When you’ve been married to a member of Princess Diana’s favorite Band, had Andy Warhol on speed-dial, and Mick Jagger happened to be the bartender at your baby shower (Jerry Hall threw the shower for me)…it can be difficult to keep that professional smile on your face when addressed disrespectfully simply because you entered through the kitchen rather than the red carpet. It has been a huge lesson in humility.
Have you ever noticed how something as simple as a smile from a stranger can brighten your day? Showing a little courtesy to people rendering a service for you will go a very long way too. Which kind of client are you?
The Totally Self-Obsessed Client: Guilty as charged! It never dawned on me when I jetted off somewhere and canceled at short notice (without pay) to think… “how will the maid pay her rent?” I am so sorry Mary! When it was my own mortgage at risk, I quickly learned that sometimes clients need to be gently educated.
The Inspirational Client: I was so fortunate early on in my personal chef career to cook for a man that ran a huge empire of theaters around the world. He was an insanely busy man that traveled constantly, yet he always made time to tell me how much he enjoyed a certain dish I’d prepared the week before, or ask how my daughter was. I’m sure he did the same with everyone from the doorman of his apartment building to every single employee in his company. Why? Because it inspires loyalty and pride in your work… and the desire to perform at peak capacity which in turn, I’m convinced, was the secret to his success. The mark of a true leader.
The Friendly Client: The first twinge of upstairs downstairs discomfort came when I was hired to do a Thanksgiving dinner for an old friend. Aside from the host, half the people there were also my friends. Once dinner was ready I had no idea if I was meant to join them at the table or not. Where should that invisible professional line be? I cook, and I am proud of what I create. Therefore if invited, I do sit down to dinner, and if not…that is OK too. It’s a business transaction, not personal visit. I might also add that since food is my business, if you do invite me for a personal visit… please do not ask me to bring food (unless I offer). Would you expect your jeweler to bring you diamonds? OK, we would all love that, but realistically?
The Pound of Flesh Client: We all know them… the people that always want something for nothing, and the more you give, the more they expect. Trying to please them with giving them “extras” will only leave your pockets bare, and your services devalued. It will never be enough. Presenting a polite refusal to unreasonable requests is the only way to win their respect, and hopefully train them to be better clients and people. Otherwise they are just energy vampires, so beware!
The Whipping Boy Client: There have been a couple clients who seemed to think hiring me to cook for them also gave them free license to take their personal frustrations out on me. I was miserable until I realized that just because someone hires you, doesn’t mean you have to cook for them. If they don’t appreciate you, suggest that perhaps someone else might be a better fit (fire them) and move on. Now I know I too, have been guilty of snapping at someone unfairly after spending all day sitting in traffic or listening to a zillion voice prompts before reaching an actual human voice (only to be asked all of the same questions over again). I will never understand why companies think wasting your time is good customer service??? However, I try to be more mindful of this today. When frustrations are misplaced they spread like a virus destroying every one’s day.
I think being a personal chef has put me on a path towards being a better person. I’m still a work in progress. Some days I feel at the top of my game, and others I feel deflated. I can however, almost always count on this Floating Island for a Crowd recipe to rise. I first saw it on an episode of Martha Stewart Living. The flowers are organic, edible flowers. I love to add color to a dish with them.
For the Meringue:
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup — plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
12 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract