July 6, 2021

The Joy Premium and How it Relates to Charging for Your Work - with Cook and Storyteller Jonathan Bardzik

The Joy Premium and How it Relates to Charging for Your Work - with Cook and Storyteller Jonathan Bardzik

This week my guest is Jonathan Bardzik. He’s a storyteller, cook, and author. He’s a performer, speaking and cooking for private and corporate audiences, creating customized experiences that build connection. He’s appeared with more than 900 audiences, been on the TedX stage, written 4 books, and his new television series, Jonathan's Kitchen: Seasons to Taste recently debuted on Revry. His work has been covered by USAToday, The Washington Post, and Food Network Magazine. Overcoming hurdles, including once setting the Christmas dinner table on fire, Jonathan celebrates 10 years in business this month.

On the show, we talk about how he started his cooking and speaking career, and he shares his advice on how you can start too. We discuss why he wanted to write cookbooks, and some tips for those listeners who might want to do the same. We talk about his new TV show, and improvisation while speaking and cooking. Jonathan also explains what the joy premium is, and how it’s linked to pricing your events. How much joy does a dinner bring you? If you’re excited about an event, maybe you’d be ok with charging less. If it seems like the client might be challenging, and this is just a transactional event, you’d better get that money. What are your thought’s?  Feel free to comment on Facebook, Instagram or shoot me a DM or email.

And next week is episode 100. I think this is quite the milestone. The episode will still be about food, but my guest is an actor whose resume includes the TV show Cobra Kai. Intrigued? Come back next week.

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Jonathan Bardzik

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Jonathan's Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jonathanbardzik/

Watch Seasons to Taste https://watch.revry.tv/details/35368

Jonathan's Website https://www.jonathanbardzik.com/
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Transcript

Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. They're caterers, research chefs, personal chefs, cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business Perfect Little Bites 10 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s I've literally never worked in a restaurant unless you count Boston Market. This week. My guest is Jonathan Bardzyk. He's a storyteller, cook and author. He's a performer speaking and cooking for private and corporate audiences creating customized experiences that build connection. He's appeared with more than 900 audiences than on the TEDx stage, written four books and his new television series Jonathan's

Kitchen:

Seasons to Taste recently debuted on Revry. His work has been covered by USA Today, the Washington Post and Food Network magazine, overcoming hurdles, including one setting the Christmas dinner table on fire. Jonathan celebrates 10 years in business this month. On the show, we talked about how he started his cooking and speaking career, and he shares his advice on how you can start to we discussed why he wanted to write cookbooks, and some tips for listeners who might want to do the same. We talked about his new TV show, and improvisation while speaking and cooking. Jonathan also explains what the joy premium is and how it's linked to pricing your events. How much joy does a dinner bring to you? If you're excited for the event? Maybe it'll be okay with charging less. If it seems like the client might be challenging. And this is just a transactional event. You'd better get that money. What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment on Facebook, Instagram, or shoot me a DM or email. And next week is Episode 100. I think it's quite the milestone. The episode will still be about food. But my guest is an actor whose resume includes the TV show Cobra Kai, intrigued. Come back next week. And now on with the show. Thanks so much for listening and have a great week. Hey, Jonathan, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on. Thanks for having me, Chris. Looking forward to talking to you. You and I have talked off camera a few times over the past couple years, but excited to share your story with our listeners.

Jonathan Bardzik:

Thank you. I'm excited to talk to them. I'm a big fan of the podcast.

Chris Spear:

Thanks. Yeah, I appreciate that. Well, you've got you've got a lot going on. But I guess let's start with your culinary backstory. How did you get into food and cooking? Was it something you're always interested in?

Unknown:

It is something I've always been interested in. I grew up loving cooking. I spent a couple summers working in the restaurant industry front of house at the end of college, came home after earning a four year degree and told my parents I wanted to go to culinary school at which point my mom said no, you will absolutely not do that. It's terrible life. You'll be up all night you'll never be able to hold down a relationship. I found my way back to it 20 years later, as as both an entertainer, a storyteller and a cook and from all in front of live audiences.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, you do so much more than just cooking. I mean, you're not obviously working as a restaurant chef. But you're also not really working as like a caterer or personal chef. So what are you doing?

Unknown:

I call myself a storyteller cook and author and I think that I do as much as retaining. As I do cooking, I always say when people say ask me, How do I work with you? What What does it look like to hire you? I let them know that I cook with people, not for them.

Chris Spear:

How do you train for that? Because I think that's the hard thing. You know, as a personal chef, I go into people's homes and cook for them. And people are always asking me, Well, you know, how do you become a personal chef? And what do you have to do? And I always tell them, the hardest thing I think, is to be the entertainer, if you're not used to that so many of us get into cooking, too. I guess hide in the kitchen and just cook. But being in front of people and doing that is a whole different thing. So I mean, is it just your natural personality?

Unknown:

Some of it is personality. I think a big part of it is I look at this career. It feels like looking backwards, you know, Monday morning quarterbacking it, that everything that I've done in my life has led up to this moment. So I grew up in a small family retail business, my parents owned a garden center, nursery and landscape business. So I was out in front of customers from a very young age. I was a performing arts major in college, although I spent more of my time backstage directing than I did on stage acting as a stage manager. And I think that the attention to detail and managing an experience and having to have all those pieces in place, serves me well. Now I work professionally in my family's business managing a retail garden center. We often earned an MBA and after 11 years in DC, working in marketing for a national trade association, decided it was time to look for the next big adventure in my life. And all of it came back to Cooking and getting out in front of an audience. So 10 years ago, on July 30 2011, I got up on Saturday morning without literally a patch of dirt without a tent, which is not a great idea in DC in late July, and gave my first cooking demonstration in front of a live audience. That's literally the first time I ever cooked professionally.

