This week on Chefs Without Restaurants we have chef Kyle Shankman. Kyle is the chef and owner of Speak Easy Supper Club, an exclusive dining experience in the Atlanta area. As tickets for Speak Easy are hard to come by, Chef Shankman also finds a way to feed folks as a private chef and cooking class instructor.
A chef for two decades, Kyle has run multiple restaurant kitchens as an executive chef and consultant, taught hundreds of cooking classes for home cooks, been the personal chef to A-List celebrities, and has been the on-camera talent in both live and produced segments for several national brands.
On the show, we discuss the best hire you can make for your personal chef business. This was part of a longer conversation we had about Kyle's Speak Easy Supper Club. I had asked Kyle what position he'd recommend hiring if he had the budget. Kyle has actually already hired an assistant, and talks about how it was a game-changer for his business.
Kyle shares his experience of working with his assistant who has helped him take his private chef work to the next level. She has an understanding of the details that go into service and provides an eye for detail that takes their work to the next level. Additionally, she has excellent people skills that balance Kyle's dry humor and fills in gaps when he's busy cooking.
Because I thought this would provide tremendous value, I removed it from the full episode, and have released it here as a standalone mini-episode. You can find our full conversation here.
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One last thing is, you know, so many of us are solopreneurs. And we're trying to save money. If I hypothetically gave you money to hire someone one position, don't worry about what their salary is, who are you going to hire, like, Who is that key member of your team that you think would move the needle so much for you?Kyle Shankman:
In general, or if I added to my existingChris Spear:
ease, let's say, let's say you're starting off by yourself, you're you're doing this thing by yourself. And you need to hire someone with the knowledge in hindsight of like, oh, wow, it would be really great to have or have had aKyle Shankman:
I think the biggest shift in quality happened for us, when I met sort of my full time assistant, now her name is Dawn. And I met her as my wife was approaching her third trimester. So my wife was helping me with like serving and dishes, big pregnant, and I knew that that wasn't going to last much longer. And I met Dawn while I was teaching cooking classes. And she expressed interest and I was like, This is great timing, because I need some help. She came in with decades of front of the house expertise, and sort of an understanding of a sort of the details that go into service, if somebody is doing what we what we do private chef work, it's really easy to miss some of the On the Table details. Like, like how the linens are folded. Like, I can't count how many times I just sort of like tightly rolled napkins to make it look like they weren't wrinkles, because I ran out of time. And Dawn is sitting here like steaming, you know, naming these these linens with with the steamer I had is stuff that like I had, it didn't cost me any money. She has that level of awareness and eye for detail that I think takes this to kind of the next level, I think when you're doing whether it's private dinner parties are something really bizarre, like what we do, like actually running dinner parties out of your house, sometimes the reason people are doing it is for the experience, because they could spend less and go to a restaurant, like just about every time, right? Especially if they're bringing their own wine and you add you know, paying, you're probably in the hundreds per person. Um, you know, I'm in the hundreds per person, it cost less to go to a restaurant, so they're doing it for the experience. So what can you do that elevates that experience to the next level. And I'm also talking about somebody who's excellent with people, it's not just an eye for detail, like she brings sort of, like the personality balanced that that I need. I'm very even when I'm being funny, I'm very dry, which doesn't always translate, right. Whereas, you know, whereas Don, or other people have had helped me are, you know, a little bit more outgoing and naturally enthusiastic. And that fills in so many gaps for you, when you're like, you know, there's only you can only move so fast as one chef trying to knock out 14 plate by yourself, you know, so if it's just, it's really quiet, like, that's when it probably like sucks the most to do what we do, you know, everybody's staring at you, like, while you're like putting on like that last garnish, you know, but having somebody who's like, handles, front of the house, and it's just going by and like, picking up on that and refilling waters and talking to people while he or she is doing it, I think goes such a long way and making these little private chef experiences a lot more comfortable and fun.Chris Spear:
I think that's probably one of the biggest takeaways from this episode, especially for those who do what we do. You know, for me, that was a big shift because I started doing twos and fours, you know, everything was very manageable by myself. And then I made a dedicated decision to do bigger parties, but I didn't have staff, you know, and it's like, what's the breakpoint? What is the most that I can do by myself? Where it doesn't feel like a shit show and it gives that elevated experience and I've really had to look at that and it's hard when you're going to spend the money especially if you're paying someone well, you know, I pay $200 a person to come to a dinner and you're like, Man, I really wish I could like keep that 200 bucks, can I just work faster or harder or better to not have to pay someone but it's just, you're gonna miss those things. They're gonna slip through the cracks and like you said, it's the experience at this level. These people are dropping 1500 $2,000 For dinner, you can't cheap out in my opinion on that area.Kyle Shankman:
And if you don't have that expense already for staff, you can roll it into the cost and people who are spending $150 A person will live there I'm going to change their mind as it changes to 160 If that's what it takes for you to like reckoned with having to add that staff member, like, bullet into the cost.Chris Spear:
And also something that I've noticed is you know, my business I get gratuities, gratuities are often based on quality of service. If you bring someone who does a great job, hopefully the gratuity will be there. And then that money, you know, it helps out, right. So it's like now, sometimes the gratuity is enough to like cover staff like I don't. I mean, the way my business works is like, the gratuity goes into the pot, and it's spent. So like, if someone doesn't tip might people still get paid. They're like 200 bucks. But if I get a $200 tip, like that covers the cost of that server, you know, and I just looking at it that way. I think it's an easy decision to spend the money to give that service.Kyle Shankman:
I mean, we got $600 in tips last night, at a 14 person party. I like I never got any tips before. Like before she came into the mix almost three years ago. I don't know I think maybe people are more likely to tip when they see sort of like somebody dedicated to quote front of the house. Like it sort of feels more like a restaurant that feels more implied that it's expected, we outright say, you know, gratuity is accepted but not expected. And we still generally speaking, get get really generous tips. But again, yeah, I wouldn't have gotten I wouldn't have gotten without her help.Chris Spear:
So to all those personal chefs out there, if you're not bringing help, just think about you know, where you want to position yourself and what that experience looks like because I think this it's something that you should definitely consider. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group, mailing list and Chef database. The community's 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.