Sept. 21, 2022

A Restaurant Closure, Recipe Development and How to Work with Brands with Chef Taffy Elrod

A Restaurant Closure, Recipe Development and How to Work with Brands with Chef Taffy Elrod

This week's guest is Taffy Elrod. She’s a chef, restaurant owner, cooking instructor, recipe developer, and food writer with 20 years of experience in the food industry.

We discuss the closure of her restaurant in New York’s Hudson Valley, and the transition to recipe development, content creation, brand deals, and teaching

Taffy Elrod
Taffy’s Website
Taffy’s Instagram
Taffy’s Twitter

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Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites

Sponsor- The United States Personal Chef Association
Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill those dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap.  Central to all of that is the United States Personal Chef Association.

Representing nearly 1,000 chefs around the US and Canada.  USPCA provides a strategic backbone for those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It’s a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal. USPCA provides training to become a Personal Chef through our Preparatory Membership.  Looking to showcase your products or services to our chefs and their clients, partnership opportunities are available.
 
Call Angela today at 800-995-2138 ext 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info.

Transcript

Chris Spear:

Good morning, or afternoon or evening. This is Chris and I want to welcome you to Chefs Without Restaurants. On this show, I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. I speak with caterers, personal chefs food truck operators, cookbook authors, distillers and all kinds of culinary renegades. This week, my conversations with Chef Taffy Elrod, you might have heard our what is a chef conversation a couple of weeks ago, that was part of this much bigger conversation that you're going to hear today. tafisa, Chef, restaurant owner, cooking instructor, recipe developer and food writer with over 20 years of experience in the food industry. It's never easy to close a business. I have one of my own. I don't know if I'll ever have to close or if I'll know when the time is right. But hopefully it'll be on my terms. With COVID. So many people had to make that decision when they really weren't ready to close their business. Prior to COVID. She and her husband were running a restaurant in upstate New York serving pizza and all the usual suspects you'd find in a pizzeria. And like many businesses, she had to shut her doors because of COVID. In fact, she talks about how she just shut the restaurant down but didn't officially close. Technically, she still has a restaurant. It's something that you can tell she's still dealing with, you can hear it in her voice when she's talking about this experience. It wasn't something she really wanted to do. But, you know, the circumstances of COVID forced many businesses to have to shut their doors. Obviously, she needed to continue doing something for work. So during this time, she focused more on food writing and recipe development. So we've really talked a lot about that. I know a lot of you listeners are interested in content creation. And I wanted to dig in a little bit about how she landed deals with brands, developing recipes, and then go a little deeper and talk about what do you charge? And how do you charge. And she's not going to give you hard and fast rules. You know, so much is dependent on what your situation is, but she will give her experience with it. And you want to know what her favorite resource is, or who she would love to start with for a day. You're gonna have to stick around for that one. And as always, if you want to connect with me, hit me up on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants. And if you want to learn more about the Chefs Without Restaurants community and what I'm doing, go to chefswithoutrestaurants.org You can find links to our newsletter, our private Facebook group where we're helping food entrepreneurs build and grow their business. And you can also sign up to be in our database where we can help personal chefs caterers and food truck operators get more job opportunities. And this podcast is also made possible with the help of our sponsors. This week's show is brought to you by the United States personal chef Association. Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill those dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap. Central to all of that is the United States personal chef Association, representing nearly 1000 chefs around the US and Canada. USPCA provides a strategic backbone to those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It's a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal USPCA provides training to become a personal chef's through our preparatory membership. Looking to showcase your products or services to our chefs and their clients. partnership opportunities are available. Call Angela today at 1-800-995-2138. Extension 705. Or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info. Hey, Taffy, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

Taffy Elrod:

Hi, Chris. Thanks so much for having me on. This is exciting.

Chris Spear:

I feel like all at once this like I don't know a subset of chefs who are who were working in restaurants were now maybe content creators, I feel like all of a sudden it bubbled up a little bit. And it's really been fun interacting with a lot of those people who previously I had never even heard of or knew anything about. You know what I'm talking about?

