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A fellow Kump graduate is now a private chef making loads of cabbage (...groan). ;)

He has done gigs for Jon Corzine who is a senator in New Jersey and other high profile people Felicia Taylor of NBC. He LOVES it. It's great work if you can get steady gigs. He made enough on one gig to pay off a credit card he had been maxed out on.

I think it's a much lower pressure gig than a high-speed restaurant job. Also, you get to flex your creative muscle as a private chef because a great deal of the time, menus at regular restaurants are set. "Special" gigs like vegan and vegetarians really keep the brain pumping with new ideas.

It's a great way to go providing you find a good family/organization that will give you some creative license and has a non-restrictive budget.
 

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I finally explained it right! Whew, I was starting to get a little frustrated with myself. :D I also prefer to KISS everything. The more you add to something the more potential for something to go wrong.

I like Shrooms idea...which coincided with my original plan. Only Id have a tableau of recipes that I have personally created and used before. (Sorry Shroom, I haven't reached your confidence level yet, but I promise to practice :p ) Those recipes are just for me to "throw" out there to the client after figuring out what their likes, dislikes and diet is like. Ugh! I can talk. :D

I charge em a flat wage for my labor...plus the initial essentials like containers and spices. My recipes are costed out so when I spit out a customized menu for em I know EXACTLY how much they will need to pay for the groceries. My fee for cooking stays the same (takes into consideration a percentage of my total expenses plus labor), the only thing that fluctuates is the grocery bill. I may have a loss the first year but what newly opened biz doesn't? A few steady customers should produce a profit.

Did I tell you my software generates a shopping list complete with prices based on my recipes? Didn't find that out until a few mins ago..and it has an area to input the nutritional info so I know how much salt and how to adjust it. I also found a Small Biz Contact Manager on my computer :eek: I think Ill have to put the database I created in hibernation. :( At least I had fun the whole 2 hours it took to create it in Access. :D

Jodi

PS

This PC's system sounds more feasible. Dinner at Eight, LLC assuming the sample menu is for marketing only.

Shroom,

You have insurance right? How does that work? The ones that keep popping up for special situations seem to offer it to "caterers". The Liability Insurance that is.
 

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This is the most well planned out PC site I have ever seen!

The Westside Gourmet

My client market are families with reasonable incomes, elderly with reasonable income/pensions, single mommies and your regular everyday working stiff. I need something reasonable and this guy seems to be in the same kind of market area I am. And his food is what your average joe wants! Everything on this site is well stated. I like!
 

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ShawtyCat,

I know it's been a while since you were active on this thread but all the posts here have helped me out considerably. Thanks for asking all the questions. At this point, I'm wondering how things were going for you and if you were up and running as a PC. I've noticed in my own research that some PCs have now segued into preparing meals off-site and delivering gourmet meals to clients homes. As I put my PC business plan together, I'm trying to pull from as many experience people and websites as I can. Did you forgo the associations and organizations (I plan to for your very reasons and based on my experience)? Anyhow, would love to hear from you.
 

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Well, I started researching the PC part of the industry when I was still pregnant and on bedrest. My son is now 2 months old and my first son will be 2 in a few days. I am waiting for my son to get a little older before starting the physical/cooking phase of the business. So far, Ive gotten halfway through my business plan, typed up my marketing materials, and began costing out a few recipes. I've also decided to get my associates degree from Bergen Community College in Catering/Banquet Management. Personal Chefs do not need to get a culinary degree but I think it is a good investment since this course offers a class in business law, accounting and culinary techniques.

I did more research on the CIA and it is not feasible anymore.....the total cost is here. plus I'd have to move to Poughkeepsie or somewhere in the area. Drag my daughter out of elementary school, find daycare for both my boys and pay for an apartment. Too much money and trouble.

Hmmm..........that reminds me. I have to renew my food safety certificate soon.

By the way, there are more branches of the PC service growing. There is the fresh service where they cook one full three course meal and serve it and the home meal replacement service where they can prepare it in a professional kitchen and deliver it to the family.

Jodi

Edit: I will join the USPCA with their 200 annual dues for the liability insurance. I have searched for insurance and found that many insurance companies will mark you down as a caterer and slap you with big premiums. Better to join an assoc and receive the group discount.
 

