Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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One. Two. Three Conference Highlights

I have a 2-inch binder, a stack of business cards, and about 30 pages of notes that I took after my first USPCA Personal Chef’s Conference that was held in Denver, CO.  Shout out to all my new UPSCA friends.  It was so nice getting to know you!

Instead of inundating everyone with all the class details, I have decided to make it simple and give you the top three highlights for me.

Starting a Cooking School for Kids: Summer cooking classes for kids is something that I have considered, but had liability concerns since you’re working with knives, burners, etc…  I learned some great info about how to make these activities safer and still tons of fun for the kiddos.  More coming on that, probably next summer, but got some good starter ideas.

Let me know if you think your kids (or friends’ kids) would be interested in taking cooking classes.  If there is enough interest, I could consider adding a class sooner then next summer.  Age range would be from around 8-11 or 12-15.

No GMO’s – Another Reason to Eat Organic: I’ve just started learning more about what organic really means and what are the benefits of eating organic foods.  Some of you have heard of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) or GM foods.  Think mad scientist meets food…

In mid-1990’s, tomatoes were bred with a walnut gene to make the skin stronger and to extend grocery store shelf life.  So everyone with a nut allergy was suddenly allergic to tomatoes…go figure.

Tomatoes produced in the US are all now non-GMO, but by definition, any food labeled “organic” is made from non-GMO ingredients.  Soybeans, rice, and corn are three of the top GM foods grown today in the US.  Whenever possible, buy organic, or look for the “non-GMO” label.  Okay, off my soapbox!

Grill Something That Isn’t Typically Grilled: We can all grill chicken and burgers, but keep things interesting by using items that aren’t usually grilled…like ravioli and Tequila Lime pound cake.

For raviolis, partially cook, dip in egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs, grill a few minutes each size and serve with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  For Tequila Lime Pound Cake, place pound cake in a loaf pan, poke 20-30 holes with a skewer, combine two shots of tequila with a lime simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled then cooled) and pour over pound cake.  Soak for an hour, slice, and grill.

I’m thinking that Tequila Lime pound cake sounds pretty good right about now…  Enjoy!

Continuing Education…

I’m learning SO much every day.  There are so many things that I never knew I needed to know!  If you need to know anything about commercial vacuum-sealers, grain grinders, or countertop convection ovens….trust me, I’m your girl. In a few weeks, you can add bookkeeping and trademarks & patents to that list.  It brings new meaning to the word “continuing education”.

I’ve continued to take evening classes from the San Francisco Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Took a wonderful class last week called “From Kitchen to Market” designed for the specialty food market.  One piece of information in particular made the entire class worthwhile (a food manufacturers permit that I may not need if I’m not selling wholesale).  That alone may save me nearly two whole months.  Next up is a three-part series on bookkeeping.  Who’s excited?

Food Meets Learning

Great response received for my first cooking class: From Apples to Beets:  Making Your Own Organic Baby Food.  The date has been set for Thursday, August 28th from 2:30pm-4:30pm.  Several of my friends will be attending (thanks guys!), and there will also be some new faces.  Stay tuned, because more “adult” classes will be coming soon.  Everything from Easy Appetizers to Cooking with Whole Grains.  You’ll learn a lot about food, but more importantly, each class will be a completely fun and memorable experience!

Personal Chef Conference

I’m excited this week to attend the annual Personal Chef Conference in Denver, CO put on by the US Personal Chef Association (USPCA).  A great excuse to spend some time with my dad and stepmom, and see an old college friend in Denver too!

I’m heading there early to attend the volunteer day: a partnership project with the Denver Public Schools that involves cooking demonstrations and gardening with many of the school children.  Okay, I’m a total dork…but I even signed up for the “first timers” class.  But hey, I want to meet as many people and learn as much as I can while I’m there.  Yup, that’s me.


I’ve spent that last 10 years of my professional life being the one with the answers.  One of the biggest adjustments for me thus far has been not knowing what questions to ask, much less having any of the answers.  It’s like every day I get another piece of the puzzle…but yet I don’t have a picture of the puzzle, much less how many pieces I need to finish the thing!  As I said, an adjustment.

But man-oh-man…I’m having a blast!  I had a great photo shoot a few weeks ago and have some wonderful pictures to share soon.  I’m really excited about the upcoming cooking classes.  Got my brand new business cards with my logo.  Extended my kitchen lease for a year.  Making some great new contacts.  Generating some excitement for the baby food.  Progress.

So…all in all it’s been a great couple of weeks.  I’m trying to keep all the doubts and fears at bay, and just continue to move forward.  Looking forward to next week’s blog where I can tell you all about the conference.

A Single Girl’s Guide to being a Personal Chef

What Exactly is a Personal Chef?

