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APPCA member Jim Huff of the Traveling Culinary Artist in New York is a self-described Nutella-holic, constantly fiddling with Nutella desserts. He admits that many have been complete failures while others have been just passable, thanks to the Nutella. And there have been some good and a few great. One of the great ones is this bread pudding.

So, how did it come about? As chefs, I’m sure you’ve had what you thought was a great idea for a dish that contains an ingredient you’re passionate about. Then reality hits as you struggle to turn that concept into reality. This bread pudding was no different. Its roots come from banana bread, specifically Kathy Huff’s Banana Nut Bread. Jim’s wife made this on request for get togethers f0r years. The recipe itself was no secret. It came from the Jiffy Mix baking mix box. Unfortunately, by the late ’80s, Jiffy Mix was becoming hard to find and what Jim could find didn’t yield the delicious bread everyone had loved.

“We ordered some directly from Jiffy and by the time we used them up they must have been stale because the famous Banana Nut Bread was never as good as we remembered,” Jim says.

In the meantime, Jim’s grandmother had given him James Beard’s famous Beard on Bread cookbook, which Jim fell in love with. So the Huffs started making the quick breads from the book. 

Then Nutella entered the equation. According to Jim, “The idea for the recipe came from two of these experiments. 1. Nutella Bread Pudding–great concept boring application. Might as well have made good brioche toast with Nutella spread on it!  2. Banana bread with Nutella swirled a la Marble cake. The Nutella ended up gathering itself while baking and the result was more like blobs than swirls!  My quest for a great Nutella Bread Pudding led me to the Internet. I found lots of recipes adding bananas and or chocolate chips, etc.  Then I had an epiphany, what if I used Banana Bread!  I found many bread pudding recipes using banana bread, now to adapt, using bananas, Nutella and Chocolate Chips.”

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding

Good enough, but then there was the quest to turn this concept into individual desserts, something that could be served at the dinner parties he caters.

“We find we get great response for people receiving their ‘own’ self-contained slice of heaven versus an actual slice of something made en masse,” he explains. “So simultaneously my Internet searches included bread pudding in muffin tin recipes.”

The problem was coming up with the right ratio of bread to custard, plus factoring in using muffin tins. Every chef friend and home baker Jim consulted had their own advice–more milk/less egg, soak longer/don’t soak. “A less obsessed person would have moved on,” he jokes.

But eventually, after many failed attempts they finally got the right proportions of bread, custard, Nutella, and banana bread down pat–and they did their testing in oversized muffin tins. The biggest test? How would their son-in-law, also a borderline Nutella-holic like it? But all was well after sending their daughter home with two. His comment after his second bite? “There’s only two?”

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Jim and Kathy added the bread pudding to their menu, pairing it with vanilla gelato and caramel drizzle. They got their first request for a client party of 10 and plated their new creation over raspberry sauce. Everyone loved it but couldn’t finish it because the portion was too big. So, they’ve downsized it to standard muffin size. And, as Jim says, “They’re always devoured completely!”

The recipe is still a work in progress. The Beard on Bread recipe calls for nuts, which Jim’s omitted. But now he says he’ll be experimenting–with hazelnuts of course.

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding
from Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist
Servings: 6

Use the banana bread recipe you like. We link below to the banana bread recipe found in Beard on Bread, which is what Jim uses.

Ingredients:

6 slices banana bread, ¾”-1” thick
4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup Nutella
3  large eggs
1  cup whole milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1/2  cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Cut the banana  bread into small cubes.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes to create dry stale bread. Cut into cubes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl mash the ripe bananas with a potato masher. Add in the Nutella and mix with the masher until blended with the potato masher. Add the eggs and mix until blended, add the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Stir.

Once fully mixed add your bread cubes and stir until the bread is totally wet. Let it soak for 10 minutes. Stir again and spoon mix into a 6 cup extra large muffin tins. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350°F 25 to 30 minutes until set.  Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove from the tins and serve immediately.

Serve with vanilla gelato and a drizzle of salted caramel!

