Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Dini Klein, Personal Chef, “YouTuber” and founder of Dini Delivers

After graduating from CKCA Dini turned her passion for cooking and creative approach to food into a thriving personal chef business. Read on to hear more about her path to success!

Number of years working in the (kosher) food business:

What first got you started in cooking?
Growing up I took a myriad of lessons in creative areas. I grew up thinking that I could create different things from simple ingredients. It all started when I was in college and really started experimenting with cooking in food.

Best way to describe your education in culinary and how that got you to where you are:
I graduated from CKCA’s Culinary Arts Program. That gave me the skills, credibility and the confidence to start working as a professional chef. I loved working with food every day and plating really tapped into my creative self. My very first client was referred to me by CKCA and it’s been growing ever since.

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
I interned at The Prime Grill in NYC (unpaid) and I've been running my own business. I also started a food blog that turned into a personal chef business. 

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position:
I'm a personal chef specializing in kosher, mostly healthy, and custom-made beautiful food. I cook for four regular clients a week and some randoms. I focus on preparing healthy food for the weekdays, holidays, parties, and Shabbat.

I also have a YouTube channel called Dini Delivers and an Instagram account where I document all my cooking adventures and post some of my favorite recipes. 

How has CKCA helped you to develop your career?  
My first client was referred to me by CKCA and I will forever be grateful for that. They also set me up with an internship at The Prime Grill which was great experience and perfect for my resume. Most recently, CKCA sent me an intern to help me out over the summer. She has since turned in to an employee at Dini Delivers. Thank you CKCA!

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Hearing positive feedback from clients and seeing the impact I make on their daily lives. 

What do you find the most challenging?
Running a personal chef business is stressful and physically exhausting. What I find most difficult is making sure all of my clients are happy and satisfied. Because everything I do is completely customized and no two orders are the same on a given day, I need to make sure that everything that leaves my kitchen is perfect and everyone is happy. My name is on the line every day and Dini must “deliver” every single time. 

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
Stay organized!

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I was invited to a Shabbat meal that I catered. It was fun sitting among guests who were talking about the food but had no idea I had cooked it!

What are you passions outside of cooking/baking?
Playing piano, pretending like I can sing, staying active by spinning, working out and chasing my 1 year old. 

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
Taking beautiful, fresh and healthy ingredients, and creating unique meals for the whole family to enjoy. I want to inspire people to eat better and enjoy the food they're putting in their bodies.  

Describe the best meal you ever had:
I had dinner at Citron and Rose in Philadelphia a few years back and everything we ordered was outrageous! I remember my husband and I ordered an entree for 2 and it was the largest piece of steak I had ever seen. I'm not a huge meat girl.... but this was succulent, flavorful and so memorable. I especially love their unique spins on traditional Jewish foods. So creative and so inspiring!

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef?
Only do it if you love it. It's a tough industry and is definitely not for everybody. You need to love it so much that even after a long exhausting day on your feet, you want to wake up and do it all over again. For me it's the creativity that drives me. Every day I prepare new dishes, create new menus and learn something new. That's why I love it!

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years?
It's incredible to me how sophisticated the kosher food world has become. With kosher food bloggers, high-end restaurants, unique kosher products etc. the bar is set and we keep getting better and better. I love how we're finding ways to make typically non-kosher food kosher- fake shrimp, beef bacon... The sky is the limit and I can't wait to see and be a part of what the next few years will bring. 

What is your long term career goal? 
To have a cooking show on TV :)

What is the most important lesson that you ever learned on the job? 
Don't get flustered or overwhelmed. "You will get it all done. You always do!" 

Describe the biggest mistake you ever made on the job.
I usually deliver all the food to my clients and this one time I had someone deliver for me. I didn't properly label each bag and some bags got delivered to the wrong clients. It was a puzzle sorting it all out and I was mortified since one of them was a new client, but it all worked out. Mistakes happen and we learn from it!

Describe the greatest accomplishment of your career so far. 
Turning a nothing blog into a thriving business and continuing to grow a Dini Delivers brand. Thinking back to when I first started, I'm very proud of myself for sticking with it and making it work!

What advice do you have for current students?
Do internships, start a blog, explore the food world to see where you fit in best and where you will be happiest. 

Favorite food to eat: Dumplings-obsession 
Favorite food to cook: Tofu-it's a blank canvas! 
Favorite Cookbook: Plenty More by Ottolenghi
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef: Giada De Laurentiis 

Favorite kitchen tool: Immersion blender- it’s a life saver! 

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