Part tradition, part cliché, New Year’s resolutions are inescapable. We vow to eat healthier, exercise, and in general seek self-improvement–and often lapse. But there’s something cleansing, optimistic, and inspiring about resolutions. And they help guide us to better decisions–whether personally or professionally.

In that spirit, we asked several APPCA members for their resolutions. And what we got back is indeed inspiring. We hope you’ll read these thoughtful remarks, then weigh your plans for 2018 and how you can make your life richer, happier, and more meaningful.

Anne Blankenship
Designed Cuisine

It has been a good year for me and it is SO ironic that when I finally get my business to where I want it, I’m having to slow down.  Very happy with my current client base and have room for 1 more but have a lot to consider.

My knees have gotten pretty bad and I found out this summer that I will have to have BOTH knees replaced when the time comes.  That will be April, 2019, after I receive Medicare.  Simply waiting for that to happen right now and trying to get by as best I can.  What’s so funny to me is that I can stand and prep/cook for 4-5 hours but trying to get off a curb is another story!

Therefore, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to start making plans for when I have to slow down.  I have a colleague/good friend who is interested in the personal chef business and is an outstanding cook.  We went to the same culinary school (although at different times) & have worked together in catering over the years.  So my resolution is to help her really improve her business Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as her LinkedIn profile.  I’m going to work with her on creating a Yelp business page and Google as well.  Short of creating a website for her, I am going to try and help increase traffic for her so that she can grow her business.  I refer a lot of inquiries to her that are for parties, since I only do up to 20 people.  (That was a big decision this year).

Since I am interested in teaching when I retire (March, 2020) I worked on that this year (wrote that article for A La Minute for you about that) and am keeping in touch with the community college where I plan to teach.  In addition, I signed up to help the American Culinary Federation with a project for exam questions for Certified Culinarians (I just did my due diligence this year to keep my certification).  I have done the paperwork part and will be participating in a webinar in January to help with that project.  This was a good refresher for me on the basics and is helpful for me if I am going to teach in the future.

I will have to take a break for rehab when I get the knees fixed in 2019, then hopefully back to my clients for 6  months and then retirement in March, 2020.  So helping to get my friend’s business strengthened and keeping up with continuing education are going to be on the front burner for me next year.

Javier Fuertes
The DinnerMaker

I have already started on some “resolutions”.   I have a newer, updated web site that I need to really concentrate on more for 2018 and get it to where it needs to be. Increase more traffic to it. Perhaps start a blog for it (Ohh Carol, I need some help…..  haha!)

Overall, I did get complacent in recent years with the business and, well, 2018 will be a year to get back to where I was a few years ago.

Besides that, I have my fitness side of business to work on some more. I am putting an income figure as a goal for that. A 3 month , a 6 month, and by next year.

Personal goals…. to get back to running a full marathon. I am currently committed to running the Marine Corps Marathon next October. With all the injuries I had this 2017, I can really use a good, healthy injury- free 2018.

Nancy Cordi
Mediterrania Chef Services

In 2018, I am looking forward to attending the Food and Wine festival in Aspen and New York as well as graduate from Escoffier International Culinary Academy! Hope you have a prosperous 2018!

Gloria Bakst
Chef Gloria B

My resolutions for this year are to give more speaking engagements and to do more consulting. I have been honored to speak/consult at the National Institutes of Health in May of 2018  for a rare form of cancer. It is their annual conference and will be in Maryland for the weekend. I’m coordinating with the director of the program and the chef at the conference a healthy food menu (hearty appetizers)with food stations all having cancer-friendly foods. I will also be doing individual consulting with some of the guests regarding their food concerns.  I will be doing a food demonstration  too.  There will be international guests, doctors, and patients with this form of cancer attending.  I’m very excited about doing this. It is the direction I’d like to move at this stage in my life. I am still happily cooking meals for my clients who have health issues. But as we get older standing on our feet all day is more challenging to our bodies!

April Lee
Tastefully Yours, Personal Chef Services

Resolutions: (1) To honor and guard private, sacred space/time for my Self and keep firm boundaries regarding time spent between my personal and business lives. (2) To expand the reach of the charitable side of my business, the Stone Soup Project which prepares and delivers free weekly meals to food-insecure seniors and families (by cutting back the number of regular meal service clients I have), and (3) To get to bed before 1 or 2 a.m. every night! (The last one will be the hardest to accomplish.)

Context: This year was particularly bad for my family as my 14-year old nephew died in January, having suffered more than 3 years of continuous hospitalization for a very aggressive form of childhood leukemia. My father was diagnosed in late July with terminal cancer; my mother suffered a stroke 10 days later (and is still disabled, in rehab, with no more insurance extensions after Dec. 24th); my father died in October, and here we are.

Life goes on. Life is sad, and life is sweet. Life is difficult and frustrating, and life is filled with blessings. There will always be fragrant herbs and happy flowers in my garden. There will always be good friends along with good food and wine to accompany great laughter … and tears. There will always be the hungry to feed, desperate lives that we can touch, because we can. Because we can, and isn’t that fantastic?

Happy new year to all. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to explore your passions and dreams.

Carol Borchardt
A Thought for Food and From a Chef’s Kitchen

I don’t plan to do very many things where my personal chef business is concerned. After almost 16 years, I’ve got it down pretty good. However, I’ll be continuing to work heavily on my blog. The passive income I’m receiving just because people are viewing my blog is pretty lovely.

Suzy Brown
the Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

At the end of the year I will become a Certified Essential Oils Coach. With that my New Years resolution is I am starting to build the nutrition leg of my business.

The nutrition business will be called Thyme to Heal. I will be teaching classes and working with people one on one, showing them how to incorporate essential oils into their culinary creations and live a healthier life.

Shelbie Wassel
Shallots Personal Chef

For me, this coming year will be about giving back. I’ve reached a point in my business, where I’m actually happy with my client load and I’m enjoying working part time.  I would like to get more involved with helping the homeless and those who are panhandling in my community. And, on a more selfish note, I plan on lots of travel!  Starting with SE Asia this February… lots of cooking classes and fun eating in my future!

Jim Huff
Traveling Culinary Artist

My simple resolution for 2018: Stop saying I’m semi-retired….and actually ACT like I’m semi-retired!  Or should I say: Work less…play more?  I’ll pass on all the extra business that the trickle-down economics creates (tongue buried in cheek!)

Happy and successful New Year to All!

Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosco
A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service

Where to start:

We are committed to organizing ourselves, honing in on more specialized menu plans and lists for Paleo, Primal, Keto, and Gluten-free menus—all areas of specialty but the lists and ideas are in mish mush lists…

Update and upgrade our website….well over due…I have already redesigned and ordered our new business cards…

Our own health and well being…after our loss in August of 2016 we were told by friends, family, and health care professionals that 2017 was for us…we got a taste of reality and had long and pointed conversations on our personal goals, as far as exercise and eating…we are currently on a cleanse for candida (revealed as a true problem for both of us—we finally landed on the right protocol,) and even in the face of holiday temptation, are doing very well and having the results we need.

Our time off…we are crazy with work and need to slow down, reorganize, learn to say “No,” and “When,” and “You have got to be kidding….”

Getting our house in order—2 years after moving we have curtains needing hanging, organizational stuff, spot painting, and all sorts of little stuff that we have put off…

So I guess the best summation is that we will be taking everything up a level or two, not in a ridiculous or unrealistic manner, but in a way that we will see results and then push forward…

The Merriest, Happiest, and Healthiest of holidays to each and every one of you…

Keith Steury
The Food Sherpa

2017 has been a solid year of business growth for me.  As is so often the case in life, it is a bit of mixed blessing.  More clients has been great for the bottom line, but it is quickly becoming apparent that I can’t continue to work at this pace for the long-term.  So, my over-arching resolution for 2018 is to figure out how to maintain/regain the balance between my professional and personal life (and amen to April’s comment about getting more sleep – lump me in on that one too)!

My big idea for 2018 is to block out time at the start of each quarter to identify concrete and achievable steps that I can take over each 3-month period to sharpen my focus as the year progresses and keep on track toward my over-arching resolution.  There is a lot of noise these days, so the more focus, the better!  Big initiatives I hope to tackle in 2018 (which are all very inter-related) include:

  • Business Expansion Plan
    • Documenting all business processes
    • Hiring a P/T Administrative Assistant
    • Updating my business plan for ongoing growth
  • Marketing Plan Review
    • Updating my website to ensure compliance with the latest industry standards
    • Refining my social media presence & usage
  • Networking/Mentoring/Professional Involvement
    • Establishing a relationship with the local Career Center, which provides technical/vocational programs for high school students in our County, including a culinary track.  I’d like to get more involved in this area, to potentially include giving presentations, demonstrations, or other related involvement with students who are interested in a career in the culinary arts.

Best of luck to everyone in 2018.  I hope business is good, life is balanced, and that you are all able to take some time to slow down and enjoy the holidays!

Heike Ashcroft
Just for You Personal Chef

Here is a quick response from Germany:

– I will be working on growing my regular client base
– I will be working on branching out into other directions to grow my business
– I will be working on my website and social media platforms
– and last but not least, I will be continuing to develop my culinary skills – obviously one of the most important aspects of my career.

Are you a dedicated culinarian seeking a career change? How’s this for a resolution: become a personal 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.

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

One  of the things we have tried to reinforce for personal chefs as a way to increase business is raising your profile in your community. Now this can happen in a variety of ways–public speaking, chef demos, and teaching cooking classes, for example. But it can also take the form of media participation. If you’re doing something unusual, like helping an organization raise money you could send out a press release to local newspaper editors. You could also send out releases based on your professional expertise, such as a personal chef’s tips for how to manage holiday cooking. These could lead to stories written about you or inclusion in a larger piece. Just being out in the community could lead to media attention you weren’t even anticipating. Or you could strive to get a regular column in a local publication or website or contribute to a blog (like this one).

Three of our members have gotten some media love recently, and we thought we’d share each with you as inspiration for what you can do in your community–and to give them some blog love!

Heike Ashcroft

Heike Ashcroft runs Just for You Personal Chef from Boston’s South Shore. She was featured in Wicked Local Hanover in November. The story highlighted her personal training license and background in nutrition, how she runs her business, and even interviewed one of her clients, Catherine Hummel and her husband Andrew Danieli of Marshfield, who have been utilizing Ashcroft as their personal chef for a year and a half.

“’Heike is unbelievable in her caring, her creativity and professionalism…we have gained our life back,’ said Hummel.

“Hummel said the couple is saving about 15-16 hours a week by not having to cook themselves, and creating more quality time with each other.

“’It is absolutely the best decision we have ever made,’ said Hummel. ‘It saved our health, our energy… even saved our relationship.’”

Heike isn’t really sure how the local newspaper’s interest in her and her business came about. All the reporter could do was tell her she got the request to write the piece from her editor. But, Heike’s best guess is something you should keep in mind as you decide how to market your business:

“I catered for a local fundraising event in a town nearby; the fundraiser was advertised in the town’s paper and it mentioned me as the caterer,” Heike recounted. “A friend of mine actually sent me a photo of the ad and, funnily enough, two days later I received a request for the interview.”

Note to self: Accept fundraising catering gig. You never know what will come of it later in the form of publicity and business.

April Lee

April Lee is a long-time personal chef in Baltimore. She was included in a recent round up of food-related activities in The Baltimore Sun. The piece highlighted her business, Tastefully Yours Professional Chef Services by Chef April Lee, and focused on her in-home cooking classes.

“’When I teach people in their homes, they’re the ones who do the hands-on work, using whatever equipment they have,’” she says. “’During the lesson, I will make recommendations on how they can best use what they already own.’”

Like Heike, April still doesn’t know how the story came to be. “This is a local lifestyle magazine and they were doing an article about interesting things families could do together. I don’t know whether someone referred my name to them or whether they just googled me,” she said.

Carol Borchardt

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Memphis, however, knows exactly how she got her gig with Community Table by Parade Magazine. Carol, who had written a regular column for her local newspaper until earlier this year when the paper had to make cuts, has also branched out with a successful blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. She has a huge social media presence that helps feed traffic to the site.

“Community Table by Parade Magazine invites people to apply to become paid contributors,” she explained. “That’s all I did!  They do like for people to have an active social media following such as 10,000 FB “likes.”  I’m only at about 7,800, however, they liked what they saw on my blog and saw my potential for growth so accepted me.”

Carol has been writing for Parade since last March. Recently, she wrote a round-up of Breakfast Casseroles from food bloggers, noting, “I can pretty much do anything food related.”

So, what’s the secret to getting this kind of attention?

April gives a lot of credit to having a robust and well maintained website. “I will say that it’s important to keep your website current and do what it takes so that your name/site comes up as one of the first few for your particular county/area … all that SEO stuff.”

