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Meet Chef Aram Reed – Chicago Personal Chef

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aram Reed.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started my career working in restaurants in high school and college, but it was just a job. I left the food and beverage industry to pursue a career in finance in corporate America. I spent five long years trying to find myself in that industry.

I was let go in 2008 when we had the big financial crisis. I spent a lot of time with some friends, who were chefs at a major restaurant in Chicago. They were donating their time, on their nights off, to cook at homeless facilities in Chicago. They were giving the underprivileged a nice meal.

I joined them, as something fun to do, and rediscovered my passion for food. I decided I wanted to pursue a career doing that. After attending my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah in Utah, I made the decision to go to culinary school and enrolled in Cordon Bleu in Chicago.

After graduating, I spent six months doing a culinary internship in Southern Italy. I was in Sorrento, just off the Amalfi coast. When I was in Italy, I worked three different jobs.

My first job, closely resembles what I do today, working for a family run business. It was a farm to table hands-on Italian cooking experience. Tourists from all over the world would come and work in the kitchen with the chef to prepare a four-course dinner. We used local recipes, as well as products from the farm the family had on-site. Afterward, we would sit down and enjoy the dinner they’d prepared.

I also worked at two different restaurants. One of them was like a family restaurant, trattoria, which was dealing in a high volume of basic southern Italian cooking.

My last job was working at a Michelin Star restaurant called Il Bucco. That is the only Michelin star restaurant south of Rome.

On my days off, I worked as a stage or apprentice. I spent one-day making pizza with a guy on the island of Ischia. It was fun. I enjoyed getting to explore that part of the world.

Upon returning to the United States, I decided to start my own business as a Personal Chef doing private events. I started out just doing one-off little cooking parties and dinner parties. Seven and a half years later, here we are doing almost two hundred events a year.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My career as a Personal Chef in Chicago has been a smooth, glorious, uphill ride. The only struggle I’ve had is the demand on my time. I have had to sacrifice a tremendous amount of my personal life for the last ten years in order to build my business and watch it grow.

My biggest struggle has been marketing and getting my name out there. I’ve been a one-man show for the longest time. Having to wear so many hats – prep cook, server, executive chef, marketer, and sales rep. Being all of those things, and everything in-between is physically and mentally grueling and time-consuming.

Chef Aram Reed – Chicago Personal Chef – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
What we do is bring a restaurant-style chef’s table dining experience to our client’s home. We create a restaurant-style tasting menu, bringing in a live-action kitchen set up, in their home. We also offer hands-on cooking classes, catering services, live cooking, wellness demos, and a little bit of meal prep.

We’re known for delivering a really fun, personable, interactive kitchen experience, unlike any home dining you’ve seen before.

We bring our own plates and we bring the food. But more importantly, we bring our energy. We’re known for delivering a really positive and fun dining experience that’s a great alternative to going out to the restaurant in Chicago.

We specialize in farm to table fresh style of cooking, with influences in French, Italian, as well modern American cuisine.

I am fortunate to live in a Chicago, which is the greatest culinary city in the country and a top tier of the world. I am inspired by what my colleagues and peers are doing every day.

With Chicago, being such a major market, everybody is challenging each other to be even better. We’re all pushing the envelope to achieve culinary success.

What sets me apart is my drive for excellence. I have a premier style of plating, presentation, and personality. There is an emotional response that comes with your dining experience with us. It’s more than just being a guest. We are entertaining as well.

The quality of our food, our creativity, and our continued desire to be excellent, sets me apart from the competition.

This past month, we did twenty-two events. June 2018, is the biggest month we’ve ever had in revenue. Twenty-two out of the thirty days we had an event. And we’re working the other days as well. To say we were busy is an understatement.

I can only forecast that things will continue to remain the same or grow. And that comes from the service we deliver. We’re continuously surpassing ourselves to be the best. I think it’s going to really pay dividends in the long run.

With regards to the industry as a whole, a major part of our challenge today is making sure that you’re able to accommodate our guests with the ever-growing food allergies and/or specialized dietary needs.

Private Chefs need to make sure we’re all well read and educated on a lot of diets. We must meet the needs of clients from all walks of life. For example, I can cook for a kosher home, vegan, whole 30, and Keto. Even within one event, we may have six guests with different food aversions. It’s crucial to design a menu that accommodates everyone. I look at doing that as a fun exercise, to challenge myself to do better. With the right attitude, it can be kind of exciting.

I have continued to always be involved in charitable work. We support many different organizations by donating dinner parties. I donate about ten dinner parties a year.

This year, we raised over fifty thousand dollars for charitable organizations across Chicago. The biggest fundraisers included: Planned Parenthood, Feeding America, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. We raised over $1000 for just one dinner party for Planned Parenthood.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
What I’m most proud of is our continued success and growth.

On my 30th birthday, while hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy, I set a goal. I told my friend I wanted to start my own business and never wanted to work for anyone else. I made a master plan and gave myself five years to get there. In 2015, I hit the revenue goal I set for myself and we keep growing.

My favorite part about what I’m doing is that I am still working for myself. Yet, my business has grown so much that I have employed staff. The fact that we’re a small shop and not answering to any major business, is how we run things.

I’m most proud that my business has continued to grow to the point where I’m able to take care of my family. We’re a family business which includes my wife, mother, brother, and aunt.

2017 was our biggest year yet. We had 25% growth increase over 2016. And 2018, is looking to exceed 2017.

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