Little Chef Izzy

If you’ve ever enjoyed watching the food competition shows that feature children–Top Chef Junior, Kids Baking Championship, Chopped Junior, and MasterChef Junior, just to name a few–they might just take you back to your days as a child in the kitchen. Or not. While it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch kids wield the kind of culinary technique most adults can only dream of, many of us who grew up cooking had much more modest skills that were honed only later in life.

If you’re on Instagram you might also have come across a precocious British three-year-old named Little Chef Izzy, who has actually been on the platform since September 2019. According to a story about her in MyRecipes, she’s been baking cupcakes, gingerbread men, pizza, and more since before she was two.

Little Izzy may have talents way beyond what we had at that age but it does make you think about what kids are capable of and how we should encourage them in the kitchen. After all, isn’t that what molded us?

“My mom had me at the counter watching and helping at three,” recalls APPCA member Christine Robinson. When asked how she helped and what was the first dish she made by herself, it wasn’t quite up to Instagram’s Little Chef Izzy, but instead more relatable to those of us whose adventures in the kitchen were more, well, childlike. What I love about Christine’s cooking adventure was just how resourceful she was.

“Um…that was the ill-fated creamed potato experiment,” explains Christine. “I was under specific instructions to never turn on burners nor the oven and to never use the sharp knives. So my mom made the best creamed potatoes. All I knew was that there were potatoes, sour cream and butter. But how to make them on my own without breaking my restrictions? I got out a small stainless saucepan and cut the (not peeled) potato with a butter knife, dumped sour cream in with a stick of butter and climbed on the counter to utilize the only heat source I was allowed to use, the metal toaster. I set the pan atop the toaster and proceeded to turn it on to its highest setting, hit the switch, and stirred furiously with a metal fork. I chose all conductive metal for the project. Every time the toaster would, pop I would press the switch down again and resume stirring.

“This went on for a good 15 minutes,” Christine continues, “until my mom walked in and started screaming I was going to electrocute myself. Needless to say, it was a failed experiment. I lost toaster privileges and we moved on to supervised baking after that.”

Okay, pull yourself together and stop laughing. Christine was just more creative than most kids.

Yes, we all have stories. Here’s mine. I was about three–and this is my first memory period–when my dad decided to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. Yes, I was way behind Izzy… Instead of putting me on a step stool, he held me over the stove and gave me the spatula to let me stir the curds into what would become breakfast. I was never a science geek but watching the runny yolks and whites solidify into soft pale yellow buttery mounds was transformative. I ended up learning how to make all sorts of dishes from my parents, from meatloaf (how much fun is it to sink your clean hands in a bowl with cold ground beef, a couple of eggs, ketchup, matzo meal, and spices and mush it all together), roast chicken, flank steak spirals, and lamb chops. I made salads and set the table. I made coffee in the morning for my parents and still recall the pop of opening a new can of MJB and the heady aroma that burst out. Or arguing with my siblings over who got to lick the spoon and the bowl from the cake or brownie batter and cookie dough we made with our mom. Yes, we three were raised in the kitchen.

As soon as APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel was tall enough to reach the stove, she recalls making spaghetti and meat sauce. And, like many of us, there were what we now call “dump cakes.”

“My mom used to keep boxed cakes in the house for my friends and me to make,” Shelbie says. “She said it was good for us to read the directions and learn to measure… this was probably fourth to fifth grade.”

Jennifer Grawburg asked her mom to teach her at age 13. The dish was Jiffy Blueberry Muffins. “My grandma and my mother were good home cooks and inspired me to be the chef I am now.

Grandparents make learning how to cook and bake special. Anne Blankenship says that she was probably seven or eight years old when she made “kitty kat pancakes (two circles and ears) with her grandfather. “I was lucky to have a mother, grandfather and two grandmothers from whom I learned to cook,” she says.

So, what are you doing to help a new young generation of children to learn how to cook? Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, there are all sorts of dishes you can teach them to prepare–at the level they’re at. It could be starting with measuring ingredients or stirring them together, learning how to read a recipe, or just offering tastes to get them interested in new flavors. Older kids can learn knife skills, how to sauté or fry or bake a loaf of bread. Teach them favorite family recipes and recipes that are deeply part of their heritage.

Teach them how to feed themselves and those they love and gain a skill that helps them be independent.

And then teach them how to do the dishes.

How old were you when you first learned to cook? What did you make?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

So, what week of the coronavirus shut down are we in? I’m losing track. How about you? What I do know is that many of us have lost work and are trying to hold things together–both financially and emotionally. So, here’s a suggestion: put your talent to work in a different way and hold online cooking classes.

Already I’m hearing about APPCA members trying this out. In fact, member Shelbie Hafter Wassel shot me a message inviting me to take a look at her new video on Facebook, which she later uploaded to YouTube, shot by her husband Jerry. Here she offers a couple of recipes for making fish. Check it out!