Ready for plating

Do you have a recipe you’re passionate about that took awhile to reach perfection? Share your story!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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

Jim Huff at the Women's Club of Forest Hills

Jim Huff is a longtime personal chef in New York City as well as a longtime APPCA member. Several years ago the International Studies Committee of the Forest Hills, New York Women’s Club invited him to give a talk on the influences of different international and ethnic cuisines on typical American comfort foods, given the availability now of diverse ingredients in local food stores. Along with his speech, he provided food for their monthly Tea.

“We had a savory table, a sweet table and a table for me to promote my business with recipes and other printed materials about my services,” Jim recalled.

It was the first “official” talk he had given that was related to his business. Over the years he’s conducted seminars and training sessions in the retail industry so he had some background in public speaking. And he’s also helped APPCA executive director Candy Wallace with APPCA seminars.

“In my presentation I challenged the group to start thinking about “melding” ingredients from other cultures into their own comfort zones. I gave several ideas on how I might accomplish the melding and peaked their interest when I told them a few examples that they would soon be tasting with their Tea,” he wrote in his blog.

tea-time-Jim Huff

“While they were enjoying their tea and my tastings I manned a separate table where I provided them with information about my business and  a few recipes. It went very well and so many of the members said it was the best Tea yet. I gave out lots of counter cards, business cards and recipes and lots of advice.  I spoke to several possible clients for gift certificates, dinner parties, and regular service. It was a very successful event!  What a great way to connect with the community!”

Leslie Guria2

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, APPCA member and personal chef Leslie Guria of Fresh from Your Kitchen Personal Chef Service in Chicago has some suggestions for getting started. Before she launched her current business she used to book public speaking engagement for her marketing clients. Here are some tips you can use:

  • Book with an organization of prospects or influencers, but offer to speak on something other than being a personal chef.  Your audience wants to learn something, not be sold. For example, speak to a moms group on cooking for a month, getting kids to eat, sneaking in veggies. It could be a hands on event.
  • I used to introduce myself via telephone and follow up via email.  That may be different now because of social media.  Its easy to find organizations with calendars and meeting planner contacts online.
  • Always be prepared with a flexible list of topics and something professional looking, a speaker kit that tells who you are, what you do, why you should speak to their group, etc. It should include your bio, a list of topics with a brief outline or paragraph, references, and a photo from your website. If you set up a speaker kit on your website, it’s easy to send the link. If I were booking for a client, I’d make sure they had articles or blogs post dedicated to their topics to show credibility. Provide references if possible.
  • If the organization will allow it, send a media release as appropriate to announce the event.  Include your web address and all contact info.

Leslie Guria cooking-demo-031

APPCA member Kelly Yorke of A House Call Chef in Evergreen, Colorado not only does public speaking, she appears on TV doing live cooking segments on network television. Kelly says she has to market constantly. “And it’s not just about being a chef and honing our craft. It’s about being sales people and marketing people. Public speaking is helpful to bring various aspects of media aware of our business,” she says.

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Kelly has been a personal chef for about 12 years. Prior to that she was a corporate chef–basically she’s had a culinary career for about 30 years. She says that the public speaking has developed to market her TV cooking show series, personal chef business, and brand she’s developing in therapeutic cuisine with her sister, a physician who practices integrative medicine.

Kelly suggests starting by offering to do cooking demos in your local grocery store, which can market your talks on their website and social media. But, she says, you have to be an expert in something before you can go out and speak.

“It involves a lot of learning and experience,” she says. “If you’re a personal chef, you have to have done it and learned those hard lessons about what works for you, your customer, your local area before you can talk about it.”

Are you concerned about that first foray of talking to a group of strangers? Kelly says to relax and just do it.

“Know you’ll get better at it. You won’t be as good at it in the beginning. You have to practice and do it in smaller, local groups without getting paid to hone your craft.”

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Like Leslie, she says you don’t want to overtly sell your services. People impressed with your knowledge and skills will want to work with you. So impress them with that in an area you are expert in–lifestyle changes, food for healthy living, disease-specific diets, whatever it is that you have a strong skill set.

How do you find the groups to speak to? Kelly says it’s all about networking.