Carol would advise anyone who is looking for media attention to get active in their local food community–going to events, helping out at events. She said that’s where the local news media is going to be and it’s prime time to get noticed.

“The way I got the newspaper gig was to become more visible and I met a local food columnist who in turn worked with the newspaper to get me the gig,” she said.

And, when one gig goes away–like that local column did for Carol–consider it an opportunity to take up something else. For Carol the time she spent on the column instead went into developing her blog, which, in turn, led to the Parade gig.

Heike is making the most out of the local story on her. She’s put a link to the article on her Chef Heike Facebook page and her website. And, guess what–following the article’s publication, she received business inquiries and is in the process of following them up.

“I am thinking of re-publishing the link on FB at the beginning of the new year as people will get back into their daily routine after the holidays and may have renewed interest,” she added. “I am also hoping to have the budget next year to re-design my website for it be to more interactive so that I can easily post recipes; links to news articles; or write short blog entrees. I am learning step by step to market my business on social media, and for now try to balance my time between cooking and posting and keeping a presence on FB and Instagram.”

She’s working it! And it may lead to future articles–or writing for publications herself, like Carol.

The big takeaway? Be out there, talk up your business and your achievements, and take advantage of opportunities–or create them yourself.

Have you been featured in your local publication? How did it happen and what did you then do with it?

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 past weekend, MARC (the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter) held its annual meeting with Keith Steury as president. In preparation for it, member April Lee of Tastefully Yours Personal Chef Services contacted housewares manufacturer Fagor to learn about any new products and asked if they could give our members a good deal on their equipment.

Fagor Induction Pro Cooktop Black

Well, April got the deal. Fagor is giving all APPCA members in good standing a 50% discount on their stovetop pressure cookers, their electric multicookers (pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker all in one), as well as their portable induction cooktops, with free shipping (offer is limited to two items per person).

Fagor LUXTM Multicooker: 4 qt Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker , Rice Cooker and Yogurt Maker.

The sale is only good through October 24th.

To place an order, you’ll need to use this order form. Click on the form, download it, and complete it. Then send your order to:

FAGOR AMERICA,  INC.
1099 Wall Street West, Suite 387
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071

Attn:  APPCA  50% Offer

Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. There’s a limit of 2 items of each per order and one order per person.

 

Fagor Duo 8 qt Pressure Cooker

Is this a good deal? Well, here’s what April has to say about the electric pressure cookers:

“The biggest point I made is that using these big, 8-quart electric pressure cookers is a godsend for personal chefs because they free up burners on the stove. Plus, they automatically come to the proper pressure so you don’t need to babysit the units. I may use three of these at once which takes care of three entrees (e.g., Corned Beef Brisket, Thai Green Curry Chicken, and Moroccan Lamb Stew) while I focus on other dishes. In one hour or less, I can have three main dishes done that would have taken 3 to 4 hours if cooked conventionally on the stovetop or in low, slow oven. The Fagor 50% off deal with free shipping is very sweet!”
What’s your favorite cookware line? Are you an electric pressure cooker user?

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!

All too often on our private forums and our Facebook pages, we hear from chefs about sketchy and downright fraudulent communications they receive that seemingly inquire about personal chef services. In reality, these missives are almost always phishing scams.

Here’s a typical one that several chefs around the country received about five years ago:

Hello,
I’m in need of a professional chef to handle surprise birthday party i’m planning for my Husband upon our return from Quito, Ecuador. We’re here right now on vacation and my husband will be turning 45 on 28th of this month while our return is slated for 27th but we’re looking at planning the party between 28th Nov and 8th Dec. As you would see, there’s hardly any time for me to make all the plans myself so i want to hire a professional chef on standy for that day who would cater for at least 20 friends/family members for a sit down dinner party style. Kindly respond back to let me know how much you charge and if you’re able to accept payment in form of check so we can finalize plans long before our return.
Thanks.
(Tee Marcy)

As member April Lee of Tastefully Yours explained, these phishing scams have many things in common, “most noticeably is poor English, poor grammar or improper use of capital letters and punctuation (although I’ve noticed that the scam emails have gotten a little better about this over the years).”

She added that the context of scams also follow certain themes:

  • Vacationing in “fill-in-the-blank” area with family and needing meals for everyone for one to two weeks (or more)
  • Need to throw a surprise party/dinner with little advance notice, but inquirer is impossible to contact directly via telephone (because s/he is in the military and overseas, or s/he is deaf and doesn’t communicate by telephone) and they cannot give a physical address of the venue
  • Wanting to hire you for the event without even talking to you
  • Requesting a bizarre menu, ranging from 100 wrapped chicken salad sandwiches to everything that’s listed on a deli menu somewhere
  • Offering to send a driver to pick up the food and/or deliver a check. Many times they offer to send you a big check and will ask you to pay the driver when they get there.

Seasoned email recipients who have endured their fair share of banking requests from Nigerian princes will immediately see that these emails that are too good to be true are. But all too often personal chef newbies, eager for new gigs, are vulnerable to these scams. And, as Lee pointed out, they can stand to lose thousands of dollars to rip-off artists.

How do they do it? APPCA Executive Director Candy Wallace explained that once they lure you with the full service for an extended time, ask you to submit menu plans, and basically befriend you, they then go for the close.

“What they want is the chef’s banking information so they can clean out the chef’s account,” Candy said. And, she added, while that letter above is typical, they are growing more sophisticated.

“You could at one time spot these right off the bat because the scammers use of the English language was so bad, or their lack of knowledge of food was also a tip,” she said, “but they have done their homework and present a much more believable scenario.”

So, how do you protect yourself?

Christine Robinson, who with partner Dennis Nosko, owns A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service, suggests several tactics: “Google the person contacting you; ask questions, pointed questions; use common sense; and, if you doubt what is sent, use the APPCA Forums, ask, run it past people you know.”