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah, well, I can I can say for myself, that although I had some social media presence, it definitely kicked into high gear in early to mid 2020. When I was bad, you know, it's a mystery. But mostly because instead of being in my restaurant, 18 hours a day, I was suddenly at home. So I got real active, especially on Twitter and sun Aina and sort of got in contact with a lot of other chefs who are who I think you know, until then we were all too busy to be on social media gabbing with each other. So

Chris Spear:

when you look at a platform like clubhouse, you know, which is kind of waned a little bit. But I definitely noticed the popularity because everyone was kind of like sitting at home and it was like, Hey, let's just hop in this chat room and talk to all these chefs who I've never even talked to in lifetime because now everyone's just chillin at their house.

Taffy Elrod:

I mean, in all honesty, for me, it was a real lifeline, because I had, you know, all the stressors of what was happening for everybody during the pandemic. And on top of it, as you may know, or recall. And that's actually one of the things that really got me, I really just turned to Twitter like to vent, because I was very isolated, where our restaurant isn't a small town. Well, it was it's it's not open right now in a small town in the Hudson Valley in the mid Hudson Valley in New York. And my husband got stuck overseas during all this. So he was my business partner, my pizza man, we ran the restaurant together. So not only was I, you know, going through all this peril, but we were separated. And I was just completely alone. You know, my friends were in New York City, which is where we come from my family is in Michigan. So really like Twitter was my lifeline because I was just suddenly alone at home. I mean, you know, overnight,

Chris Spear:

I can't imagine how hard that would be, you know, I found it hard enough being, you know, Home Alone ish. I mean, my wife was here, and she was working from home for a while my kids were home, but I felt isolated enough with just us, you know, not seeing friends, but to have your partner not even there. I know, plenty of people were single and had to deal with it. But I don't think I would have been as equipped to kind of handle that.

Taffy Elrod:

I mean, it certainly added a layer of pure, I don't know how to do it. I mean, just like it did, there was just this added layer of just drama, and you know, and worry and trying to get him back home, etc. So, and to go overnight from just being in the restaurant working, working, working to just, you know, I mean, almost overnight, that's what it felt like, to just suddenly being home because, you know, I was trying to figure out how to keep things going in the restaurant, but it just wasn't making any sense. And, you know, every day, I mean, it's kind of hard to remember now how at the time every day, you know, was a new thing. You just didn't know what was going to happen, what what people were, you're going to be able to open? Where are you going to, you know, like, you just didn't know, was it going to be any funding? What was going to happen in the beginning that was you know, it was just a big blank. Unknown. So yeah, I mean, I, honestly I just needed an outlet, I needed to talk to other people in the industry, and I just needed to, you know, vent and it was me, you know, this community started to sort of assemble.

Chris Spear:

Also, for those who I think maybe had dabbled in content or, you know, whether that be writing, recipe development, all those kinds of things that you're doing now. I think it also helps people with that, whether it be networking, or picking up advice and tips from people who had already been doing it. So I kind of want to dig in there a little deeper, you'd touched on it. Talk to me about the restaurant, like just what was your restaurant, how long were you there and then you know, the decision to call Was it? How did that all kind of come together? Yeah, boy.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah, I'll try not to be too emotional. So we had a pizzeria restaurant like a pretty traditional New York City style pizzeria restaurant. My husband is I mean, I literally call them pizza man, he made pizza for years and years, I met him in a pizzeria in Brooklyn, oh, gosh, almost 15 years ago, and I cooked all over the city and tots. And we had wanted to open our own place for quite a while and looked and we almost we almost opened a place in Manhattan and Laurie side, where the rent was 10,000 a reasonable 10,000 a month. And this place in the Hudson Valley, we knew nothing about the area, except that we had a friend who had a house up here. And we would come up sometimes on the weekend, sounds more luxurious. And I was you know, it was like occasional, we would come up for a holiday or whatever. And just through I mean, really just to my husband constantly always looking, you know, looking at Greg's was looking on, you know, listings, realtor listings, etc. He came across this turnkey, semi turnkey place. And, you know, one thing led to another and suddenly, we've finally had our own place, a pizzeria in an area that we knew nothing about where we had never been, and where nobody knew us. And it's a very small, tight knit community. And they were surprised we were here. But we, we worked hard, we made a good, honest product. And we just worked, you know, so we were there for five years, day in day out. And then things went sideways. And I tried to keep it open. And I never really made the decision to close it. Things just I just couldn't keep it open with you know what everything was going on. It's such a long story with him. I can't even but he had gone back to. He's originally from former Yugoslavia. He was there. He got stuck there. You know, that's his story to tell. I won't even won't even go too deep into that. But what we were separated during the pandemic. And we made beautiful pies. We made honest, you know, straightforward food people loved. Like his grandma pie was the signature pie with fresh garlic and fresh basil and all that, that he would cook in a cast iron pan. And I was making homemade soups and fresh salads and doing the cooking of the dishes. You know, we had arms and all the usual suspects and pizzeria. And then, you know, we were just doing everything ourselves. So I was doing the bookkeeping and management, and he was doing the maintenance. And in five years, we spent more time in that restaurant than we ever spent anywhere else up here.