Chris Spear:

How did you land that gig like what led up to that?

Unknown:

I started talking to a professional coach, a life coach, a career coach. And this idea came up of doing a live cooking demo. And I lived Near Eastern Market DC at the time. And I think probably from my retail background thought if people knew what this food was and why it was so special, and what to do with it, they bring more home and have more fun. And so I went to the market. And I can go into a backstory on that. But after a couple months said yes. And they didn't have a chef at market program. Most markets that I've worked with, do they have the whole thing set up and you just go in they have all the relationships with the vendors. Well, Eastern Market didn't. So then I started go vendor by vendor with the markets who I shopped with on the weekend, and said, What do you think about giving me a couple tomatoes next Saturday? Would would you give me those three cucumbers. And I'll develop recipes that showcase your food. I'll give out samples and at recipe cards and tell people where to go shop. enough people said yes. And I got up and did it and kept coming back every week

Chris Spear:

was an instant success, or did you kind of have like a slow build.

Unknown:

It was an instant success. And it was a slow build. So the first day, you know, I was talking to my brother before this whole thing started when this idea sort of came together. And I said my my biggest fear was not that I would get it wrong. I said the first time you go out and do anything. If you are if you do private teaching dinners for a client and someone says, Would you come in and do an event twice the size you've ever done? Or would you do an eight course tasting menu and you're just used to doing you know, a starter main and dessert? The first time you do it, you don't have to be great and you shouldn't expect to be great. What you have to achieve that first time out is to do a good enough job that they will ask you back and I feel like that happened the first time out. Six weeks in I talked to the coach I'd been working with and said this seems like it's going really well what's next and his advice to me and it's the best advice I've ever gotten was Do you remember six weeks ago and the coolest thing you could possibly imagine with someone letting you get up on a Saturday morning and cook in front of a live audience enjoy that for a while. And he meant that literally what he also meant and I think this is why my my culinary training in my experience in front of audiences is so similar to the experiences of a lot of chefs I know who haven't had professional culinary, formal culinary training is there is no substitute for getting out in front of the audience and having to talk every single weekend and having a you know not knowing that your burner went out and your dish is actually gonna take 15 minutes longer than you thought it did. It was going to and now you've got to tell three more stories and on the spot. You just have to figure out what those are. Because otherwise everyone's walking away.

Chris Spear:

Oh yeah, I've had a few of those experiences to that. That's a it's a very different animal than just going to someone's say house and cooking for them when you're really on show front stage center. There's not a lot of room to hide. And I guess you just have to just keep talking through it, right.

Unknown:

And that's how I became a storyteller. Right before I started. My husband knows a woman who had worked for bone. appetit was in Columbus, Ohio, the food editor for the Columbus Dispatch, and had done a lot of cooking in front of audiences a lot of TV appearances. So I called her up, I said, do you have any advice, and her advice was, whatever you do, don't stop talking. And that's how you become a storyteller. Because on TV, you can cut all the boring stuff out, right? If you have a pound of green beans and need to snap the ends off, you just do that off camera. But if you're there in the kitchen, with everyone there with you, you got to feel that space, because snapping the ends off the green beans is not going to be entertaining enough for very long, she become a storyteller.

Chris Spear:

I've had to find that with the podcast as well, too, because you get guests on who are chefs or people in the food business, but they're not necessarily all storytellers. Well, they're here to tell their story, right? Like, our conversations usually go about an hour. And so I had to become a better interviewer to coax those stories out of people, because I think you can do that you can help them. So I always have more questions on the runway that I necessarily need. Because you might be a good storyteller. Like, I probably don't need as many questions with you. But some people give short answers. It's like, Okay, well, like, this is a podcast, we got to keep this going. So let me throw some more questions out there, too. Yeah.

Unknown:

In the last year, I started doing a lot of Instagram Live, and very often interview people. And exactly, you find folks who you can just kind of sit back and let them go for the next 20 minutes. And you have other folks, you ask a question, you get that one word, and you say, All right. Now how do I start digging into this with this person, but I find with food, and it's what I love about what we all do, whether we're telling stories, or simply putting a meal on the table, is the food connects people everybody eats. And so when you get in the room, you say, What is your favorite food? Everyone has an answer. And when you say Okay, tell me more about that. I want to know, who do you remember cooking this for you? What did that kitchen look like? What was who is at the table? What right at people will go on for hours about that, including people who aren't comfortable talking. And it is just it's such a way to get to know each other and connect with each other. Without it feeling intrusive.

Chris Spear:

It kind of levels. the playing field, I guess is how I like to think of it. everyone eats and it just puts people at ease. I

Unknown:

think it's one of the things I have been working on a second edition of my first cookbook. It'll be out mid summer. It's called Simple summer. And it started as an entertaining book, it's now turned into something a lot deeper, much more about joy and connection than simply what are you going to serve on the Fourth of July. But one of the things I talk about in the book is that I love shared foods, and I love them because it forces interaction at a table. Right? It forces us to bump elbows and forces us to interrupt the conversation say Will you pass me that it forces us out of our comfort zones, we're all eating the same menu, we don't just get to make the choice of what we want to eat. And it also gives us this shared experience. We're all enjoying the same flavors, we're all having the same, the same food experience. But then it connects us back to other food experiences. And so you're you're sharing something collectively, and then you're also bringing yourself as an individual into that environment into that meal.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I love that I really enjoy when I do dinners having like the cocktail hour where it's more informal, but I often have customers who just want a plated served meal and I'm always trying to get them to do at least half an hour where I can put out some really fun shareable stuff and just let people go and mix and mingle and try a bunch of things but you know, bump elbows and have more informal conversation but it doesn't always get to go that way. But for me, that's my favorite part of a dinner party.

