Feb. 27, 2024

Perseverance and Adaptation - Christine Van Bloem of The Empty Nest Kitchen

Perseverance and Adaptation - Christine Van Bloem of The Empty Nest Kitchen
This week my guest is chef Christine Van Bloem. For 15 years Christine ran the successful Kitchen Studio Cooking School in Frederick, Maryland, a recreational cooking school. When the Covid pandemic hit, she had to stop doing in-person cooking classes. She pivoted to online cooking classes, hoping to go back to in-person. Then, her husband had a stroke, and she had a heart attack. On top of that, she was unable to agree on the terms of her lease renewal with her landlord, and left her kitchen space.

That's enough for most people to throw in the towel. Christine took some time away from the kitchen, but now she's back. On the show, we discuss her new venture The Empty Nest Kitchen. She'll talk about what her cooking class model looks like today. 

To learn more about membership, advertising, or partnership opportunities, call Angela at 800-995-2138 ext. 705 or email aprather@uspca.com.

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Chris Spear:

Like many of us, Christine Van blooms business was up ended when the COVID pandemic started. She'd been running a successful in person cooking school for nearly 15 years. Of course, she found a way to pivot, but then life kicked her in the face. Her husband had a stroke, she had a Widowmaker heart attack, and then her business landlord ended her lease and kicked her out of her kitchen. Despite all that, Christine's resilient and found a way to reinvent her business. On today's show, you'll hear her inspiring story and find out what she's doing now. This is Chris spear. And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. I have 31 years of working in kitchens, but not restaurants. And I operate a personal chef service during dinner parties in the Washington DC area. When I moved to Frederick, Maryland back in 2007, I really wanted to immerse myself in the food scene and get to know the chefs here. And for whatever reason, it was incredibly tough to find who the actual chefs were working in restaurants. Weird, right? One person stood out and I kept seeing her everywhere. And that was Christine Van bloom. At the time, I hadn't started my personal chef business. And I couldn't even imagine Chefs Without Restaurants being a thing. Like me, Christine had gone to culinary school. And like me, she had no desire to work in a restaurant kitchen. Christine ultimately started the Kitchen Studio cooking school where people would come and partake in really fun hands on cooking classes. And I even had the opportunity to lead a cooking class there one time. But of course COVID happened. And I don't want to spoil the whole story here. But I'll say the Christine's business has evolved. And today she's here to talk about her newest venture the empty nest kitchen. After hearing Christine's story, it was evident to me that this is a story of perseverance and adaptation, you can make all the plans in the world. But some things are just out of your hands. And it's how you roll with it that matters. I want to keep this intro short. I just want to say that I hope you enjoyed today's show. And if you want to be a part of a community, head on over to chefs without restaurants.org. From there, you'll find a link to our Facebook group where we're sharing business advice, cooking tips and gig leads. Also, I've been having a lot of fun on threads. So I'd love for you to connect with me over there. Like Instagram, I'm at Chefs Without Restaurants. I know your time is valuable, and you have a lot of choices about how to spend it. As always, thanks for taking the time to listen to the show, and have a great week. Hey, Christine, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on. Hey, Chris, thanks so much for having me. This is kind of crazy that I've been doing this for four years now. And I haven't had you on the show yet. Since you are the first chef without a restaurant. I really do. But I guess, you know, I started this pre COVID. And we'll get to that and COVID changed so much. And you had a little downtime from the food business for a bit there. So, but now you're back. So I can't wait to share the story with people. Your back. Yes. And you know, I want to say, genuinely, thank you because when I moved to Frederick, I was super excited, we seem to have a really cool food scene, you and I have talked about this, I thought we were gonna have industry nights, and I was going to network with all these chefs. And then like, nobody cared like, nobody was interested. And the only chef who I could seem to even find in the City of Frederick was you, you know, and, and you were everywhere. I mean, you couldn't go to any kind of event without Christina having a table there and doing, you know, some kind of cooking demo. But you know, you had me over to your place, we sat down, we talked, you've let me you know, rent your kitchen, you didn't even charge me when I needed it to do events, and I did a dinner at your cooking school. So I really appreciate that when nobody else wanted to talk to me. And I just wanted to talk to cool chefs. But um, you know, that's a whole side thing about like, our, our food, culture and industry here in the town that we live in? Well, it's a whole, you know, it's a whole world of levels, right, and where you are and where you garner the respect. And if you're real, and if you're not, and I think you know, certainly you've helped with all of that. And it's awesome. And I think Chefs Without Restaurants getting a much better deal these days. You know, I think so. Appreciation. I think so. Well, kind of on that note, I mean, I saw you everywhere. So you had a business, like How important was that to really be out there if you have a business that relies on I mean, yes, every business relies on customers, but like putting yourself out there and doing all those like being at this, you know, whatever festival and having a table or talking quite often, you know, I don't know what, whether you're charging people or not. I'm sure there's some free work and then there's some paid work but it seemed really important to you to get out there in front of people. Yeah, you know, I always say there are endless opportunities to work for free.

