The Moveable Feast Food Blog

The Moveable Feast is a Personal Chef Service that serves the Hampton Roads area of Southern Virginia. This blog is an extension of my web site and will go into more details about food and any food service industries. Any pictures and or recipes that are published here are all the property of The Moveable Feast unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

That thing that I do…Part 2

After reading the manual that USPCA sent to me about how to build a Personal Chef business, I rushed down to city hall and applied for my business license. I didn’t have any clients and sure wasn’t going to tell my boss that I was systemically plotting how to quit one job to take on another. With every pay check for about two months, I bought equipment for the business. I bought the cheapest things that I could find, not understanding what kind of wear and tear I was going to put on them. Boy was the first year an eye opener about what a beating my equipment was going to take.

When I had all the equipment that I thought I was going to need, I handed in my month’s notice at work. The head chef was disappointed I was quitting (they usually feel that way about slave labor). He said that my job was there waiting for me when my business failed. FAIL??? That wasn’t in the manual and certainly not in my business plan!! Kiss my…well you know…I have never gone back.

The premise of this job is based on what is called a cycle menu. Hospitals, schools and businesses that feed their employees are all based on this system. A cycle menu repeats it self anywhere from 5 days to weeks on end. The USPCA model is based on 5 days.

Once I get a call to enlist my services I do a face-to-face interview with the client and sometimes a room full of relatives and onlookers. I bring a food survey that has evolved over the last 8 years, a new client packet, and a Service
Agreement... I have the client fill out the survey to see what their food preferences are and then we discuss what their expectations are. Sometimes what I can provide is not exactly what they are looking for. I have the client sign the Service Agreement for several reasons. I really am not looking to lock anyone into a relationship that might not work for them. I want them to understand that I am there to cook-not let their dog out, answer their phone, receive packages from UPS or baby-sit their children or elderly relatives. I am there to cook. I also tell them what they can expect from me and what I expect from them; no bounced checks and no canceled services less than three days before their service date unless it’s an emergency. I need their vital statistics and an E mail address so that I can E mail them a prospective menu.

When I go home I put their preferences into a special computer program set up just for Personal Chefs and then start looking through the program’s recipes that might interest the client. If the client is not a picky eater I can send them at least 10 choices that include, beef, chicken, seafood, pork and vegetarian entrees. When I E mail the suggested entrees, I ask them to pick 5 main courses. I usually reserve the right to choose their side dishes according to what they have chosen for their entrée.

I will use a couple as the example of how the service works. Since they pick 5 entrees, I cook 5 different things but 4 portions of each entrée. That means they are now eating from the cycle menu where the week repeats. So for example if I make Chicken Cordon Bleu, I make four of them. Two of the Chicken Cordon Bleus are in one package and the other two in another package. Each package has a label telling the client what is inside, the thawing and reheating instructions, the date the dish was made and how many portions are inside. So there will be two packages of Chicken Cordon Bleu. In all the clients will have 10 sets of two entrees and then 2 sets of a side dish that will go well with an entrée?

I do the shopping for the clients menu the same day that I cook. I bring my own equipment so that I don’t have to use anything that belongs to the client. Besides, I am used to my own knives and keep them extremely sharp. I like using my own equipment.

When I arrive the there are two things that I do first. I always and I do mean always open up the oven door to be sure that the client is not storing their bread or pots and pans in the oven. When all is clear I get the oven turned on. The second thing that I do whether or not I need to is get a pot of water boiling. I then carry in all the groceries and equipment and do my thing.

Doing what I do is like being a “line” cook in a restaurant. The object is to get everything to get done in a timely manner without burning down the kitchen. I can usually keep 4 burners going at all times while prepping for what is next.

I wanted to call everyone’s attention to a great blog and Podcast by my friend Mark Tafoya at The ReMarkable Palate. If you go to his blog you can click on to his link for his podcasts. They are both interesting and educational. Mark recently did an interview with John Moore from The United States Personal Association. He is the Executive Director. You will learn more about the USPCA and how many Personal Chefs there are industry wide . You will also get a link to find yourself a Personal Chef for any occasion.


At 8:26 AM, Blogger ilva said...

Vickie-thanks for this, I find it really interesting! But I'm a bit curious about your clients, what's the average client like?

At 1:24 PM, Blogger vlb5757 said...

Every personal chef has their kind of "target" client that they are trying attract. I started with single clients, then it gradually went to Diabetic and heart patient clients. I had a sprinkling of some weight loss clients but now I have mainly Senior citizens who want to stay in their homes and their families don't have the time to take care of their day to day food needs. I have just started getting more families lately. Some personal chefs concentrate on doing things like dinners for two or special occasions because they work a regular full time job during the day. That's the great thing about my profession; every gets to tailor their job to their own personal needs.

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

Vickie, this is great so people understand what we do. Finding the USPCA has been one of the best things that have ever happened to me. It changed my life. Hugs,

At 4:47 PM, Blogger michelle said...

This is so interesting - and cool, to learn about what you're doing. Have you really had people want you to do things like babysit/let the dog out/etc?! Good grief, people should know better!
What's the craziest thing that you've come across as a personal chef?

At 5:40 AM, Blogger vlb5757 said...

Yes, people just ask as a matter of factly if I could just let the dog out once during the day or they are expecting a package any day now and if it should come could I accept it.

I think the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened is seeing one of my clients nude in her pool in the backyard. To this day she still doesn't know that I saw her that way. You should hear some of the other stories other PCs have. They will make you roll on the floor.


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