Unknown:

It amazes you in my past life is Association executive. I was running a Marketing Committee and all the members flew into DC for meeting there about 10 people. And I took them out Tuesday tinea, which is one of Jose Andreas, his restaurant amazing

Chris Spear:

place,

Unknown:

right Mediterranean small bites. And so everyone sit down and they said where's the you know, what are we ordering? And there was there was just the menu on the table and they said, Well, you know, do we choose something off this? I said, No, no, it's all gonna come. And it showed up and there I would say half the group was nearly apoplectic over having to pass plates and scrape some off onto their small plate in front of them. And yet the next day at the meeting, the level of communication and interaction and understanding was, so strongly multiplied 10 times, but I didn't even give a number. But it was so different. From the last meeting that we had, suddenly, these people knew each other, they understood how to talk to each other, they, you know, they knew this person was going to get a little wound up, but it didn't mean anything, this person was gonna be quiet, let's draw them out, they still have something to say.

Chris Spear:

I never really thought about it like that, like making lasting connections, that kind of trickle over into even the next day. And further beyond that. But you mentioned that you have three cookbooks. So why cookbooks in the age of being able to post recipes on a website, or a blog, or even on Instagram? Why was it important for you to write an actual physical cookbook?

Unknown:

I would say all three happened for different reasons. The first one happened two years after my first cooking demo, there was a there's a local writing coach and publishing coach in DC who came to me and said, I think you have a book and you I've been following your blog. I would post a story, you know, two to 300 words, nothing, nothing particularly long, but a story with every recipe. And he said, Yeah, I think when you pull this together fast, that by the way, you never have a book happens. It was anything bad fast. But I printed the first one in news, there is something about holding a book in your hands. And I really enjoyed the process. And so for the second one, I said, this means to accomplish a couple of goals. Number one, it's an expensive business card. But let's face it, most of us aren't doing $200 gigs. And so, you know, I'm a 10 to $15 price per book with a 5000 book run. It's not that expensive a business card if it's getting you 1000 2000 $5,000 gigs. And so it's this is this is my business card, it's really hard not to take a hardcover book, that goes thunk that has enough weight and pages in it and feel like well, this person must be impressive. Here's this heavy, big hardcover book with color photos. The third book, somebody had, I was talking with a cookbook, agent. And there was a series out there called short stacks that were single subject cookbooks, and said, I think we should pitch you for a vinegar book. And it never went anywhere. But I really loved the idea. So I wrote a small book on the new grads. And at that point, two books out. One was a $25 price point, the second one was 40. And I said, let's let's put that $12 book out that someone can, you know, just throw 15 bucks down at the farm market and walk away?

Chris Spear:

Do you have any words of advice for someone listening? who might be interested in doing that I'm sure a lot of our listeners have or have at least thought about doing a cookbook.

Unknown:

Two pieces of advice. Number one, it's going to be work. I think that and being someone who cooks so often we get in and out of our gigs, right? I mean, if it's, it's a long lead up, it's a full week, because it's a particularly complicated menu or event structure. But for the most part, we're in and out pretty fast and we get to move on. And creative work is work. It's you're going to be digging in and making big changes and small changes, scrapping sections, you know, retooling recipes, re photographing, I have decided to do most of it myself. And I do that for two reasons. I like the control. And I like the cost, it is much easier to learn how to be a photographer, well, it's much less expensive to learn how to be a photographer than it is to hire someone to come in and style and shoot all that food for you. And that's the reason why I've self published my three books, it also means that you're going to do all of the work, including the marketing and the distribution yourself. So that doesn't sound like fun if you really just want to have a book, if you want that calling card, but you don't want to do all the work. There are folks and I've actually worked with one of them who has done the design and print management for me. And if I mentioned them, Bob Morris at story farm, does books, rich books with chefs, so kind of comes in and says, You give us the content we can I mean they can do everything from the recipe testing. So if you know how to cook something, but you have never had to go through the ordeal of figuring out how to put that on paper and explain it to someone else, which I think a lot of us who cook professionally, don't know that right? Someone says how do I make this and you know, I don't know I go in the kitchen and I taste it and I throw stuff together and it works. So there are people out there who can do that for you. You'd rather invest in that and not have to do that workload yourself.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I had Cathy borrow on the show last year, and she has maybe four cookbooks now. And we talked, you know, in depth about the process of writing cookbooks, but also editing and putting them out there. And it's, I think it's a lot more work than people realize. I mean, you can put together your own like ebook PDF, kind of on the fly, if you want. But I think if you really want it to be a serious looking cookbook, it's either going to take time or money, and it's definitely gonna take a little both.

Unknown:

I think the issue today is that this like anything else that we do represent our brand. And the self publishing tools out there have become so sophisticated and so easily available, that our customers expect a higher level of professionalism. And there are a lot of people who do nothing but create content. And they're really good at it. So when we put content out there, we need to look just about as good as the person who is doing nothing but blogging 24 seven, who, you know, puts out an E cookbook, just to get people to sign up for their newsletter.

