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become a personal chef - the industry's highest paying job


By Jacky Hayward | Chef's Blade
​Published on monster.com


NOTE: Chefs mentioned in this article may not be members of The Chef Alliance, and we cannot guarantee that they have liability insurance or food safety training

​Maybe you’ve been working as a restaurant chef for years but that final promotion to executive chef still eludes you. Or maybe you’re tired of working under someone and want to break out on your own, but you’re intimidated by starting a restaurant. Or maybe still, you’re just tired of working the really late nights. Well, being a personal chef could be your answer. Did I mention, personal chefs get paid on average more than any other chef-career path? More than executive chefs even? Sign you right up? Not so fast; being a personal chef comes with it’s own set of challenges.

So, now your interest is peaked and you’re wondering what other personal chefs are doing. Well, to a great extent, the sky is the limit. Defined loosely, you work with clients, in their own homes, and create delicious food. Personal chefs generally visit their clients homes once a week and cook several meals for their clients to heat up later.

Chef Rachel Lori - With the locavore movement still sweeping the minds of eaters everywhere, people want delicious locally farmed food, but don’t have the time to cook all their food from scratch. That’s where Chef Rachel Lori found her nieche. Each of her clients subscribes to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that she helps them pick out; from there, Rachel takes the CSA’s weekly food box and develops several meals for her clients to eat throughout that week.

The Dish’s Dish - Jill Donenfeld took a different approach. While her business started out small in 2006, she now runs a bicoastal, personal chef service in New York City and Los Angeles where she employs several chefs to cook for her clients in each city. Jill thus runs the business, while her Culinistas, her name for her chefs, cook for her clients. It’s a sort of personal chef empire, if you will.

Ryan Scott - Yes, Ryan Scott of Top Chef fame. He’s not a personal chef in the traditional sense, but his business does take some pages from the personal chef book. Chef Ryan Scott designs personal, in house, cooking classes where he works with clients in their own home. At the end of the class, you eat your meal. While the former Top Chef-er and celebrity chef isn’t cooking up personalized meals each week for clients, he is working directly with his clients in their own homes.

Unlike applying for a restaurant chef position, there isn’t an application process; with the exception of businesses like the Dish’s Dish, you’re on your own. First, you need to figure out what is going to make your personal chef services different from the many other personal chefs out there; for example, will you cook with only local ingredients like Rachel Lori? Will you be an expert on vegetarian or gluten-free food? Or, will you become an expert at cooking foods that both children and their parents will enjoy? The sky’s the limit, but you need to find your niche.

​Just as in restaurant kitchen, there are constraints to what you can make as a personal chef. All the food that you create has to be reheated or eaten at refrigerator temperature. For some foods, like soups that taste better after resting for a few days, being stored and reheated is actually a good thing. For other foods, this can be a challenge: reheated meat doesn’t taste the same as when it was first taken out of the oven as the process of reheating it continues to cook it and, in many cases, dry it out. This means, for meats you have to either cook it just a little less than perfectly done and leave specific instructions on how to reheat it or figure out a way to incorporate cold meat into meals — cold grilled chicken can be great for salads!

​In most restaurants, there’s a kitchen door that separates chefs and the people that eat the food chefs cook. As a personal chef, this door is gone. You will be working directly with your customers; they will tell you exactly what they want to eat and complain directly to you when they don’t like the food you create. On the other hand, they will also tell you when they love what you make. You will get to know the people for whom you cook, which, for some, can be an amazing experience, but might not be for everyone.

​Working in a restaurant you get a weekly or bi-monthly paycheck depending on the hours you worked or based on a salary. You take that check and you do with it what you please. When you’re a personal chef, however, you’re responsible for making the revenue flow; you have to find the clients, who will then pay you what you negotiate to be your fee. From there, you still have to pay for business expenses like transportation, extra utensils you’ll need, containers to hold the prepared foods in, should reserve some of your profit to put back in your business. Plus your taxes will be different, as the revenue you create will be taxed as a business’. As a personal chef, you’re not going to have the same security a restaurant chef has, but you will be able to reap the reward when your business is successful!

​Personal chefs, on average, earn more than any other chef career path; across the US, personal chefs make an average salary of $55,000 a year, while executive chef salaries fall at $50,000, $5,000 behind — and think of how much longer it take to land an executive chef role! In addition, they have the independence and flexibility to make their own hours and aren’t going to have to work the same late night shifts restaurant chefs work. Also, if you want to hear from the people you’re cooking for, you’ll be working directly for them.



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