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Thanks for the update, ShawtyCat. Also, congratulations on your new baby! I agree with you about the insurance, it can get very costly outside the associations. How exactly are you costing out your recipes? I'm also a wiz on the computer so I would like to incoporate this into my business. I have a Finance degree with a minor in accounting, I owned a marketing research firm and have been in financial sales for way too long. So I feel I have all the management/marketing skills that I need but my heart is in the kitchen preparing awesome food. I may still go for the certificate or AA in culinary arts but I would need to justify the cost. Perhaps if I choose to take on some catering jobs as well.

Take care, I'm sure you have your hands full!!
 

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I've been a personal chef for almost 2 years now, and I actually offer my clients 2 different price plans. One would be fee + food, but generally it's just a one rate thing. For instance, the usual going rate for a family of 2 adults for 2 weeks of food (That's 5 entrees, 4 servings each, plus sides =20 meals) usually runs around $305 for the 2 week service. I change my menu seasonally, and offer about 50 to 75 entees each season. I like this way because I can control the portions, and keep my food cost down. The other way is for people who want to live a little. I charge 225 for a 2 week service this way, plus cost of groceries. This way, the client can have whatever they want. Either way, you're making roughly 200-225 a day profit, after food cost. Not too bad for about 5-7 hours of work.
 

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Howdy, Chef.

It's been 6 years since I left the Lone Star State but my folks still live in Fort Worth. Thank you for scoop on price/profit. It's one of the areas that concerns me the most. You know the fear of leaving a great-paying but boring corporate job for the passion-filled culinary world. How did you come to choose PCing? I find it very interesting that many great restaurant chefs are now transitioning into PCing. What does that tell y'all?
 

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Ive been using an excel sheet from the CIA. Ive been estimating the Yield Percentage column though :blush: but everything seems about right.

Though I am working on my own....

I do plan to ask about the yield percentage part of food costing here though.

Jodi

Off to start that thread.... :D
 

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Jodi (?)

I've been reading the thread on PCs - the direction I'm also headed in - and I saw your posts about yrild percentages.

2 weeks ago I was a student in Hyde Park and one of the things I did get from the program was the culinary math. As far as the CIA food cost spreadsheet goes, once you look it over you'll notice that there are places where a few simple formulas can make a world of difference... Also the info you're looking for with regards to yields can be found in a book called:

"THE BOOK OF YIELDS" by ChefDesk (www.chefdesk.com)

This was included in our book, knife and uniform kit so I have no idea ow expensive it is, but it is invaluable when it comes to figuring food costs...

Hope this helps.

Bruce

PS - I'd be happy to discuss my experience in Hyde Park with any other career changers out there - especially before you sign an enrollment agreement.
 

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Bblank,

I've heard a number of CIA students are interested in the PC industry. I'm curious though, is this something that is being taught there now or do grads just decide that they don't want the headache of a restaurant? I'm still struggling with the idea because I feel that I have give up the immediate gratification of see a plated meal for a customer. As a CIA grad what has attracted you to PCing?
 

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I had the idea of doing the PC thing before even applying to the CIA. As a 50+ Y/O career changer, the idea of working the line in a hotel or restaurant was about as far from my career path as Bejing is from Philadelphia!

Unfortunately I discovered after about 7 months of the AOS program that the CIA is more about production than what I was looking forward to in a culinary education. I recently took a leave of absence to explore my career options and PCing is definitely one of them. I can cook, I have opened, run and sold 3 businesses in other lives but I'm just learning the PC biz (pricing, menu planning, storage options, etc., etc., etc.)

I hope this answers your question.

PS - Many of the PCs I've spoke with are doing it because they were fed-up with many aspects of the restaurant biz - hours, pay, holidays, vacations, etc. One PC graduated from the CIA over 10 yrs ago and worked in the restaurant biz after doing a stint in France - Now they're making 3-4 times as much as a personal chef!
 

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I've been away from ChefTalk for too long. It's been very interesting to read this thread. I own a personal chef business in the Chicago area and I serve as the Midwest Regional Director of the American Personal Chef Association. I teach seminars in the midwest about once per month for people looking to start up their own personal chef businesses. Don't worry, I'm not going to try to put the hard sell on anyone to join -- just wanted to offer my support to anyone interested in the industry.

I've often said that if you actually want to cook and make decent money doing it this is virtually the only route to take. Especially for the career-changer following their cooking passion. I can completely identify with not being able to consider working for peanuts in a restaurant after earning real money in another, albeit unsatisfying, career.

