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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Often on Friday or Monday on Facebook, we’ll ask our members what’s on for the weekend or, afterwards, what they did that can inspire us. When Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas responded on a Friday that she had a gig at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma store doing a cooking demo, we just had to learn more. The demo went wonderfully and Anne sent us a wrap up of how it came to pass and how it went. More importantly, though, she also talked about why it was so important for her–and other personal chefs–to do this.

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On a recent day off I was wandering around Williams-Sonoma, finally getting around to spending some gift cards I’d been hoarding. I ran into a friend of mine who I thought still worked there. In the process of catching up she asked, “Didn’t you graduate from culinary school recently?” I said yes and she immediately pulled over the assistant manager and said, “You need to talk to her!” So, long story short, they asked me to put in an application to do cooking demos/teach classes on my schedule. I did it because I don’t have a full roster of PC clients and could use the money. Okay, and I was thinking, “STORE DISCOUNT!”

By the way, I didn’t know that Williams-Sonoma has a chef card you can register for online if you’re in the business. It offers a 20 percent discount. My friend told me about it when I went in, so tell everyone about this!

I chatted briefly with the assistant manager about some details and sent a follow-up e-mail a few days later, thanking her for her time. In fact, when I was there, they asked if I could do a demo the next day, but I was already booked to be a “sous chef” with a friend of mine from school who had a dinner party. But at least they were interested. When I didn’t receive a response to my e-mail, I called the assistant manager two days later and she apologized for them not getting back to me. They wanted me to meet the manager, and she had been tied up with reviews, etc. all week. But she made it clear that they were very interested.

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She then called me back, said their guest chef for the weekend had cancelled, and asked if I was available (I had a dinner party that cancelled) so I said YES and went in to chat about details. I then went home and put together a menu which I e-mailed to her.  They sent me home with one of their cool cookbooks, so I figured it would be prudent to try and use some of the recipes from it (“good PR”). So the chicken and the potatoes are from their book.

They left the recipe quantities to my discretion.  They said the store would be packed that day because of their Artisan Market (some local specialty vendors will have tables set up).  And it’s just a taste, so I doubled most of the recipes and quadrupled the asparagus dish, since it’s so cheap right now. They said not to go over $150; think I spent a total of $75, roughly.  And yes, the reimbursed me for the food cost. Here was my menu:

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Chicken & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry

Gratineed Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Roasted New Potatoes with Rosemary & Bay Leaf

“Fragole Al Marsala” (Strawberries in Marsala wine)

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Before the day of the event, I sent out an email to friends and family, inviting them to attend and noting the menu.

It went really well! I posted pictures on my Facebook page that a friend was kind enough to take for me. It got off to kind of a slow start because I’m not familiar with the store, so I had to keep going to the back for equipment and foodstuffs they had told me not to buy. But, I finally got it all together.

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And once I got rolling it was great!  Customers came and went. At one point I even had to reel them in by asking if they wanted something to eat. Once I got on a roll, though, I had them hooked. Everyone said how good the food was and that I was a good “Williams-Sonoma rep” by saying that two of the recipes had come from the book that was on display up front with me. I think I was responsible for selling three cookbooks. Some even bought some stuff in the store, and I made sure to tell the manager that. I did get to meet the actual manager (my contact being one of the assistant managers) and am hoping to hear from her about my application to teach cooking lessons. My contact did come up and say later that afternoon that everyone was noticing what a great job I was doing; that really made me feel good!

I couldn’t wear my chef jacket; it was just too hot and it’s very bulky. And I didn’t have a chance to get my menu printed and laminated; that would have been a great idea. I do that for dinner parties and such, but just ran out of time for this event. Since I wore my chef pants and black T-shirt, with Williams-Sonoma apron, I (luckily) thought at the last minute to paper clip (didn’t have anything else on me!) my business card to the front of my apron. People still thought I worked for W-S, but I was able to tell them no, that I am a personal chef.

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While it was still crowded I was able to pass out my business card to a good handful of people. I didn’t get anyone asking me much about my business so it wasn’t the greatest marketing day, but still, I was out front and chatted to a bunch of folks.

I think any PC who has the opportunity to do cooking demos (even if not paid) at places like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, or some other store should jump on it! It is a terrific marketing opportunity. Every opportunity I got, I would tell people that I am a personal chef. Surprisingly (to me) I didn’t get a lot of questions about “what is a personal chef.”  Maybe people were too busy shopping or didn’t want to stop. They were, however, interested in the food!

Any time a PC can be in the public eye like this is a golden opportunity and you can make the most of it. Having completed culinary school, I felt fairly confident in what I could do. Plus, I have done many cooking classes and demonstrations before, so confidence isn’t really an issue. You do have to put yourself out there and be gracious, smile, talk to folks, etc.  So, it’s also a good chance for someone who may be a bit on the shy side to get some experience talking in front of a group. I had to read a “culinary book” in school (not a cookbook) and I chose Paula Deen’s “It Ain’t All About the Cooking.” I think that is what applies here. So you can cook, right? We all can, as personal chefs, but when you run your own business, as we do, you have to be able to do it all– marketing, cooking, taking care of your books, figuring out technology and how it can help you, networking, etc.

I would definitely say that all of us PC’s should at least market themselves at high-end cook stores like W-S. I am SO lucky that all this happened and that I had the time.

I heard back from Williams-Sonoma afterwards and they were very pleased with my gig as guest chef. They said they’ll be in touch about my application to work there part-time as cooking instructor. Woo hoo!

Have you been thinking about different ways to market your business? Have you done demos at retailers like Williams-Sonoma?

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!”

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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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