So, here’s what I’m thinking. You have clients. You have recipes. You may have limited access to groceries but no doubt you have a fridge and freezer packed with food. Why not learn to use a new technology while you have some down time, engage your current clients, social media promote the heck of your video classes to get new ones when this crisis ends–and maybe even make some money while you’re at it?

Money? You can earn money making a video? Well, there are at least half a dozen platforms that could enable you to earn some money holding online cooking classes. Let’s discuss.

Skype: You probably are already familiar with Skype. So, why not use it for an interactive online cooking class? You can charge a fee and share recipes for the class ahead of time so your participants can follow along. Maybe you teach a knife skills class with recipes based on various skills you teach. Or perhaps you create a meal kit for clients and include this interactive online class to teach them how to use it?

Google Hangouts Chat: You can do the same thing on Google Hangouts Meet as with Skype. Take a look at this invite from San Diego chef Jason Roehm, who regularly teaches via this platform. The class is live, followed by recipes. He charges $25 for a two-hour class and sells the tickets via a link to Eventbrite.

Patreon: Here’s how this website describes itself: “Patreon powers membership businesses for creators by giving them the tools they need to acquire, manage, and energize their paying patrons. With a subscription-style payment model, fans pay their favorite creators a monthly amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive access, extra content, or a closer look into their creative journey.”

As The Street describes it, “Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that enables fans (or patrons) to pay and support artists for their work. For producers of videos, webcomics, music, podcasts and more, Patreon is a way to earn extra money on what might otherwise be free content, and allows fans to contribute to their favorite artist’s platform.”

The site allows creators to set up monthly, subscription-style payment tiers. Creators can also charge an upfront payment instead–and that remains permanent. Your “patrons” can join by creating an account and pledging money to you, with subscription options sorted by different payment tiers or per-post options for content. According to their site, Patreon takes 5% of the amount paid to creators in fees. Creators keep some 90% of their revenues, with an additional 5% going to transaction fees.

Vēmos: Vēmos allows creators to host interactive classes that enable participate to engage with you. You can sell tickets to attend your virtual class to earn income from your home. Vēmos uses Stripe Connect. This allows ticket sales to be deposited directly into your account as soon as sales role in. They don’t charge a monthly subscription fee. Instead, a 10 percent fee is added to the consumer buying the ticket, with a maximum fee of $9.95 per ticket. You select the price point for each ticket for the class. Vēmos has a step-by-step guide for starting an event.

Zoom: I hate to say it, but if you haven’t heard of Zoom in the last few weeks you’ve been living under a rock (and probably safer there). Zoom has become the default platform for video conferencing for the coronavirus shelter at home worker. But why not make it work for you for earning some money with virtual cooking classes? It’s free. It’s easy to sign up. Perhaps use Eventbrite to sell tickets and then you can round up your students at the time you teach the class.

Now you may not make a ton of money doing this, but every little bit can help. Plus, you learn a new tool and can flex your muscles working on a new angle to promote yourself and your business.

Have you started doing video cooking classes? What’s your experience been like?

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!

This falls under the category of “there’s no proof but it just feels right:” Talented cooks love to share what they do. They are often innate teachers.

If I’m wrong, forgive me. But if you’re a personal chef and you find yourself instructing your kids or friends in the kitchen… well… And perhaps you should consider releasing that inner teacher to the world–and earn some money while doing it.

Not sure if this is your thing or if you’ve got game? Round up some friends for a cooking session and try it out. Then find an organization that could use a volunteer to teach kids cooking or teach adults in transition for housing. I’ve done both, bringing an understanding of how to cook low-cost but healthy meals, complete with recipes and it was very satisfying.

With that under your belt you could go in several directions.

APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef in Baltimore actually started teaching classes before she became a personal chef.

Shelbie Wassel

“This was years before social media,” she said. “I ran an ad in a local rag, taught a series of three ethnic cuisine classes. Years later, after joining the APPCA, I met a fellow chef here in Baltimore who was giving up her teaching gig at the community college and she suggested that I apply. The reality is that community colleges are dying to get instructors for adult Ed classes. Just contact them and offer your services. The pay isn’t great, but it can become a marketing tool for other jobs. I loved my students and found it rewarding!”

Angela Felice Cerezo of Amore Kitchen in San Diego teaches cooking classes for kids along with adults. “I do kids cooking camps because I used to be a school teacher,” she explained. “I include lessons in etiquette, nutrition, cleanliness, and more. I mostly teach Italian cooking classes.”