Christine Van Bloem:

So some of that goes with it. I think you have to really look at what the opportunity is. So I owned a cooking school I opened a recreational cooking school that I opened in 2005. Because when I went to culinary school back in the 90s, nobody was, you know, there was no such thing as a recreational cooking school. And I knew from my very first class that like, teaching was where I wanted to be. That was, to me that was just like, oh, and I wanted to do that I didn't want to work in a restaurant. I think I would have liked magazine work, but I didn't really want to cater. I was pretty newly married at that point. Now, you know, I'm an old Biddy. But it was just a time where I was like this, this is vibe for me. So I had lived here in the town that we're in for a little while. And I start personal cheffing because that was a brand new thing. That's how long I've been doing this. And I, I started teaching a class here. They're in someone's house, and it just kind of steamrolled. And then I was chatting someone up, and they said, I know of a space if you're interested. And I was like, Heck, yeah, I'm interested. And it happened really quickly. And I had it for 15 years. So really, it was such a wonderful experience. That's a good long run. What did you think you were going to do? You went to culinary school? You know, I went to culinary school in the 90s, as well. And you know, it's like, I'm gonna go be a executive chef at a restaurant, like, what did you think you were going to do? I never thought I was going to be an executive chef. I thought it was going to eat a lot. Check. I thought that I'd be able to do some cool food writing. You know, getting there doing some check. I'm just, I just knew that I wanted to be involved in food somehow. And back then, if you didn't do restaurant work, nobody wanted to talk to you like you weren't, you weren't capable of being a teacher you weren't capable of shining in someone's shoes. It was really just the start of when everything got interesting, I think. Yeah. And now look at the landscape of culinary. I mean, the whole like, idea of Chefs Without Restaurants, you know, before you know, I tell someone, I'm a chef, and they'd ask where all excitedly and you tell them. And you know, when I was working in a retirement community, it's like, Oh, okay. It's like, no, it's really cool. It's really cool. You know, and


it's so different than it was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, just watching this kind of grow. And it's so cool. I mean, looking at all of the talent that's out there, especially young talent I get, I get super excited, seeing and, you know, I hate to be that old lady was like back in my day, but I love that the, you know, the stuff we put in, is really helping these younger chefs, these younger food professionals come along, right? I just get giddy at that. I love it. And you had such a great team where you were, I mean, it seemed like you all there was great synergy. And I also thought it was interesting that other people could come teach there, you know, with you, you know, I came and did a dinner there one time, and you make you make everyone come and do a dish like I remember I came in had to just be a dish dog before I was allowed to come into a class. Right? That's that's how it works? Absolutely. Because listen, I don't believe in that whole. You know, Yes, Chef hierarchy in my situation. I mean, it brigade system works great in a restaurant kitchen. It totally does. But I had this superstar, ridiculously overqualified staff that helped me and they were just they were so incredible. And they were so brilliant. And, you know, things would just run so smoothly with them. They knew all my moves. And it was it was just so great. And they had such brilliant ideas. It was always such a pleasure. And and I think to do something like that. I mean, it could have been, I remember looking at names when I was first starting out and of course, crowdsourcing in 2000, whatever was really different from now. And somebody was like, oh, Scobie Christine's kitchen. And I was like, Well, absolutely not. And that also means they're always going to be looking for me and I want to use it as a space to bring other talented people in, kind of whether they were chefs or really passionate, very talented home cooks or, you know, we had a lady who did cakepops oh my gosh, I mean the stuff she did not want my best day, right? No, I don't my best day could I even catch that. So it was really fun to bring in bakers and pasta professionals and all sorts of people to come in And, and yes, dish dog for sure. Because if you're not going to pitch in and be part of the team, I was not interested because that didn't fit our vibe. Well, and you know that this is not just about cooking, you know, especially what you were doing there, I have never even made the claim that I'm remotely close to being the best chef or even a great chef, you know, I have a lot of experience. But in the personal chef wheel world, I'm an entertainer. So it's a blend of like being able to cook, being able to be organized, being able to entertain, and all that stuff. So I think I'm