I would be more than happy to talk to anyone who is thinking about becoming a personal chef. I have no problem answering any questions you may have just because you haven't forked over the money to join our organization. You can contact me via e-mail or phone or post a message here and I'll do my best to stay on top of it. I won't bash the "other guys" -- in fact, I encourage you to look into both of the major organizations and make the choice that's right for you.

Regards,

Mike Sodaro
Owner, Pinch of Thyme Personal Chefs, Inc.
Midwest Regional Director, American Personal Chef Association
Downers Grove, IL
(630) 795-0100
 

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Pinch of Thyme? Pinch of thyme.... :confused:... .hmmmm where have I seen that before? I remember :bounce: I browsed your website a few months ago. I was trying to see how it was set up and the pricing structure etc. ;) I am still waiting for my admission to the APCA message board but Larry seems to be taking his time. :cool:

Funny Bruce, I'm currently watching an auction on that very book. It is being offered for pennies but it does have 4 days to go before the auction is over so who knows. That is what I meant about the yield percentage. I understand the formulas that were given on the spreadsheet but could not figure out where they were getting the 80% for an apple to plug in there. I did an extensive internet search after the posts here and up popped the book on Chefdesk.com :D

Sodaro

As soon as I can compose a few questions I will post a few.

Jodi

Edit:

Drat.....just thought of one. :rolleyes: I just can't help myself sometimes. :D I only want your opinion on this question.

1. Do you think the materials are for the cook who does not understand business or the businessman/woman who does not know many recipes but loves to cook? Or both?

2. If the cook is a pretty good business person, why is there not an option to just join the organization to pay dues and pay for the liability insurance? Or did I miss this option somewhere?

3. Now I know that it is said that a Personal Chef doesn't have to go to culinary school, but I believe that knowledge of Mise en Place (the mental kind) is essential. As a former home cook, I know for a fact that most of us hardly ever plan out what has to go on the fire and in what order to get it done quicker. Or how to cost out recipes so you know if one is running a little high in the instep (price wise) so your customer isn't left with a big bill plus your fee. I think these bits of information would be essential to the business. It is one thing to love cooking at home and another to try to do it professionally.

4. Does anyone think to figure in mileage to the fee? Cost out how much gas it takes to get you from your home to, say, 10 miles away? An estimate. :confused: It is an expense that adds up.

What are your thoughts?

Ok....it's 4 questions. :blush: My mind goes on the fast track when it gets started.

Jodi
 

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Just wanted to ask a few questions ( yes I know :rolleyes: ) that are in regards to this one.

As an organization is the APCA required to back up the knowledge and certification of their members? Is that why the materials are given out? I know the insurance is on a group deal (or so I heard) so I just started thinking that if someone who is not trained.......err...doesn't know how the APCA does business, was sued etc. (for breakage of equipment or some such thing) would the insurance premiums go up? :confused:

I mean, the working PCs are using the APCA's good name to help promote their business so I would think they would want them to understand how to do business the APCA's way. Right?

Sorry, Im just trying to figure out why materials are mandatory to some assoc./orgs.

Jodi
 

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Cat,

Have you thought about a Fresh PC Service?? I'm starting to see alot of PCs offering one. That way they can cook, plate and serve the meal. They do special occasions, holidays, anniversaries etc. Sounds like fun! :D

Customers can just pay for a set menu that you can change around whenever you want or to the clients tastes. Im leaning heavily towards this method for my niche. What new mommy is gonna have time to even press the microwave button and actually remember that there is food in there with a screaming newborn to tend to. :eek: I did that yesterday! I prepped a meal and tried to reheat later and my 2mth old woke up. So you can say I have insider knowledge on what a client would go through. :blush: :D

Now if I had a personal chef to cook and serve my food......I wouldn't be at California Pizza Kitchen at 9pm (not many customers to get agitated over the kids and baby) in order to sit and eat without the hassle of trying to cook a nutritious meal. Don't I sound like a PC brochure?? :D I've gotta patent that sentence!! :lol: :lol:

Jodi
 

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I'll try to answer all those questions. In general however it looks like you have some of the other organizations policies mixed up with ours. I know it can be confusing and I can only speak to how the APCA works.

1. The training is primarily business training -- we don't teach people how to cook. We do talk about freezing issues, packaging strategies, organizational skills, equipment recommendations and the like but no cooking per se. The training includes information on marketing, advertising, pricing, promotional materials, bookkeeping, types of businesses, insurance, legal issues, and day-to-day operational tips.