“Talk to people in groups who have common expertise with what you work in. People you know in your community. People who you do sports activities with. Talk to them and find out what they do and if your interests overlap. Maybe they want to invite you to speak to their business. Be out there and talk to people. Yes, you can Google organizations, but face-to-face connections and interactions that you have are always better in gauging if people want to do business with you.”

For Jim Huff, networking was key in getting his Women’s Club gig. “A close friend, who has always promoted my business, including using my services, got me involved in donating my services for the annual silent auction,” he explains. “I donate my services for dinner for four; the winner pays for groceries. My friend introduced me explaining who I was and briefly spoke about my services, reminding them of my donations. Several of the attendees have either won the dinner service I donated or attended one as a guest! I have gained several repeat clients for dinner parties via this venue.”

Are you already doing public speaking? What are the lessons you’ve learned? How has it helped your business?

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!

As we all know, there’s no way to prepare 100 percent for surprises in our businesses or personal lives, but giving some thought to “what if” certainly doesn’t hurt. Things happen. It could be an injury to you or serious family illness. You just never know what may suddenly pull you away from your work.

Chef Carol Borchardt, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Chef Carol Borchardt

For Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, it was getting her foot hooked in the strap of one of her grocery bags that sent her flying to the floor and fracturing her right knee. At the home of a woman who was the recipient of a gift certificate. While Carol didn’t need surgery, she had to stay off her feet for six weeks, using either crutches or a “saddle stool” her hairstylist loaned her. She clearly couldn’t even drive.

How did she handle her client load? “I notified my clients by telephone,” she says. “I didn’t feel e-mail or texting was appropriate. I generally have about 15 to 16 clients and called one or two per day, depending upon when I was scheduled to cook for them. They were all GREAT. Fortunately, this happened at the end of May 2014 so many were taking vacations anyway. The doctor told me I’d be out for six weeks, so most only missed one cook date as most of my clients are monthly.”

To keep on schedule, Carol went back to work while still in a brace, with the help of a friend, but got back to her routine pretty quickly after that. And while on enforced rest, she stayed productive, studying food photography and launching her blog, A Cookbook Obsession.

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist has had these health surprises happen twice in his career. The first was after emergency surgery in Arizona at the end of a vacation. His wife called all his clients to explain the situation, which turned from one week off to three weeks away. He was able to return in the fourth week with the help of an assistant. “All my clients were happy to wait for me and ate whatever was stored in their freezers, ate out, and cooked some,” he says.

The second time was also for surgery, but this time, Jim had time to plan.

“I approached each client and asked what they would prefer: Me to cook extra and fill their freezers or arrange for another chef to cover,” he explains. “Coincidentally, two clients were traveling for much of the planned time off and two preferred me to fill the freezer and one just cooked or ate out for the duration.  All were very happy to have me back to good health. That time my wife was working with me as she was between jobs, so my return to work was smooth.”

Jim has filled in for other chefs on occasion. In these situations, the chefs communicated with their clients regarding menus, payments, and other issues. “This worked well, since the chefs I worked for kept control and I accepted a reduced rate from them as I wasn’t doing the menu planning, etc., and I was helping them in a time of need.”

ChefKathy Kathy Dederich

Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please is dealing with this issue now. In early July, her husband Dan suffered a  traumatic brain injury at work. After being airlifted to a nearby hospital for surgery, he is now recovering in a rehab facility four hours from their home. She expects to be there at least another couple of weeks and then Dan will move to a more intensive rehab facility where family members are not allowed to reside–meaning Kathy will return home to work.

“As luck would have it, I received more calls/emails from new/prospective clients than what I had gotten in the last six months,” she says. “Fortunately, two families have indicated they will wait until I am ready to come back to work. They have both expressed their concern for both Dan and me and send their best…mind you, I have yet to meet them.

“My regular clients have been extremely supportive as well,” Kathy adds. “They call on a regular basis to see how we both are. We sort of have an understanding that as soon as I can, I will be back to cook for them. My plan is to ask for a list of their favorites that they’d like me to make my first week back.”

