Wining Wife®

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Tag: Business

GUEST POST: Insights on Preparedness: Cooking and Catering

A delicious-looking meal

A delicious-looking catered meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This guest post comes from Alex White. It’s great advice for home cooks who would like to transition into catering.


You’ve been cooking for most of your life and have decided to start your own small business. You figured you may as well make some money off the time and energy you put into doing something you love anyway, right? What many fledgling caterers wind up doing is putting all their planning energy into the food and don’t think much about other logistics that can make a catered event go from amateur to professional with just a few basic elements. Here are some points to consider when planning your first catering gig.


 Hire help


 Some cooks prefer to be alone while working in the kitchen — and that’s okay. Whether you are working in your own kitchen or have chosen to rent a professional facility, doing all the cooking yourself may be the best way to save money, particularly in the early stages of your business. However, you may want to consider hiring help for the day of your event. If you cannot afford the expense of paid help you can get a competent friend or family member to volunteer their time in exchange for some free food. Serving people can take a lot of time, which is a major reason having help at the event is key to your success. You may be responsible for setting up banquet tables and chairs, serving the food, and then the dreaded clean up. Even for a small group of less than 50 people, this can prove to be a lot to do in addition to all the cooking. So get however many extra hands as you can afford on the day of the event.


 Be prepared


 No one likes to be served cold soup — unless it’s meant to be cold like a gazpacho. However most people like for their hot food items to be served, well, hot. The temperature of your food can also affect sanitation, so you want to make sure you have the proper equipment to maintain the temperature of your food and drinks. Be sure to have heat candles or lamps on your banquet tables. Keep ice on hand for salads and other items containing ingredients that can spoil quickly if the temperature gets too high. You don’t want to have to go through the process of planning and serving a meal only to find that half of your guests were unsatisfied because of the temperature, or worse, made sick by spoiled food. These types of incidents will certainly kill your catering business before it even gets started.


 Stick to recipes you know are a hit


 Your first catering job is not the time to experiment on a new recipe. You want to knock your first job out of the park, so to speak, so that you can get referrals for more jobs in the future. You should already have an arsenal of recipes ready to go whether they be on index cards in the closet or filed away in your computer.


With the proper preparations, these early events are sure to be a success for your fledgling catering business.


Alex White is a food critic and an avid blogger. 



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Your Ph.D. is How Old? You Need Not Apply

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy (Photo credit: lounae)


A disturbing trend is cropping up in the Ph.D. job market circuit. Universities are now qualifying that they do not want applicants whose Ph.D.s may be getting “stale.” According to Leiter Reports, there are now some universities asking that people apply only if their Ph.D. has been granted in 2010 or later. This means that those who graduated during the initial collapse of the economy may find themselves without a potential job to apply to.


To me, asking that people have a Ph.D. later than 2010 seems to be saying to job applicants that they aren’t worth the bother if say they graduated in 2008 or 2009 if they weren’t employed then, instead of looking at the problem as a holistic one. The reason many graduates didn’t receive job offers is that there weren’t jobs when they graduated. Not only are listings like this ageist, but they also seem to perpetuate the over abundance of unemployment and underemployment for those with advance degrees.


If you received a degree and had a difficult time when entering the job market, what would you say if you saw a post like this? Please post your thoughts in the comments.



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Defining, Categorizing, and Defining Some More


Theme Song: Audrey Silver “I Could Write a Book”

Nope, this isn’t a post about filing or being a librarian (despite the number of books pictured in the previous post). Instead, it’s a post about how when we jump into life, we sometimes need to step back and look at what it is we’re doing. I’ve been working my way through the marketing classic, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Jack Trout and Al Ries. While reading the book, I came to a conclusion: I’ve been in business for four years and I’ve been approaching it wrong.

I’ve been a generalist – or at least, I considered myself a generalist. That is, I would take on any client project that came my way, rather than specialize. But as I was reading, i realized that I was a generalist for at least 9 different businesses that I’ve been running as one business! So, in addition to keeping up on client work, I’ve been busy separating out my businesses, defining them, and deciding which ones I will run right now, which I will launch later, and which I will set aside. I’ve also been voraciously reading books that MBA candidates read – not just for the sake of running my own business, but because knowing these tricks and techniques will help me to help others run their own businesses.

It’s amazing how much can change in a year, much less how much can change in four years. When I started my business, I was fresh out of leaving grad school, and I had a lot to learn about running a business. Now that I’ve been in business four years, I’ve learned a lot, and there’s still a lot out there to learn! (That goes for life too!)

What sorts of things have you learned in your career, and what sorts of things do you believe you still need to learn?


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On Learning to Scale Back



Relax (Photo credit: Orethorn)


Historically, I’ve been a busy woman. As an undergraduate, I would work 40 hours a week at one job, 20 at a second job, and take 20 units each semester. That’s 80 hours right there. Couple that with the fact that I’m a single mom, was very active in my honors society, and still managed to somehow have a social life, and you’ll quickly see how it was that I thought four hours of sleep was equal to a good night’s sleep.


In graduate school, I was quick to take up committee work, volunteer work, and even work as a research assistant to earn extra money while serving as a teaching assistant. I submitted to professional conferences, readied my work for publication, and spent a lot of time with my kid and with friends.


Once I left graduate school, I started my own business. In the past year, I became extremely involved in volunteer work and my community on top of running my own business and homeschooling my son. Recently, my son became involved in the theater community, I started up a new business with two friends (while still running my own business), and a close friendship developed into a relationship. I had to take a moment and assess what my priorities were all of a sudden, because too often, I found I was running on empty.