Chris Spear:

That's the story for most restaurant owners, isn't it? Yeah,

Taffy Elrod:

yeah, of course, you know, so I kept just kind of, you know, hobbling along, trying to keep it going and trying to hold on and, but no, without knowing when he was going to be able to come home. And we had had a hard time with trying to find anybody who could work for us, we were really just going there on our own. So, you know, it just didn't didn't work out. But to have it just end that way without, without us being able to close in our own time. And you know, and say goodbye to our customers and everything that was really the hardest part, we still bump into our customers everywhere we go, you know, and they still tell us they miss our pizza, and they miss our food and they miss us. And we have looked and tried to see if you know, to reopen, we have I have not like technically closed, my business is open, in theory, because I've been looking for a new location all this time. But you know, it's it's a mess out there.

Chris Spear:

So I was gonna ask you this later. So you have not closed the book on having a restaurant?

Taffy Elrod:

No, but we would do a different we would do it very different. We you know, I don't think either one of us will ever go back to, you know, seven days a week, 1618 hours a day, we would be doing something about you know, catering or parties or you know, event something else not we wouldn't have we're past the point I think of being able to just drive ourselves that hard that you know, like that anymore.

Chris Spear:

I've seen so much of that these restaurants that are closed like Monday through Wednesday, or even Thursday, and they're just open like Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then they're just picking up catering or all these other things like that. It just doesn't make sense to be open seven days a week or sometimes even five days a week.

Taffy Elrod:

One of the positives I hope that came out of everything you know, the last couple years is the realization that that you just have to be there constantly and that you just have to always be you know, we just have to have our doors open for the one person who wants to walk Knock in the door at 2pm, for one slice of pizza, it wasn't really sustainable, you know, and people started, had to accept taking their food in a different way that they had to order that they had to pay in advance that they had to, you know, etc. So, I think if anything, hopefully that has changed the dynamic, at least for some people, you know, for small places, maybe it's different for a chain or bigger restaurant, but for small places, and smaller, you know, chefs and restaurants like like us, okay, maybe I don't have to be in this physical space, all the time, just on the off chance that one person is going to walk in the door or pick up the phone, you know, that it's my duty to always be here, ready and waiting for them. You know, I have to prepare food that maybe it's gonna end up in the garbage. And I have to, you know, we had we because it was just two of us, we ran a really tight ship, we had almost no loss, thankfully, which, for us was not just about the budget, but we just can't stand putting food in the trash. But, you know, that was us, just running our own place. And, you know, that feeling that everything always has to be there. Whenever you want it as a consumer. You know, it's one of the things that I would hope will continue to change.

Chris Spear:

I have a friend who has a food truck actually Andrew started this podcast with me it was a pizza truck. So little similarity, although, you know, pizza trucks different than a brick and mortar, but you know, the grind of him going out to farmers markets or breweries or whatever trying to, you know, plan for, he has no idea how many people are going to come in he he stopped and he just does catering. It's like, he knows someone hires him for a pizza party. He shows up, he cooks pizza for 100 people, he gets his money, there's no waste. He knows what he's doing, as opposed to just like, hey, let's hang out at this farmers market for three hours and hope we get some business.

Taffy Elrod:

Exactly and and maybe pay a fee to get in and then buy all this food because there might be 10 million people, but there might be five people it might rain.

Chris Spear:

Oh, yeah. So you obviously had to do something for work income, the restaurants not open. So I know, you started doing a lot of other things. What did you start doing? And like How did that start?