really great when you put these things together. And the same with you like, you don't have to be the best chef. But you have to be the best chef or one of the best who can also entertain and facilitate a good time and organize a team. And that's a whole skill set. You know, once it comes together, it totally is and, and I'm like you I have never made claims, listen, somebody's always going to be better. It doesn't matter who you are, where what you're doing. There's always someone better always. And I'll tell you what, though, if people come to me when I had the space, I knew they were going to have a great time, I knew they were going to have a lot of fun. I know they were going to leave, knowing things they didn't know when they got there. Right, I knew that it was going to be a memorable, wonderful time where they would learn things. And that was my whole objective. I have people reaching out to me for this all the time in their homes, I've had varying levels of success. The thing I find most interesting is these people who are adamant that they want to cook everything like nothing prepped. And I get there and I say it's time to make soup, let's cut onions and they look at you like Are you out of your mind. And they really just want to stand there with a glass of wine, watching me cook. And I'm like, you know, and that's why I really have to talk to these people about what my experience looks like. And I'm going in the direction of I call it like a instructional somewhat interactive dinner, but mostly, like stand in my way, let me do my thing. And you can be in the kitchen the whole time asking questions. And I'll give you recipes, because I have never once not once had a group that wanted to actually roll up their sleeves and cook like I just those are not the people who are hiring me even though they say that's what they want. Well, you know, there's a romance to thinking that that's what you want. And I think being really successful doing what you're doing and doing what I'm doing means you have to be really nimble. And you have to really think about it. I mean, I've I've done the classes where I had a group down just outside of DC, that I would go every month for like two years, I went once a month. And sometimes they were all in and they want to be hands on with some things. A lot of times they really just like you said, they want to have a glass of wine. They want me to joke around. I'm hilarious. You know, they wanted me to give them the recipes at the end that I'm sure they never made. But we had a great time. It's it's it's been able to read people read the situation, I don't think you can go into someone's house and be rigid, doing what we're doing. No, not at all. And I think that's what I talked to personal chefs or potential personal chefs about the most because they asked me for advice, right? And it's like, while you're a good chef Cook, whatever. But how are you when the dog is at your feet, you know, and some people say like, I have a policy that says like no dogs, it's like I'm going into your home, like I don't feel like I can tell you you can't have your kids can't be in the kitchen. It's a hazard. It's like you have a five year old running around the house, like you're not locking them in a room. Like I don't have anything like that in my policies that you can't have your dogs or children like I have a house at home with two children, a dog and a cat and I can cook my dinner here. I can cook your dinner there. You know, I think I want to stipulate that they have to have a dog. I love dogs. But you know, I'll tell you what, I've had some really successful times where the kids or you know, one kid in particular, is kind of into it. And maybe they're shy, and you draw them in and all of a sudden they're having a great time. After really little I mean, it's dumping stir. I've taught tons of kids cooking classes, they just want to dump and stir. That's all it is. And if you can give them that and maybe you're there a little bit longer. You know, for me, I kind of map out the whole night as like, this is my night. This is what I'm doing tonight. I'd rather stay another half hour beyond my schedule, if it means that you know, this kid is going to lose their mind because they got to do something cool. So I love it. I mean, I kind of I would rather do that any day then. Kind of be like the help. Right? Yeah. Oh, I hate being here. I don't Yeah, that's, I feel like we're coming in and we're trying to do something that is Gosh, I'm good. It sounds so obnoxious and Sheffy here, but you know, practicing our craft, right? We're trying to show and practice our craft and draw them in and do that whole thing. And when they're kind of dismissive, that's not what they want. That's when they want a caterer, you know, because caterers are so good at, at blending in and everything's just gorgeous. And they slip it in. But yeah, that's the that's the thing. I very recently was the help at one of these parties, like I got there. And it was a birthday celebration. And I don't think anyone except the host introduced themselves to me, like I was there and people like, see right through you. We didn't even announce what