FlowerGirlMN Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:05am

Hope this isn't too dumb a question, but..

Ok, so I have a wedding show in 2 weeks. I was signed up before I decided to start offering my cakes as part of this business, and the original plan was just flowers/dresses/stationery. Anyway.

Now I'm really planning to push the cakes - from everyone I've heard, it's a better market/much, MUCH less competition, and I'm starting to think I'm better at cakes than I am flowers. Maybe it's just cause I get sick of pulling thorns off roses.. LOL. Anyway.

Traditionally, I've worn black pants and a dressy shirt at these shows. Should I get myself a swanky caterer style white jacket? I could have my logo embroidered on the chest or whatever? I notice other cake people do this.

Not sure if I should, where I'm doing more than just cakes (though I want the cakes to be the focus).. or if I should only do this if actually serving samples?

Thoughts? I hate dressy shirts, so I'm sorta looking for an excuse to not have to do that!

99 replies
indydebi Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:45am

JMO.....

When I see someone in one of those catering jackets, my first assumption is that they are a real "chef" with a culinary degree and a lot more expertise that I have. Most people only see the Bobby Flay's and Emeril's wearing those jackets, so that's the league they would assume the wearer was in. I wouldn't wear them because I would not want to mislead people.

If I had spent the money on a culinary degree and had "earned the right" to wear one of those, I'd be ticked if some 'cake lady' showed up wearing one, implying an expertise she may or may not have.

I think if you look nice, and professional, you will make just as good of an impression with those who visit your booth.

Just my opinion ..... if everyone thinks I'm totally off base, please say so, so FlowerGirlMN steps out on the right foot! thumbs_up.gif

FlowerGirlMN Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 5:00am

LOL.. I'm just going on all the other cake people I've seen doing it.. could they all have "earned" it?

The other thing is - at the big shows here, not only the "main" cake decorator in any given business wears em, but the other people working the booth - same for the caterers. I can't imagine they've all "earned" it.. could it be a regional thing?

I was thinking more in terms of.. if they do this.. and they're "just" cake decorators (not in a snotty way, just that's the sole business).. would it be dumb to dress the same, if I'm not there *just* as a decorator?

yh9080 Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 1:50pm

How about black pants and a nice shirt/blouse? Maybe people will think you are more approachable without the chef's jacket.

Also, at work the other day, we got a catalog from Land's End and they are now offering shirts (button downs & polo's) with custom logos. Each shirt is in a style for men and women.

marmalade1687 Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 1:58pm

I was actually thinking just yesterday of getting some polo shirts with my logo on them for deliveries. When I do bridal/trade shows though, I dress in business casual - I make sure that I am very comfortable for the day (ie. when setting up I need to be in pants so that I can get up and down ladders!). I have found that Weekenders (is this a Canadian line, or is it also in the States?) works well for me - it is nice, stretchy fabric, but I look pulled together in it.

Hippiemama Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 3:34pm

Most cake people around here just where professional looking clothes or shirts with their company logos. A few of them have chef's jackets.

I am currently attending a culinary program (yes a change from my other degrees, but I love it!)

I can say that many professional chefs do take issue with "cake ladies" pretending to be chefs. So don't put Chef Suzie Q or Chef Cake Lady on your jackets. I have actually seen "cake ladies" with no culinary training label themselves chef and have it on their jackets. This is a big no-no if you want to avoid offending people. If you want to build a relationship and hope to get referrals, offending people is not a good step to take.

My chef's jacket has the name of the school I'm attending and my name on it. I will not have Chef on my jacket until I have graduated.

After I graduate with this degree I will probably have a jacket made with my company name and it will say Chef because I have earned it. I don't think I would not do this if I was just going to be doing cakes. When I open (when the kitchen build is complete) I will be offering catering, personal chef services and eventually cakes.

Hippiemama Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 3:35pm

With my last post I forgot to mention that I am having polo shirts made with my company name for regular events.

MichelleM77 Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 3:42pm

There was another post not too long ago about this. If I remember right, there was a concensus that colored chef coats were okay, that white was the "chef" color, and also that the "hat" was what determined who the chef was in the kitchen, not the jacket. Maybe someone has that post saved and can put a link in.

I've thought about having pretty aprons made with my name and logo embroidered. My local cake shop's owner always has one on. If you know someone who sews and who has an embroidery machine at home (maybe check for local sewing shops in your area that offer that service), then that will save you money with ordering the chef jackets, and will also save you time since you only have 2 weeks.

Carolynlovescake Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:02pm

I avoided the cake booths with Chef jackets... that meant they were to expensive and intimidating. icon_lol.gif I went to the more approachable cake booths and found them much nicer and easier to work with.