Candy has offered some tips of her own on our forums:

  • Watch out for “phishy” emails. The most common form of phishing is emails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization, or government agency. The sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed, an order for something has been placed in your name, or your information has been lost because of a computer problem. Another tactic phishers use is to say they’re from the fraud departments of well-known companies and ask to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft! In one case, a phisher claimed to be from a state lottery commission and requested people’s banking information to deposit their “winnings” in their accounts.
  • Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that looks just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. If you follow the instructions and enter your personal information on the Web site, you’ll deliver it directly into the hands of identity thieves. To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call it directly or go to its Web site (use a search engine to find it).
  • Beware of “pharming.” In this latest version of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you’re taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
  • Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company’s, organization’s, or agency’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you against pharming and other techniques that phishers use. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer – which is especially important if you have a broadband connection because your computer is open to the Internet whenever it’s turned on. Look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches that manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems. Go to www.onguardonline.gov and www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to keep your computer secure.Also check out Microsoft Phishing Info page: http://www.microsoft.com/secur…ishing-symptoms.aspx
  • Only open email attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain. Even if the messages look like they came from people you know, they could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal your personal information.

You can report internet scams to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and to Consumer Fraud Reporting:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

Oh, and are you tempted to reply with a scathing little letter of your own? Yeah, it’s almost irresistible to give them a taste of their own medicine and some of our chefs have responded with rather brilliant responses. But a word of warning. Often these scammers will send emails to test if the email address is live (not unlike those annoying telemarketing calls you also get). Don’t respond, just trash the email and move on in your life.

But not before checking in on our Forum. Yes, we have one specifically dealing with Internet frauds issues. If you’re an APPCA member, this is a benefit you should take advantage of.

Have you gotten fraudulent, phishing emails? How did you handle it?

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!

Given the size of our national APPCA membership, Candy had suggested years ago that members gather regionally to better get to network and share information. The MidAtlantic Chef Chapter, or MARC, has long been an active and tight-knit group with a membership currently at 19. In April they announced a new slate of officers:

Keith Steury

President: Keith Steury of The Food Sherpa

Treasurer: April Lee of Tastefully Yours

Secretary: Katie Enterline of The Grateful Table

The first agenda item will be identifying a date to meet for their fall gathering–a potluck at member Iva Stanic’s home in Olney, Maryland. Then, of course, if the big two-day Spring meeting for 2018 that Steury hopes will include a trip to a pick-your-own working farm in Virginia.

Why join a member chapter? Well, Steury, whose business is based in Arlington, Virginia, explained that he joined the MARC chapter a few years ago.

“Before that I was a member of the APPCA, but I did not really have any meaningful personal connections to other chefs who were also running their own PC businesses,” he said. “Joining this group has helped me to make these connections and has proved very valuable to me. I am hopeful that we will continue to provide support to both current and potential new members during my tenure as chapter president.”  

Katie Enterline

In his own words, Steury’s plans for his tenure as president include:

  1. Providing cross-referrals for new business: This is something that we already do a lot within our chapter and it is really a great thing. There are ebbs and flows in everyone’s businesses and times when we could all use a new client. Referrals are an excellent way to accelerate this process. This is also a very nice feature for new members and those new to the personal chef industry, because it gives them an immediate connection to potential new clients and the support of other chefs in the process of acquiring them.
  2. Supporting each other and helping each other to succeed:  The APPCA provides a solid foundation and frame-work for how to run a successful PC business, but there is also room for each individual chef to modify things to fit their unique preferences. The chapter provides a great forum for discussing ideas, tips, pitfalls, and related information about running a PC business. There are a lot of smart people with creative ideas in the chapter, and they are open and willing to share this information with their fellow chefs.  This helps everyone to improve their businesses and be more successful. 
  3. Being aware of market changes and how to differentiate ourselves as personal chefs:  I am amazed at how much things have changed since I started my PC business back in 2007. Back then, the concept of a PC was still pretty novel (at least here in Northern VA). Now, not so much. In addition, there is a lot more competition in the marketplace, so I think that makes our job more challenging. Now more than ever, I think it is important to be educated about the market and to take the time to identify and explain how we as PCs differentiate ourselves from these other options. We save our clients valuable time, we provide a custom experience/solution (to often complex problems), and we do it all while cultivating a meaningful relationship with a focus on excellent customer service.

April Lee

We wish the MARC chapter a productive and fulfilling year! If any of you would like to start a chapter in your region, please reach out to Candy and she can help you get it up and running!

Do you know any fellow APPCA members in your community or region? How do you network with other personal chefs–or do you?

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!

Candy and I have been talking about all the various issues that crop up for personal chefs over the holidays. So we have several posts planned to help you get through the season and do some planning for the coming year. For this post, we look at catering over the holidays.

“If you’re a personal chef who includes catering under your business umbrella–or you’re making the leap this year–then the holidays can be a time when you’re booking fewer Monday through Friday meal service cook dates and instead booking more cocktail and dinner parties through the end of the year,” said Candy. “There’s no more critical time to have a plan and strategy for catering these very special events. Perhaps your clients don’t have optimal kitchen facilities for prepping the dishes. Then you need to book commercial space. No doubt you’ll need special equipment. You’ll have to come up with a formula to have the right amount of food–and know what kind of food works best in a buffet and how to plan portions. You need to know how to display and present your dishes and tables.”

predit

Candy realized that the best source for all this advice was already pulled together by Chef April Lee of Tastefully Yours. Some of you who attended the 2013 Personal Chef Summit probably heard her make this presentation. But for those of you who weren’t there–or want a refresher–here it is. Many thanks to April for updating her presentation for this post–especially given the busy holiday season!

Let the holiday season begin! Happy Delicious Holidays from Candy, Dennis, and me!

Buffets and Banquets: How to Please a Crowd
By April Lee

Planning and Organization: More than just date, place, time, and number of guests
Here are the basics you need to address:

  • Client’s budget (add 5 percent overage for unexpected expenses)
  • Additional help (sous chef, assistants, bartender, etc.)
  • You must have everything spelled out in the contract, including what you are NOT providing, because you don’t want any surprises the day of the event, such as your client asking you if you brought table linens, champagne glasses, or other party supplies/equipment.For large events, you need to include the expense for renting a commercial kitchen, which may include extra fees for refrigerated storage of prepared food.
  • Onsite visit is mandatory. Here’s what to look for:
    • Availability of equipment/rental of equipment
    • Access, layout and flow
    • Where to set up staging and holding areas
    • Where to store supplies
    • Where electrical outlets are located
    • Access time
    • Parking availability

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Equipment: Another key component of planning and organization

  • Insulated Food Carriers (Cambro) – food safety first and always
  • Instant-read thermometers
  • Chafers/Steam Tables and chafing fuel
  • Warming Trays
  • Buffet Servers
  • Insulated coolers
  • Freezable ice sheets
  • Folding 6-foot banquet tables
  • Platters & Bowls (all sizes, shapes): White ceramic is best
  • Butane lighters
  • Table sign holders
  • Extras! You need to bring extras of everything so make sure you’re able to transport not only all the food, but all of the equipment.