Chris Spear:

Well, speaking of content, since you had nothing else on your plate, you decided to start your own TV show.

Unknown:

Yes. 2018, I got a call from a magazine that a digital magazine out of Queens, New York, who I had been submitting some free recipes to. And the editor in chief said, hey, we've been wanting to get into TV for a while. I think we have a path to it. And I think you're the right guy. So we started talking. Six months later, over breakfast and a handshake we decided to do a TV show together in Jonathan's kitchen seasons to taste debuted just this may on reverie, which is a streaming live and on demand network.

Chris Spear:

That's amazing. And it sounds like you just beat the clock kind of getting all that production stuff done before the world kind of shut down.

Unknown:

We had no idea at the time. It was we in fact, we were planning on doing some reshoots in March of 2020. And we're right down to the wire there is I didn't interview a couple weeks ago with a TV critic. And he said, you know, the one thing really missing for me, I just wish there there were little more food porn, like your food sounds so good. And the glimpses I get a bit of great, but I really just want that 30 seconds where the camera makes love to the dish. It's Yeah, I did, too. I thought we had more of it, McCann and we were gonna film it that margin. It didn't happen. So shows a little light on that. But the important part, I think what really separates the show from a lot of the other food TV in the industry is that it's about joy and connection. It is about people sharing time in the kitchen, having a conversation building community. And I don't think there's a lot of that on TV when I was writing the show. I started by saying to my co producer, I don't want a cooking show. And he looked at me quizzically and it took me a little while to get the words, right. But I finally said to him, You know what, I don't want to do recipe assembly show. And I am guessing most of your listeners who are who are cooks or chefs feel the same way, right? I can read a recipe so much faster than you can narrate it to me over 20 or 25 minutes. So I said my job when I am in front of the camera is to tell you what you can't get from reading that recipe. It is to give you technique, it's to give you context, it's to tell you the why behind these ingredients, these flavor profiles on these steps.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I mean, when I cook for customers, and they asked me for a recipe, I say, I can maybe cobble something together for you. But if you just listen to me for like five minutes, I can tell you where the inspiration came from, you know, I like to teach techniques and even learning to cook through inspiration and ideas, if that makes sense. But yeah, I'm not a huge fan of putting a hardcore recipe down on paper and saying, here's the template do this.

Unknown:

I also think it's really frustrating when you watch TV and and someone essentially reads that aloud to you. So I'm going to take a quarter cup of this and then we're going to add in a T shirt and you're thinking Do you really think I'm pausing this TV show to take notes I mean I'm I'm gonna go to your website so why are you telling me the quantities unless there's a reason that I need to write and and i think of people like Julia Child, they people like two fat ladies, one of my favorite shows from from the UK. Who gave you the given context. They gave me confidence and they gave you connection. And that I think is food TV at its best.

Chris Spear:

Well and you touched on it. You talked about joy Why is joy kind of like a keyword for you? And why is that important?

Unknown:

You know, I'm seeing it all over the place right now. But from the beginning, I, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning. And it has been, it's been my my personal mission statement. It's my business mission statement, I believe that life can and should be lived with joy every single day. And I find when the easiest ways to do that is by preparing a meal, setting a table and sharing it with the people we love. And that sounds so simple. But you know, when I graduated from college, I graduated mid year. So no big graduation or anything else, I just sort of drove home one day, and all of a sudden, I'm not surrounded by 1800 of my best friends, I'm living at home with my folks a little bored out of my mind, and started cooking, and sat down the first week, and somebody had taught me this great pasta sauce, and another person that taught me her grandmother's neoci recipe. So I made that week one and week two, I flipped through the back of one of the moosewood cookbooks that sort of lists, core ingredients and seasonings by culture, and threw together some fajitas. And the third week, I find myself sitting at the table the stack of cookbooks, spending two hours putting together a menu the entire afternoon shopping, and cooking until far later into the night that my parents wanted to be eating. But recognize quickly that by simply pulling some of the you know, choosing some dishes from their Hodge. And putting the time into cooking this meal, I can take a fairly small amount of money because there was a recent college grad and didn't have any. I mean, I certainly had a roof over my head and food on the table, but not a lot of disposable income. So I couldn't travel, I couldn't go to concerts. But I could prepare this meal and elevate the quality of my life to a different level than I would have otherwise had access to. I also think there's a story that my dad shares in the third episode of the TV show about his mother. So his mom, my grandmother was being courted by my grandfather during the Great Depression. And he lived outside of town on a farm, she lived in the city and she'd go out on the weekend. And my great grandmother would have someone kill an extra chicken for her to bring home. And her family wouldn't have otherwise had protein during the week, if not for this chicken. So my dad remembers her saying throughout her life, there's this difference between city poor and country poor. Because in the country, you can raise your own food. And so there's always food on the table. And as long as you can have a meal, you can always celebrate every single day.

Chris Spear:

That's deep, you know, and it's great that that story was shared with you. I hadn't really thought about the difference between city poor and country poor. Yeah, I mean, I guess you, if you live on a farm, you're always fed and nourished. And that's, that puts you probably ahead of the game, in a lot of ways.