For those potential new clients who had immediate needs for various functions, Kathy referred them to a friend of hers who is a full-time chef at a senior facility. She says there aren’t many legitimate personal chefs in her region so she didn’t have many referral options.

For Kathy, not working has been the right decision for her. But she encourages others to review both their finances and legal documents. “We had these completed when we were still in Illinois, but wanted to make sure we were compliant with the state of Arkansas,” Kathy says. “We finally did this in early spring. It has been a God-send because everything is in place.”

eprewitt

If you’re lucky enough to plan for enforced time off because you’re pregnant, you can consult with clients to figure out the best approach. That’s how Elizabeth Prewitt of Silver Plum Personal Chef has been handling her future. With a due date of August 23, she scheduled clients through the 12th with the understanding that the last couple of dates might have to be unexpectedly cancelled if he showed up early (he didn’t and as of now, they’re still waiting).

Beth started telling clients in person about three to four months ago. She hired an assistant toward the end of her work period, but it was clear that the assistant was to help her. She wasn’t a Beth clone.

“So as the due date got closer, and I realized that I was simply going to have to take time off with no replacement/contingency plan for my clients, I let them all know, again, in person,” Beth explains. “My plan is to take two to three months off, and start scheduling again when I’m ready. (I have yet to secure child care, which will probably dictate exactly when I can start working again—my next huge stressor!)  Since I’ve never done this ‘having a kid’ thing before, I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep, so I haven’t given anyone a firm return date. As most of my clients are families with young kids, and I primarily communicate with the ladies of the households, they have all been very understanding with this. This doesn’t mean I’m not worried about client retention, though. The longer I’m away from them, the more likely they are to find other solutions that work just fine for them.”

So, what are the takeaways from these chefs’ experiences?

“Kathy Dederich said it when she told us, “I encourage others to do a review of their finances as well as legal documents,” says Candy Wallace, the APPCA‘s founder and executive director. “Knowing where you are can save a lot of time and angst in a crisis.

“Jim Huff and Carol Borchardt turned to family and friends for physical assistance in their abbreviated operation of businesses, and ALL of the chefs did the smart thing in contacting their clients immediately and including them in the decision-making process of keeping their businesses viable during their recuperation processes as well as allowing the clients to take part in the planning process of their return to operations,” Candy observes.

“Carol was able to use much of the enforced time off to learn a new craft, food styling and food photography, which has become an enriching part of her culinary business plan,” adds Candy. “And Beth Prewitt is settling into a new home and getting ready to be a new mom. I think you could say they used ‘down time’ to forward the action for their futures.”

But Candy does emphasize the importance of getting to know and befriend colleagues to get learn one another’s specialties and levels of experience so you can refer business back and forth to each other–and back each other up in case of emergencies like the ones above. And she relates a story that hits close to home.

“Many years ago I was out training two new members in San Diego when I arrived at home to find all of my neighbors standing on my front lawn. When I got out of the van I was told that my husband Dennis had had a heart attack and had been taken to a local hospital. I took off immediately for the hospital and did not return home until around 3 a.m. when the cardiologist told me Dennis was going to live and sent me home. I arrived and found all the lights on in the house and the doors open. I thought, great, Denny is in the hospital, and now it looks as if we have been robbed…I walked in and found a group of local personal chefs I had worked with over the years waiting for me. They had cleaned our house, filled the fridge and freezer with heart-healthy meals, and had gone through my file info and contacted all of my clients to let them know I would not be available for the next three months while I helped Den recuperate, and that they would be providing service on their regular schedule.

“There was nothing I could say. I sat down on the couch and burst into tears. That night the APPCA was officially created to support the chefs we trained through the original Personal Chef Institute. The association was created so that all members could experience the genuine support and respect for one another we experienced as a result of Denny’s heart attack. Talk about a silver lining.

“Please make an effort to get to know your local colleagues. Offer to go along with one another on occasion as an unpaid guest chef so you can know one another’s skill level and get to know one another on a personal as well as a professional level. Refer appropriate business leads back and forth to one another. I say it often, and I’ll say it here again, ‘We are all in this together as personal chefs, and it simply makes sense to take care of one another and take care of the personal chef career path so that we all win at the career and life path we have chosen.'”

