Kiki Coll of Hippe Chick Foods sat down and answered questions I thought would help you in your journey as a personal chef.
It's wonderful to see perspectives on how others run their personal chef business. If you'd like to share your personal chef journey, I'd be honored to have you as the next guest post.
Q: Share the name and location of your business, what you do, who are you clients.
A: Hippie Chick Foods, Wilmington, Delaware ~ Serving Up Groovy Recipes serving New Castle County, De. and Delaware County, Pa.
Hippie Chick Foods is a private chef service by Chef Kiki Coll,with an emphasis on vintage recipes. My foods incorporate the flavors, feel and most importantly, the memories of past decades.
A Side of Nostalgia with Every Bite!
I take pride in using locally sourced ingredients from area farmer’s markets, farm stands, and other local product vendors, incorporating the Hippie food movement of farm to table.
Farm to Table ~ Table to Soul
My primary clients are individuals and families that are short on time or maybe skill to prepare daily meals and miss sitting down to a satisfying, home cooked breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My secondary customers are those that entertain and want a chef to come in for a special dinner party, or maybe a casual get together around the bbq. Whatever my clients foods needs are, I’m happy to bring
Peace, Love, and Food right to their home!
Q: Talk about your culinary background and describe your signature service, which ties into how and why you got into the personal chef business.
A: I am an intuitive chef who learned to cook and bake on the strings of my mother’s apron. My British mother was formally trained in the culinary arts, but dedicated her life and cooking skills to feeding her large family, as well as her community. My earliest memories are of standing on an old, wooden chair beside my mother as she formulated her recipes into delightful baked goods and familiar family meals. That tiny yellow kitchen with the 1970’s flower power wallpaper was the center of our household. It was there that I learned the steps and techniques of baking bread, slow cooking a roast, canning the fruits of our gardens. It was there that I learned about the connection between food and emotions.
My mother would often tell me the story of a recipe as she cooked. Where it came from, how it was significant to our culture or family tradition. We would talk about the ingredients, and its connection to us. Every Friday afternoon I would accompany mum to our local farmers market where she would look for the freshest ingredients, sometimes haggling prices with farmers. The smells and sights of the bustling market would linger in my senses, and always made me feel warm and welcome. Today, I still frequent that very same farmers market.
So my passion for food began early, as well as my understanding of the connection of food and memories. After all, food or breaking bread together is the most primal connection between human beings. This led to me exploring that connection, and eventually honing it into a niche as a private chef.
All together I’ve been doing private chef services for about 12 years now.
~ Meals with Memories
Q: What do you love best about being a personal chef?
A: The most rewarding part of being a private chef is the enjoyment my clients receive from eating my foods. It's wonderful to experience being a part of people sitting down for a shared meal. When people express the sweet memories it brings back for them, that’s just perfection to me.
I also love the art of food, finding creative ways to present the food or the table setting...that’s all art. All of it…. From picking the lines, the dishes, flowers, plating the meal. Such fun for me!
Q: Describe how your business has changed since March of this year (2020).
A: Wow, I don’t believe many of us ever thought about a situation as we are currently experiencing. It's been difficult. Obviously, life has changed and people are not having celebrations in the same way as before, but food is still a necessity, and life moves forward with birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. People still want to be connected to their families and communities. Slowly, we are finding ways to do so.
In that change I have made it a priority to adjust my kitchen practices to include elevated safety measures, such as always using gloves and masks. Being particularly attentive to clients’ individual concerns, working with them to meet their standards for in-home private chef services.
I offer Zoom dinner parties, in which a client plans a menu as usual for a dinner party except I deliver it to each of their guests’ homes (there is a distance restriction) and the guests meet on Zoom to share their meal. Great for local friends and family.
Q: If you can remember, share how you went about getting your very first client.
A: Well, for me I was cooking for people long before I made it a profession. So, often friends, family, or community members who had enjoyed my food at a get together would ask if I could make a certain dish for them, which of course I did. I often baked for school/church bake sales. I think my son was maybe in early elementary school when the school asked if I could bake a graduation cake for the 8th grade graduation party and they would pay me. After that I started to move toward selling baked goods and eventually into private chef services. So I’d say I cultivated my early customers simply by voluntarily baking/cooking within the community, which allowed people to get to know me and my foods.
Q: Share with those new in the business how you went about pricing your services in the beginning of your business compared to how you’re priced now.
A: Oh my, in the beginning I had no idea what I was doing..lol. I was definitely underpricing myself, but I was so excited to just be cooking/baking for pay. I believe pricing services as a private chef may be one of the most difficult tasks in starting this type of business.
I had to educate myself in this area. I had to figure out a pricing formula that worked for me.
In the beginning I did offer free services and discounts often just so I could gain experience, but once I built up several years of professional experience I stopped doing that.
I was in the real estate/property management business for many years prior so I did comprehensive comparables for chef services just like they do for real estate. I sought out the information on what chefs in my area were charging for services, along with food prices, restaurant/catering prices. You really need a good sense of the local industry in your area because obviously what a chef charges in a large metropolitan city isn’t going to match that of a chef working a small, rural area.
In the beginning I often worked for an hourly wage, but I no longer do that. With the wide range of task chefs perform I find it better to use your comprehensive comparables and value of the numbers of years of experience to formulate set prices for your labor. All food/non food ingredient cost should fall to the client, making it easy for the client to see what your fee is. Keep it separate.
I think one of the most common mistakes private chefs make is underpaying themselves. Being a chef is not only hard work, but it is a specialized skill. It's very easy in this business to devalue yourself, so always remember that you deserve to be compensated fairly for your time, energy, and your art!
Q: What is your favorite cookbook or chef that inspires you?
A: I would without a doubt have to say my mother was the chef that inspired me the most. My mum’s recipe collection is still my go-to source for amazing, vintage dishes!
Q: Where do you see your business five years from now?
A: Hmmm, this is a tricky question being the vulnerable times that we are living in, but I do see myself still pursuing my passion, being a chef. In five years I hope to have added, successful Cookbook author to my resume. In the meantime, I will continue to bring my muched loved clients lots of Peace, Love, and Food!
Q: What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting out in the personal chef space?
A: Being a chef is like any other artist, your passion is the most important element of success!
Keep on Keeping on!
Q: How can folks get in touch with you if they have more questions?
It's wonderful to see perspectives on how others run their personal chef business. If you'd like to share your personal chef journey, I'd be honored to have you as the next guest post. [email protected]