I would say get a polo shirt and embroider your company name and first name on it.

indydebi Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:23pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolynGwen

I avoided the cake booths with Chef jackets... that meant they were to expensive and intimidating. icon_lol.gif I went to the more approachable cake booths and found them much nicer and easier to work with.


I would say get a polo shirt and embroider your company name and first name on it.




I was trying to figure out how to say this EXACTLY with no success! Thanks!

My decision not to wear one is a marketing decision for just this reason. I am the gramma that is easy to talk to, who has been making those incredible cakes for years and who is the best darn chicken-n-dumplin' maker this side of the Mississippi! When a crisis comes up at a wedding and the bride or groom is in a panic, and when Debi comes to the rescue, I will pat them on the arm and remind them, "That's why you hired me, hon. Banna(*) will take care of it for you." I'm not a big, huge corporate caterer with rules etched in stone with no flexibility.

I'm the gramma who is going to take care of everything for you.

(how come we dont' have a smiley icon with gray hair in a rocking chair? I need one of those right now.)

There are many high-end caterers in town that I cannot compete with .... what they do, they do very well and I'd be a fool to even try. I don't market myself as "one of them". I don't project the image as "one of them". I'd be a fool to try.

My calendar is full so evidently what I'm doing is working fine for me.

(*) Banna: What my granddaughter started calling me when she couldn't say "gramma".

MikeRowesHunny Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:41pm

Well, I can't speak for the US, but I know a lot of kitchen porters who do nothing but washing dishes, wear 'chef jackets'. As far as I'm concerned it's a practical piece of uniform worn by people who work in kitchens (as do we, domestic or otherwise!), its point being to keep whatever you're wearing underneath clean, and to protect you around hot things. I'm sorry, but those who get upset by non-degree holding people wearing them are just a little too pretentious and full of themselves for my liking. JMHO.

honeybearcreek Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 4:53pm

I've been craft shows, fairs, expos, etc. for about five years now. Not peddling deliciously decorated cakes, but none the less I've attended and exhibited at countless events. It's just my mom and I at these functions and we have our logo embroidered on polos for spring/summer shows and oxford shirts for the fall/winter shows. I have an apron, but I tend to get over heated while wearing it :O(

They're also great advertising just to where around to the grocery store or school functions - you'd be surprised how nosey people are! LOL I also have embroidered tote bags that I give out to extra special customers - more free advertising!!!

Hugs,
Diana in VA

gateaux Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 5:07pm

I feel that a chef jacket is a CHEF's jacket for someone who studied to earn it. I expect the knowledge to be underneat the jacket, the same way a doctor has earned their jacket and scrubs.

I feel if you have a nice plain shirt with your logo it, would perfect.

Good Luck

TooMuchCake Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 5:08pm

In places where I've worked, the chef's coat is simply part of the uniform. Everyone can wear one, from the dishwasher up to the store owner. And none of the people I've worked for in the food industry were chefs. Not a single one. In fact, I've had more formal training than the "chefs" I've worked for. The coat is just a piece of protective clothing, really. If you don't need one and don't feel like wearing one, wear what you feel comfortable in, and what you feel your customers would be comfortable seeing you in.

Perhaps a better alternative for you would be what we called a "kitchen shirt," which is a stain-resistant front-button collared shirt that you can put your company logo on. It clearly says "food industry" but might be seen as more approachable.

Deanna

countrycakes Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 8:05pm

icon_smile.gif < This is about as close to wearing a chef's hat that I will ever come.....I can cook, but I do not want to wear a chef's hat or jacket to do my services in......
I am looking at purchasing some polo's with my name and company name embroidered on them...they can be dressy and look good with either khaki's or black pants. I intend to wear them when doing a wedding or anniversary party or delivering..just want to be on the neat side with my services. icon_smile.gif Just my opinion. icon_smile.gif

CakeMasterG Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 8:46pm

My wife just opened her cake studio last week. We will be delivering her first wedding cake this coming weekend. I will be helping with all the deliveries of her cakes. I purchased a black chefs coat and she has lime green and white chefs coats. I think they look professional and are not intended to mock anyone with a degree. I think that would be like not wearing a suit and tie because lawyers do. She has classes this month with Nicholas Lodge and in November with Collette Peters and I know a chef coat is a requirement for at least one of those classes. We have no intentions of embrodering 'chef' on our coats, but we believe looking professional and acting professional helps our industry.

Erdica Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 9:36pm

I've always worn a nice shirt and black dress pants. I chose pants over a skirt because of all the lifting and setting up the booth.

We've decide that we want to get shirts made. Maybe some nice polos. And then we are going to have T-shirts made for when we deliver cakes to receptions and things.

I thought about the chefs jacket, but I do agree with the first pp that it does make anyone think that you went to school and whatever.

Any show I've been to, either as a vendor or just looking, I've never seen anyone in a chefs coat.

