Menu Planning: A Love Story. Not.

Menu planning can actually be the toughest part of a personal chef’s job, especially when you have a lot of weekly clients, as I do right now.  Every client has different tastes and needs, and every one needs new ideas every week.  There are really no magic ways to find ideas; you flip through your recipe files, magazines, web sites, newspaper, emails etc…emailed newsletters can be a good source of inspiration; I rarely use the recipes, but entire editorial teams have spent time thinking about what ingredients are fresh and seasonal and are great for cooking now; take advantage of that!

I don’t work off a set menu; I like to keep things fresh and always incorporate new dishes, so maintaining a menu became a pain and I stopped doing it.  (I do keep a menu of “client faves” for new clients to pick from – helps me get a sense of their tastes.)

With a bunch of ideas for the week in hand, I like to put together a big list on Sundays that includes possible dishes for all of my clients.  I might list 3 or 4 each of the categories everyone asks for – chicken dishes, soups, fish, etc.  Then I create mini-lists for each client with the dishes I think they’ll enjoy.  It’s important to note that one big list sent to all clients is not the way to go, imho; you’re providing a personal service, and not just a menu they have to choose from.  So be sure to only send to each client dishes that you think will fill their particular needs.

I let clients choose form the suggestions I give them; for a client who gets 3 meals, I’ll probably send 6 ideas.

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