Jan 27, 2011

How to Sell Yourself

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 Whether you want to work as a caterer, personal chef, private chef or food stylist (or some combination thereof), the common denominator is that your business is client based.  This means effective, and continuous, marketing is key to your success.  After almost thirty years experience as a culinary entrepreneur, I've learned a thing or two.  Wanted to pass some of that experience on to you...and I look forward to hearing about your thriving business!

Basic Sales Techniques – questions to ask yourself:

•    Have you ever worked in sales?
•    Will you be comfortable promoting yourself?


Twenty-five DIY Sales Tips

1.    Market when you are busy.

2.    Have a professional and current head shot.

3.    Print on both sides of your business card.

4.    Create a catchy slogan or logo.

5.    Don’t steal ideas: improve upon them.

6.    Set deadlines for yourself, and be accountable.

7.    Contribute articles to local publications.

8.    Publish your own calendar, newsletter or small cookbook.

9.    Send handwritten thank-you notes.

10.    Become a guest speaker at your local city college or business groups.

11.    Teach a class that showcases your talent.

12.    Have an 888 or 800 toll-free number.

13.    Have embroidered aprons for your kitchen staff to wear on jobs.

14.    Record a professional voicemail message.

15.    Conquer the Chamber of Commerce.

16.    Barter, trade or hire a graphic designer.

17.    Give interviews on local radio.

18.    Give referral fees.

19.    Have a web page and email. Update web page regularly.

20.    Be easy to contact. Have a cell phone and return calls promptly.

21.    Write press releases of parties and classes you’ve taught. Email to industry publications, local newspapers and clients.

22.    Contribute your talents to fund-raising events, making sure local media knows about your involvement.

23.    Maintain a current list of excellent references.

24.    Have a portfolio that is up-to-date, neat and organized. Include photographs and thank you notes.

25.    Hire or barter with a local film student to get footage of you planning, prepping and producing a major job.

Denise Vivaldo is the author of seven culinary books, among them; How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business, How to Start a Home-Based Personal Chef Business, and The Food Stylist's Handbook.

Jan 26, 2011

Earthbound Chronicles Reviews Perfect Table Settings


"Denise Vivaldo is a walking talking cooking/kitchen styling maven. I’ve been reading about her life as a caterer and food stylist for a while now. I got to hear her speak at a conference I attended last year. She is a one woman dynamo! With her book Perfect Table Settings, Denise has put years of catering experience in our hands. The table is definitely the gathering place for your guests, so why not put your best foot forward?"

Click here to read the review in its entirety.

Jan 24, 2011

On Entertaining: Creating A Budget

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The first step is to decide how much you can afford and how much you want to spend.  Write this amount at the top of a sheet of paper.  Aim to stay within this limit without going over.  As you develop your party plan, keep these budgetary components in mind.

You can tailor any extravagant idea to fit even a modest budget with a bit of creativity and ingenuity.

What should be included in your budget?  It depends on the type of party you are giving, but it can include some or all of the following:

  • Invitations, including postage.
  • Location rental fee.
  • Food.
  • Beverages, including alcohol and bar.
  • Caterer.
  • Specialty cakes.
  • Rentals, including such things as tents, tables, chairs, linens, flatware, plates, and glasses.
  • Decorations and party favors.

List the ones that apply to you on the same sheet of paper as your budget amount.  Do some price-checking and come up with a projected cost for each item.  When in doubt, overestimate the cost.  Total the amounts, and then add an extra 10 percent for any extras that you may have forgotten.

What do you do if your budget is $500 and the final total is $655?  Well, you could cut down the number of guests (do your in-laws really have to come?), or you could trim costs elsewhere (maybe just wine and beer instead of full bar).

Excerpt courtesy of Do It For Less! Parties, Terrace Publishing

Jan 18, 2011

On Entertaining: The Virtues of The List

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Lists are indispensable for a smoothly flowing party.  Everyone forgets things; have a place to jot down those last-minute ideas or errands.  There is something very satisfying about crossing off items as you complete them.  Here are the "do it for less" must-have lists for a great party:

Guest List.  Use this as a guide when sending invitations and thank-you cards, planning a menu, and making seating arrangements.

Grocery List.  First, finalize your menu.  Next, make a grocery list that is divided by type of food.  I break down my list into the following categories:  Produce, protein, dairy, frozen, and miscellaneous.  This saves time by shopping by department, and also greatly reduces the chance of forgetting to buy an ingredient.


Beverage and Bar List.  As with the food menu, it is wise to know exactly what you want to serve before you arrive at the store, or you will probably buy too much.  Once you know what you will serve, keep the following in mind:  For the first hour of the party, assume two drinks per person.  For the remainder of the party, allow for one drink per person for each hour thereafter.  For instance, if you have 50 guests attending a 4-hour party, you plan on serving 250 drinks.


100 servings for the first hour (2 drinks each), plus
150 servings for the next three hours (1 drink each) equals 250 total drink servings

Food To-Do List.  This should include all make-ahead preparation plus all those last-minute details that can sometimes get overlooked, like bringing the butter to room temperature so it is easy to spread.

Party To-Do List.  This should be in a convenient place where you can quickly add anything that comes to mind (I use my phone for such lists), from making sure you buy extra trash-can liners to hosing down the driveway.


Emergency Numbers List.  This should include numbers for the police and fire departments, the nearest hospital, a reliable taxi service, and 24-hour plumbers and electricians.

Excerpt courtesy of Do It For Less! Parties, Terrace Publishing

Jan 14, 2011

Infinite Family



Denise's friend and founder of Infinite Family, Amy Stokes, has been recognized as the first CNN Hero of 2011.