I guess it would also depend on how things are in your city and what type of show the brides are catering too. It it's a high end show, you may have to think of something else.

indydebi Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 9:50pm

I'd like to find something that is NOT a polo shirt. I really resent it that a man-style shirt has become the norm. I hated that when I had a full time job and had to wear them at trade shows. I am NOT "one of the guys" and hate having to look like one.

When I'm in business-mode, I'm a suit-with-a-jacket gal (too many years in corporate america I guess), so I'm leaning toward having some nice name tags made for everyone.

meriscakes Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 10:08pm

And here's something interesting that I've read recently in "The E-Myth Revisited": blue is an excellent marketing colour. So perhaps you could go with that? It's certainly not my favourite as far as wearing it, but if it works, why not?

I would go with a nice button down blouse that is solid in colour and not busy. If you're serving samples I definitely think that an apron or coverall of some type is in order and just adds to your professional but friendly appeal.

I have mulling this over myself, wondering what the best way to go is when I'm up front and center with customers.

tbittner Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 11:26pm

I think it depends on your personality. If you are a very feminine woman I would do an apron with your logo on it, you can have a pretty one made or do it yourself with some great fabric. If you are more conservative with your personality I would do a plain apron with the logo. I would wear black pants and a nice top with either.
I love to wear frilly aprons and have a small collection of them, I think the make people comfortable and make them think of family.
I would not feel comfortable in a chef jacket without a culinary degree, but I believe that is partial to where I live and the atmosphere of the shows in my area.
Tracy

indydebi Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 11:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by meriscakes

And here's something interesting that I've read recently in "The E-Myth Revisited": blue is an excellent marketing colour.




Very true. Oranges and Blues attract the eye more than any other color. Which is why our corporate trade show booth was in these colors (when I worked for a mfg'r .... not "my" corporate colors. icon_redface.gif )

CourtneysCustomCakes Posted 2 Sep 2007 , 11:48pm

I've been to a few bridal shows as a spectator, and I always liked the booths that were nicely decorated and the people were dressed nice, not over done but nice, and approachable. Some one that they can talk to. Kind of like Indydeb said the one who looks like they can Get it Done. I wouldn't do the normal White shirt and black slacks. Any color nice pants ( not Jeans ) and a nice Dressy shirt (not necessarily a blouse) with your hair done nice and a big welcoming smile I don't think you can go wrong. Remember you want to be comfortable, happy, Positive, and professional.

I hope You have fun. I dan't wait to do a show, but there is only one exclusively for a particular all in one Wedding place, and they already have a "Cake Lady"

cCc

snarkybaker Posted 3 Sep 2007 , 12:01am

I am a chef. I wear a chefs coat. I am not a " cake lady" or a "baker", and I charge accordingly. Do you see where I am headed here? Debi is right. Decide what you're trying to project to your potential clients. When I do bridal shows, we take very large display cakes, set up a TV screen and monitor with a slide presentation of our cakes ( it's more engaging than a book), and we hand out beautiful petit fours in our popular cake flavors. We all wear chef coats ( albeit personalized) Prospective customers know we are at the top of the pricing spectrum, because we look like a Neiman Marcus ad.

Decide who your customer is then craft your brand image around those expectations.

tygre Posted 3 Sep 2007 , 12:02am

When I'm meeting clients to discuss cake orders I wear dresses, suits, business casual depending on where we are meeting and what I know about the client. For cake set up I wear a plain white chefs coat and white apron, it is professional looking and keeps my clothes clean. I don't do shows all my business is word of mouth. As far as the coat no coat debate goes, I am a designer, baker, and artist, that's what people pay me for, even if I haven't studied under "Chef Big Wig", I don't claim to be a chef, but I am a professional.

FlowerGirlMN Posted 3 Sep 2007 , 12:19am

Yikes guys. No consensus at all! LOL.

I picked this up today - it's close on to blue, and looks really nice on me. The color is perfect for me, and it doesn't look too matronly. I'm not even 30 yet, but most fat chick clothing looks like it was made for those 50+.

Is this dressy enough though? It's the only thing I could find that looked even halfway acceptable! I'm thinking I'll pair this with nice black pants and maybe a necklace/earrings set. The shirt looks nicer in person, it's a beautiful teal color:

http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-1/qid=1188778622/ref=sr_1_1/601-3448190-7722532?ie=UTF8&;asin=B000OZHZWW

peacockplace Posted 3 Sep 2007 , 12:39am

Well, Colette Peters wears one and I know for a fact that she's not a chef! (Amazing yes, chef, no)

That said, I've been to culinary classes where a jacket is required by the school. They know we aren't chefs. They know we aren't "pretending" to be chefs. It's just part of the uniform. I have no problem wearing one, but I'd never put the word "chef" on my coat.

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