Unknown:

I think about a lot of us in in this business in the last year, who may not have had a lot of other money coming in. But because of our relationships, because of the you know, the ecosystem of the food world, most of us still had good ingredients on our tables. And so although stressed out about money coming in, could still get in the kitchen at night and create magic, right could still go have this adventure in our kitchen, put it on the table and feel like it done something for the other people who are living in our homes for our family or roommates, whoever that is, and feel a sense of purpose and ultimately a sense of joy.

Chris Spear:

And more people were cooking at home. I mean, even as a chef, I don't necessarily cook at home a lot. But we were cooking so much more at home, which it was really nice. I think a lot of our dinners at home were more home cooked, less fast food less processed than they had been in previous, you know, years, whatever. And I really enjoyed that.

Unknown:

That to me is also an important distinction about joy. My brothers sort of drew this out of me a few years ago he said so you know what's what's the difference between joy and pleasure? And I started thinking about it. I said pleasure disappears. Right if I go get a Big Mac right now. I'm going to get some pleasure from that. I I love Big Mac. It is a guilty pleasure. Not even a guilty pleasure like Big Macs good tasting sandwich to me. But it's not going to carry with me tomorrow morning. If I have a really crappy week of work. I'm not going to sit there and go. Remember when I was eating that Big Mac, right? Joy stays with us. I can have a terrible week and say, remember when I sat down with my parents at the dinner table and we have that fresh corn that we went and got from the farm rocket that weekend or even better, got from Marvin you know that you can one of the things that I say about buying food Is that when you buy food from people, you know, you never eat alone. And I think that sense of connection adds to the joy.

Chris Spear:

I also think that it makes you less inclined to want to waste it. You know, I feel like if I go to Wegmans and buy a bag of carrots, and I kind of, you know, let them go, they get kind of, you know, soft, limp, whatever it's like, you know, you maybe make a mediocre stock with them or even toss them out. But like if I either grew the carrots myself or went to the farmers market and bought them from someone I know, I feel like I want to capture them right now, at their best quality and make sure that they're not going to go to waste.

Unknown:

There is something I think about bringing it home and looking that farmer in the eye that makes it makes us feel foods feel like a treasure when you bring them home from the foreign market. And right you do you want to, you want to turn this into something that is as memorable as the experience that you had bind.

Chris Spear:

Well, I want to move from joy to inspiration,

Unknown:

what inspires you, connection and creativity, or maybe even creation, I find that feeling connected to a product to what we just talked about taking that carrot out of the fridge and knowing who grew it, knowing that I am preparing a meal for people. Knowing that an ingredient has a history, I grew up in horticulture. You know, we talked about breeders and breeding and so you go in and a lot of folks will see a draining on the shelf, I will see a history and know that someone spent years perfecting this plant that that we're now just buying off the shelf, to feeling feeling deeply connected, eating off plates, or using cookware that were a gift from someone or that you bought on a trip the creation piece. I am just terrible at sitting still. In fact, we had we had a hiccup with the show launch back in February, we're supposed to it was supposed to release February 20. And we ended up delaying it by two months. And I can tell you it was a it sucked. I it was a pretty rough hit to take. And I was the one who had to call our sponsors and the people I brought in to be on the show and tell everyone and keep a smile on my face. But three days later, I just said, Well, I can sit here and be miserable or I can get to work. And my first cookbook was just about out of print. So I sat down and started working on a second edition. And now that I'm looking at the proofs later today, the book will be out this summer. And I can guarantee by the end of summer I will be on to the next project. It just I had the opportunity to work with my brother at the beginning of 2020. It turned out to be pretty fortuitous. He does market research for for retail products and brands. And he came in and did a brand positioning and definition study for me. So focus groups, one to one interviews with with clients and constituents, did some research into sort of the marketplace that we all work in. And came when he came back with the the brand book, one of the things he said is you're always excited about something and you're always on an adventure. And he said I thought about pulling those two apart. But I or grouping those two together. But I realized that they're really different. There's always something you're totally jazzed about. And you are always off on your next adventure off working on your next project.

Chris Spear:

And that also brings up a great point that I wanted to get into, what is your team look like? You know, I think so many of us start out as solopreneurs. And either don't want to or don't know when to get help? How many people are working behind the scenes with you for all that stuff that you're doing? And also, second question in there. Do you have a PR person who you work with?

Unknown:

My team, I think looks like a lot of businesses today, which is not on a consistent payroll. I have I literally am a sole operator. I don't have to submit payroll reports or anything else I did with the launch of the show finally hire someone I'd been talking to for a year who does social media and communications strategy forming and some operations work. I work with a designer over to the same designer on two of my three books. The the third book that integrates book was designed by the same company that manages the printing process. So it was really fun getting back into this project, calling them up and saying Alright, teams back together again. Let's get together and work on this with the TV show. Again, it was a lien project. We had one person who was sort of tech and DP doing all the camera work and he ended up editing it later on. And I had a co producer, I wrote the show, I directed it. So I'm, I'm still lean, but I find that it constantly takes other people. And then there is that whole, for lack of a better word and and pardon the pun, but kitchen cabinet, right? I think that, that there is a difference between needing staff and needing advisors. And there are probably five to seven people who I regularly go to and just toss ideas off of. I'm a big believer that everything is better with collaboration. And it is at its best when that collaboration is led by a unifying voice, it's I can tell you, there have been 30, people who have looked at content have read stories have looked at pictures for the cookbook that I have coming out right now. But what's most important is after listening to all of them, and hearing all of those ideas, it is ultimately funneled through my voice. And so you have a you have a product, you have a experience that feels like it came from one person. But as Richard, for that diversity, in terms of PR, I don't have a PR person. You know, I think PR is one of those things that can be incredibly valuable. But take some experience and some strategy to manage properly. I have I have wasted significant money in the past on PR. You know, I truly believe that that market growth and, and growth of your brand and appearances in publications often happens, because it's driven by PR. I have you know, I've had numbers in the past, I've had things come out and just said Why are these other people getting more exposure than I am? And and it's not? Because you're not great? It's because PR is how this all happens. And that makes sense, right?