Click here to view her story.

Amy runs this organization on pennies, and this has become one of Denise's favorite charities.

Infinite Family inspires and motivates teens and pre-teens with very limited resources or support networks in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, enabling
them to build the confidence, skills and global perspective that promote success.

A special broadcast tribute, “2011 CNN Heroes: Amy Stokes,” will air according to the following schedule, breaking news contingent (please note that all times given are Eastern Standard Time):

Friday, January 14:
CNN: (*8am likely) 2pm
HeadLine News: 6:30am, 6pm (*8pm likely)
CNN international: 2am, 7am, 7pm

Saturday, January 15:
CNN: 3pm, 10pm
HeadLine News: 2pm

Monday, January 17:
CNN en Espanol: 7pm (more airs possible)

Jan 12, 2011

A Little Hosting Advice (and a killer salad)

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 The first thing you need to do is relax.  Sadly, the very idea of hosting a party causes some people to panic.  How often have you heard a host remark, "I'm so nervous-guest X is such a good cook" or "I hope everyone likes the way the house looks"?

Enough misplaced worries, my dears!

You are inviting people into your home to eat your food, drink your wine, and have a pleasant evening.  Even a world-renowned chef would be happy to be invited to a party where he or she doesn't have to cook or plan anything.

Being invited to a party is a treat, a night away from the stove, something to look forward to and enjoy.  So please, rest your mind-your guests will be honored to be there.  And remember-you, not they, will be your harshest critic.

Here is a confidence boosting, easy recipe to start an easy, elegant dinner party off on the right foot!

 Baby Spinach, Walnut, and Orange Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Serves 12

1 1/2 pounds              Oranges
2 Tbsp                        Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp                        Raspberry Vinegar
1 Tbsp                        Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup                       Raspberries
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp        Honey
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp    Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
12 oz                           Baby Spinach
8 oz                             Walnut Pieces
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Peel oranges and cut into segments.

Combine mayonnaise, raspberry vinegar, Dijon mustard, raspberries, and honey in a large mixing bowl.  Using the back of a spoon or fork, mash raspberries into the mixture.  Gradually whisk in the oil until the mixture is emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Just before serving, place a third of the dry spinach, walnuts, and orange segments in a 36-inch salad bowl.  Add one third of the vinaigrette.  Using tongs or your hands, toss the lettuce with the dressing until well coated.

Taste the salad and add more dressing as needed, being careful not to over-dress the leaves.

Repeat with the remaining lettuce mixture and vinaigrette.  Enjoy!

Recipe and excerpt courtesy of Do It For Less! Parties, Terrace Publishing

Jan 8, 2011

Cindie's Jewelry on Etsy!

We are so so so excited to announce Cindie's handmade jewelry and gift shop on Etsy.

Never wonder again what to get the ladies in your life...




I make jewelry that is unique and casual. My materials are antique brass chains and findings, lampwork glass beads, quartz and jasper, semiprecious stones, Swavorski crystals and pearls, fresh water pearls, and Picasso beads.

New items added weekly! I have many more necklaces and earrings in stock that I haven't yet gotten around to posting. Please feel free to contact me with specific requests.  


Cindie Flannigan

Jan 7, 2011

Perfect Table Settings for Holidays and Everyday.



Yes, we know the holidays have just past.  Between Denise traveling Thailand and Mistress Mandy birthing a baby, we're still catching up on book reviews posted during the last few weeks.  We enjoyed this review from Amazon.com editors, and wanted to pass it along.

"My life's work as a caterer and food stylist has been all about attention to the details. Setting a pretty table for friends, for family, or even just for yourself is an easy way to brighten up your everyday life."

Denise Vivaldo, Introduction, Perfect Table Settings

Jan 6, 2011

Dear Denise. Your Food Styling Questions Answered: Soggy Mac 'N Cheese

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 Dear Denise:

I am a food stylist and I have run into a technical problem.

I shot a microwaveable Mac N' Cheese in a cup snack food. The client insists I use their product alone for the image for the packaging. Problem is, the cheese sauce grows a skin in seconds even with water misting, glycerine added, etc.

Problem two is that the noodles absorb water so quickly that they go limp in seconds and we just can't get the shot. The client is a dollar store type group and the product is pure chemicals, half of which I can't even pronounce.

Do you have any suggestions for cheap soggy noodles and quick drying cheese sauce.  None of the books I have bought get to far into food science which is really what this is about, and your book hasn't been delivered yet. Please help me!!!

Hi honey!  Here are some tips.

1. It ain't you. Do not doubt yourself.
2. Clients are like sharks-they smell fear. Act brave. Art directors happy to throw stylists under the bus.
3. You need a lot of product-I would use the real product-I would undercook a portion of the noodles and see if the camera can tell.
4. I would false bottom the cup, and hand place lightly sauced noodles on top.
5. Mix white karo syrup into cheese sauce.
6. Cheat anyway you can, and don't tell client if you can get away with it.
7. Try less water spritz  maybe use a heat gun to keep sauce fresh.

Here is a step-by-step technique to try:

Separate the noodles from the cheese sauce, stir some karo syrup into the cheese sauce. This should help the consistency. Rinse off noodles. make a false bottom in your cup with shortening (or if food is warm, use instant mashed potatoes), build your top layer of noodles, using bits of cosmetic sponges and toothpicks to hold them all up, then carefully brush on sauce.

See what the sauce looks like if you spray PAM on it to keep it fresh. Karo syrup does work but if the sauce is really bad I would fake it by coloring a premade Alfredo sauce.

The bottom line is not to let clients boss you around. If there product is crap, you aren't magic, there's only so much you can do!