 

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What Kind of Food: What works and doesn’t work on a buffet?
What Works:

  • Long braised or slow cooked meats (e.g., Beer Braised Short Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Osso Buco, etc.)
  • Casseroles (e.g, Lasagna, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Strata, Moussaka, etc.)
  • Meats with gravies or glazes
  • Sauced meats with rice, mashed potatoes, pasta (Moroccan Lamb Stew, Beef Stroganoff, Coq au Vin, etc.)
  • Contrasting textures from different cooking methods
  • Contrasting colors
  • Balance between cold and hot foods
  • Balance between expensive and inexpensive foods (always place more expensive dishes toward the end of the buffet)

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Fried foods, in general (e.g., tempura veggies, fries, etc.)
  • Foods which are runny (e.g., au jus, brothy dishes, etc.)
  • Foods which require extra utensils (e.g., seafood forks)
  • Clashing cuisines and overpowering, unbalanced flavors
  • Foods of the same color
  • Foods of the same texture
  • Rare to medium rare beef or delicate seafood in chafers (these items will always overcook just sitting in food warmers)

How Much Food: These are the standard minimums for buffets ranging from 25 to more than 100 people.

  • 2 to 3 Entrées (meat, poultry, seafood)
  • 1 Non-Meat Entrée
  • 1 to 2 Hot Starches (potatoes, pasta, rice or other grain)
  • 1 to 2 Hot Vegetable (one green, one non-green, 2 textures)
  • 1 to 2 Salads
  • Bread/rolls (optional, dependent on menu)
  • 2 to 3 Desserts
  • Beverages and Coffee Station

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Biggest Question: Portion Size and Number of Portions

This is, by far, the most important question I get asked all the time: How much of each dish? This is also a most critical aspect to understand; otherwise you could end up (1) underestimating the cost and having to eat the extra expense yourself or (2) overestimating the amount needed and ending up with an enormous excess of food which is not just a waste of resources but will be seen as a waste of the client’s money and unprofessional on your part for grossly miscalculating what was needed for the event.

There are several factors that can affect portion size. These include the purpose of the event (e.g., art exhibition reception versus wedding reception), the age and gender of the guests (younger people eat more), the time of day and length of the event, and any pre- or post-event functions. Mid-afternoon or late evening receptions which aren’t meant to serve as a meal require less food than events which are meant to include full meals (this includes heavy hors d’oeuvres buffets).

AP versus EP: This is a crucial concept to understand. In order to make accurate cost estimates, “as purchased” (AP) versus “edible portions” (EP) calculations must be made before you make a formal job quote to your client. AP refers to how you buy any particular ingredient (e.g., whole, untrimmed beef tenderloin). EP refers to the finished product result after you have prepped and cooked it. So, with a whole beef tenderloin, for example, you’ll lose a great deal due to waste/trimming plus shrinkage from cooking, perhaps losing as much as 20% of the total raw weight to get to the finished product. This means that the yield (the EP) is only 80% of the total raw weight of the meat. If you want to serve 100 people 4 oz. of tenderloin, then you will need 400 oz. or 25 pounds EP (which is after it is prepped and cooked). But you will need to buy about 31 pounds AP of untrimmed whole tenderloin in order to get your yield of 25 pounds EP (31 x 0.80 = 24.80). Obviously, other proteins which don’t require much trimming, e.g., boneless, skinless chicken breasts, will have a smaller percentage of loss, maybe 10%, so your calculations will depend on the type and cut of protein.

AP versus EP calculations affect everything, however, not just proteins. If you buy 1o pounds of romaine lettuce heads, you will end up with about 8 pounds or less after you discard the outer leaves and the tough ribs. With grains and pasta, the numbers go the other way: 10 pounds of dry pasta will yield almost 18 pounds of cooked pasta. It is essential that you use the food production charts (sample charts below) to help you estimate the amount of each type of food to buy in order to meet the needs of your client’s event without miscalculating either the cost or amounts. There are very detailed and definitive AP vs. EP charts available in catering handbooks and food production textbooks. (References listed below Food Portion/Quantity Chart below)

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

 

Microsoft Word - GRAINS YIELD CHART.docx

When preparing entrée buffets (lunch or dinner), you’ll need half-size portions for all entrees (3 to 4 ounces per person EP) and half-size or smaller portions for sides, depending on the number of sides offered (2 to 3 ounces per person EP) and whether there will be dessert as well. Most guests want a taste of everything so will tend to take half-size portions (or smaller in some cases, like lasagna).

Hors D’Oeuvres and Appetizer Dinner Buffets

These, of course, are the most time-consuming and labor-intensive food. They’re the most difficult food to transport safely and the most space-consuming food to store. So, choose time-efficient recipes–not just easy ones. It’s okay to use purchased products as part of the display, but remember that quality is first and foremost, the end product must be top notch, and use high-end resources.

The number of selections and number of pieces per person is dependent upon the type of event being catered:

For one-hour receptions: 4 different foods, 6 to 8 pieces per person

For longer lunch or dinner receptions (2 to 3 hours): Minimum of 6 different tastes, 10 to 12 pieces person or 12 to 15 pieces with desserts

For food not in pieces, such as soft cheeses, spreads, dips, terrines, and pates, plan on 1 ounce per person.

 

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Display and Presentation: We eat with our eyes first!

Delicious food is one component of catering. Making it look not just appealing but irresistible is another. Here are some things to keep in mind as you design your presentation:

  • Think color: Contrasting food colors and boldly colored fabrics, not just tablecloths. Fabric remnants are wonderful display accessories.
  • Think height: Vary the height of platters and trays; use vertical containers or displays for food; tilt cold trays/platters on two corners towards guests. Glass blocks (used for showers and basements) from the hardware store make beautiful and stable risers for heavy bowls and platters. Wrap sturdy boxes in brightly colored or iridescent wrapping paper to use as risers for lighter platters and baskets.
  • Think textures: Vary cooking methods for differently textured foods; use different fabric textures on the table(s)
  • Think space: Don’t crowd food; leave 18 inches for each dish; set off food against white space for a clean and uncluttered display

Think WOW! Here are some resources for getting inspired to make your presentation pop!

