She does it all, Cheryl Mochau does.
From Atkins to Ornish to the simplicity of fresh gourmet cuisine, she plans a week of groceries, cooks the meals and then portions them out, packages them up and labels them before placing them in the refrigerator.
Yours, that is, if you are among the increasing number of clients who have contracted with Mochau to be your personal chef.
Doing business as "Cheryl Really Cooks," Mochau allows she is not a culinary school-educated chef: She credits several years experience in a Holiday Inn kitchen with invaluable on-the-job training. Mochau's first private client appeared 13 years ago while she and her husband Geoff were still living in Connecticut, where both were born and raised.
She'd been trying to market herself as a personal chef for a year, she recalls.
The client was a physician who, following an angioplasty procedure, "Got real serious with the Pritikin (Approach) diet and asked me if I could prepare all his meals for him following that diet plan.
"I told him, 'Sure, I can do that,' and he lost 30 pounds over that winter."
Finding subsequent clients was easy after that, Mochau says.
The Mochaus moved to the Evansville area three years ago to be near family; Geoff is a software engineer who dabbles in the stock market. Cheryl works four to five days a week in other people's kitchens, catering to an average of one client per day.
It took a year to land her first client here, too, she says, explaining that word-of-mouth advertising began with her offering to do public speaking and cooking demonstration classes at hospitals and other public speaking opportunities.
After that first client was secured, the word-of-mouth part was self-sustaining; currently, Mochau has no openings for additional clients. Neither does she want to to grow her business by adding employees. Rather, she says she currently is training a couple of other women interested in following in her footsteps, independent of her.
"I have one (apprentice) right now who is ready to take on her first client," Mochau says.
"There is a large potential market here for personal chefs. We just have to get the word out," she says. Mochau explains that taking on a new client involves a detailed interview process where everything from diet issues (low fat, low carb, food allergies and dislikes) to a client's preferences for specific brands and fresh versus frozen or canned products. She even asks clients to determine what kind of water she cooks with -- tap, filtered or bottled.
Mochau's day typically begins the night before. She writes a grocery list to satisfy the meals she will be preparing the next day. Generally she prepares two to four servings of each recipe with enough variety to satisfy three to five meals for the entire family for one week.
And she develops a menu for the following week. Everything she cooks is pre-approved by the client, she explains.
Mochau types up and prints out the menu for the current week, menu suggestions for the following week and labels that will be attached to everything she makes, including instructions for re-heating. Her services, including the cost of groceries, average $175 to $250 per week, depending on the size of the family, the complexity of the meals and the cost of ingredients. Her mornings start at the grocery store. By noon she is usually set up in a client's kitchen.
She packs her own knives and, often, specialty equipment that she knows the client does not own. She brings her own herbs and spices. She keeps the client's pantry stocked with staple items she uses regularly.
She says she has to budget for the Latex gloves she uses constantly as part of her near-obsessive attention to cleanliness.
"I am very concerned about food safety," she says. "If someone gets sick, there goes my reputation."
Cleanliness includes cleaning up after herself. A spotless kitchen remains a spotless kitchen. Even lingering food smells are anathematized, she says. "I love my work," says Cheryl, who just published her first cookbook, "A Personal Chef Cooks: Recipes from a Decade of Lower Fat Cooking."
"I have never had one boring day in 13 years. I feel like I am really helping people; they work hard and they deserve to have great food for dinner. I feel very blessed that I can help provide that for them."
-- Cheryl Mochau can be reached via her Web site: www.cherylreallycooks.com
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