Taffy Elrod:

So I had taught and done recipe development previously prior to opening the restaurant and you know, over the course of my career, and so I was doing some recipe development with some friends of mine who would open a company they make up like a meal replacement shake, which is in powder form, you know, you make it yourself. So they were positioned, just so happened, they were doing all their, you know, business mail order. They had a shelf stable product, and they were already shipping their business was doing well, you know, and it continued to grow. So I had already been developing recipes for them with their, with their meal replacement. It's like a whey protein based product. And I started doing more work for them. And I started doing more work for you know, a couple other companies that I knew I had been out doing some festivals and things and networking with some people. So you know, I was luckily in a position to roll over into that at home. You know, I started I had never cooked in our home kitchen we had moved into another apartment not long before all this happen and I had literally never even turned on the gas stove.

Chris Spear:

You're a chef Come on.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah. You know, why would I we cooked at the restaurant and if we brought food home so all of a sudden I'm like bringing equipment home and trying to you know make it at first I was doing the in the restaurant. And then when we weren't in the restaurant any longer. I started doing it at home I was actually developing recipes and doing some recipes at home I had also been doing I'm kind of one of those jack of all trades people I guess I had been doing some specialty baking and selling things through Etsy as well like at, you know, after hours in the restaurant, like we'd close the restaurant and then great boutique granola for three hours.

Chris Spear:

Because you have nothing else to do.

Taffy Elrod:

You know, whatever got done. Now we're selling that on Etsy. So I you know, I had some other irons in the fire. So I was doing some of those things. And I mean, thank God, thankfully because the fact that we had worked so hard and managed to you know, save a little bit of money in the fact that I had some work to do really saved saved me. So,

Chris Spear:

you know, a lot of our listeners, I think kind of want to get into this recipe development space kind of area, but it's hard. Do you have advice for people who want to start I know you would already been doing some but like if tomorrow I just decided I wanted to start working with brands developing recipes like where do you start? Do you need to work for free to build a portfolio? Do you need to just be making stuff and tagging businesses on Instagram? Do you have any tips for someone who maybe doesn't already have a relationship with a business,

Taffy Elrod:

if you really want to develop recipes, and if you really want to whether it's work with brands, or you want to, you know, have recipes published, whatever it may be, it needs to be something that you know how to do, or you really enjoy and care about, you know, like, I don't think you can just take a shot in the dark and just decide to develop recipes, there has to be some something, there has to be some kind of synergy that you know, well, I make coffee every day, and I have I love coffee, and you know, I'm gonna make coffee recipes, then like Go ahead, reach out to somebody reach out to whoever might be, you know, tag on make something and tag them on social media or send them a pitch, whatever. But it needs to be something that either you already know how to do well, or you really love it, or you know that it makes some kind of sense to you. So that, you know, it's a dietary, if you're gluten free, and you have been making gluten free stuff, and you have, you know, you already know how to do the substitutions, whatever it may be like, there needs to be a good reason why you're doing it, I think for you know, for the long haul, it can't just be that you just wake up tomorrow and decide, well, I just developed recipes. Now.

Chris Spear:

You know, there seem to be a lot of younger people, maybe it's because of tick tock, but they don't necessarily have, you know, any experience writing recipes or costing recipes or any of that stuff. And it seems I think that it's just so easy, when in actuality it's not really that easy.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah, I mean, it's really easy to just make a really bad recipe. When I say bad, I mean recipe that doesn't work for another person. Yeah. So you know, I mean, hey, if I were more skilled at, you know, making and editing videos, I probably have more successful career in terms of recipe development, that's exhausting out there who are just good at that. And, you know, now they're going to fill in with recipes. And, and I guess that's okay, too. But again, like, if you if that's your skill and go with that, you got to have something you mean. So and you can learn to you can learn what works, but you got to start with something, whether it's your family's heritage, I do think people just decide to go with a trend. You know, it's if plant based is hot now, and you just decide you're going to do plant based, you still need a valid reason why your plant based food is going to work. My whole entire life has been about food, I was obsessed with it. As a kid, I started collecting cookbooks, as a kid. I have just lived and breathed it. But it's not just about food. I mean, you know, some people use food as entertainment. That's great. Some people use food as a means to an ends. That's great. To me. It's about, you know, our quality of life and our humanity. And you know, to me, it's this, you know, this connection to everything and to each other. And feeding people is you know, I thrive on feeding people and I thrive on helping people understand how to feed themselves. You know, even in the restaurant, if someone came in and they couldn't afford to eat, we've fed them. I'm never gonna sit with food and hold the bathroom, somebody else.

