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We’ve talked recently about the importance of marketing, including taking your expertise to video and television. So I was tickled to see one of our members, Jes Thomas of Soul Food: A Personal Chef Service in Knoxville promoting her TV appearances on Facebook. If you want to learn how she has made this leap, read on.

Jes has only been a personal chef for a year. “I have always loved eating, which led me to the path of cooking,” she says. “I have been leading college ministry at my church as well as homeschooling my children. Now that they are older I have freer weekdays. I honed my skills in cooking because of all the events and gathering related to church and community. People always asked if I would ever open a restaurant but that is too much of a headache. The joy comes from people who feel ‘filled,’ both physically and emotionally. I love when my food helps them. Personal chefs combine all the best parts of cooking for others. My customers have a need and I get to fill it in a personally fulfilling way.”



Jes came to food through her work in advertising and public relations for a year following college, where she earned a BA in Mass Communication and a Masters degree in Religions Education. At the firm, Jes worked in departments with food clients and learned about gourmet foods because she was in charge of ordering the upscale lunches for client meetings in New York City. Around that time she also started baking and collecting recipes as well as take random cooking classes at kitchen stores. When she moved to her small town in Appalachia, she began to explore “cooking from scratch” because their rural town didn’t have many restaurants or specialty grocery stores. She used videos on for more education. And she spent a week in New York City at the Institute of Culinary Education, learning to make croissants, bagels, and pretzels, as well as a boot camp for gourmet cooking.

Last year, Jes took the APPCA certificate class with Candy Wallace. Part of the training included learning how to contact media outlets, which complemented her knowledge of how to write press releases. Jes says her strategy was to make her free website as professional as she could without paying for extra bells and whistles. She set up social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and About Me and then started following all the major news people in the closest city where she wanted to work. “I was hoping some of them would notice and follow me back,” she explains.

Jes got her first break when she saw that the ABC affiliate, WATE, asked the audience to send in news ideas. “I wrote up a press release about myself and the business and emailed it to the hosts of Good Morning Tennessee,” she says. “Then I tweeted the hosts and let them know I sent them the e-mail. They wrote me back and said they were interested. Within a few weeks, I was interviewed about the business.

“That is how I landed my first regular client,” she says.


After that, Jes pursued the WBIR, the NBC affiliate, because they had a kitchen on set. She sent another press release to the producer, tweeted her, and she wrote back. After her first on air appearance, the producer asked if Jes would be interested in coming back. “I have been there monthly since then. It would be great if it were a paid gig, but I will take the free publicity any day!”

Garlic potatoes

Here’s the link to her latest WBIR appearance, during which she made the garlic potatoes above:

As anyone who has done this knows, it can be tricky to cook on air while holding a conversation with the hosts. Jes acknowledges that it takes a lot of practice.

“I practice cooking at home and explaining it.  My first few segments, I practiced the ‘script’ in my head and tried to think of all the points I wanted to cover.  You’ll notice in a couple of the segments, Russell Biven, the co-host, jokes around with me. I must say, that did distract me and I lost my train of thought. There are actually quite a few blunders I have made, but I have done a lot of teaching in different subjects so I have learned to ad-lib!

“I took public speaking in college and grad school. I still get nervous about messing up, but I think that is what keeps me on my toes. I am up front every week at my church of about 100 people doing announcements and a lot of that is ad lib with my husband. Keeping thing light hearted and fun is my goal.”

At this point, Jess has a few local shows under her belt: Live at 5 at Four on the NBC affiliate, Fox in the Morning in Knoxville, and Good Morning Tennessee, which has invited her back–even though they have no kitchen. “The great thing is now I have connections on these shows, so if I want to do something different with the business I can get in touch with them and have a place to promote it.”

Have you done television spots to promote your business? How did you find your way in? How has it helped your business?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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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