When Beaverton resident Pam Andrews packs up her car to go to work in the morning, she carries three large Tupperware bins out to the driveway. They're filled with pots and pans, pot holders, and dish towels - maybe her rice cooker, too. She also takes along a tackle box filled with various kitchen utensils and gadgets. In her pocket, she has a trusty grocery list, written with exquisite care and attention to detail- details which came from her client for that day, the lucky person or family who will come home later to find meals prepared ahead of time for them to enjoy later in the month. A personal chef, Pam is more like an angel to her customers.
'Well, I've been doing this for about five and a half years,' she recently explained. 'My son is now in fourth grade, but a while back, when he was in pre-school, I started exchanging food with neighbors. It was a lot of fun, but then I started thinking how nice it would be to cook for others and get paid for it!'
She said she had this idea in her head that she really wanted to cook for others and make it into some sort of income, and so she started researching her options. She ended up completing an online training through the largest association for personal chefs in the country. She learned how to develop a business plan and how to market her services, and how to determine the pricing of various meals.
'Now I have clients all over the place - from all over Portland and from a lot of different backgrounds,' she shared. Andrews said that her husband helped her develop a Web site, and many of her customers have found her through the site. Her clients include a lot of busy families and couples, but also single people with special dietary needs, or families with new babies. She smiled broadly and said, 'Oh, it is so fun to go to a home where there is a new baby - you know that what you're doing is really appreciated by the people there, and it is just a fun place to be!'
When a client first contacts A Chef for All Seasons (the name of Pam's business), they meet with Pam, who completes a survey of the person or family's tastes, dietary needs and any restrictions, as well as talking about meals and what would work best. Once they've determined all of that, they arrange for a day for Pam to cook in the client's kitchen, using Pam's own pots, pans, and other kitchen accoutrements. Pam shops before going to the client's home, so all ingredients are fresh, and she will shop a specific store if the client makes that request.
Andrews enjoys being able to give her clients meals they like, time to enjoy something other than cooking, and the opportunity to sit down around the table, relax, and enjoy a meal. She explained that when she was growing up, her Midwestern family (including grandparents) often had a Sunday dinner in the middle of the day, and everyone would sit at the table and talk, laugh and linger over their plates for a long time.
'I am lucky to be able to do this cooking, which I really enjoy, and also to give people that sense of relaxation that dinner's already figured out, and it is something healthy that everyone likes.
'Both my mom and dad taught me to cook when I was a girl,' she said. 'My mom started back at work when I was in the fifth grade, and after school I would come home and often make things for dinner - simple things, but that was when I started cooking on my own.'
She reflected on her business and shared, 'The work is really cyclical. There will be six months when I am really busy and cooking for people about 3 days a week, and then there will be 6 months when it is more slow, maybe just one day a week. I sometimes do small dinner parties for people, or other special events like that. Overall, fall and spring are my busiest times of year,' she said.
A native of Chicago, Pam graduated form the University of Illinois and lived and worked in Arizona as a young adult. She and her husband came to Oregon and Washington on their honeymoon and both really liked Portland and thought it would be a great place to live one day. They were able to make job transfers and move to the area before their son was born, and Pam said they are very glad they did.
When asked what she likes about living in the Pacific Northwest, Pam quickly replied, 'Oh, the seasons - I love the change of seasons and that there is something to do outdoors in each season. I like how friendly the people are, too. I love all of the outdoor activities available all year here. In fact, I guess that is one of the reasons why I chose the name 'A Chef for All Seasons' for my business. I love that there are different fresh foods available in each season - locally grown berries, and so on, that I can use in my recipes.'
For more information about A Chef for All Seasons, contact Pam at 503-577-8209 or go to the Web site www.achefforallseasons.com.