Chris Spear:

And you're not out cooking food for people every day anymore. I imagine you must miss that.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah. Right now it's literally killing me. I'm trying to get back out. The irony is in my husband who always we met over food, and he always was like, the biggest consumer of food. He's been having stomach problems, and he can't eat very much. Like, I mean, I'm literally just here, you know, I'm still developing recipes, but then there's nobody to eat it. So yeah, I mean, it's the I'm sure you can hear my voice right now. Like I've been looking outward to, like I said, either finding a new situation getting back into teaching, whatever it may be, I was looking for locations to do some pop ups because it is literally just killing me to not be cooking for people right now.

Chris Spear:

kind of circling back to the whole thing about you know, like creating recipes for brands. I think one of the challenges is pricing. You know, we're we're kind of coming through this age of like influencers and big brands expect you to work for free or maybe they don't expect it but you say like Sure I'll you know, advertise your knives if you give me free knives. And then it's like a real challenge to kind of transition into how you charge for your services. Did you have any reference point experience or was that just like learning like when you started actually getting paid because this needed to be a real career for you. Do you have any advice on whether it be like pricing negotiations or where to kind of look at for tips on that?

Taffy Elrod:

Well Oh, I had a little bit of advice. But honestly, part of what I did was just kind of like, you know, like, throw things at the wall and see what stuck. If somebody reached out to me that it was kind of low stakes, you know, I might just like, throw out a number. See, I don't care, let's just throw a number and see, you know, I mean, I had some idea of what was realistic? And of course, because it really varies to you know, I mean, if you're talking about social media, then it depends on how many followers you have. And you know, what your audience is, if you're talking about, you know, you're doing a blog, and you have people signed up for your newsletter, or you're just a recipe developer, you know, and you're just developing the recipe for somebody, there's so many variables. But I would say, it's really great to either just reach out to people, you know, what kind of like make people offers? Or if somebody does contact you and say, Oh, we'd love for you, you know, do you do this, that and the other thing is kind of price a little higher than you think maybe is realistic. Don't start out just like low balling yourself to saying, Well, you know, I'm new to this, and it's cetera. So like, it's probably better, it's probably better to work for free than to work for a little bit, probably better to just do something for a product or, you know, just for the, for the exposure, quote, unquote, exposure, then to like, you know, just really lowball and just do it for a bad amount of money, because then they really aren't going to expect that. And also, sometimes people talk to each other. And they might, you know, everybody might get the idea that you just develop recipes for $25. You know, you have to be not afraid to talk to people and talk to brands. And also to remember, a lot of times, you know, you're talking to somebody who's just doing the marketing or whatever, and then they're not even affiliated with the brand. So don't take it personal. And don't look at it that maybe you know, that that's, maybe that's not really what the brand is doing this, but this marketing person is doing. And you know, they're they're just out right, just looking for what they need. And they're not afraid to ask, and they're not afraid to say what they want. And just don't be afraid to ask and say, What do you want? Shoot your shot, shoot your shot, but base it in reality, yesterday's

Chris Spear:

price, isn't tomorrow's price. You know, I mean, I've talked about being the cheap personal chef, like when I started out, $70 Sounded like a lot like $70 a person, I was like, I don't know what people are gonna pay that. And now it's like, I've got people to pay me 202 50 A head for dinners. Like, yeah, and I have customers who come back to me and say, Whoa, that's your price. It's like, yeah, like things have changed in 10 years, like food cost has gone up. Yes, it's gone up, like my time is at a premium. And yeah, I know, I cooked for you for $70 ahead, but like, there's not much I can do for that anymore.

