As Personal Services Industry Explodes
ANNAPOLIS, Md., Oct. 17, 2007 — When chef Terry Antoniuk founded her personal chef and catering business 10 years ago, the former schoolteacher was already a devotee of fresh herbs and produce and an advocate of the family meal. Her own mother had served three square ones. She approached her new career with optimism.
Her pioneering efforts were aided by the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA), which established guidelines and standards for the new industry. Before long, the Dallas chef was featured in Newsweek magazine. By the time she moved her business to Annapolis, Maryland in 1999, she knew the ropes and the recipes.
While "Chicken Toscana," and "Salmon in Potatoes Buerre Blanc" seem suited to "lifestyles of the rich and famous," many clients are single professionals or two career families whose work, commuting and errand time has eroded the pleasures and healthy benefits of home cooked meals. Antoniuk understands. Her husband, Jeff, is a jet hopping jazz musician and their son a spunky pre-schooler.
As a personal chef, she plans menus, shops for groceries and prepares nutritious dinners for people who don’t have time to cook. As fast food related problems like obesity, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes take their toll, the entire nation, it seems, is intent on bringing back the family meal. Antoniuk is poised to help. She interviews her clients to learn preferences and dietary requirements, and then creates customized menus for them.
Early on, special diets were rare. Ten years later, 50% of her clients request them. The most common include dairy and wheat free meals and low fat, low sodium, heart healthy menus. There is a growing trend toward vegetarian, vegan and organic menus and free-range chicken has become popular (hold the hormones, please).
As grocery and fuel costs rise, smart shopping keeps her ingredients fresh and profits up. Buying fruits and vegetables in season is key … so is knowing the lines of several grocery food chains, fish markets and specialty stores.
An average cost of $340 to $360 monthly supplies 10 dinners for two, and 20 dinners for a single person. A family of four is fed with surprising economy. Families that haven’t been tallying their total food expenditures may discover that her services reduce overall spending.
Casting a net around two beltways, Chef Antoniuk cooks for clients in Virginia and Washington, DC as well as Maryland. Like many other personal chefs, she has expanded her business to include catering. It makes up 50% of her income.
From her Annapolis base, Antoniuk attracts clients from arts and entertainment, the political sector and the sailing world. Catering for a sailing team, she learned that well-muscled young men eat like birds before the weigh in. Afterward, their appetites could politely be described as "robust!"
The USPCA faces increasing competition in the industry it sparked, but still claims a membership representing 60% of all full-time personal chefs in this country, Antoniuk among them. In the past decade, Antoniuk has presided over vast changes affecting her career.
Many meal assembly businesses have sprung up. Their services don’t match the needs of her clients, who don’t want to spend Saturdays organizing a batch of meals, and are more likely headed to ballet or tennis. Antoniuk highlights the values of convenience and personal service to families in her demographic and maintains a strong Internet presence.
Meanwhile, she watches the personal services industry explode. "When I go to my clients’ homes," she says, "there are service people everywhere." It’s become mainstream for upper middle class people to enlist the help of a personal chefs and caterers, nannies, maids and gardeners. Those are the "Boomers."
Then, there are the parents of "Boomers." More and more are becoming her clients. "The me generation is having to take care of their parents now," says Antoniuk. "They’re not apt to personally take care of their parents like my mother took care of my grandmother. They’re going to hire someone else to do it." A personal chef can encourage retirees to eat healthy meals at home and reduce eating out. That’s a valuable lesson for people of any age.
Contact: Chef Terry Antoniuk, (410) 990-9924
For holiday cooking and entertaining tips visit http://www.housespecials.com