. That luscious pudding is so good you want the recipe to make it at home–until you learn that candy thermometers and double boilers are involved. Then you just want to enjoy it at the restaurant. As a personal chef, it doesn’t hurt to explain how involved the shopping, menu planning, and cooking are so that new residents want to hire you to do it for them. Alternatively, make a pitch to the marketing manager to do monthly omelet breakfasts for residents. They pay for the food, of course, plus a small fee. One of our members, Sacha Quernheim of Red Zucchini Personal Chef Business has been doing this in her St. Louis community for a couple of years. You can read her tips here.
  • Service clubs: First, you should join clubs you feel an affinity for so you can network and give back to the community. Offer to do a cooking demo or provide light eats for a meeting or event. But be sure to bring your marketing materials with you–the business cards and fliers that have all your current info (including social media accounts) on them. 
  • Bridal shows: Check your local convention center website or city magazine to learn when the bridal shows are in town. Nab a booth and bring edibles to hand out, along with your marketing materials. Not only are these opportunities to sell your personal chef services, but you can also get catering jobs for bridal showers and even weddings–and down the line, baby showers. In fact, check out maternity trade shows, too. After all, who needs a personal chef more than an expectant and then new mom!
  • Wellness conferences and health fairs: If your personal chef business is oriented toward health and wellness, including special diets for special needs clients, you should have a booth at a conference or health fair that brings in people interested in those diets. It’s a ready-made audience. Depending on the costs, you could team up with other personal chefs in the area to split the costs and table time. And don’t just hang out at your booth. Go visit other vendors to network and hand out your marketing materials.
  • Avocational classes: If you live in an area where there are kitchenware retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, or mom and pop shops, find out how you can do cooking demos. Talk to a manager about putting in an application, just like Dallas-based member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine did at Williams-Sonoma. She’s been doing demos for awhile now. And this smart lady even had a friend come in and snap photos and take a video. You can read about her experience with chef demos here. As she said, “I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.”

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Chefs, as business owners you always have to be marketing yourself. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall or are lacking inspiration, look around your community for opportunities. Follow the lead of Sacha and Anne and find venues that are either untapped or totally suit your personality and goals. Then go for it!

Have you found a great venue for marketing your business in your community? Inspire us with your story!

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!

Sacha Quernheim is a personal chef and APPCA member in St. Louis. She runs Red Zucchini Personal Chef Service. We featured her in a post back in October. When we learned she teaches kids’ cooking classes we asked her to write a guest post for us to talk about how she does it. Sacha has some great tips plus a couple of recipes. 

Big Bird Fruit

I held kids’ classes for about two years.  It started out with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and grew over the two years. I started them because I noticed that a lot of my daughter’s friends did not know what fresh food was. I actually had one of my daughter’s friends ask me if a red sweet pepper was real because she had never had one!  

I had about eight to 12 kids in a class at a time. We had classes every Monday night at my home.  The way we would do them would be that I would come up with a menu that has a theme. For example I would do movie night and do popcorn w/chili and cinnamon and a few other menu items that go with that theme. I would have stations set up before the kids arrived with all the ingredients, and equipment to make the dishes. I wrote the recipes for the classes and had them ready for the kids. They would pair up into teams to make each dish. I would then go around and just help them and give them pointers. Some of the kids were in the class for the whole two years. Those kids would tell me that they were cooking at home with and for their parents.  They weren’t afraid of cooking and they were trying new things. 

I would always try to make the recipes with some techniques to teach them. For example, I would have them make something with basil so I could show them how to do a chiffonade. I also made sure that it was something healthy that maybe they don’t usually eat or cook at home. We did homemade ranch dressing with a fresh salad and just things that were very healthy, made from scratch and things they could do at home as well.

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I had a child with autism in my classes as well. He actually loved the class!  He really enjoyed cooking and sometimes he could not do it as fast as the others but he always tried his best. Also, as the classes progressed and got more involved, the other kids were more relaxed and didn’t need as much help from me so I was able to help him with his dishes and the other kids would help him as well. It really was a benefit for all of us to have him in our class and hopefully anyone that holds cooking classes would welcome anyone with disabilities because it really does enrich your life to work with sweet kids such as the little boy I had in my class with autism. Here are a few tips for running kids cooking classes based on what I learned and experienced:

1.  Be prepared,  I found that having all ingredients set out at each station and all equipment makes that little ones more at ease and makes the class go smoother.

2. It does not have to be perfect. The kids will learn and get the experience just by doing it. If the dish does not come out perfect it’s not a big deal. Also, if they don’t do a certain technique correctly no big deal either.  I would always just let them know we really should have done it this way, show them in the recipe and remind them of how to read the recipe, but reassure them by saying it’s okay. We we still eat it!

3.  Its going to get really messy! Kids are messy. They actually enjoy getting messy. So let them. They also take part in the cleaning process as well. They just want to have fun. And if it’s fun for them they will keep coming back and won’t be afraid to cook and try new healthy foods! 

