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Old 01-21-2006, 06:49 AM   #11
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Bigdog, I'd suggest looking into getting a job with one of the big food service providers, like US Food, at first when you move. You could be a rep, calling on restaurants, catering businesses, etc. That would give you a foot in the door to check out the local food 'scene', and you'll also pick up a lot of great ideas from seeing different kitchen setups, etc. It would also give you a steady income while you're deciding on how you want to further your own dream.
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Old 01-21-2006, 07:05 AM   #12
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That's a great idea, marmalady!!!
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Old 01-21-2006, 09:07 AM   #13
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I have no experience in the food industry either, but like yourself, love to cook for others and "bask in the glow". I love to see everyone enjoy the foods I pepare for them. But what I am very good at is seeing what works and what doesn't. I'm a great observer, and researcher.

For a private enterprise, there appear to be three primary methods for finding success, and they all contain a fair amount of risk. The first is to look at what others are doing, and copy the best features of several businesses, such as Applebee's, Outback, McDonald's, KFC, and restaurants such as Black Angus, and any highly successful local establishments you see. The advantage of this approach is that you don't have to re-invent the wheel. You can look at why these places work. What kind of dishes do they prepare to bring in customers; how do they keep costs down; how important is advertizing, etc. The danger is that you are entering a nearly saturated market.

The second highly succesful approach is to create a niche market. That is, make something appealing that no one else is making. For instance, in New York City area, there is a place that sells peanut butter themed sandwiches. They have an astounding variety, and are doing very well as a business. No one else is like them. And evidently, their location is right. I saw this place on a FoodNetwork show. The key to their success is that they are offering a unique product that touches the "kid" in their customers. PBJ's are an extremely compelling comfort food. You eat one once in a blue moon and say to yourself, this is yummy. I should eat these more often. Well, at the resaurant, they do.

Another such place is IHOP. Again, what's more comfortable than a plate full of pancakes, and in varieties that aren't normaly served in the regular home.

I consider places such as TGI-Fridays to be similar establishments. Sit down, order some mediocre food, but enjoy the relaxing, let-your-hair-down, loosen-your-tie atmosphere.

And finally, the third successful type that I see is the quality restaurant, where you pay for what you get. These places are visited by those who can afford them, and those who can afford them once in a great while. They provide great food made by true chefs. The ambience, air of exclusivity, and even the high prices brings in the customers. Who doesn't want to feel like they're taking their prom-date to the best place in town? You feel successful and good about your station in life when you can go to such a place. And believe me when I say, that it's a powerful attraction.

So as I see it, as you are talking about a catering business, or becoming personal chef, it would make sense to offer a unique dining experience of high quality food, at a substantial price aimed at the upper-middle-class and above crowd, and a menu of quirky, fun foods for the cheaper crowds. And finally, don't forget the roast turkey and mashed potato crowd who like to eat moderately good, but low cost food at weddings and such.

Find out what your competition is. Look at the customer demographics of the area in which you are planning to set up shop. Find out what is already working in the area. And then find out the true costs involved in operating the business, including utility bills, cost of set up and supplies, rent on a store-front, equipment costs, wages, and how much profit is required to pay for it all, and to invest in expansion and better product.

You have a huge task ahead of you my freind. But if you are willing to put all of your energies into it, and for an extended period of time, and your family is behind you, and shares the dream, you can do it. Others have. And I know what it takes to complete a Bachelors Degree, at least in Electronics. It takes a huge amount of mental and monetary resources, above and beyond what the common worker expends. If you can complete a Bachelor's program, I have to think you have what it takes to start a food related business.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 01-21-2006, 06:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mish
BD, hope you don't mind that I condensed this to help you see some key points you've made; and don't mind my personal opinion. You said it is hard to break into law enforcement WITH a degree. But, want to go into another field (perhaps in another state, w/o the finances right now), with no prospects or solid experience under your belt. You also mentioned that you are 30.

So far, based on the above, if it were me, not you, I would stay where you are and go for the career you've been trained in/have a degree (for now) - law enforcement. I imagine that in 20 years or so (if you put some time in), you will have contributed to a pension plan (for yourself and family), have sick days, holidays, Health Insurance, etc.