As I was figuring out the best way to describe the process to you, I kept coming back to the world of dating.  What could finding a mate and food have in common?  A lot as it turns out!

Many people have asked me “What is a personal chef?” In the simplest terms, a personal chef prepares meals for everyday people (just like you!) that don’t have the desire or time to cook.  The food is completely customized based on what the client’s needs: low sugar, healthy, comfort food, International cuisines, whatever…

The Meeting – Not Your Local Bar

So all the single ladies know that the first step in dating is figuring out where to meet a man.  The local bar has been a popular spot historically, but I prefer looking in one of two places: a place where men commonly gather, or a pick a hobby that you enjoy and find men that enjoy the same thing.

For personal chefs, you can meet potential clients by chance, or you can look for them in places they’re more likely to be; wine shops, gourmet grocery stores, health clubs, upscale hair salons, etc…  The reality is that clients interested in hiring a personal chef need to have a certain amount of discretionary income, so you need to look in areas that attract the demographic you’re targeting.

The Food Survey – Your Profile

In the dating world, the Food Survey is kind of like filling out your initial profile online in which you describe what you’re looking for in an ideal mate.  (Thought you’d like that one, Mom).  Contrary to popular belief, you really can’t be too picky with your profile.  It’s completed prior to the first cook date, and is designed to tell the chef your likes and dislikes, which will be used when creating customized menus.

Common questions are:

  • Chicken: white or dark meat preference
  • Known food allergies
  • How spicy to you like your food: mild, medium, spicy, on-fire
  • Food you NEVER want to see

The “dating” stage comes next…

Menu Planning

Once the initial “profile” is completed, a personal chef will then create a menu based on your preferences.  It’s kinda like playing matchmaker.  You take what you know about the foods and flavors they prefer and create menu items that you think they’ll like.   A man who is over 6 feet tall and tips well becomes Cozy Chicken Stew with Lemon and Herb Quinoa.  (I’m a fan of all four things by the way).

The Cook Date

The first cook day comes – very similar to going on a first date.  “I hope he/she likes me” turns into “I hope he/she likes my Asian Soba Noodle Salad.”  Before the cook dates, the personal chef goes shopping…grocery shopping that is…brings all the right equipment to the client’s house and cooks all the dishes their kitchen.  The food gets packaged and labeled with reheating instructions.  The kitchen is left spotless, and the aromas of the day fill the house.

Happily Ever After

So the moral of the story (the cooking part of the story anyways) is that a personal chef is not just a luxury reserved for the movie stars of Beverly Hills.  It can be for normal people like you and me that want to eat great food without the fuss of cooking.

People always say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…hopefully the same will apply for all my future customers!

I’d love to hear from you either by posting a comment, or posting on our Facebook page!  Thanks so much with keeping up-to-date with Little City Kitchen Co.

The First Few Days…

Monday morning, 6:46 AM: my internal body-clock goes off and shouts “get up you idiot, you’re LATE”.  About 20 disoriented seconds later, I realize….wait a minute….and promptly fell back to sleep until 8:30am.  Feeling a little guilty for sleeping in later than I had intended, I dragged my butt out of bed and began my first official day of self-employment.

First task: Buy a new computer.  I’ve been a PC user until this point, but I caved in this week and bought a Macbook.  I can hear my Dad’s voice in my head… “Do you really need a new computer?”  (Yes, Dad). “Then at least buy one refurbished and save a few bucks.”  (Okay, Dad).  The Apple store has a great refurbished section on their website, average 15%-20% savings on each item.  Love it!

After the computer was ordered, I did what any normal foodie would do…I proceeded to re-organize my entire stock of cookbooks.  First shelf contains all the “go-to” cookbooks: Joy of Cooking (the copy my parents gave me as a high-school graduation gift), Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeurves Handbook, and my countless America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks that I could literally read cover-to-cover.  The next shelf contains all my “inspiration” cookbooks…the ones I flip through to come up with ideas, lots of colorful pictures, sure to get the creative juices flowing.  And then finally the bottom shelf will hold all the “other” cookbooks that I’ve acquired but don’t use that much.  I mean really, the Soprano’s Family Italian cookbook???

Hoping to knock out my business plan in the next 1-2 weeks.  I researched close to 50 business plan-writing books last year and found one that I love: Business Plan in a Day. I’m struggling with it a little because I’m not focused on just one service.  I’ll be doing: personal chef, catering, cooking classes, corporate team building, etc… and each area has a different target audience, marketing initiatives, and needs.

Next project will be to get a home office set up.  Which means….pause….I actually have to clean off my desk.  The word “desk” is a little misleading, since up until now, it’s really been more of a paper-and-junk-storage-thingy.  Those who know me would agree, I’m slightly organizationally-challenged, especially when it comes to paperwork.  Which could prove challenging with my new business, since I can’t afford (literally) to have anything fall through the cracks.  That’s something I’m going to have to work on.