Taffy Elrod:

Right. That was then this is now I mean, you know, and that, that's the other thing, though, is I do think you need to understand your business, you know, you need to understand what it costs you to create. So you understand as a chef, what it costs you to make the food and put it on the table, you know, and the same thing applies. And I think because I was coming from a background of having a business already, so I couldn't just create content for free, because I didn't have time, I had another business. So if it wasn't going to amount to something, or it wasn't going to pay, then I couldn't do it. So that was a good place for me to be at, because I already had, you know, a basis of what I could accept or what was worth it to me because I had another business, I couldn't just turn my back on my own business to say, Yeah, I'll do work for you for free that way, no rational sense. If you're young, you know, and you're home and you're living in your parents house, maybe you have more flexibility, you know, or you have another source of income, that's more fluid. But I would say no matter what, you know, I mean, businesses business has to be really based on something in reality, so it's gonna cost you money, it's gonna cost you time, you're bringing your level of expertise, or whatever it is, you know, you're learning you or whatever, you know. So though, that's worth something and you need to know what it's worth. I mean, it helps to know what things are going for in the market, but you may not know that, but you need to know what your work and your time is worth. And you need to know how you're going to cover the cost of the ingredients and you need to know how you're going to cover the cost of electricity, you know, and you need to know how you're going to make it worth your time

Chris Spear:

time and like all of its time, I mean not all of it but that's that's the thing that I undervalued like with my personal chef business you know you I'm very good at Food costing and say wow, I'm making a lot of money you know, making whatever profit percent but then you're like Well geez, I gotta plan the menu. I got to talk to you via phone or email I got to go to the grocery store I do all this it's taking three days so like even though I've got a you know, whatever 60% profit like it took me three days to do this that's not realistic.

Taffy Elrod:

There's an income you're you're supposed to be generating an income for yourself, not just hate making money to spend money, you know, like you're not just recycling money you're not just let me just you you no longer this no your your your time, because that's, you know, oh, we want a five second video. Well, that's great, but if I get videos, and it'll take me three weeks to make

Chris Spear:

the story, you

Taffy Elrod:

know, I need to know that about myself. Right? So I need to be realistic, what I can do was how much of my time energy and what else is it taking away from that I could be doing? And, you know, so on so forth. So, definitely, it's just like anything else, you know, the rules apply, it has to make sense. And it unless you're really gaining something from it, you know, I, when I was in culinary school, I did a stage, you know, I worked for free, so to speak, people are questioning that now, is that a good idea or not, but you know what it has to amount to something, you can't just work for free, and then it doesn't even relate, you know, you don't learn anything, you don't gain anything, you don't get anywhere. But I also see the flip side that people, I don't know, they're just like, well, influencers can make money. And I can just make money doing this. And again, you know, the maybe they're not coming with the skill set that's required, but they're just asking for a lot of money, because it just seems like the money is just floating around out there.

Chris Spear:

Just bank that money while you got it. Right.

Taffy Elrod:

You might get lucky, somebody might pay you $1,000 I don't know. But you know, you might want to have a more realistic ballpark or, again, be based in reality in some way. So

Chris Spear:

what do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of what you're doing currently? Is there one thing that you really enjoy? Because I know you do recipe development, you've done some cooking classes? Like, where are you getting the most fulfillment right now.

Taffy Elrod:

The one thing that I am loving, and it's really fulfilling for me is being able to be creative on my own terms, the you know, the other side of not really having anybody to feed is means I can quote, whatever I want to. And throughout my entire career, you know, even in our restaurant, I didn't have free rein to cook, whatever I wanted to, I'd like to experiment and create my husband calls on my mad science lab. So I think I've begun to find myself and my, you know, my own identity as a cook in a way that I never have been able to before. So, you know, that's the flip side, like, that's the plus side. And that's what I have been enjoying, and giving myself permission to really have an identity as a cook, as a chef as myself with a way of cooking and a way of eating that is probably outside of the mainstream and doesn't fit easily into a category. I've never fit, you know, real neatly into any category. When people ask me what I cook, I don't have a good answer. You know, it's not just oh, it's Italian, you know, it's this, it's that. So I think that I am at a point and because I've been able to just spend this time, you know, with alone with myself in the kitchen that I have, finally, really digging into an identity that's my own and a food that's my own. And I hope to you know, continue that I don't, I don't want to give that up now.

Chris Spear:

I think that it can take a lot of time, I've you know, I've moved around the country so much. I feel like I'm not anchored in any one region. A lot of people you know, say I grew up in this Irish household and that's my food, or I grew up in Texas, and that's why I cook like I never really had that and I feel like 30 years into the food industry. I'm still kind of figuring out who I am like, I just want to cook delicious food I for me, I don't want to overthink it. I'm not trying to make a statement. I'm not talking about heritage, it's just like I want to cook food that I want to eat and I want to share it with people that are gonna love it and help them you know, celebrate enjoy their time you know, I work as a personal chef or create recipes that people like I don't know. I think a lot of people take it so seriously and feel like they have to have almost like a political viewpoint or standpoint on it and I don't have one of those. I like to ask people if you could shadow anyone for a day whether it be stars or just be a fly on the wall is there anyone you'd like to just kind of watch and or work with?