the dishes were like, I literally like salad on the table. Everyone's talking music's playing, and we just walked away. It's like, I hope you, you know, whatever, just eat the food. Like, I hope you like it. And same thing with Andre, like, I'm bringing you this bowl that has like 80 ingredients. And it's like, nobody knew what anything was when there was no printed menu. It was just like, oh, yeah, like, do your thing, eat your food I got I got a really decent paycheck for that one. And that was fine. But you know, it's not as fun. And I did have one customer. And I had a customer come to me afterwards while they were doing dessert. And he came into the kitchen and wants to tell me about, you know, his smoker and all the things that he does at home, like you occasionally get the one too, but it's like, they didn't even want to pause for five seconds and like, learn what they were eating. Like, I'm not looking to educate you. It's just like, here's your your pasta with your bullet A's. And these are the vegetables and they're like, that's all that's gonna do. Hey, it's it's just it would speak to that, you know, rolling with him being nimble by rote Do I prefer it when it becomes a really cohesive atmosphere? And I mean, I sound so greedy, I think, but I love to be part of things. And I, I love service, right? I totally love doing the little extra things and being the oh, well, what about this, you know, that, to me is the most fun? Well, I've had this as a debate with other personal chefs because like, this is my current like, I quit a job to do my own thing. Like I want to be happy every day. And that means like cooking for and with people who enjoy it. And some people say just basically like, shut up and cook for these people, right? Like, Get off your high horse, like they're paying the bill. And it's like, yeah, they're paying the bill. But like, if I can opt to pick which customers I want to work with, there have been ones who I have talked to them on the phone, and you get off the phone, and immediately you're like, I am not going to want to cook for this person. I really don't care how much they're looking to spend, it's going to be a nightmare for me. And I'm going to find a way to tell them that it's not going to work out. And I know this is a hot topic that a lot of people have disagreed with me on. Well, I mean, I think, okay, so I used to be super judgy I don't mean maybe the pandemic knocked it out to me, maybe old age. But I think if you're running your business, then you are running your business. And you know what, What lights your fire, you know, you know, when you're going to have the best time when you're going to have the most success when you're going to be able to be the most use. So do that. And if people have an issue with it. I mean, they don't have to do that same thing, right? Yeah, absolutely. When you mentioned pandemic there, so you had a very in person, let's have a bunch of people into a space to cook together write up on each other, and then COVID hits. So what happened there? Yeah, okay. So you know, the whole ugly backstory, but March 13 of 2020 was our last in person class at the Kitchen Studio cooking school. And I have to tell you, the month before in that February, we crashed our website, when we released our calendar because, you know, I make the joke 15 years to be an overnight success, but it had taken, you know, I was grinding and grinding for years, and we were just flying, you know, bookings were coming in private classes, all that good stuff. Everybody was affected, you know, everyone was affected. And I am a safety girl. So I wanted to be sure we were following all the rules and regulations on the square. So we shut down when they said we had to shut down. And you know, it was such panic for all of us. I remember speaking to bankruptcy attorney for the business and walking around in my backyard, you know, talking to this guy. And the month before the coffers were full, right everything. I didn't pay myself a lot. But I'm not a frivolous spender, but everybody wanted their money back right away. I mean, customers had come to me for years and years, wanted their 70 bucks for one class back right away. Ultimately, thank goodness for the PPP. Let me pay my landlord and let me pay my staff. Let me pay myself a little bit. But it was, gosh, it was just such an awful time because nobody knew what was going on. And ultimately, I had to refund over $30,000. And very short a lot. It was, I mean, it was breathtaking. And I remember I had tried to roll everybody over into doing online classes. And some people actually sent me the nastiest emails. And it was breathtaking for me, because like I said, service has always been a really fun thing for me. And I tried to build relationships and all those things. So that was super devastating. But it gets worse, right? So we didn't know what was going to happen. And I had been in negotiations with my landlord, because my lease was going to be up. And I was in this really, it was a great space for me. But forget about drive by traffic, they were closing the turn off from the highway down, they were you know, it was, it's not a great space