How This Chef Turned Her Hobby Into A Niche Business That Brings In Up To $26K Per Month
The first inkling Ariane Resnick had that she loved cooking was at 18. She’d moved out of the house and kept calling her mother for recipes. “Very quickly I had an influx of baked goods and food items and I had to find people to give them to,” she said. That progressed into a job as chef de cuisine for a vegetarian cafe–and eventually, into her own niche empire .
There were a couple detours along her path to cuisine success—a degree in creative writing, the pursuit of a modeling career, and some restaurant management—but eventually Resnick, now 38 and living in West Hollywood, Calif., became a star chef to celebrities and others with special dietary restrictions. She also began a raw food snack line, Rawk-n-Roll Cuisine which lasted from 2009-2011, and her kale chips became best-sellers at Whole Foods in the Southern Pacific region.
Because of her multiple income streams, she brings in anywhere from about $15,000 to $26,000 per month, without any formal chef training (though she did receive her nutritionist certificate).
Her career was derailed and deferred as she battled Lyme Disease, and then chemical poisoning from a faulty stove combined with bad ventilation. “After recovering from my illness of 2011-12, I finally felt a sense of purpose. I used food to help with healing myself, and realized I’m on the planet to help other people feel better; food is one of the ways I do that,” Resnick said.
She signed on with a chef event website and made her mark from working with extensive, strict restriction combinations. People could easily find gluten-free chefs or vegan ones, “but they didn’t have anyone who could handle a client that was no gluten, no soy, no dairy, no red meat, no white foods, but make it taste like a casual restaurant, out of only farm-to-table ingredients. I could do that,” she said.
Initially, as a private chef in 2013, she charged $500 a day to cook and plate a day’s worth of meals, breakfast through dinner. That was at the lower end of the scale, and she felt like she needed more experience. Then she’d spent that summer in the Hamptons, feeling celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow (and Paltrow’s guests, such as Paul McCartney and Jay Z). Diet-restriction demands became increasingly complex, and she began cooking for at least 20 people a day, so she upped her rate.
This year, she pivoted. “This past year I moved away from plated meals and into a ‘fill the fridge’ service where I make 10 mix-and-match dishes, which feeds a small family for half a week or so. The menu changes with every visit and always accommodates all the family’s dietary restrictions simultaneously, using only organic whole food ingredients. My dishes are undetectable from the ‘normal’ less-healthy versions,” she said. For that, she charges $750 and can complete the work in three or four hours.
Her other income streams include:
Ambassadors for food brands
Sales of her first book, ”The Bone Broth Miracle“
Nutrition and wellness consulting
Resnick’s combination of learned skills, innate talents, impeccable organization and marketing savvy helped bring her to where she is today.She said she had to push through impostor syndrome and say “yes” to opportunities that made her uncomfortable, or that she felt she wasn’t fully qualified for. She also felt the need to share her own experiences publicly, such as with her health issues, so that people would understand her journey.
She said she had to let go of a lot of cultural expectations of what a “real” job was, and go with what felt right. She also felt like how she walked the earth, “being a kind and gentle human, while at the same time being very vigilant about my boundaries and how I’m treated,” was critical to her success.
The first, and most obvious place to start with the people around you. “Start feeding people. Make what you love to make and give it to anyone whose face you want to put a smile on,” she said.
Resnick also offered these steps to get going:
- Listen to the people in your world. “What do they say about your cooking? What do they love the most? What do you feed people that excites them? If you aren’t clear as to where your strengths lie, that’s an easy way to find out!”
- Monetize one aspect of your cooking. “Whether it’s selling homemade spice mixes on Etsy or doing a neighbor’s holiday baking for a nominal fee, get comfy with getting paid for your cooking; it will lead to more of it.”
- Don’t worry about school. “Realize that we have moved away from a world in which you must go to school for the vocation of your choice; if you have talent, that’s what matters.”
- Get social: “Take pictures of your creations, post them on sites like Instagram, and hashtag them appropriately.”
- Find your niche. “Choose an area and focus on it, rather than trying to please everyone.
- Charge appropriately: “Stick to clear service charges and separate ingredients charges for private work; that has made the path very easy for me, and I always know what my wages are.”
Even though it sounds simple, she made plenty of mistakes along the way. For example, her food production business was popular, but “a huge financial disaster…. I couldn’t get it profitable even though it sold out constantly. Demand does not equal profit.”
Resnick encourages anyone with the passion and talent to give it a try. “There is room for everyone! As much as I have done well making healthy food and accommodating multifaceted dietary restrictions, someone else out there is doing equally well making red velvet cake out of white flour, GMO sugar, and food dye. There is an audience for everything, and if you follow your passion, your audience will find you.”
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