Perry E. McCown of Thyme is Precious in Roseland, California, is also interested in working with kids. “I am in the process of writing a plan to teach a group of kids (10 aging from 5 to 10) a few skills leading to a meal they can own and make for their families in the future. An educate and empower kids in the kitchen class. Probably a salad, dressing, pasta with chicken and a sauce… maybe cookies or a pie…”

Depending on your situation, you could teach from your home or a client’s. In fact, one of your personal chef services could include cooking class parties. Of course, you need to research your local jurisdiction to find out what the rules are.

And, while Amazon has effectively caused the closing of many local housewares shops, chains like Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma still offer cooking classes, which means they need teachers. Check those out, as well as any local shops in your area.

What should you charge? Wassel explained that it depends on the menu. “Unlike my PC clients who pay chef fee plus groceries, I usually charge a flat fee,” she said. “I think about my grocery bill and factor in my time and the amount of students. It also depends on my crowd. Are we talking homemade pizza for kids or a sophisticated menu for adults? Adding a wine pairing requires an expert (which I am not), so that’s another element.”

You could also research cooking classes in your area to learn the going rates and work backwards from there in terms of pricing your food and expenses, not to mention time.

For any of this you’ll need to market your new services. Tell your current clients. Tell your friends and family. Promote it on Facebook and other social media. Certainly set up a new page on your business website that outlines your class offerings. And as you start teaching, post lots of great photos.

Clearly, this isn’t a comprehensive guide to teaching cooking classes, but think of it as a way to turn on a light bulb in your head for launching a new business line. As we grow closer to a new year, you’ll want to be considering how you want to shake up your business and find additional ways to bring in income under your personal chef umbrella.

Do you teach cooking classes? How did you get started and how has it evolved?

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!

Ask a personal chef for his or her pet peeve and the answer may just be the irritation of people calling them caterers.

“It’s over 20 years in and people still refer to me as a caterer,” said longtime APPCA member Phyllis Segura. “For 20 years I’ve been correcting them. A personal chef, a private chef, is not a caterer.”

“Happens to me too,” said Jodi Giroux. “Same person over and over, ‘How’s your catering business?’ My same response, ‘My personal chef business is going well, thanks!’ I may/may not give another explanation of the difference. Also, people refer me as a caterer on the local Advice site pages. STOP…I’m a personal chef! I’ll just add my website.”

If you’re a personal chef and this aggravates you, too, maybe we should have some definitions at the ready. You, as a personal chef, prepare custom meals for clients in their homes or in a rental kitchen for them to reheat and enjoy throughout the week or whatever your arrangement is. You often create menus tailored for specific needs–from cancer diets, anti-inflammatory diets, low fat or gluten free diets to cardio, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of you are trained dietitians or nutritionists. Others of you have developed an area of specialization. But the word “personal” is there for a reason.

Catering may be a service under your personal chef umbrella but it’s altogether different. It’s preparing food and drink for a one-time event.

As chef Renee DuBose explained, “Catering is a whole other beast that requires offsite kitchens, special licenses, permits, and a crew of many talents. Plus, you get into the rental arena for tables, dinnerware, etc. You need multiple contracts…..who’s liable for specific situations, set up, break down, clean up, trash hauling, the list goes on. It is a much more intense job, but you also get volume which can balance costs.

“My mind gets all tangled up thinking about it all,” she added. “I don’t think people, in general, really take into consideration all the things needed to make a large party gig happen. I have much respect for caterers, but personally am not equipped to handle it as a solo chef.”

Of course, not all catered events are massive. Perhaps you have a personal chef client who wants you to cater a special anniversary dinner party or a holiday brunch. We have members who include that kind of service, along with others, such as teaching cooking classes.

APPCA members Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have actually come up with a way to clarify the distinctions between their personal cheffing and in-home catering.

“Most view caterers as those who service parties or dinners rather than those who prepare off-site and finish when they arrive so we say we cater small parties,” said Nosko. “I tell them we are not full-service caterers and explain. We also send out IHC How it Works.”

He explained that the IHC is a word document they send out to people along with their menus. “We have one document designed for our personal chef side and another for our In Home Catering. The IHC How it Works document will let them know about a deposit… what part of the process that we do and what is the responsibility of the client. After this, we will direct clients to rental companies and waiter/bartender service providers if necessary.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Of course, Robinson often has to address a very different irritating issue: sexist assumptions.

“Dennis and I are partners in life and in business ….there are still those who hire us who assume I am the assistant and I have heard many people say in 20 years, ‘Thank you Chef Dennis….and Christine….,'” she said.

She’s not the only one. “happens to me ALL the time!,” said Carol Crikelair Taradyna of The Occasional Chefs. “My new husband and I just laugh now. I started the business 12 years ago down here in Forida. He joined me a few years back when we first met. I could be at a job for hours. He walks in and they swarm all over him saying, ‘Hello, Chef!'”

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

As member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service joked about the personal chef versus caterer confusion, “I get it! But, hey… we could be called worse!”

Chefs, have people referred to you as a caterer? What’s your response?

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!

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