for anybody who didn't have people registering in advance. And we were in negotiations, they had somebody new in the office who didn't send the paperwork out. And then truthfully, I was like, Well, I don't know, what's what's happening here. So I found out after I had just broken my ankle playing pickleball. And my husband had to drive me back and forth to work. And we're trying to do online cooking camps at this point, because it's the summer of 2020. And those were way more successful than I thought they'd be. And then we were doing some online adult classes, and I'm a ham so I can make that come across. But I had broken my ankle very dramatically. And my husband drove me down so I could do some stuff. And I opened up a letter from my landlord that basically said, you can leave. And you can do that within 30 days, or we reserve the right to kick you out. And we will give you 60 days, and wow, I was floored because I you know how I said I'm a square? Well, I had to pay, I paid that rent one time, every month for 15 years. And I think they were under the impression maybe because everybody I'm gonna give some grace here. Lots of therapy. But everybody was freaking out. Right? Everybody was freaking out. Nobody knew what was happening. But I think other folks thought maybe they would want to take my space. And I think that looked really good to them. And all of a sudden, they wanted me to sign a 10 year lease, when the most I'd ever signed was three, you know, and it just, it was just bad. It was just a bad situation. It was just bad. Which is crazy. Because it was a horrible. It was a horrible location. Like we're gonna put a donut shop in there. Like does anyone even know that there's a donut shop there. Like you can't see it from the street. It was a guy, some guy, they were showing him some other day, he went to open a fish restaurant, he saw my space and said, Oh, I would take that for 10 years. And they took that as gospel. And I'm like, okay, so that was like, toward the end of I broke the ankle in the middle of July. That was toward the end of July. And I was like, Okay, I'm gonna leave. And then mid August, my husband had a stroke. And he's doing great. So no worries there. But that was super devastating. He had kind of a weird kind of stroke. And then I had to get things packed up. And that's where my super awesome staff came in. They just oh my gosh, they were machines. I was so devastated. Right. And just trying to get everything done. Moved out. I had I mean, men who had taken classes from me previously, when they saw that I had to sell all my stuff like sell all my stuff. They were like, Christine, you should not be making strange men at your location in the evening. This is not cool. We're going to come and hang out with you, which I just thought was the most touching thing ever. So many people reached out and they were so kind. So when John was recovering from a stroke, I got everything out by the end of August of 2020. And then just you know, cap it off. Make it awesome for everyone. I had a heart attack in mid September right after my birthday. Just bring it on take on all this all at once. Well, what's a cup of water when you're drowning? Right so So I had a Widowmaker heart attack, and I had it in the hospital. And that was the only reason that I survived it. So I came home and you know, I now have a little stent, right in there keeping things open, but came home and immediately had to take care of my husband, the dog had torn is, you know, ACL or whatever it is, I'm carrying the dog all over the place. And I just kind of lost my mind. Yeah, every day on Facebook, it was like some new thing. It was like, Hey, you're not gonna believe what happened here. I remember when I saw the dog against us, like what's, you know, What's one more? He didn't die for a few more months. So it was okay. But, you know, I really, truly tried to handle it with humor, right? Because I think that's the only way I could because I had, you know, in my head, I'm like, Oh, you lost every I didn't lose everything. Right. I still have my house. I didn't have to use a bankruptcy attorney. My kids are fantastic. I'm so so lucky. I was in the hospital when I had this big heart attack. And that's why I left. So I mean, there were a lot of things that happened. But it did take the wind really out of my sails and losing the business. I mean, if I'm being honest, that was harder than any other aspect, because it was so who I am. Yeah, and I know, you had kind of, you know, every time I talked to you, like, there was a little joking, like, maybe this is the time that I don't renew the lease, and kinda like figure out what I'm doing, you know? Oh, for sure. You know, I was trying to figure out long term plans. My kids were one was graduating college. The other was in college, you know, so I'm trying to figure out their big shifts, you'll see as your kids get older right? Now, and then they go the high school, and that's cool and weird. And then they go out and you have twins. So you're getting the double whammy, right? So then they'll both go off to college. And you'll be like, Oh, well, how do I change things now? So I had thought about