Chris Spear:

Which is why I asked you because I see you, you've done appearances and stuff like that. And I know there's a lot of people out there who want to get on the local TV news show or they want to maybe be the chef at a market. And I know a lot of those opportunities do come because someone is doing some PR for these companies, because a lot of people don't feel comfortable reaching out themselves. So that's why I was asking, I was wondering if you had someone help you negotiate some of those appearances and such,

Unknown:

that stuff has been a lot of door knocking for me. So, you know, I think because my entire business started is live appearances on a weekly basis. I would just bump into people who said, Oh, I see this, and I want this here. So why don't you come do this for me. With TV three years ago, I decided it really was time to be on TV that I wanted to do local appearances. And I had a acquaintance in the area in the sort of food entertainment teaching space, who was getting some good TV time. So I invited her out to lunch. We she ended up being on my show, and is a dear friend now and is incredibly talented Amy riolo, who's a Mediterranean food and culture expert, finishing up her 10th book right now. But she about three weeks later, he called me up and said, I have a TV appearance tomorrow, would you come assist me. And while you're there, let me introduce you to the producer. So that's how I got my first appearance. And I think there's a lot of value in that, you know, a really good PR person will prep you for that experience. But it's another thing to have already been in the room, you sort of know when you get there in the morning, where you're going to have to move your cooler and your equipment through is there running water on set. You know, there's usually no running water on set, all those things that you see in the television kitchens don't actually function. So knowing all of those little details before you get on takes a lot of the stress out so you can really focus on the performance that day.

Chris Spear:

But I would also say it depends on the context of what the event or appearance is because I think going back to connection, PR is kind of cold. So I'll say a few of the guests who have been on this podcast have come to me through their PR person. And then many people like yourself come through some kind of connection and I think you can feel the difference without outing any guests. I bet if you go back and listen to our shows, you can tell which ones showed up on the podcast without me ever having talked to them first. And which ones are people like you who I've been talking to for a couple years?

Unknown:

Absolutely. I think being filtered through a third party makes a difference. You know I think so much of the PR that is out there are people who are operations people. I look at PR and say Boy, I can do that, like I can, I can write a good press release, infecting probably can write a better press release than most PR people not because they're not talented just because I know the content better. And I know enough at this point, to know how to keyword it, and headline it and all that. And I can go look up all those addresses and email them over. So I think there are a lot of people who literally just do that for you. And for me, the real value from PR comes from two things. One is relationships, right? If you hire a PR person who literally just has a database of email addresses, and they're just going to forward pitches to them, then I mean, again, if it's saving you some time, but just watch how many dollars you're spending on that because they're just hitting said, so people who say, Yeah, no, no, I can call up the producer at ABC, I can call up the producer at CBS, I can call up the person who is doing this big food event, you know, the Washington Food Show, I know the people who are doing the bookings, and they will take my phone call. That's a totally different category of skill. And quite frankly, that's worth paying for. I think the other category there is are they creative? Or do they you know, are they a strategist? Are they saying, gosh, you know what this is? My friend Amy just mentioned to me the other day was national asparagus day. So someone's saying, It's national asparagus day, I know that the producer at ABC really loved building segments around these, these, you know, national hashtag holidays, let me go pitch them. And by the way, I also know you and I know that you've done some interesting things with asparagus recently. Let me pull those together and funnel it to this person. I know, that's value added. And, you know, the if, if you just want someone to execute for you'd write a press release and hit send, go for it. I mean, it's the same approach that I had with books, if you don't feel like writing and doing recipe development and all that work, by all means, go hire someone to do it, and spend your time doing what you do best. And if that is selling yourself and cooking for clients, then that's going to bring in the money to drive all of this other work. And you don't want to do that work if it's going to pull you away from from what you do best. But just make sure you understand what you're paying for. And you should be paying a whole lot less if they are, again, writing a press release and hitting send rather than really bringing strategy, knowledge and relationships to the table.

Chris Spear:

You also have a great big personality. And I'm sure it's a little easier. You know, for you, I think I would definitely see you and say man, that's a guy I've got to have on my show or come to a cooking demo for me.

Unknown:

At the end of the day, I think it's so important to remember that being in front of an audience, whether it is TV or live is a better performance, it is about communicating and connecting. And I think whether that comes naturally or not. There are some key things that all of all of your listeners that all of us can do. One of them for sure is nailed down three things you want to make sure get communicated and just listen for the opportunities to communicate those. And sometimes that may include tweaking the question that you get asked to, to get to the answer that you want to deliver. The next thing is talk to whoever the audience is. So whether that is the co host on the show, or if you're live, the people standing in front of you have a conversation with them. I think that we don't often recognize the power of personal connection. And if you stumble over your words, if you forget what you wanted to say, as long as you are looking someone in the eye, that time just disappears. It's totally, in fact, there is there's a power in messing up and then fumbling because it endears you to your audience, and they won't back off, they will lean in to give you the opportunity to get it right. Because now they want to be part of that win with you.