2. The APCA offers several levels of membership. Basically if you don't think you need any help but just want the benefits of membership you can join for $200. For that you get access to our forums, a link on our website so potential clients can find you, an -mail address if you want it etc. The website link is worth the $200 all by itself -- cook for one client that finds you that way once and it's paid for, ya know? Basic membership is $650 which also gets you the training materials, a day-in-the-life video, and a huge recipe collection. The most you can spend to join the APCA is $950. You get everything above but also get to attend a 2-day seminar with someone like me who will teach you everything you need to know to get your business off the ground.

3. APCA members all have their OWN insurance policies but we do get group rates. I've heard that the other organization provides insurance as part of their dues but I think that is a group policy (e.g., if one person uses up the benefits the rest are out of luck). I don't know if that's true or not but you would definitely want to make sure about that. The average APCA chef spends about $500/year on liability insurance.

4. Fresh service is definitely becoming the trend.

5. All inclusive versus fee-plus costing is a huge debate and our members are equally divided on the issue. It's really a personal decision and the details are just to involved to get into here. There is no right or wrong answer. The training materials cover this subject in great detail.

6. The APCA has just signed an agreement with the ACF regarding certification. The program will be rolled out early next year. We are working together on the criteria as we speak. The other organization "self-certifies" it's members. We prefered to go to the ACF because we feel a third party certification is more legit. Again, a personal decision on your part regarding how you feel about that.

7. Regarding mileage. Most chefs have a surcharge for clients located far from their home base. For example, I charge an extra $25 per cookdate for anyone more that an hour away. Other people do it differently. Whatever works for you.

Hope this helps!
 

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An Absolutely FANTASTIC IDEA!! I did a check of the NJ Licenses etc. and found that the USPCA Certification is the only PC certification recognized for PCs. It will be great to have another option to certification. :)

Jodi
 

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Wow, leave for a few days and the thread breaks loose!! Thanks, ShawtyCat for asking all these questions. And, hats off to you, Sadaro, for providing some much needed answers. I will contact you soon. I just picked up two books from Amazon on freezing food. There are several books on this subject and are mainly geared towards cooking for your family every month. The two I bought were, Frozen Assets and The Freezer Cooking Manual by the 30-day Gourmet. I can't say that I care for the recipes but all the guidelines for freezing are in there as well as how to set up the cooking day. I am more inclined to offer a fresh service because I won't compromise taste and texture but after running some numbers it seems that you would not have nearly the number of clients as you could with the frozen service. If you're cooking more often for one client then you have to forgo cooking for someone else. I've seen one website where the pc charges higher fees for more frequent service to one customer. Does this make any sense to anyone? I've also seen a site where the pc now has a commercial kitchen and delivers meals after receiving them over the website. She posts a menu and has a deadline date for ordering about 4 days before she shops so she can efficiently produce meals to more clients. She pc'd for 5 years first.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.
 

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Cat

I also have the 30 day Gourmet. I don't care for the recipes there either. I found most of the other info to be mainly common sense. Like if you are making 3 dishes that require tomato sauce...add up all the ounces needed for the dishes and buy a big can that is close to the total.

The 30 day gourmet site (your password should be in the back of the book) message boards are kind of bare..:( Let me know what your thoughts are on the Frozen Assets book.

:) Jodi :)

Edit: Yeah that makes sense to me..........

In a Frozen Service you are there for 5 - 7 hours cooking, cooling, packaging, labeling and cleaning up. You will service that client only once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month. Depends on what they want but you are usually there infrequently. Not much creativity beyond the menu conception, really.

In a Fresh Service you are there possibly every day for a little less time (maybe 5 hours......you have to count in an app, side, entree and dessert plus plating and serving then cleanup) but you are at that one client for a few days each week. It is understandable that this service will be a bit more expensive. You would only have to get, say, two clients for 3 days a week with one day off or three clients a week for 2 days a piece with one day off to be profitable. It sounds nicely challenging. :)

Almost like being on Iron Chef. :D Same panel more of a challenge to keep the food interesting but you do understand the workings of each individual's tastebuds.

Drat! I think I wrote a book again. :rolleyes: One of these days I have to learn not to talk so much. :D

Edit 2: Don't you say one word about this addition! :cool:

Forgot to add that with the Fresh Service some folks may think that you would have to change your menu frequently but I find that most people after frequenting an establishment for a while usually have a few selections that they find comfortable and always order. You could just change one or two items every month to keep it fresh. I dont think there is a need for a complete menu overhaul.
 
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