Here are two recipes that the kids loved and many of them told me they make it at home all the time:

Zucchini Mint Pasta-2

Zucchini Mint Pasta

Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

½ lb whole wheat pasta
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 zucchini, cut into medium cubes
1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh basil
½ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup feta cheese, diced

Fill pot with water and salt. Bring to the boil. Add pasta and boil pasta until done. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red onion and zucchini. Sauté until zucchini starts to brown. Turn off heat. Zest whole lemon into skillet. Cut lemon in half and add the juice of the whole lemon. Turn heat back on and add pasta and warm through.

While the red onion and zucchini are sauteing, chiffonade mint and basil. Turn heat off the pan once the pasta is warmed through and add mint, basil, and both cheeses. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Mint Pasta

Chocolate Drizzled Pretzels

1 package large rod pretzels
1 package chocolate chips, or white or caramel
Sprinkles

Fill a saucepan with water half full. Put chips in metal bowl and place over pot of water to create a double boiler. Heat chips over water over medium heat stirring constantly until melted.

Place pretzels on parchment paper. Dip pretzels in melted chocolate and place back on parchment paper to harden. Put sprinkles on chocolate dipped pretzels before chocolate hardens.

You can also melt white or caramel chips and drizzle over pretzels to make design.

Do you teach kids cooking classes? What have you learned about doing it well?

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!

Omelet pic the Laurel

Sacha Quernheim is a personal chef and APPCA member in St. Louis. She runs Red Zucchini Personal Chef Service, which is an umbrella for, yes, regular home clients–but also cooking classes and, get this, omelet breakfasts at luxury apartment buildings.

Sacha has operated Red Zucchini since 2012. For 17 years she had worked at law firms but over the years had been teaching kids cooking classes, starting with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. When she was let go from her law firm job in 2013, she did what many members do who love to cook but don’t know which avenue to take. She went online. Initially she was trying to get into incubator kitchens, but she didn’t know if she wanted to do just cooking classes. As she searched she found APPCA online.

“I thought this would be perfect,” she recalls. “I didn’t know if I wanted to work for someone again or have my own business. So I did the training and it worked out great.”

Sacha began adding clients–she currently has four monthly clients and three every other week. And she started teaching adult cooking classes. Then in Christmas of 2013, she was approached by an insurance company to do an omelet breakfast for their holiday party.

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“It was for about 30 people. I did some research online to figure out how to do it and it went great,” she says. “Then I got the idea to start contacting luxury apartment complexes in the downtown area to see if I could do an omelet breakfast for residents–mostly for marketing purposes. Most do a monthly breakfast anyway. They pay for all the food plus a small fee. I’m up front about my interest in marketing to clients.”

It took awhile for it to click. Sacha tried to get in touch with one of the most well known in the city for a year  and couldn’t get anyone to get back to her. But she persisted and fortunately got a person at the front desk to give her the manager’s name. This time she got a response. “You have to be persistent if you want clients,” Sacha says. And now most invite her back month after month.

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Recently she prepared a rooftop breakfast for 100 people and donated her services to Pedal the Cause, a popular fundraiser in St. Louis for bike riders raising money for cancer research.

How does the omelet breakfast work?

Omelet Toppings

Usually, says Sacha, she has an omelet station, with choices including ham, bacon, peppers, and mushrooms. She also serves something sweet to accompany the omelets, like her sweet lime fruit salad, chocolate-covered strawberries, or chocolate-covered pretzels with chili and cinnamon sprinkle. The onsite manager will provide drinks, like coffee and juice, mimosas, and bloody Mary’s. She confers with the manager about who is responsible for supplying plates, napkins, utensils, and cups. Sometimes, they have them, Sacha says, but you need to confirm that. And, she says, don’t forget to bring business cards or other marketing materials that guests can take with them. Remember, this is a combination revenue stream and marketing opportunity.

Omelet

Sacha found that the best way to organize the event is to shop, drop off the food, and prep the day before, then come in early in the morning on the day of the event to get set up. She’ll even crack and mix the eggs in pitchers, then cover them in plastic wrap the day before since they’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for the next day and it saves a lot of time the morning of the event. She notes that most have kitchens available but she’s done them without a kitchen–and she always brings induction burners so she can prepare the omelets while facing guests.

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Sacha is working on getting more breakfast omelet clients in other luxury buildings and other companies–although she points out that companies tend to be resistant because they get solicited a lot.

She’s also teaching classes once or twice a month at her premier luxury building client. These buildings like to engage with residents and have events for them, so Sacha’s classes fit that niche.

Sacha has some tips for those just starting out and trying to figure out how to get clients:

  1. Market yourself. Do it every week even if you don’t need more clients.  This is essential.
  2. Phone calls are always better than email. People tend to ignore emails now. So I always call to follow up. I also send an email after the call if I get voicemail. But people are more apt to pick up the phone if you call rather than dealing with another email.
  3. Be persistent! I always follow up if I get voicemail or if I don’t get a response. I have been told by people that they are impressed by this. Some people will call or send an email and never follow up and they lose business this way. If I get voicemail or no response to an email I put a note on my calendar for a week to follow up again. I never pester people and keep calling over and over if they don’t answer but I do call once a week until they answer. If they tell me they are not interested that’s fine; I just need an answer.

What kinds of gigs fall under your personal chef umbrella? What are you trying to pursue to add to your repertoire and client list?

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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