Take a look at websites which feature beautiful hors d’oeuvres or small plate foods. These can include your favorite tapas restaurant or catering industry supply vendors, because seeing professionally designed small ware or miniature food items (chocolate shells, baked cones, etc.) will inspire you. You’ll get an instant idea of what your own creations will look like, presented in creative and eye-catching ways. They may even give you new ideas for appetizers that you can offer to your clients. The following companies have particularly well-designed sites with great photos which will excite and motivate you:

  • Albert Ulster Imports (www.auifinefoods.com): Edible food vessels (savory and sweet), decorations, glazes, personalized chocolates, molecular gastronomy supplies, etc.
  • Restaurant Ware (www.restaurantware.com): “Fashion for Food” – specializing in small ware: plastic, bamboo, glass in every shape and size. There’s no way you will peruse this site without coming away with new ideas!
  • Appetizers USA (appetizersusa.com): Over 200 different hors d’oeuvres from which many hotels, caterers, country clubs, and other foodservice companies order. Can order by tray, not by the case.

Good luck and have fun wowing your clients and their guests this holiday season!

Are you making the leap into catering for the holidays this year? What are your biggest concerns? If you’re experienced, what are your tips for newbies?

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.

Photos courtesy of April Lee

About a year ago APPCA member and personal chef Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Baltimore got a call from a gentleman who asked her if she remembered him from one of her classes that he had attended with his wife. “I did remember them,” she says. “He was asking what I was planning on teaching the following semester and told me that my class had changed his life! He and his wife began cooking at home and had subsequently changed his diet for the better, and had become passionate about cooking! It was an activity he could share with his wife and it brought them closer. He has become one of my biggest fans! Wow! It makes me feel like a rock star!”

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Need a reason to teach cooking classes? That pretty much sums it all up, don’t you think?

Okay, let’s stipulate up front that teaching is not for everyone–for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people and feel cooking for others by yourself in a kitchen is enough. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe the idea of showing others how to do what you have perfected is not your idea of a pleasurable experience. You all can move on.

However, if you’ve been toying with the idea of teaching cooking classes but weren’t sure of what is involved and need gentle encouragement from colleagues, we’ve got some tips for you to help you make that satisfying leap.

Our experience is that many personal chefs have developed multiple income streams which complement their personal chef services, one of which is teaching cooking or demo classes since we believe personal chefs are by their very nature teachers. After all, we teach our clients how to use our services effectively and efficiently. We also teach them how to make healthy choices and to pass that information on to their children so they can grow up to be healthy adults. We answer client’s questions about food sources, cooking techniques, and recipes regularly. So, to my mind it makes sense to teach officially and be paid to pass along that knowledge–or donate that expertise and support to a non-profit group that needs our skills and expertise to help people in need.

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These classes or demonstrations can take place in the client’s home, at a local venue, a vocational cooking school, a community college, or a demonstration kitchen facility. The size, layout, and facilities will determine whether the class will be a demonstration or hands on.

Think about it, you could hold cooking class dinner parties or luncheon’s in a client’s home. You could do event demos at fairs or market openings–or market tours followed by a demo. You could hold classes in a community center, a farmers market, a rental kitchen–even your own kitchen. You can certainly teach adults, but you can also teach kids and teens–or families. One woman I know holds brunch cooking classes on her boat in the San Diego Bay.

Member April Lee of Tastefully Yours, also in Baltimore, has been teaching cooking classes for 30 years, starting with after-school cooking classes for kids with the county government. “I’ve taught everything from basic cooking skills to cuisine-based classes to customized classes dealing with special diets,” says April. “I’ve also taught classes dealing with party appetizers, holiday dinners, and theme dinners. I teach because I love sharing my passion for cooking with others and I don’t want people to think that cooking is mysterious or to be intimidated by it.”

April Lee lorez

April Lee

April’s venues have ranged from using commercial kitchens in county-owned facilities to teaching in client homes or a commercial kitchen she rents. Marketing the classes for the county is done through the county’s course catalogs. For private classes, she says it tends to be word of mouth. “I taught a series of Asian cooking classes several years ago, starting with a tour of Asian markets and introducing students to various produce, sauces, and other ingredients. From that point on, word got out about my classes and I’ve had a steady following ever since. I’m currently developing a new set of fun classes and will market them to my personal chef clients as well as my students in about a month–just in time for people to buy gift certificates for the holidays.”

Beth Volpe of Savory Eats by Beth in L.A. is relatively new to the business but she’s been teaching grilling classes to adults and teens in client homes. “I actually love teaching because I love to share what I know and what I learn,” says. “I started the grilling class because a client I do dinner parties for wanted to learn to grill. I don’t market. They come to me through my website, referral, or Thumbtack [a site that lets you find professionals to handle various jobs].”

Beth charges an hourly rate with a minimum of two hours, plus the cost of food. If you’re teaching for a local government organization or community college, the rates are likely to already be established and are probably not very high. Shelbie, who has been teaching cooking classes for more than 20 years often teaches a class or two every semester at the local community college, which dictates the prices. But, she points out, each student pays her directly at each class for the cost of the groceries. She charges students of her private classes–dinner party classes, demos for women’s groups, etc.–based on the number of students, the menu, and the location. “A class of 12 could begin at $60 per person and go up,” she explains. “A private class for one could be $250.”

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie uses Facebook to promote her group classes. The community college handles marketing for her cooking classes with them–although she also promotes them on Facebook. “I also keep a running email list of interested students and alert them to upcoming classes. Occasionally, I receive inquiries through my website from folks wanting private classes or dinner party classes and I keep a Word document handy that I can send them with some examples of classes I’ve taught in the past.”

Between us, we’ve come up with a handful of tips for aspiring cooking teachers:

  • You must be 1000 percent organized. Know your recipes and ingredients. Know what to do if something goes wrong–because inevitably it will and you’ll have to prove to your students that there are fixes.
  • You’ll always need more equipment than you think you do (i.e., sheet pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards) because you usually can’t stop to wash them while teaching.
  • Keep your recipes and jargon uncomplicated. You probably don’t know what level of cooking experience your students have.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse so you are comfortable talking in front of people while performing tasks. Be sure you time yourself so the class is completed within the time allotted.
  • Instead of providing printed recipes at the class, offer to send them to students later to keep them focused on what you’re doing.
  • Prep ahead of time to keep things during class moving. Call on volunteers to help and pass things around the group to keep them involved.
  • Have anecdotes relevant to what you’re cooking? Use them!
  • Know how to charge so you make money. If you’re volunteering or working for a non-profit with limited funds, accept the gig with the knowledge that you’re doing it for personal reasons. Otherwise you want the highest WOTDF (walk out the door fee) you believe you can charge. We tell chefs not to leave their homes for less than $250 per cook date, so you need to figure out how that translates for cooking classes. Remember to factor in the cost of groceries, and cost of extra labor (such as an assistant to help you clean up as you’re demoing).
  • If you’re on social media, use it tenaciously to market your classes, along with the rest of your business.
  • Most important: bring high energy and enthusiasm! If you can’t be enthusiastic about teaching, don’t do it. If you’re enjoying yourself, your students will, too. They’ll care, they’ll hear, they’ll feel empowered to go home and try it themselves. Which is the whole point of this, right!