So, the first few days have been great and super-productive.  It doesn’t feel like I’m working, but I doesn’t feel like I’m on vacation either…  Hard to describe, but I love it so far!

Little City Kitchen Company is Born

This is probably going to be the most honest food blog you will ever read!  My intention isn’t just to share recipes, but it’s to share with you the process of starting and running Little City Kitchen Co.  I have never owned my own business.  I have not been classically trained as a chef.  I have never done half of the things that I want to accomplish with this company.  There will be things that work, many that don’t, and I plan on sharing all of it with you.

Welcome to the first installment of the Little City Kitchen Co. blog.  I thought I’d first tell you a little bit about me and how I came to this point…

Definition of a “Foodie”

I have been a “foodie” all my life.  What is a foodie, you ask?  While the dictionaries have many differing opinions, my mom and I saw a T-shirt that most aptly defined a foodie as “some one who plans dinner when they are still eating lunch”.  Yup, that’s me!

My sister says I’m obsessed…and I think she’s probably right.  I’m not just interested in tasting new foods – I’m interested in every possible aspect…where it comes from, how it’s grown, how to make it look beautiful, how to make it taste great.  In a nutshell, I want to know EVERYTHING about food.

Growing Up

Jill cooking, age 10

I don’t really know if there was a pivotal “moment” in my childhood where I decided to take an interest in food, I just remember that I always loved it.  The first meal that I cooked for my family was meatloaf and rice, probably around the age of 10.  I mean really, all the other 10 year olds were doing everything they could to stay OUT of the kitchen, yet there I was, flipping through my mom’s Joy of Cooking.

The College Years

And let’s fast forward to college, the lovely University of North Carolina in Wilmington.  I was the one cooking elaborate meals out of a dorm room kitchen when everyone else was ordering take-out.  My friends had meals consisting of Ramen noodles, Doritos, and pizza in a can (yeah, you guys know what I’m talking about, the kind that comes in a tube like those crescent rolls you bake!).

And yet somehow I had fresh bell peppers, mushrooms, onions crammed into my little fridge – in case I wanted to make an impromptu chicken stir-fry.  When you think of smells that commonly float through dorms, trust me, it’s not usually sautéed garlic!

Post College

I moved up to Boston, MA and lived in a small apartment in the North End, Boston’s Little Italy.  It was just like being in Europe…you visit the butcher for your meat, the farm stand for your produce, the cheese shop for your fresh ricotta, the bakery for your bread (and okay, let’s be honest, I bought a few cannolis too), and the pasta shop for sheets of fresh lasagna noodles.  Absolute.  Heaven.

San Francisco

My grandmother came to visit me in San Francisco a few years ago and gave me a very specific order to pick the best restaurant in San Francisco for dinner.  We went to a place called Jardinière where I ordered their 8-course tasting menu.  I can still probably recall 6 of the 8 courses (which I won’t bore you with), but let’s just say that I drooled over and relished every single bite.

The bill came…quite expensive.  I offered to contribute but my grandmother said “Jill, I would pay double just to see you eat that meal again.  I’ve never seen ANYONE enjoy food so much!”

I could go on and on with more food stories, but I think you get the point.  Becoming a foodie was really never a choice for me…it just sort of happened.

Little City Kitchen Company is Born

So we fast-forward to present day.  I’ve had this pipedream of starting a cooking company for five years, probably even longer.  It’s taken me a while to get here.  I had to go through what I imagine is a “normal” process for any new entrepreneur…thoughts, ideas, doubts, research, more doubts, the always-looming question “can I really make a living doing this”???

What made the decision and process so difficult?  Well, the short answer is fear.  I have had a very successful 10-year career in the hotel industry.  I have received many accolades, have built a good reputation within my field, and have been able to lead a more-than-comfortable lifestyle as a result.  The logical part of my brain was saying “stay there, it’s safe, you’ve got such a great job, you make good money, how could you think about walking away from all of this?”

It was (is!) super-scary to walk away from that safety in pursuit of something completely unknown, yet potentially fantastic.  Not so long ago, I came to a crossroads in my life and decided that I either needed to give this thing a try, or I needed to let it go entirely.

And the Little City Kitchen Co. was born!

So far, I have a general idea of how I want the company to look and grow over the next several years.  It’s going to be a busy next two months for me.  In the short term, I plan to get much clearer on that vision, finalize my business plan, and accomplish about 30 other tasks that I’ve identified.

Thanks to all my friends and family that have supported me throughout this process.  I’m so excited for what the next year will bring, and I hope that you’ll follow me along as I figure all this stuff out!