Taffy Elrod:

I love learning new things and I love being in people's kitchens and you know like being a fly on the wall and seeing what people are doing me I just have anybody if anybody's cooking around me I'm watching I will say this I just recently made biscuits from Cheryl days cookbook treasury of southern baking it's in front of me so I can remember usually good with calling names up and write this incident after having made her biscuits I can honestly say if I could spend a day baking with Cheryl day that would be pretty amazing.

Chris Spear:

I was just looking at biscuit recipes yesterday. So is it a pretty good biscuit recipe? It sounds like

Taffy Elrod:

it's a great biscuit recipe. I have never actually been amusing it making biscuits as me either skills. This was the most successful batch of biscuits I've ever

Chris Spear:

made. Really well I'm gonna have to check that out.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah, I mean, there's so many great people right now who I would love to be in the kitchen with. I mean, I can't you know what I mean? There's so many great people who I would love to be in the kitchen with who I kind of consider friends at this point, Sam for tucks up Lex pile of allez. She's awesome. I've you know, share her pastries are

Chris Spear:

they're ridiculous. Like, I'm so glad that I live in the DC area and had the opportunity to eat like when she was cooking kith and kin with Guam, a, it was right next to my favorite concert hall. So I would love to show up an hour and a half early, go there sit at the bar. And quite often, I would just get like one app, one cocktail and one dessert. And I miss not having her cooking in a brick and mortar where I can get her desserts all the time. I

Taffy Elrod:

can only imagine. Yeah. So I mean, I feel like I feel like I can't really, you know, like, I'm leaving out 100 people, you know, so if you're hearing this, I mean, you too. I was like I really. And also sometimes I'm bad at remembering names when I need to remember them. So, you know, there's a lot of people who would be on that list.

Chris Spear:

And I think this kind of goes back to like, were people who've worked in physical spaces. And then when you retreat a little bit, and you're working from home doing this other stuff, like I miss cooking with people, and just being around them and learning from people like you can learn from everyone I've learned from lying cooks, I've learned from dishwashers, you know, and just not having those people to be around and absorb new knowledge has been kind of challenging for me. Do you have favorite resources? I like to ask this question in the context of both culinary and business. So like websites, apps, physical tools, like what are some things you really love? Because I I, one of my favorite things is to hear about something I've never heard of, or if I've heard of it, you know, some people are just like Instagram like, okay. Yeah.

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah, I like Google Voice. So my husband and I, for years went to tech sales and estate sales, and so forth. And that actually is a tool, in a sense that I love for stalking. My kitchen was really great equipment and vintage equipment that I would not otherwise even be able to source and at an incredible price. So I mean, you have to have a little time, but right now, people have some time still, I think people just buy kitchen stuff and they never use it. I've I've gotten equipment that's never been taken out of the box, pristine food processors, blenders, the list goes on and on. But what people really don't ever look for, and they don't pull out of those kitchens is real equipment. Because home cooks lot of times don't really recognize its value. Sheet trays, cake pans.

Chris Spear:

Well, I've never had anyone answer the question that way. So I really liked that even if you thought it was kind of strange at the time your answer? Yeah, I think I'm sure. Well, I'd love to give you a couple of minutes. Is there anything you want to share with the listeners? Whether it be something to get off your chest something to plug? What do you want to leave people with today?

Taffy Elrod:

Oh, boy, oh boy.

Chris Spear:

Stages yours?