And, remember, APPCA members are here for each other. We have lots of great conversations about teaching classes and other business-related issues on our forums. Feel free to log in and ask away–or offer your own input to others. I often chime in as well.

Do you aspire to teach cooking classes? What is your pressing question? Do you teach? Give us a tip or two based on your experience!

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.

 

Christmas is tomorrow so I thought I’d look at what makes the holiday so special to so many of us—in fact what makes so many holidays special to us: the food that is so significant a part of our cultural identity. Our traditional foods are how we express our family history and reverence for where we come from all over the world. It’s what brought us together each day with our knees under the family table interacting, sharing, teaching, sometimes torturing, and always celebrating one another as a family.

Food is especially significant at holiday time when many families who have become spread out geographically come together to celebrate their faith and cultural ritual. Preservation of and presentation of family recipes enhances the experience of who we are, where we come from and how we celebrate life within our cultures.

I grew up in a large Eastern European family. Meals were prepared from food we had raised, harvested, or slaughtered, preserved and prepared. When we were not cooking or eating as a family, we were planning upcoming meals and talking about food and family. Most holiday dinners involved a clear soup, two entrees, polenta or home-made pasta, two salads, vegetable sides, and fresh fruit. This meal would be prepared and served for sometimes more than 40 family members and took days to prepare.

It was wonderful to hear your traditions. Kathy Dederich of Chef Please in Arkansas,  told us of her childhood  travels to her grandparents’ home in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving or Christmas where she loved a dish called suelze. “Grandma would get about four or five pounds of fresh pork hocks and cook them in a pot of water, vinegar, onions, and bay leaves until the meat came off the bone,” she recalls. Clearly, that recipe was lovingly handed down to her. She describes making the rest of the dish by straining the remaining liquid, then grinding the meat and skin, dissolving gelatin into liquid, adding the meat, mixing, and then putting it into molds or bread pans where it sits in the refrigerator to set, resulting in a dish that has a little aspic on top.

Kathy Dederich's Suelze

Kathy Dederich’s Suelze with capers and tomatoes

This dish resonated with Amber Guthrie of Salt of the Hearth in Colombia, Mo., who recalls her in-laws’ family traditions from Guyana. “You cannot have Christmas without curry (chicken or beef or goat), pepper pot, garlic pork, and black cake. Amber’s garlic pork recipe is included here.

Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York remembers his mother’s descriptions of Pennsylvania Dutch dishes of her childhood, including a fascination with hog maw (sometimes called Pig’s Stomach, Susquehanna Turkey, or Pennsylvania Dutch Goose). “It’s made from a cleaned pig’s stomach traditionally stuffed with cubed potatoes and loose pork sausage, as well as cabbage, onions, and spices.” According to Jim, it was boiled in a large pot of water, like Scottish haggis, but it can also be baked, broiled, or split, then drizzled with butter and served hot on a platter cut into slices or cold as a sandwich. “I remember enjoying this dish at a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant with my grandmother in Lancaster on my first Christmas away from home 44 years ago!,” he recalls.

April Lee of Tastefully Yours in Baltimore was married to a Jamaican and tells us of Christmas breakfasts in her house when her kids were young. “There was ackee and saltfish, fried plantains, bammy, bread fruit, and boiled mashed green bananas,” she says. “Dinner might be curried goat, oxtail stew, rice and peas, sorrel punch, and, of course, Jamaican Christmas Cake, a dark, dense, moist, and very boozy fruitcake.”

And, Judy Harvey of The Dinner Lady in New Jersey, goes back to her southern roots to celebrate New Year’s Day with collard greens and black-eyed peas, along with roast pork shoulder, southern cornbread, and, of course, sweet tea.

On our Facebook page, Lizzy Brown shared childhood memories of waking early and making banana nut muffins, the smell filling the house. “But I made sure to write that recipe in my recipe book and told the kids they would always have it to make for their children.” Joan Angelis remembers her parents making home-made ravioli with ground beef and spinach filling covered in tomato sauce. Croeins Kitchen still makes her grandfather’s stuffing of ground meat, mushrooms, chestnuts, herbs, onion, and sweet potato, while Gladys Valiente has Sopa Azteca or Mexican Tortilla Soup in her heart. Anne-Lise Lindquist-Slocum dreams of Danish roast goose and red cabbage with cognac in the gravy. And, Moira Douglas lives for her chestnut stuffing and Nana’s shortbread.

Each year at Christmas my grandmother would prepare an Eastern European walnut strudel-like creation to everyone’s delight. Povitica. The children would line up out the kitchen door into the dining room to await the removal of these 4-pound delights from the hot oven, just to breathe in the heady scent of walnuts, and spices emanating from the ovens.

Whatever your family recipe is, whether it is a soup, pasta, empanada, tamale, 7-fish dinner, turkey, prime rib, or the culturally questionable green bean casserole, celebrate it and share it with loved ones who look forward to coming together to share memories, stories and food made by loved ones that reflect the family history and identity.

As Grandmother Marta Vinovich always told us, “Respect the harvest, keep it simple, and eat with people you love.”

Happy Holidays to everyone! Cook and eat with your family every chance you get!

Walnut Povitica

From Candy Wallace
Yield: 1, 4-pound loaf

Dough

1/2 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 cup hot milk
4 1/2 cups flour

Filling

1 cup milk
4 cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Stir sugar, salt and butter into hot milk; cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl; stir to dissolve. Stir in lukewarm milk mixture. Add 2 eggs and 2 1/2 cups flour; beat at high speed with electric mixer. With a wooden spoon gradually beat in remaining 2 cups flour. Knead by hand until dough is stiff enough to leave side of bowl. Place dough in lightly greased large bowl. Turn the dough over to bring up greased side. Cover with a towel; let rise in warm place, free from drafts, until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

To make filling, brown nuts. In a pot over heat, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and milk until milk is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Stir filling to blend well.

Shape dough; punch down dough. On lightly floured surface turn out dough; cover with bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Roll out to a rectangle 30 inches long by 20 inches wide. Spread with filling, to 1 inch from the edge. Starting from wide side, roll up tightly, as for a jelly roll. With palms of hands, roll back and forth so that roll is even all over. On large greased cookie sheet form roll into a large coil, seam side down. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and brush the roll with the melted butter. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden. Cool on wire rack. Slice crosswise ¼-inch thick.

Povitica Bread (photo reprinted with permission from Krissy's Creations)

Povitica Bread (photo reprinted with permission from Krissy’s Creations)

Garlic Pork
From Amber Guthrie

This recipe is from my mother in law. The measurements are estimates since she doesn’t measure.

8-pound pork roast (lean pork not recommended)
5 heads of garlic
30 or so hot peppers
1 cup dried thyme
1 to 2 tablespoons salt
Vinegar

In food processor or blender pulse garlic, peppers, thyme, salt and about ½ to ¾ cup vinegar, just enough vinegar to get it going. Taste. Although the vinegar will overpower, you should taste the flavors of each ingredient.  Adjust seasonings. Then add another 1 to 1 ½ cups vinegar and blend some more.

Cut up pork into big chunks. Add marinade and mix thoroughly. Place into a big glass mason jar with lid. Add additional vinegar to cover if need be. Let it sit for three days on the counter, stirring each day.

Amber Guthrie's Garlic Pork at marinating stage

Amber Guthrie’s Garlic Pork at marinating stage

On Christmas morning, spoon out some pork with a slotted spoon leaving marinade behind and pan fry (non-stick pan works best) on med-high heat (be sure to run your vent on high…those spicy vinegar vapors are no joke). Once it’s nice and browned and some of the fat has rendered, lower the heat slightly, cover and allow to simmer until the meat is tender. Add just a smidgen of water and/or tiny drizzle of oil if moisture needed. Once tender, remove lid and allow liquid to cook off. Eat with fried eggs and flata (roti) and drink tea or cocoa. And listen to reggae music! And be Merry!

Ready for a Christmas breakfast!

Ready for a Christmas breakfast!

Note:  After 3 days, the pork doesn’t need to marinate any longer. Either cook all the pork or transfer to a glass storage container, store in the fridge at this point, and discard marinade. If you’re using a lean cut of pork, you may want to reduce the marinade time in half (or maybe less, I don’t know, we always use a pork butt….MIL uses an even fattier cut).  If you don’t reduce marinade time on a lean cut, I’m not certain, but am afraid you might end up with vinegar cooked pork by Christmas morning (yuk).

What’s your favorite traditional holiday dish? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase, what else, New Year’s resolutions. Please check our Private Discussion Forum – General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what your personal chef resolutions are and why so you can appear here.

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.

Are you challenging to buy gifts for? If you’re a personal chef, probably not. There’s always one more great kitchen tool or gadget you’ve got to have to make your life easier—or at least more fun.

We asked personal chefs to identify some of their favorite kitchen toys, oops, equipment that they can’t live without and thought you’d enjoy as well. Some may not exactly fit into a stocking, but they’re all pretty reasonably priced so you can give them out to colleagues and friends—or hint around to those who love you that you’d like them. They can all be found easily on websites like Amazon.com, Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, and The Chefs’ Warehouse, but also check out interesting sites like this one that caught our attention—thegourmetgadget.com. And be sure to support your local housewares businesses. We love Great News! in San Diego.

So, with the help of some of your friends, here’s our stocking stuffer list:

Oxo Good Grips tools got a lot of love. Leslie Siegel Guria of Fresh From Your Kitchen in Illinois says that she put their can opener on her gift list. “I made the mistake of buying a fancier one and I’m NOT HAPPY! I also can’t live without my Oxo peeler.”

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Johanna Sawallisch Dadsyah and I both agree that an immersion blender is a “can’t live without” kitchen tool. “It would make blended soup so easy!,” she says. I agree. No more pouring hot soup into a blender and risking spills and/or explosions. Some people prefer the cordless version—and they are handy—but you risk running out of juice in the middle of pureeing. Corded immersion blenders also seem to have a bit more power.

Chef Steve Loeschner of Chef Steve Personal Chef Service in New Hampshire has a long list of can’t live without tools, including the immersion blender, but also a digital scale, digital thermometer, cooling fans, and an eight-inch chef knife. But what does he want to find in his Christmas stocking? Mario Batali crocs. “I love the color!,” he says. In fact, once he heard that Batali orderd 200 pairs of the orange plastic shoes because he’d heard they were being discontinued, Chef Steve ordered a pair, too. “Sorry, Santa, couldn’t take the chance!”

Stocking Stuffers2

Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food in Tennessee touts Universal Knife Blocks. “My mother-in-law got us one of these last year for Christmas. They’re a bit large to put in a stocking, but I’ve been recommending them to every foodie I know. It took up less space than our big, chunky wooden knife block AND you can put whatever knife or kitchen shear you darn please into it. There are thousands of plastic ‘filaments’ or some such things that you can stick your knives into that won’t dull them.”

April Lee of Tastefully Yours in Maryland offered enough suggestions to fully outfit a kitchen. She, too, is a fan of the knife blocks—preferring the Kapoosh ones, which she says are bigger—but also included one of her favorite utensils, the Pampered Chef’s Mix ‘N Chop. “There’s nothing out there that chops and browns ground meats, fresh sausage, etc. so easily and into even small pieces. It’s a must have at home and in your PC kit.”

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Lee also loves the Joseph Joseph large colander scoop, saying she, “uses this baby for everything and it’s safe to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s great for frying, too.”  The Hamilton Beach 1.7 liter programmable electric kettle is another favorite of hers because tea drinkers can choose the temperature they want and it keeps it at that temperature for an hour. Coffee lovers will enjoy another item on her list, the Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker. “I love this! It makes the best coffee, quick, simple, easy to clean. I gave away my French press after getting this!” And, you’ve got to have the Thermopen instant thermometer. “It’s pricey, but worth every penny,” she says. We agree!

Have we missed something fabulous? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase inspirational cookbooks that you can gift others. Please check our Private Discussion Forum – General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what has moved you and why so you can appear here.

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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