What plans have you made for your business in case of a health or other emergency?

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.

Being a personal chef does not strictly limit you to preparing meals for clients for them to eat throughout the week. Personal chefs can wear a number of other hats, including catering. And while your food may be just as tasty when you store it in a container as when it’s served on at the table, when it comes to creating a dinner party or other event, you need some additional skills in your arsenal.

One of them is the art of plating.

New York City APPCA member Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist prides himself on his plating skills. He’s been a personal chef since 2004 and, as he says, “I still pinch myself now and then to make sure I’m not dreaming that people pay me to pursue my passion for cooking.”

Jim takes great pride in listening to his clients’ wants and needs and responding to them to ensure they are getting what they expect. As he says, “While being a business owner I have parameters and the ability to say no, but I maintain that flexibility is the most important part of the personal in being a personal chef.”

As we all know, there’s not much that motivates us to work harder and with more pride than a compliment from a client. Jim gets these regularly. Most recently, he says that after a dinner party he catered, “The host said that everything was delicious and well-presented and that he was impressed with my creativity and talent as a chef. While I enjoy being paid nothing makes one feel better than hearing compliments like that.”

We want you to get that same buzz of excitement from praise, so Jim has written this piece for us that shares his successful plating philosophy.

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Recently, I was involved in a discussion about plating for dinner parties, how to balance the needs to make the food look awesome vs. the need to get the food out while it is still hot. In a commercial/restaurant kitchen with a staff this is probably a no brainer. It’s not as easy in a client’s kitchen designed for family convenience. In the beginning stages of my business I fretted over this and finally developed a formula that works for me and has pleased my clients.

In a simplified form my philosophy is to wow them with a great looking appetizer/first course and an interesting appearing dessert. Not that the courses in between should be sloppily served, but frequently the main entrees are a modest serving on the dinner plate atop or alongside the side dish. A sprinkling of a chopped herb, a dusting of paprika, droplets of flavored oil or drizzle of balsamic glaze can provide a decorative as well as a taste-boosting factor to the basic plate.

Based on the hostess’ preference we often plate the Wow First Course and have it on the table when the diners arrive at the table. This provides a great way to bring the conversation to a halt and get people seated and eager to start their meal. Other hostesses prefer everyone to sit and then service to begin. This also provides for switch in the conversation to the food and its appearance. Either way, we eat with our eyes first and this is the ice-breaker for what is to come.

Beet Goat Cheese Napoleon

Beet Goat Cheese Napoleon

The first example, my Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleon is playing up the values of color and elevation. By choosing to alternate red and golden beet slices we have actually enhanced the strength of the brightness of each color. Garnishes such as the puree, the chopped pistachios, microgreens, and pistachio oil take the plate beyond just a vessel to eat from. Obviously white plates are the easiest to show off color.

White Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto

White Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto

The second example brings the plate more into the picture, White Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto. The plate’s leaf shape and color offset the bland color of the white asparagus. Keeping everything flatter, closer to the vessel keeps the plate in focus. The reddish brown of the Crispy Prosciutto draws the eye across the plate making it seem larger than it is. The garnishing elements of baby arugula, chives, and breakfast radishes are there to provide that sharp visual contrast to the blanched asparagus. It is finished with a simple Lemon/Garlic/Chive Vinaigrette to provide a subtle hint of yellow and green with a sprinkling of lemon zest for a flavor boost. Not shown in the picture are antique salt dishes, each filled with Himalayan pink salt for dipping the radishes.

Artichoke with Tomato Salad

Steamed Artichoke with Cherry Tomato & Red Onion Salad

I apologize for the third picture being out of focus but I think the idea is clearly represented with the Steamed Artichoke with Cherry Tomato & Red Onion Salad. This was a way to add pop of color to a food vessel that under the best of circumstances looks tired and/or worn out: the steamed artichoke. This is bumped up by topping it with an Heirloom Cherry Tomato & Red Onion Salad.