Once you have some time vested, a steady pay check, a little $ in the bank, you're working on a secure plan for the future. I'm practical, that's just me. While you're working, you can still continue to further your education/gather knowledge re a new career path. I also would not rely on a prospective business partner that needs 'prodding' in another state. No reflection on how good a 'friend' they may be. Rely on yourself.

I'm honest, hope you don't mind. If you were 20, with no family ties, maybe I'd say go for it. Again, I'm realistic and not trying to rain on your parade. To make a long story short - go with what you know, & keep on learning, think about a future long-range plan for yourself and family.
I appreciate the honesty. The problem I have is I'm not where I want to be. I'm not in law enforcement, and do not have any remotely strong shots at getting in. I've truthfully been denied by over 100 departments in the state of Minnesota. Most people my age have 5 to 10 years on the force with a secure pension building. There in lies my problem. Even if I started now (which I can't since I don't have a police job) I'm 5 to 10 years behind. I'm competing against people far younger that truthfully have more longevity available to a department.

So, if I continue trying to infiltrate a career that I have little to no chance of getting into, I do nothing more then waste my time and continue working at a job I do not like and fight to get up for each morning. Frankly, I do not know many my age that are not established to some degree in a career. In fact, I don't know anyone but myself. If I do not establish myself in a career direction, not only do I waste my time, but I waste opportunity to establish work longevity and retirement funding.

My time is short, and I have to make the most of what I have left. Pursuing law inforcement seems more and more like beating a dead horse. Option A is I build a bridge and get over it, and move on. Option B is continuing to waste my time and my family's future, not being able to provide for them the way I want to. Right now it is just my wife and I, but we hope to have kids. A dead end job not providing the needed compensation (including pay, benefits, etc.) is not where I want to be.

I have no problem putting the time in to pursue other careers, and culinary arts is the only thing I have an interest in. There is education available, and once I can get some experience to couple with education, I have a better shot. At the same time, my desire to open something on my own is spawned so as to not be limited to any required education or experience.

Again, I appreciate you honesty. If I had a shot at getting into law enforcement, I'd likely follow it. However, I've been beating my head for almost 2 years trying to get into police work. Every one I know that got in was either female or a minority, or already had a well established foot in the door from non-sworn positions. I mean no disrespect in reference to gender or ethnicity, as I believe in equal opportunity employment. Unfortunately I do not think it is always practiced.

Bottom line, if I don't do something soon, I give up on opportunities to make the most of my life and to provide the best possible life I can for family.
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Old 01-21-2006, 08:43 PM   #15
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I haven't read everything here, but as a former business owner, I think there are a few things I need to tell you.

I had a retail greenhouse, landscaping, florist business. We grew most everything ourselves, which meant I had "babies" to take care of all year long. Kinda like baby chickens. Or hogs. We couldn't leave, and from December-February, when it was 10 degrees or colder, I would get up at 3:00 AM, bundle up, and go out to check the greenhouses. When it gets below 15, the hairs in your nose freeze up. On Suday afternoons when the sun came out, I was out misting seedlings.

But before that, I wanted to get into the food/catering business. There was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was owned by an old lady who was my friend. All the judges, lawyers, etc from the courthous came there to eat. It had a lot of possibilities, and I had great ideas about the place, like turning into this cool sort of "cafe", offering wonderful soups and sandwiches, as well as a catering service. Can't sell alcohol that close to the courthouse. She offered me a great price, and I actually had a lot of people urging me to do it, as the closest catering service at that time was in St. Louis, and they liked my food.
I got pretty serious about it, until my ex-husband put his two bits in:

"You will be working every weekend, every holiday...your time will never be your own."

And that's a fact to consider. If you're willing to do that, you also need to a good amount of extra money to put into the business, and have a partner with a job. You're going to need some sort of steady income until you start making a decent profit, and even beyond that, because you need to keep investing profit into your business in the form of improvements.

I am not saying this to discourage you, but I wish someone had given me this advice when I started out.
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Old 01-26-2006, 08:02 PM   #16
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A personal chef?!?!?

As aforementioned, I'm in a career crossroads right now. The purpose of this topic was (and still remains) to gain wisdom from the experts here.

That said, this post enlightens a direction that peaks my interest. I realize the wisdom from the previous posts, along with those yet to come will aplly to this aspect of culinary arts, especially Constance's. I've researched the requirements of a personal chef in Minnesota, all of which are relatively easy to attain. Of course, breaking in to the field will be effort, along with getting started, and pretty much everything in Constance's post will take time. There's certainly money to be made there!