it. But I think, ultimately not being the person in charge of that decision. I think that's what it was that took it out of me. Yeah, it wasn't on your terms. Yeah. And I, you know, I felt like I was disappointing. My staff, and I mean, so many of them are my friends now. And it was just, you know, everybody was going through stuff every single person was. So you know, mine had a little more flair. But you know, it did give me an opportunity now to really kind of dive in and think about what it is that gives me joy, and kind of figure what I'm doing from there. Oh, and so you know, you did the classes online for a while, seemingly went well. But I know you did. But you ended up getting out of that and taking a job that was not a food related job for a little bit. I did, I took a job. So my background from 100 million years ago after college was marketing advertising. I actually worked on like Hasbro toys and Oh, cool. tronics GI Joe, I love Hasbro toys. Yeah, it was actually really cool. But I didn't have one of those cool jobs. So I had worked in marketing when I first moved here a long time ago. And then of job popped up with an organization here in our town, that I just think is amazing. And I love their mission. And I got the job with them. And it was exactly what I needed when I needed it. Because it wasn't in charge. There was an incredibly competent leader. Remarkably competent staff. Everybody's so talented. And it gave me a little bit of time in there to turn everything off, I think turn everything off. And is food really where I'm supposed to be. Maybe I can do this. And I was only there for 18 months. And I lost my mom and my mother in law in that time, and it really gave me perspective and that no food is where I want to be. You know people is where I want to be food is where I want to be. So they were so kind to me and I'll always be so grateful. I'm actually helping them with Restaurant Week for our town. Nice. Nice. Yes, I'm so excited and we're doing a second week that's going to be really exciting. So that was all good stuff. But you know, I'm really delighted To be back on my own, and back on my own schedule and doing my own things, and I like it. I like him a lot. I can't imagine, you know, everyone's Well, I think there's like a really cool job for me somewhere in some kind of food service doing some interesting, I don't know, r&d or something. But like, I'm just like, the the flexibility alone when I think about like our schedules, and especially having the kids and it ramping up. And you know, my daughter was in Beauty and the Beast in Middle School this past weekend, it was three days, you know, three shows, but it's like, Friday nights, like being able to go to a Friday night show. Oh, by the way, we got to get her there Saturday afternoon. And there's a Saturday night Oh, my son's got basketball twice a week. And my daughter was based twice a week, like just being able to do that. And I drive them to and from school, like, I don't see a world where taking a nine to five or a, you know, 10 to six, or whatever is going to work for Yeah, eight to five is gonna work for me, at least not right now. And just being able to like, Oh, what's that? It's one o'clock on Monday. And I'm here talking to someone I want to talk to, as opposed to like doing some other random nonsense. Yeah. I mean, I agree. It was, it was the rigidity of the schedule that did me in, you know, and being an old bag and getting, you know, the starting vacation days and all of that he got to pay your dues. I totally get that. But I don't know, it wasn't nearly as hard giving up that paycheck the second time. Right. I did it once in like 2000 2001. And then this time was a lot easier. You know? So where's that leave you right now? Oh, so this is so exciting. I'm so thrilled. So I started a new business that I'm calling the empty nest kitchen, because that's where I am. And that's who I am. And I'm doing online cooking classes, targeted towards empty nesters. And there was this whole thing I have this wonderful woman that I'm working with. And she said something about empty nesters have all this time I was like, Who are you talking to? I'm like empty nesters don't have any time. Empty Nesters are still working. Maybe our kids are grown. But they're like baby grown. Right? They're like you're just dipping a toe in the ground. And I'm like, No, they're not retirees. It's a really different thing. But I'm so used to cooking. I mean, at the Kitchen Studio, I was cooking with everyone for 20 people every night, right. And then I bring the leftovers home. Well now I'm cooking for two. And by the way, one of us had a heart attack and one of us had a stroke. So we have to be careful with what we're doing now. So I'm doing online classes. And I'm so excited because I have a contract with AARP Maryland. And I do a free monthly online class. I know you're like AARP. But anybody can take it, you do not have to be a member, by the way you should be because everybody gets great discounts with a sharpie, but you don't have to be a member and it goes out. It's the first Saturday of every month. And for me what's really important with doing the