The sheer simplicity of the presentation focuses everyone’s attention to a classic table setting. The dish is served on glass plates over the dinner plate and charger and coordinating placemats on a glass table top. The diner eats the artichoke petals, which are marinating in the salad’s vinaigrette, as well the salad. Heartier appetites dig out the heart and enjoy that as well.

Hummus Trio

Hummus Trio

The next picture is of a Hummus Trio hors d’oeuvre. Sometimes the simpler vessel highlights the color contrasts. We have Classic Hummus in the center with basil leaves peeking out, Edamame & Cilantro Hummus on the left with a radicchio leaf, and finally Roasted Beet & Horseradish Hummus with endive petals.

Nutella Raspberry Mini Tarts

Raspberry Nutella Mini Tarts

On the subject of color coordination, a dessert buffet provided a happy accident when we were able to use a glass tray to show off the fabulous tablecloth while highlighting the Raspberry Nutella Tarts. This shows that massive quantities can also have that wow factor in the sheer number of items on a given vessel.

Dessert Plate

Mini Dessert Plate

And finally a busy plate of mini desserts provides an array of sweets that have individual eye appeal. Clockwise from the top are: Key Lime Pie Shooters, Red Velvet Whoopie Pie, Brownie Drowned in Ganache with a Raspberry, and a client-provided chocolate chip cookie.

Truth be told we don’t often have the opportunity to pre-plan all our presentations when working with a new client if we have not seen their choice of dinnerware. In my experience I’ve had to deal with blue Wedgewood prints, gold-encrusted florals, black and white Paisley, purple pebble appetizer plates, even once Dineresque Beige Melamine! That means I have to draw on a good eye and some of the approaches mentioned here to create a visually exciting presentation on the spur of the moment.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is to visually wow them at the beginning of the meal, meet their expectations with hot tasty entrees and sides, and then wow them again at the meal’s end with colorful desserts that don’t promote that end-of-the-meal laden feeling.

How have you honed your plating skills? Have any additional techniques to share?

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.

January is a time of new beginnings and one of them can include jump-starting your business. It’s essential for personal chefs just launching a business, but even a seasoned professional can use a new tip or two. Getting in front of potential customers can open up new opportunities and there are a myriad of successful ways to approach it.

The most obvious would seem to be paid advertising, but that’s actually not something we endorse. As Chef April Lee has said, “Think about how you go about hiring a professional service provider. Do you hire anyone off a flyer? Does anyone? Do you pay attention to paid advertisements?”

What you should invest money in are professionally printed business cards and a professionally designed and written website filled with mouth-watering photos (and no “selfies”). As you know, we can help you with the website.

The rest of your investment should be in time and creativity. Find ways to get out into the community. Make yourself visible and meet as many people as possible who are either in a position to hire you or to refer business to you—or invite you to speak or participate in any of their business or community activities.

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Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York, who was awarded our top prize in marketing at our October APPCA Chef Summit, has more than a dozen quick tips to offer:

  • ·      Polish your elevator speech and use it at every opportunity possible. Family, friends, neighbors, etc.
  • ·      Wear your chef coat while shopping for yourself as well as when shopping for clients.
  • ·      Introduce yourself to the department managers of the produce, fish, and meat departments in the stores where you shop. Use you elevator speech in your first meeting.
  • ·      While waiting for the butcher, fishmonger, etc., to prepare your order chat them up about what you are cooking, etc. Oftentimes other customers will hear you and you’ll have an opportunity to use your elevator speech and present them with a business card.
  • ·      Have a website linked to your name in the APPCA Find a Chef Directory.
  • ·      Use social media, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to connect with people from your past, present, and future. Create discussions about your business.
  • ·      Write a blog that connects to your website and all social media. Write about recipes, events, and menus you have created. Quality pictures are a must!
  • ·      Send out press releases—when you start up, anytime you do anything for  a charity event, whenever you want to talk about a new food trend, about whatever is popular with your clients, to feature recipes for an upcoming holiday. Try to get the copy deadlines for these holidays.
  • ·      Send thank you cards to clients when you provide dinner party service or when you fulfill a gift certificate.  (Remember a gift certificate gives you two clients to market to.)
  • ·      Write catchy Craigslist ads and post pictures when advertising.
  • ·      About four to five times a year I mail postcards to all clients, past and present. You can use a variety of topics—for instance, you can remind them that school is starting and that your service helps with the tight schedule families deal with or that Valentine’s Day is coming up and that you can prepare an intimate dinner party, or suggest random dinner party ideas (e.g., recipes from any Julia Child cookbook around her b-day). 
  • ·      Buy car magnets and bumper stickers that promote your service.
  • ·      Print materials describing all the services you provide to be presented to clients when you are performing an assessment. 

