First Cook Date of a Personal Chef Coaching Client

January 28, 2015

personal chef coaching

I got email from personal chef coaching client yesterday about her first cook date. I asked her if I could share it with you. It’s not only well-written, but it’s a peek into the reality of what it’s like to do this.  It’s not easy, but this was her first day ever.

She went from never having cooked 3 elaborate meals at once to making it happen. AMAZING.

I put my answers in bold.  Enjoy!

Oh m’gosh. Are you ready for a tome? Sit back with a glass of wine.
I wish I felt better about it. The white bean stew will be the biggest hit. It was delicious  and both my client and and her husband came home feeling under the weather. It will be perfect for them tonight (the fact that I was there when they came home after work should give you a clue to how this went). There are swear words in here. If that offends you, I’m sorry:

I got to Whole Foods at 8:15am and realized I forgot my mother fucking wallet. I had to go home and get it, which made me late . Not a big deal for my friend, thankfully. But frustrating.

Forgetting stuff at the grocery store or to put a key ingredient on the grocery list is another one that happens and that is REALLY frustrating.

Once in the kitchen, I started strong (thanks to your organizational prep help). She had a lot of great baking sheets, bowls and food storage containers. Still, I had to bring a bunch of stuff — my food processor, some spices I didn’t feel good about buying because I doubted she would use them again (and this was a one-time gig), my garlic zester (previously known to me as my citrus grater!), my timer (invaluable), good salt, my pepper mill, mop towels, knife, labeling tape, blah, blah, blah.) I was glad I had them all. Wish I had brought my Vitamix. Her blender sucked.

Yeahhhhhh. Sucks that you had to bring your food processor.  That’s heavy.  And not super fun to carry.  Most people have one, though!

I banged out the bean burgers and put them in the fridge, hopeful that I had adjusted the recipe to be more firm. I substituted quinoa flakes for the oats, added sunflower seeds, reduced liquids (didn’t help in the end because I added cheese which only made them more mushy when cooking). G-dammit.

Bean burgers are super tricky. I’ve made my share of mushy ones.  This is also part of the job – shit doesn’t work sometimes, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.  It doesn’t matter how much experience you have – food does not always behave the way you want it to.) 

I couldn’t find pre-cut butternut squash, so had to chop a squash up, which put me behind. But the roasted grapes and squash turned out nicely. I was lenient on the spices the recipe called for because the kid doesn’t like spice. Which was a bummer, but I think I struck a nice balance.  Made the cassoulet (perfect), the Spanish rice turned out great, though I had to omit the bell peppers. Fine.

I think the mushroom mixture suffered a bit by going soft on the spices. I also used a bigger mushroom (huge pre-sliced creminis instead of brown button) which added an element of water I wasn’t prepared for. Instead of crisping, they sort of stewed. They tasted ok, but I wasn’t happy with the texture. I cooked them longer but it didn’t seem to be improving, so I gave up and took them off the stove.

White button mushrooms are already super watery, let alone ones that are thick.  What you experienced was normal – but not ideal.  I would prob use portabello or shitakes for tacos.  They hold up better.

I don’t know… somewhere around there (2:30pm), I lost all focus! It might have been low blood sugar. I might have gotten overwhelmed, I might have had an out of body experience, but I spent a hour tripping over my feet, spilling things, swearing, not able to remember what I was doing, panicking about how much left I had to do. The kitchen was a disaster. Thank the LORD I was alone. I think taking a break and doing some cleaning and tidying helped snap me out of it.

It’s pretty hard to keep the kitchen perfectly neat in the midst of it all.  Sometimes impossible.  Messiness to some extent is a part of it.  Especially in smaller kitchen.  You’re cooking food for a small army in there – and it’s hard to keep it all contained.  Did you have breakfast?  I had to train myself to make sure to eat – so that this doesn’t happen.  Also yes, taking a cleaning break.  You feel MUCH calmer when you are in a clean kitchen – and the mess gets to you.  This also is part of it, and the more food you make, the worse it becomes.

I roasted the potatoes, finished the salads and dressings. I cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floor,  and the last thing I did was pan-fry the burgers, praying for a crisp crust. Which happened, but inside is definitely mushy. Also, there was something bitter in there… maybe the cumin or curry? Hope the condiments cover it!!!

I’m sure they will.  And ugh.  This also happens.  Sometimes 90% of the food is perfect and the last 10% is… just okay.  It’s part of it and I think this happens to the best of us.

I put everything in storage containers and labeled with kitchen tape and a Sharpy pen (classy!) I didn’t have time to organize the fridge  in a spectacular way… just shoved shit in there wherever it fit.

Doing labels the night before – otherwise you’re too tired by the end of the day to give a shit about this.

At the end of the day, it took me 6 hours. I say fuck the salads in the future. Can people make their own salads???

Yep.  They can.  Keep it simple otherwise it’s overwhelming, as you experienced.  6 hours is normal to start – you’re not going to be magically quick in one day.  It always takes me 30-45 extra minutes in a new kitchen too.  Figuring out where everything is and the flow of it is a process.  The same cook date that used to take me 4 hours, though, takes me 2.  It’s just getting used to it.

So, some questions for you:

1. My client didn’t want to see a shopping list before I shopped. I ended up buying things she already had… lemons, arugula, little roasting potatoes, salsa, etc.  I took those off her grocery bill and took them home b/c I can use them. Was that the right thing to do?

For a regular weekly client I would not take it off the bill.  I usually know what’s in their pantry – if they have food on top of what I’m buying it’s because they bought it, and maybe they intend to use it.

2. What happened to me around 2:30? Is that normal, or was I overwhelmed? Was it too much food for a couple and a 8 year old kid? Do I suck? Do I need to go back to corporate America? What menu modifications would you have suggested to make it easier?

Make sure to eat and clean periodically is important.  Also probably nixing the salads – or just doing 1.  I keep veggie sides simple otherwise it gets overwhelming.  I have no idea if it was too much food – it’s normal to get somewhat overwhelmed your first day. I’ve been doing this for a long time and there are days where I’ve been overwhelmed.  I think for you, doing the cook dates and figuring out other services that are simpler – vegan food coaching, private cooking lessons, etc – take the burden off having to constantly be making a ton of food at once.  Also maybe just keep it at 3 entrees – I won’t do any more than that for people nowadays.

All that said, my client walked into the kitchen at 4:30 and was entranced by all the aromas, thankful that she didn’t have to put thought into dinner, grateful for the help. All that made it worth it.

Awww.  Yes.  People do appreciate this!  It’s a pretty awesome thing to come home to.

I dunno…. was that a good day or a bad day? I’m certainly tired!! It was fun, stressful, and zen (at times). Two of the three things I’m looking for in life these days.

Pretty sure it was normal! This is a skill – it has a learning curve, and making a lot of food at once isn’t easy. And yes, I’m tired at the end of the day.That’s normal too.But it’s a good kind of tired!

Thanks again for all the support and advice. I don’t know what I’d do without you!

All in all, this is a realistic overview of what to expect.  The kitchen will get messy.  You need to make sure you eat.  You will forget things. It’s a combination of being in the zone and being frazzled.

But it’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s a great revenue stream. And you build awesome relationships with people who LOVE you.

PS. If this is something you’ve been considering doing, sign up for the personal chef group coaching program. Even if it’s something you’re just thinking about, you’ll learn a ton about how to organize cook dates, price your services, plan menus and create an amazing brand.  The class launches February 23rd – click here to apply!

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