Chris Spear:

I haven't feel that in my editing with the podcast. I mean, I want to clean concise show, but I think sometimes you need to give, you need to leave in the part where you ask a question. The guest answers it and then substance will hold on, actually, you know, and I could cut that out. But I think sometimes you want to leave that in to show you know, the humanity or the thought process or something and you don't need to edit out all that stuff. And that's something I've picked up from listening to a lot of other podcasts is Oh wow. You know, I love this show, and I love it. production values, but they also didn't cut out that part.

Unknown:

It's one of the things I feel about cooking live in front of audiences. I feel like TV and social media have given us access to cuisines and ingredients and techniques that we never would have had before. But it leaves all the mistakes on the cutting room floor. And I think it does such a disservice to our audiences. It does a disservice to each of us, right? I mean, how often do you watch show like, a Top Chef and just feel like you're coming up short. And you realize that there's a disaster going on? That is the same disaster You and I have every time we cook for a client, right? We fix it. But there's, I mean, the mistakes that get made all the time, and that's why we taste our food and adjust seasoning. Look, by leaving that out. I think we convince everyone that they're supposed to get it right the first time. And I always tell people, when you're doing something new, think, think of this example. So I'll standing in front of an audience, I'll say, who plays tennis, raise your hands. And usually it's 10% of the group. Say, great. Alright, so for the rest of you, I have this trifold brochure on how to play tennis, I'm going to hand it to you got five minutes to read it, we're going to go hit the courts, how's today gonna go? And they all start laughing, you're right, you're gonna be terrible at playing tennis, you're gonna have fun, you're gonna get some fresh air, some exercise hanging out with some people, but you're not gonna play a great game of tennis. But it's still going to be a great experience. And and you'll know that if you do this 10 times, you'll be much better playing tennis. So why preparing a new recipe? Going on TV for the first time cooking with a different kind of client? Why would you think that would be any different. And I think when we see the mistakes, we we get to realize two things. One we get to connect with with the human entity and give us some space to get it wrong. And I think it's important that we have space to get it wrong. We don't have to get it right all the time. I think the other thing that it does is demonstrates that it's okay to get it wrong. Right? I mean, how often have you been preparing a dish for a client and maybe not tell them about it, depending on who the client is. But you take a taste and you go, woof, I just missed like three things. And this is a mess right now. And I'm so glad I took the taste is I can do those three things. And it's gonna be a great dish on the table. I had a client a few weeks ago, and I was about to serve some sorrel soup. And I think God, I already played it, I think three out of the eight bowls. And I took a bite and realized I had been so busy talking to them about this recipe that I hadn't seasoned that there was no salt in this pot of soup yet. And I'm right that's that is a mess. I mean, it was it was fair, but it clearly wasn't the dish it was supposed to be. I think letting people know that is valuable because it gives all of us permission to go in and, and make mistakes and to have a lot more fun.

Chris Spear:

I forgot a whole bag, I guess 50% of my ingredients for a dinner I was doing for a private customer. I just I had everything packed in the cooler and it was back at the kitchen I was using and just like things happened. And I got to their house. Thank God I had all my protein. So I'd like say they wanted filet and lobster and all that. But you know, they wanted like a blue cheese cream sauce for their sake. I didn't have the blue cheese. I didn't have cream, you know, and you get there and I'm having like a panic attack because they were in an Airbnb in the woods. So it wasn't their house, there was no pantry staples. And there was no grocery store for like half an hour. So I just like looked at my ingredients, humbled myself, and then came out and said like, this is what happened. And you know, like so you want a blue cheese cream? I don't have it. Here's what I do have I have lemons, I have butter, why don't I do a brown butter? Why don't I roast these lemons in the oven and do like a, you know, a roasted love of roasted lemon brown butter sauce and we put it together they had enough to make a meal. But that was really humbling. And you know, you have to learn to be on your toes and figure things out. But you know, again, it's a party, we're having a good time. And I think if you can come up with a plan, seem confident and just, you know, have fun with it. You know, hopefully it'll work out they enjoyed their dinner, they still paid me so but not an experience. I want to have happen again.

Unknown:

No, but I but yeah, as you said humbling and magic, right? I mean for them to see you on the spot, figure out a solution for that. What experience there's a there's a concept that I came up with a few years ago. And I think it's relevant for your audience in two different ways. So this this concept started forming, when people would say what, you know, I'm thinking of doing contract work, especially a lot of creative people and writers and saying what should I charge? And as I thought about it, I said there there couple you know a couple ways I think about charging for work number one is never do anything. Because you think you're going to get future work? I've done that many times, every single time, it's disappointed me. So don't do it. Number two is you should charge based on how much you enjoy the work. So let's say you have a client who you just love, right? And they say, gosh, you know what, I really want to do this experience, I'm a little tight on cash, is there any way that give me 20%? off? Maybe you say yes, because you love these people, you're gonna have a great night with them. But you have another client who go, I'm gonna be back and forth on this menu 47 times, you get their day, and they're still, they're gonna have three more suggestions. They somehow think I'm going to be able to execute for them, it's going to take me four weeks to get paid, because they're going to nitpick the invoice. There's only one reason you're deciding to take that gig, and that is money. And so if all you're going to get out of it is money, make sure you get money for that job.