Additionally, be sure your email always goes out with a signature offering your business contact information (website, email, phone number, and social media links). And your website, your Find a Chef Directory listing, and any other showcase for you should always have the basics, including your full name, your location, the services you provide, and your background. Personal chefs offer a personal service. Don’t make it difficult for people (or the media) to find you or learn specifically what you do.

And be bold! We had a member some years ago who decided he wanted to reach as many potential clients as possible as quickly as possible. He put on his chef wear and tall toque, put a doily on a silver tray, spread his business cards out on the tray, and set off for the local commuter railway station where he “served up” his cards to hungry, tired commuters at the end of the busy work day. These folks wanted to get home, have an adult beverage, and a good meal. His image and business card went a long way in delivering his message.

Do you have a way with the video camera? Create quality cooking demo YouTube videos that link to your website and social media outlets. Use them to try to get a regular gig on your local television station’s morning show. Are you a good writer? Offer to write a column for your local newspaper. This is especially helpful to the publication if you have an area of specialization like cooking vegetarian or vegan meals or if you combine your chef skills with a degree as a dietician or nutritionist. Chef Donna Douglass of What’s Cooking has done this successfully. She also teaches cooking and nutrition classes and appears at health fairs.

And, if you do have an area of specialization, research organizations that could help direct your services to their clients. Providing meal services to people on special diets can be so rewarding and impactful. New member Chef Lori Himmelsbach of A Chef of My Own in Kentucky googled “hospice,” “oncology support,” “holistic healing of…,” and “gluten-free support” in her area. Then she called the organizations listed, asked for the director of operations or the office manager, and explained who she was and how a personal chef could help their clients.

“I asked if I could send an email giving them more information about my services (including my website), as well as a request to pass this information on to their staff so they are aware of what a personal chef can do,” she explains on one of our forums. “Then I asked if they would like brochures (which I printed at home) to give to their staff or clients. One of my callers has already requested 30 brochures to pass out to her social workers.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” Lori says. “As I’m starting my business I ask myself everyday what I can do to increase my income—and then do it!”

Everyone eats, so that means everyone is a potential client. It’s just up to you as to how you want to reach out to them. The only thing that limits us as personal chefs is the limits of our own imagination.

What have been your most successful marketing strategies? Please leave a comment and share with your colleagues across the country.

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.

This is the week we traditionally take a look over our shoulder to consider all that happened in the past year before we fill a glass with bubbly and toast the year about to emerge.

For us, it’s been a year of transition, with all the good stuff that accompanies change.

Earlier in the fall we debuted our first mobile app, Find & Hire a Chef, for iPhone. Just last week we launched the Android version. Now it’s even easier for potential clients to find you. Help yourself get found by making sure your profile in our database is complete and lists everything about you and your services that you want to promote.

APP screen2

We’ve developed an active social media presence this year on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We have twin goals with our activity: to share interesting information with you and to promote what you do. We want to spur conversation, show off your achievements, and give you resources for helping your business. Okay, sometimes, we want to provide a smile or good laugh, too. Please like our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and join our Linkedin group—and participate! It’s fun and it’ll help you, too.

Along with social media, our Personal Chef Forums have been bursting with good conversation and useful sharing—as well as some needed venting and bragging. These forums are just for members so they’re a safe place to ask critical professional questions among colleagues or share successes.