Taffy Elrod:

No boy, brace yourself. You know what, I guess something that's kind of been weighing on me lately and always in my career, you know, but is, like we're talking about before, in a sense, I guess what I want to say is, I'm here. And working food professionals, who may never develop a recipe who may never write an article who may never appear on television are out there still and work you know, work is essential workers through the entire beginning, you know, people locked down on and on, like, we're still here. We're just as important and valid as you know, your favorite food network stars are the chef of whatever's the next big thing. And our work is so essential and we're not going anywhere, you know, trends come and go but the work that we do doesn't come and go and I'm talking about everybody you know the people feeding people in nursing homes and in prisons and in you know, cafes and like all over this country and obviously everywhere and I just would love for people to stay take a step back and see the real, you know, importance and value and necessity in food work and find a way to have more understanding and sympathy and empathy and respect for you know, farm workers, obviously, and it's not just farm workers don't just exists because you heard about them yesterday. And because there's a drought, like they're always there every time you take a bite of food. A farmer, a farm worker, a migrant worker, was there They have put that food in your plate in your mouth, we may never be famous, we may never win an accolade we may, you know, everybody's just there plugging away day in, day out under circumstances that just continue to get harder and harder. And I just want to see I want to see the food system and the food industry be better and more sustainable and more nurturing and more nourishing, you know, for everybody, I hope to be a part of that. And I'm thankful I have some what have a voice at this point. But there's many times in my career when I didn't, you know, and, and nobody wanted to hear what I had to say. And, you know, I struggled I was on, you know, the struggle bus, the hardest hardships of the food industry, with no, you know, health care, and all those things that go along with it. And that could go on forever. And I didn't expect to be emotional like this, but what the hell, you're I am, I'm grown, I can do whatever I want.

Chris Spear:

Thank you for being so open and sharing, I love to give people a space to kind of, you know, get this, get this stuff out there. What are the real issues, I don't want to just have a fluff conversation where everything's great, right?

Taffy Elrod:

Yeah. And, you know, I mean, it's great. I, everybody who's out there, you know, doing great, I love to see people succeed. But I also love to see the people who just get up every day, and work, you know, and keep things going, be acknowledged, appreciated, you know, paid, have health care, be able to eat, how to know, you know, I'm not the only person who's been in the food industry and gone hungry while I fed other people food, you know, and there's so much under the surface. And you know, I'm getting back into more teaching, I want to feed people, but again, I want to feed people in a different way that feels more healthy for me to, you know, I have the right to be healthy and be okay, and be able to sleep at night while I feed other people. And, you know, that's what, for me right now is really, we need to it's everything, it's about climate change. And it's about sustainability. And it's about access, and it's about equity, you know, for everyone. I want that bigger picture to be in people's lives. Because this isn't something that's just well, you know, we can move on from it. No, you you're going to eat today or tomorrow, you know, God willing, you're going to eat a meal, and it's going to have come from somewhere. And if it came from your own yard and your own garden, that's amazing. You know, like, my hat is off to what it probably came from somebody else, it probably came through somebody else it probably came. And for every people came to our restaurant, and they just you know, it's a business and they just thought of it as a business. I think they've been trained to see it that way, especially because of so many chain restaurants and franchises. We were two people running a business you came into our, into our home, you came into our livelihood, you came into like our realm. And the things that people did in our business affected us personally, it wasn't just the business that affected us personally, and behind every business are human beings who are being affected, you know, animals that are being affected reality of people and life being affected and putting their work out there and putting their selves on the line. And I would just love to see our truly more holistic understanding of what's going on. And you know, it benefits everybody better food and better quality for food workers benefits the consumer, obviously, because there can literally consuming and it's not, you know, they are literally consuming the end product. And so you know, I don't know if I have a nice clean thesis statement about this, but I feel it in my soul and my bones, I want it to be better for all of us.

Chris Spear:

And I think the more that we're talking about this, you know, I am happy to see more of the food publications focusing on this and you know, people like you writing articles and showing a different side of the industry. And it's not just celebrity chefs and Michelin restaurants, there are bigger conversations. And you know, I think we got to trickle this out to the people, right? The masses, like if we're just talking to chefs and cooks, like I think we all know this stuff, right? It's the other people and I think with the COVID times we started to see that or you know, it started to get out there so hopefully step in the right direction. And I appreciate having you on the show to talk about that and everything else. I've really enjoyed having you on today.

Taffy Elrod:

Well, thank you. I have enjoyed just talking my heart out

Chris Spear:

and I'll be sharing all your info in the show notes so people will know where to find you. They can check out your recipes and all of You're writing and everything. Awesome. Thank you. Thank you and to all of our listeners. This has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. Go to chefs without restaurants.org. To find our Facebook group, mailing list and check database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.