Chris Spear:

It's almost like you, I don't know if you even saw this. Because I posted this across social media this past week, I posed that exact question, because one of the things I'm going through is, as a personal chef, I've always said I do dinners from two to 20 people, the reality is doing dinners for two people is not profitable. Even if you're charging, you know, I started $100 ahead, maybe we're 125 150. That's expensive for people. But as a business, the amount of time it takes for me to plan a dinner for two and execute it, I would be better off reserving that day for dinners for like six to 20. Right. So the question I asked people is, you know, what are your minimums that you charge? And is there a reason you do or don't do dinners for to, you know, and I've had all the answers. A lot of people say, Well, you know, it's great lead gen, because then those people will maybe hire you for their Christmas party. And like, to your point, maybe they will, maybe they won't. And I've kind of come to the realization that I only want to do it for people who are friends, people who have like an extraordinary reason, or just because I think it's going to be cool and want to cook for them just going to cook for two people who I think are going to be kind of To be honest, a pain in the ass. I don't want to do it, because it's not worth it. But if it's you know, someone who's been a regular customer, and I absolutely love them, of course, I'm

Unknown:

going to do it. Right. I mean, someone comes in says, Hey, you know, we just rang the bell this week on beating cancer, and you know that you're going to be crying by the time you leave that night. Yeah, you'll do it for fewer dollars. All of this has led to this concept for me, too. I did an MBA in my late 20s. And one of the concepts that you learn in mergers and acquisitions is this idea called a risk premium. So the riskier the investment that you make the higher return you want, right? So if I say to you, if you say to me, I'm sitting here with, you know, I don't know $100 million, what do I do with it. And one option is just to put it into a market fund, right? So you know that you can go sit on a beach in Tahiti drinking by ties, and you're gonna get 5%, no matter what happens. So then you say, gosh, you know what, it may be fun to go invest in a startup. But I may lose all of this. So if I'm going to take that risk, I don't want 5%. I want 12%. So right that 7% is the risk premium. And I think there's a flip side of that, and I call it a joy premium. So if you are getting more joy, you get out of an experience, the less return that you need on it. So if I am working for a client, and I know that my heart is going to be full, at the end of the night, I don't need the same profit that I do from someone who my hair is going to be empty, you know that I'm just going to be drained, I'll put myself all out there, and I'm going to walk away not having gotten anything back from them in terms of satisfaction and, and connection, then I better get more money. And I think it's one of the great things about the work that we do show off in I talk to people in this industry, and we look at our friends and our acquaintances who are out there making a lot more money, and we could all be making more money doing something else. But we get so much joy out of this work out of the freedom that it gives to us. You know, I look at friends who make a lot more and they go, Oh, I have this great new car. I'm taking this amazing vacation. Oh, I just got the brand new phone that came out last week. And I think that's great. I know that you're going and buying all those things, because you hate your life is you you hate what you do for 40 to 60 hours a week. And this is what makes it better. But I get up every morning and I love what I do. Even the stuff that I don't like is fine, because I'm in control of it right even the days where I have to sit down and do the bookkeeping, which is quite possibly my least favorite thing in the world. I get to make that decision. No one else came in this morning and said, You got to do the bookkeeping. I'm doing this because it allows me to do everything else that I do. And because of that, I can get away with fewer vacations and fewer toys. Because every moment of my life is bringing me that joy.

Chris Spear:

I hope everyone listening picked up on that so many of our listeners are entrepreneurs and have started their own business. And I want everyone to remember that when they're having their hard days that even the hard days working for your own business are usually better than the best days working for someone else's business, at least in my opinion.

Unknown:

The other thing I would say about those those dinners for two is I learned a huge lesson last year, my average price per client has gone up by 10 times in the last year, I'm I'm still at about the same number of dollars, I'm still building that business pipeline. But I realized that none of that would have happened if COVID didn't force me to stop, I was so busy being busy, that I didn't have enough time to really look at my business to measure my value and go ask for it and find the kind of clients who have those dollars moving through the system who could afford to spend it. And I get it, right. I mean, all of us spend a lot of time I'm sure looking at bank accounts and wondering, okay, we're good for the next three months. But how's that fourth month looking right now? I don't quite have that booked out yet. I don't know. I have you know, right now I have no gigs booked for September. And you wake up at four o'clock in the morning and write you sweat about that. So I get that that's a reality. But you spend too much time running around after small dollars, you'll never have enough time to figure out how to go after the big ones.

Chris Spear:

I think that's great advice. And probably a great place to kind of end our conversation for today. I've had a great time talking to you. Is there anything you want to leave our listeners with today?

Unknown:

Chris, I would love to share the show with them. And again, if they want to go find it reverie is available as an app on any anywhere that you stream TV. So Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, or you can watch it on your phone, tablet or computer. If If you want to find out more about me check out my website Jonathan bards calm and I would love a follow on Instagram. I'm right now going through an eight week campaign talking about each episode of the show interviewing the cast. So some some good fun content and some I think some fun people for your listeners to me. If there's one more thing that I can say it's that I think everyone listening to this everyone who is doing this work, who is bringing food to people who's bring joy to people is amazing. And when you have those those days of doubt, which I know we all do, please remember that we need you.

Chris Spear:

Well, to all of our Chefs Without Restaurants listeners, this has been Chris. As always, you can find us at Chefs Without restaurants.com.org and on all social media platforms. Thanks so much for listening and have a great week. Thanks for listening to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. And if you're interested in being a guest on the show, or sponsoring the show, please let us know. We can be reached at Chefs Without restaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much.