We held a rocking Personal Chef Summit in Baltimore in October, along with a number of Personal Chef seminars in cities including Chicago, San Diego, for getting your business up and running quickly. Thank you to speakers April Lee, Bernard Henry, Mark X. Dowling, Randall Sansom, Scott Faber, Thomas P. McNulty, Dr. Fred Mayo, Lou Garcia, Carol Borchardt, Javier Fuertes, Jim Huff, and Cheryl Frazier-Trusty. And congratulations again to chefs Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, who received the Personal Chef of the Year 2013, to Javier Fuertes of The Dinner Maker for Life Balance, and to Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist for Marketer of the Year! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

This month I was the guest columnist for CafeMeetingPlace.com (the Center for the Advancement of Food Service Education). It gave me an opportunity to advocate why culinary teachers should consider operating a personal chef business as an adjunct career.

These are just some of the highlights of the year about to end. We’ve got plenty planned for the coming year, including more Personal Chef Seminars and a totally new website. All of this is to serve you, so if you have any suggestions or ideas for how we can do it better, let us know!

Dennis and I are your biggest supporters. We believe in the importance of the work you do and want to help you achieve your goals. Let’s lift a glass to the year we’re leaving and toast 2014! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

What were your 2013 successes? What do you want us to do for you in 2014? 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 personalchef.com to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership and join.

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.

Candy's orange ricotta pound cake1

Homemade food as gifts speaks volumes to clients, loved ones, and colleagues alike. Food that has been prepared by loving hands and a generous heart with the specific intention to share is an international holiday tradition that I treasure. I look forward to the smiles on the faces of those receiving the treasures I deliver at holiday time. I show up in the world through food, and it is simply how I tell the people in my life that I love them.

My personal chef clients have looked forward to their holiday gifts for over 20 years and never fail to say thank you for caring about us and for us. I seldom gift the same food items and find that some clients will actually send notes asking, “Are you planning to make your homemade salsa or orange ricotta pound cake or Meyer lemon curd again this year?” What a compliment!

We know some of you also follow this tradition. Bonnie Nicklaus of The Garden of Eatin in Columbus, Ohio, says she’s always made something special for long-term clients at the holidays. “Usually candy, caramel corn, reindeer chow, or cookies. They’re delivered in a festive gift bag and I include a card saying how much I appreciate their business through the past year… and looking forward to serving them in the New Year.”

Amber Guthrie of Salt of the Hearth in Colombia, Mo., is just gearing up her business but she tells us that this year she’s making the unusual gift of homemade chicken bouillon powder and elderberry syrup for flu season for her parents, siblings, and inlaws.

Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York gives the doormen in his clients’ buildings goody bags with mini quick breads, a bottle of wine, and a small monetary gift. “This year I’m going with a six-pack of hard cider, brownies, and ‘the envelop.’ My clients get wine, champagne or a bottle of their preferred liquor if I know it. Since most of my regulars are on some sort of restrictive diet, I always feel like wine can easily be re-gifted when they go holiday visiting.”

Jodie Steiner of Plenty in Washington, D.C., says she’s been obsessed with apple cider syrup and is giving it to her clients this year. “Boiled down cider is unbelievably good on pancakes and in cocktails,” she says. She’ll be giving that gift with cider caramels she picks up at her local farmers market.

Food gifts needn’t be complex or expensive to convey the message you choose to send. I find the time spent planning, preparing, and packaging these items is joyous and fits into my holiday plans quite easily and enjoyably.

Food is the common language spoken around the world. Share yourself, your talent and your commitment to your clients if you so choose, and have fun in the process.

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite holiday gifts, an orange ricotta pound cake. If you’re giving this as a gift, you can skip the strawberries and wrap the cake up in cellophane or a pretty holiday bag. While I love making a full-size pound cake to serve guests, you may want to make minis as gifts. A great big full-size cake can be daunting in this season of culinary excess.

Candy's orange ricotta pound cake3

ORANGE RICOTTA POUND CAKE
Yield: 1 large pound cake or 12 minis

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/4 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons Amaretto
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and Amaretto until combined. Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Meanwhile, place the strawberries in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.

To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.

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