It’s so not easy to scale back. It’s not easy to say “no” to another committee, to step back from a volunteer project, or to scale back on activities like choir – but it’s necessary. In order to live a balanced life, we all have to step back sometimes and re-evaluate where we’re going in life, how we’re getting there, and whether that’s the best route.  So for now, while I’m running two businesses, I’ve had to scale back on the volunteer work and really choose the cause I felt was most important. Part of the key to being happy and to long-term success is learning the art of  saying “no.”


(And while I’m on it, I’m still training for running 5Ks – I just signed up for the Run For Food race on Thanksgiving morning that helps a local homeless shelter).


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On Being Outside the Box


Box, Memory and Nickel

Box, Memory and Nickel (Photo credit: Thom Watson)


The interesting thing about going your own way and finding your own path is that certain people feel the need to comment on it. It really doesn’t bother me anymore when people make comments about the fact that I’ve chosen to homeschool my son, and I’ve gotten used to some people being weirded out by the fact that I run my own business from home. What I’m not used to is people treating my business as something that’s not a job or something I want to do.


The thing is, I do treat my business seriously. I work, on average, between 40 and 60 hours a week. I’ve been known to put in extra hours beyond that for quick turnaround projects and extra marketing. Even though I don’t actually leave my front door to go to an office (something that may change in the future, as I’m looking into office space), I feel like I work just as much – or even more – than many other people. And that doesn’t even include the time I spend planning lessons, teaching math, or answering questions about ambiguous questions. Sometimes I feel like I’m busier than I was when I was a graduate student, and it’s absolutely vital that I schedule everything as much as possible.


Why am I saying this? I felt a bit insulted earlier when someone suggested I check out a job opportunity that was 1) a minimum wage job and 2) clerical because “you’re attractive,” and 3) benefits. Now, before I got my feminist pants all scrambled up on number two, I tried to remind myself that the person only meant well and probably sincerely believed she was being helpful. The thing is, though, that I think this assumption that I’d jump and down at the opportunity – because I’m just hanging out at home.


Benefits would be great. I won’t knock that. But the thing is, I make more doing what I do now – and there’s really no cap on what I can make in a month. There’s no way I’d have the energy after working eight hours at a minimum wage job to do what I do now. I would resent the amount of work I was doing for the tiny paycheck. AND I’d still have to have a second job in order to meet all of my monthly expenses. Even as a graduate student, having a kid means that minimum wage does not cut it, so I had a second job. I was both a teaching assistant and a research assistant for a professor – until the university told me I was working too much (even though I was in the top third of grad students, receiving As on my work, on top of everything, and presenting at professional conferences). It’s all about time management. And yes, that particular semester, I was also homeschooling my son.


Yes, being outside the box has its own challenges that come with it. For example, I have to be disciplined every day in order to get my work done. That’s not something I would have been able to do about 10 years ago, before graduate school, but the thing about grad school is that you learn work habits. You learn to make a tiny bit of progress every day towards a goal. You learn to organize those goals. Well, I did anyway. Another challenge of being outside the box involves the lack of a safety net. If I were in a 9-5 job – or even the minimum wage job – if I were sick, I’d still have a check coming. When you’re sick and you own your own business, you’ve got to rest – but you also get no billable hours in. You have to foresee times like this, and instead of spending that huge client check on gourmet meals, you sock it away – live like no one else now to live like no one else later.  And of course, there’s the health insurance issue. I’m on my own for health insurance. Luckily there’s writer’s unions where you can purchase such luxuries at a discount price.


I also don’t have a car. This is another thing people bring up often. I don’t want to own a car. Cars are expensive, they pollute the environment, and having a car would mean I would probably choose to drive rather than walk places. Some days, when I’m really busy, or it’s really hot and I don’t want to run, the only exercise I get is walking places – of course, that still means that every day, I’m getting in the recommended amount of physical activity. If I ever do really need wheels, in addition to public transportation, there’s a number of people who have offered rides should I need one. And worst case scenario? There’s always a taxi. By not owning a car, not only do I lessen my carbon footprint on the earth, but I also save the money that would otherwise be spent on a car payment, car insurance, gas, maintenance, and the emergency fund that goes with owning a car. And no, having a credit card does not count as having an emergency fund. Does it cause inconveniences? Sure, but usually only when I’d want to do something spontaneous like hop in a car and drive somewhere for a vacation. So again, it causes me to have to plan and save money. It also means I have to live close to things. It means that when I’m at the store, I need to think carefully about each thing I purchase – do I really want to pay money for that AND carry it home? So…not having a car saves a lot of money that’s not even related to the cost of owning a car.


I like living simply. Sure, I like a nice dinner here or there, and I like to look nice – but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do that.  I don’t like to spend money that doesn’t need to be spent. That makes it so that I can spend more money on things like healthy food, books, and the things that my son and I enjoy doing together. I like the flexibility of my schedule because if I want to run a 5k, go visit a friend, or volunteer a Saturday to help build a home, I don’t have to ask for the time off in advance. I just have to plan accordingly. Sure, running a business makes things complicated tax-wise, and not all months are created equally. But I continue to grow each year, and I feel like giving up now would be a huge mistake. The only thing I’m considering is finishing my graduate work part time while I continue to do what I do.


And honestly? I like being outside the box.


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