online classes is that we're doing them live. We had over 700 people register for our last class, which was fantastic. I was so thrilled and we're routinely getting several 100 people in every class. What does that look like? Like? Are you doing multiple dishes? Or is it theme? Like what is the look like? So they so AARP does monthly themes, and I'll usually try to fit something in but you know, fraud and photography. So you know, it's like, how are you going to do it collaborative is just how you talk about it, you know, and they'll have a moderator on who will help do that. But the classes are an hour long. We keep them nice and tight. I'm usually doing two or three different recipes last earlier this month, I did beans and greens because I'm so into it. I did something I'm calling my focaccia, where it's using, you know, a riff on that whole self rising flour, yogurt stuff. Yeah. And then a shaved brussel sprouts salad, you know, for one or two people. So they ask tons of questions. The chat gets ribbon, I love it. And then I'm also doing classes through my website which is emptiness kitchen.com. I'm doing one four. I know we'll be past at this point. But for Valentine's Day A through A little chocolate two ways. You know we'll make mousse and truffles just using ganache two ways. And it's selling like hotcakes. I'm loving it. Now is that for like an individual group like one party books at or do you have a thing where they're like strangers together doing classes? This is the beauty of the online classes and I'll be totally honest with you when I did my first online class in May of 2020, I was kind of like, oh my gosh, I cannot wait to get back to my own kitchen. This is ridiculous. But I opened my mind. And I thought about it. And I took some online classes because I'm big into doing a lot of research, right? Sure. And I had my son come over he I knew he wanted to learn how to make cream puffs and eclairs. So he came over one Sunday morning, and we took a class on cream puffs and eclairs. And we had the most fun we've had together. In so long, I learned so much from being a student in that class. And the joy of doing an online class. First of all, I think it has to be live. I really do. I think if you're doing pre recorded, I think that's a different mission. Right? I think it has to be live so that you're there and able to answer the questions. So do you have someone you have someone answering questions for you, like handle? You're answering the questions, but could you monitor a chat? Okay. Oh, moderator. Okay. I have a moderator who monitors the chat. Who knows what she's doing. So she can answer questions if she needs to. They receive all the recipes, they receive the shopping list as soon as they register. And it it allows them to work with their own equipment, with their own tools, you know, at their own pace, if they want to have the camera on. Awesome. Cool, I can see what you're doing. If they don't, awesome, cool, you know, dude in your underwear, that's fine with me. It's a real joy, to be able to do something on line and fun. And use your own things and say, Well, I don't have a whisk. How can I do this? Right? And then you work it through with them. And you have to for these classes. You got to keep them small. You can't this is not a 700 class situation, right? This is 25 Max, because I want to be able to vote attention to everybody who has real questions. And then at the end, they've got the food. It's the best part because everybody always wanted the leftovers At Kitchen Studio. I never let people take them home. Because I once almost watched fistfight breakout over filet and lobster mashed potatoes when I was teaching for someone else. And I decided we just weren't going to deal with that. So I would always go home with staff instead. But this way, you have the meal ready. So starting at the end of February, beginning of March, I'm going to have weekly class on Sunday afternoons. So that you take the class you learn the stuff, you get the recipes and dinner's ready. And then you don't have a gigantic mess to clean up. I mean, obviously, you have some from what you're doing. But it's not like a kitchen where 20 people have been cooking and yeah, yeah, that's so nice. food for your family. So I do, I do. And I've got a dishwasher here at Kitchen Studio, everything was by hand. So this is delightful. It's just it's really, you know, I'm calling it cooking connected. Because what I'm really trying to do is build connection. Because once you'll you'll see this once you're not taking the kids to play practice, and to base practice and to all the other things that you're doing. You know, that's social for parents. And it may not be that they're your best friends. But they're people that you can chat up and you talk to and maybe you have similar interests. I mean, you're at the same thing for your kid. Yeah. So when your kids aged out of that, and they go off to school, or do whatever they're doing. All the sudden, all that connection, you know, six years of softball, well, that's gone for years across country, I don't see those parents anymore. And it's just that your lives change and it's really easy to