For anyone that is or has knowledge of being a personal chef, I'd also love to hear what you have to add on this. I see a huge opportunity to serve a wide variety of customers, from those wanting 5 meals a week to specific meals on a day by day basis. Also covering special events, or maybe even dishes prepared "en mass" like tater tot hot dish that can be frozen and heated for multiple servings.

I look forward to the forthcoming input!
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Old 01-26-2006, 08:40 PM   #17
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Sorry, Big Dog, but it's me again.

As personal chief, you need to be prepared to accommadate the special needs of your patrons. You should probably get aquainted with cooking for diabetics, low salt, gluten free, and other specialized areas. This will give you an edge on the average guys. Betty Crocker (among others) has a special cookbook for people with cancer.

I'm known for my entertaining, and I can give you some good advice here.
When you have a party or big event going on, orginazation is going to be very important to you. Make lists. Have back-ups for things that may not work out. Do the most important things first, get help if you need it, and everything will fall together. Don't wait till the last minute to do anything, because something unexpected will always come up.

Appearance is also important. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and figure out how you are going to dress. Your hair could be long or short, as long as it looks neat and isn't falling over your face. But have your own style...be yourself.

Personality is always important. You should be courteous without being overly familiar. Maintain your professional attitude at all times.
After you are with the family for a while, you will be able to sense what they prefer, but never forget that you are their employee, not a member of the family.
At the same time, maintain your dignity. You are providing them a service that most families cannot afford.
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Old 01-26-2006, 08:55 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
Sorry, Big Dog, but it's me again.
No need to apologize! Your thoughts and input are more than welcomed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
As personal chief, you need to be prepared to accommadate the special needs of your patrons. You should probably get aquainted with cooking for diabetics, low salt, gluten free, and other specialized areas. This will give you an edge on the average guys. Betty Crocker (among others) has a special cookbook for people with cancer.
An aspect I hadn't thought of. Interesting. There are all sorts of "medical" (allergies, dislikes, or actual medical) diets to consider. My style is down home, country cooking. While good and tasty, not always in the best interest of special diets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
I'm known for my entertaining, and I can give you some good advice here.
When you have a party or big event going on, orginazation is going to be very important to you. Make lists. Have back-ups for things that may not work out. Do the most important things first, get help if you need it, and everything will fall together. Don't wait till the last minute to do anything, because something unexpected will always come up.
Thanks for that tidbit. In my school years, I was the worst procrastinator. Maybe it's a phase, I don't know, but I've learned procrastination as an adult t'aint good. My wife is queen of organization, and she's helped me a lot with lists, organization, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
Appearance is also important. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and figure out how you are going to dress. Your hair could be long or short, as long as it looks neat and isn't falling over your face. But have your own style...be yourself.
Being myself is very easy. I am very extroverted, and love customer service. It's all I do, and I do it well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
Personality is always important. You should be courteous without being overly familiar. Maintain your professional attitude at all times.
After you are with the family for a while, you will be able to sense what they prefer, but never forget that you are their employee, not a member of the family. At the same time, maintain your dignity. You are providing them a service that most families cannot afford.
You are wise like the Buddha. I am truly thankful for all of your information and tips!
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Old 01-27-2006, 09:37 AM   #19
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If you want to check into formal training in your area you might check this list of Minnesota Culinary Colleges. You'll just have to look at each school to see what programs they offer. I'm sure the instructors can help you land a part-time job in a kitchen somewhere for a little additional experience, and income, while you are in school.

Of course there is always the OJT (on the job training) route by getting a job in a kitchen somewhere.

If you want to look into the Personal Chef thing, there are several PC organizations where you can get information: Personal Chef's Network, American Personal Chef Assicoation, US Personal Chefs Association, etc. Most of these associations have training materials, but they are a little expensive. If you're just "window shopping" and "kicking the tires" on this idea, and not ready to lay out $500-$1,000, there is a site that has an e-Book Start Your Own Personal Chef Catering Business for $16.99.

Hope this give you some more ideas to work with.
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Old 01-27-2006, 11:18 AM   #20
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Glad to be of help, Big Dog. I envy you.
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