I was one of the newbies attending the seminar led by Chef Dane Mechlin in Santa Clara this past weekend (January 24-25). (You can probably tell I’m a newbie because I registered my real name as my user name. Now I’ve noticed that nobody else seems to do this. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to change mine!)

I found this seminar absolutely invaluable. I can honestly say that it exceeded my expectations — by far! The seminar focused on the business aspects of being a personal chef, and particularly on business startup. So, writing a business plan, identifying demographic groups to which you hope to sell your services, and marketing — especially marketing! — were all addressed. This business is admittedly “not rocket science,” so someone who has some business background might imagine that they don’t need any coaching on these subjects. Not so, in my opinion. Every business has its unique characteristics and challenges, and if you have a chance to learn about these from the experience of others you should seize it. Learning from your own mistakes is really the only alternative, and mistakes can be very costly in a business that is necessarily reliant on reputation and word-of-mouth for building a clientele. I told my wife after the seminar that I was confident that it was well worth the time and money just for the mistakes it would enable me to avoid. (And I got a lot more out of it than that.)

It is pretty easy to list the topics addressed in the seminar. It is much harder to convey the value of the interactions with Chef Dane and the other people taking the seminar. Dane is a very encouraging person, as well as being very knowledgable, and I don’t imagine any of us doubted the sincerity of the encouragement he gave us. And talking to the other newcomers was equally encouraging in its own way. I felt considerable relief just from learning that everyone else has their own reservations and concerns, just as I do. But each of us also has some significant strengths, and talking about them with others helped me realize that this business really can provide opportunities to take advantage of them.

The bottom line for me is that I feel much more excited and confident about entering this business on account of attending the seminar. I really can’t ask for much more than that.

Looking back at what I’ve just written, I do believe I’ve been gushing! This is not my habit by any means — on the contrary, I tend to be pretty critical. But in this case, I just don’t have any significant criticisms to offer.

I know this particular discussion forum can be viewed by people who are just considering whether to become personal chefs, and I would like to offer one specific piece of advice to them. You have the option of just obtaining the written materials that are provided for the seminar and treating it as a “home study” course. Don’t, unless you just absolutely have no option. The additional cost for attending the seminar is not much, relatively (although you might also have to incur some travel costs). But I don’t think I can overstate the additional value of it. I read all of the materials (well, not ALL of those recipes) before the seminar. Yes, a lot of those materials were used at the seminar, but I got so much more out of the discussions and the opportunity to ask questions of Chef Dane and talk with other newcomers than I did from just reading them, I was actually really surprised by it. If you are serious about this (and why would you spend $700 on the materials if you weren’t?), take advantage of one of these seminars. It is definitely worthwhile.

Gordon Nov-27-2014