Startup Adventures Of A Personal Chef

by Catherine Richey
(San Antonio, Texas, USA)

personal chef will cook for foodLast July I lost my job. I worked for a company that demanded a lot, paid well, left me sleep-deprived, but juggling working from home with managing my family. Although all my friends had been telling me for years to find another job, I was scared.

The first week of July my phone rang. A call came from the CEO. The company was restructuring and, effective immediately, I was being laid-off.

You've heard about all those stages of grief? I went through all of them, grieving for a lost job that I'd never loved. My "isolation" phase included a great deal of Lo Mein takeout, accompanied by 15 extra pounds that loudly registered on my scale. When I finally reached the "acceptance" stage, I pulled out the computer, typed up a resume and began applying for jobs.

From Grief To Goulash


A have a school degree in Elementary Education. I taught first grade at military bases in Panama and Puerto Rico for Department of Defense Dependent Schools for 9 years. My husband works for the U.S. Army and, upon moving to Texas, we decided to have another child. This led to my work-from-home job, so I could stay home with our youngest child.

Throughout my "grief" stages, I realized that going back into the classroom was not my passion anymore. What did I want to do with this next stage of my life?

I spent 7 months applying for hundreds of jobs that I thought I might like, going to interviews and either never hearing back from anyone or receiving those depressing "Thank you for applying, but at this time we've chosen another more qualified candidate" e-mails. I felt worthless and unwanted.
personal chef lo mei
It led to more Lo Mein consumption. More pounds. New stretchy pants. And then on the first of February of this year it hit me: I LOVE food. Not only that, but I had lost my enchantment with take-out Lo Mein upon creating my own Lo Mein recipe – one lower in fat and WAY tastier!

I love entertaining. I love creating menus. I knew I did not want to pay for culinary school. (I started in Hospitality Administration at Florida State University before switching to Education, when I realized I wanted a family and didn't want to move around to move up.) I did not want to be stuck in a restaurant kitchen.

What could I do to combine my personal strengths and talents and make money?

I started browsing the Internet and began reading about personal chefs. I found the Culinary Business Academy online and purchased their at-home study program. When my box arrived, I made the commitment to myself that, by the end of February, I would launch my own Personal Chef business.

I chose a name for my new company, Lavish to Lite Bites, LLC and launched a Facebook business page, announcing to everyone that I was starting my own business. Making that public announcement to my friends and family made me accountable to follow through with my goal.

I created a Limited Liability Company (LLC), took an online class and exam to obtain my Texas Food Safety Manager Certification, passed my Personal Chef exams through Culinary Business Academy and began to network. No words can express the self-doubting moments that I had to deal with throughout February. But there was no turning back now.

What If I Mess Up? What If They Don't Buy?


personal chef cooking partyA friend referred my first client to me. She was going to start a detox diet and needed someone to help her eat correctly and follow the diet specifications. The second week of March I was in my first client's home. I was a mess that morning!

Not only was I walking into my first client's home, hidden house key location and alarm code in hand, but I had to create a menu for 7 days that would involve her breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks – all of which needed to withstand freezing temperatures and was to remain safe to consume over the following 7 days, if stored in the refrigerator!

When I jump into something, I JUMP IN! Over-ambitious? Yes. I realized at the grocery store that there was NO way I was going to be able to make all this happen AND THEN get home to meet my youngest as he stepped off the bus. I did half the work and had to go back 3 days later, at my cost, to finish delivering the service.

I’m happy to report that my client is still my client. In addition to her, I have picked up many other regular clients over the course of 3 months.

My business plan was centered on preparing meals for busy families for a week. My current clients are all singles or couples, who want delicious meals created just for them. All of them are striving to eat healthier. In the process of starting my own business, I have lost all my Lo Mein pounds and have gained a huge smile and positive outlook.

I've modified my business plan greatly over the past few months. I'm allowing my business to take me where it takes me. Learning to listen to my inner voice has been an ongoing challenge. Turning down clients who I know are not the "right fit" for my style has been difficult too, but necessary.

With Practice Comes Mastery...And Hiring Others!


In addition to preparing meals for a week or two, I’ve been teaching cooking classes to groups and individuals. Dinner parties and special events have filled in my evenings and weekends. I went from being unemployed last year to employing independent contractors to help me at dinner parties.

How amazing is that?

No service goes exactly as planned. Ingredients seem to miss the grocery list even though I check my lists twice or thrice! I've been in teeny-tiny kitchens, commercial kitchens, gourmet home kitchens and everything in-between. I’ve met amazing clients who have become friends.

I LOVE MY JOB!

I'm the owner of a business that is growing rapidly and challenging me every moment of every day. It is exciting and exhilarating. Interacting with my clients and potential clients via my website blog and Facebook business page is so much fun!

Making the choice to become a Personal Chef and launching my own business practically overnight was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life! It's been a total adventure.

What's YOUR startup adventure?

Catherine Nelson Richey Personal ChefCatherine Richey was raised within walking distance of the Panama Canal in the small rainforest town of Gamboa. She grew up enjoying the abundance of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables grown in the rain forest, and seafood from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as freshwater fish from the lakes of Panama.

The cuisines found in Panama represent many cultures: Caribbean, Asian, Latin, European and Panamanian. Living in Latin America gave Catherine the opportunity to travel throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, experiencing each country's culinary delights and returning home to recreate them.

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Jun 11, 2012
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What A Great Business!
by: Burnetta

What an inspiring story. Congratulations on your determination, tenacity, and success! Wishing you the very best as your business continues to grow.

Aug 01, 2015
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Wonderful - but the culinary business link doesn't work!
by: Joan Wilkins

Would love to know more - just joined USPCA looking towards the CPC. Can't afford a culinary school but need some business education before I run myself into the weeds!

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