The Making of an Urban Gourmet
It all started with a new neighborhood, a new friend, and a new desire for something to do outside my home.
During culinary school at Oakland Community College, I was turned on the world of “personal cheffing.” The idea that a home cook could turn their passion into a career was immediately appealing. After all, I wasn’t just a home cook anymore, I was being taught the intricate skills needed to become a true culinarian in a fast-paced restaurant setting. So, in my mind, I had a leg of lamb up on everyone else!
And then I met Julie, who moved to my new neighborhood around the same time I had and, coincidentally, was pregnant at the same time as me. Plus the biggest bonus of all…we were both crazy about food. We bumped our stay-at-home mom heads together for a couple of months and finally made the decision to give it a whirl. Together we formed A Moveable Feast, Personal Chef Service. Knives in hand, chef jackets freshly embroidered with our company name, and armed with her marketing background and my culinary training we set forth to conquer Oakland County.
During our partnership we accomplished a lot, met interesting folks, and learned an immeasurable amount of wisdom about running a business. Some of my personal highlights from AMF:
- Appearing on Fox 2 Detroit early on a Sunday morning. We did a live cooking demonstration which made then-anchor Charles Pugh sigh with content!
- Appearing on internet radio program MetroChickradio.com to talk about our business and as a two-time guest host.
Well, then I got bit by a bug, and I had to stretch out my limbs. I wanted something more. I wanted a store, a place where the foodies in my area could get all the goodies we saw on Food Network or read about in magazines. Unusual olive oils, aged Balsamic vinegars, stinky cheeses, artisanal candies, locally-roasted coffees…I wanted to be able to hand-pick these treasures. I wanted to cook delicious things on a much larger scale, and use the tools I learned in culinary school. Thus, Urban Gourmet was born.
Urban Gourmet didn’t just whet my appetite for all things food; it introduced me to the world of marketing and public relations. It was in this area that I found myself getting truly excited. Of course, making a 10 pound batch of homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting in my commercial kitchen was satisfying, but figuring out how to get the message out that we were actually making and selling them was exhilarating. Getting phone calls from the media as a result of press releases I sent out was rewarding. Counting the hits on my website was addicting. Seeing people bring in their customer loyalty cards pounded home the confirmation that I was indeed reaching people.
But…it wasn’t enough to quell the things that were going on around me. Shops in my complex were dropping out on a monthly basis. Foot traffic trickled into oblivion. The downward spiraling economy dampened my fire.
I was sad to have to close the shop after two years. I, and everyone who worked for me – with me – put incredible amounts of love into what we were trying to do there. I know what I did right, and what I didn’t do so well. And what I figured out about myself was that I am pretty damn fearless, and I’m very proud of that!