become disconnected and to feel a little lonely. So I am all about cooking, connected and building connection in the kitchen. Yeah, for empty nesters. That's great. And you seem to have taken to I mean, you have the personality for it. I think I mean, I'm sure everyone tells you how quiet you are. Right? Yeah. Yeah, I run into that a lot. So for our listeners, I mean, where do you want to direct people if there's a call to action or something you want people to do? I mean, obviously find you online and maybe book a class. Yeah, for sure. Um, well, and I wanted to tell you, I'm also doing corporate team buildings online. And, okay. Oh my gosh, I just did one for a company that everybody is all over. The US and Canada and we had a scavenger hunt, we had prizes, we had all sorts of things happening. And it was just the most fun. So if anybody wants to find me, the easiest way is emptiness. kitchen.com, right. But I'm also told, because who are you, if you don't have a podcast, I'm going to be launching the empty nest kitchen podcast. And it is targeted towards the ladies. But that's going to be coming out late February, early March, I heard a rumor about that someone I talked to in person a week or so ago. So I'm so thrilled. It was it was on my list of things to ask before we got out of here today. So that's, that's exciting. So breaking news, if people haven't heard it, I'm really excited because there's so many super cool ladies, I know. It's really different from what you're doing here, which I'm obsessed with. Boy has sound insurgency with that. But it's it's targeted. I'm talking food, of course, because food is the thing. But I'm also going to have some, like I said, some really cool, empty nest ladies with some things they do. And I just, I can't wait. It's it's fun stuff. And I look at you and I'm like, Oh my gosh, Chris, you're building an empire. I mean, you know, it's it started in my garage. We had some interviews at my dining room table here. You know, you figure this, the audio quality was not great. When people say that they're they found my show, and they're starting in the beginning, like, please don't like you're gonna get into Episode Three and be like, I've had enough of this, like, start now. Work your way backwards. You know, if you want to get, you know, deep dives, you can go there. But like, I think I figured some things out in four and a half years of doing this. I think he did well right now I'm in that phase of just do it because you have nowhere to go. But up. I look forward to that. I'm not sure when this episode's coming out. So as soon as you get yours, I'll put it in the show notes. So even if this comes out early, I can always go back engineer and like put that put a link in there so that people will find this. So when they listen to this episode a year from now, you know, they'll they'll be able to link to that episode. Well, it's been great having you on the show. Thanks so much for taking the time. Oh my gosh, Chris, I can't thank you enough. This is really fun. I can check it off my list now. I just I really appreciate you bringing me on let me talk about the empty nest kitchen and, and do the whole thing. So thank you. Well, I think it's great and something that people are really interested in. The more I see people, they're always talking about cooking classes and cooking lessons, so I forever will direct them to you because this is not my wheelhouse. Not my jam. So yeah, go check her out if you're interested in a cooking class. Yeah, that's my special sauce. And as everyone knows, this has been Chris was Chefs Without Restaurants. I hope you enjoyed this episode and have a great week. Thank you. Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill dining needs. While the pandemic certainly up ended the restaurant experience that 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. USPTA provides a strategic backbone for those chefs including 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. USPTA 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. And there's a new member special on all membership levels. Save $25 to $75 by using promo code spring 2020. For special veteran pricing and payment plans are available. Call Angela today at 1-800-995-2138 extension 705 or email her at APRA t h e r@uspta.com. For membership and partner info. You're still here, the podcast is over. If you are indeed still here. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I'd love to direct you to one place and that's chefs without restaurants.org. From there, you'll be able to join our email newsletter. Get connected in our free Facebook group and join our personal chef catering and food truck database so I can help get you more job leads. And you'll also find a link to our sponsor page where you'll find products and services I love. You pay nothing additional to use these links, but I may get a small commission which helps keep the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast and organization running. You might even get a discount for using some of these links. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at Chefs Without Restaurants at Gmail dot com thanks so much