Personal Chefs: What Do They Do?
A Personal Chef, also sometimes called a Private Chef, is a culinary professional whose job is to provide chef services to a private individual or family. Broadly speaking, this can mean many things, but the most commonly understood definition of "Personal Chef" is a chef who comes into a client's home kitchen and prepares a number of meals which are then stored in the refrigerator or freezer to be eaten later. In these cases, the Personal Chef will probably visit once a week to do the cooking, although this depends on the client's needs, schedule, and so on.
How Much Does a Personal Chef Cost?
A Personal Chef will generally charge for their services based on the number of meals they are providing. Thus for a family of four, if the Personal Chef is preparing five days worth of dinners, this would constitute a "5 × 4 meal plan" — 5 meals for 4 people, or 20 meals in total. Most Personal Chefs will offer a number of different meal plans, and the fact is that this type of service is probably more affordable than most people might think. And if you are a busy family with two working parents, you certainly know all about the challenge of having to figure out what to make for dinner every night, do the shopping, cooking and clean up afterwards.It's no wonder so many people resort to serving their families fast food or other unhealthy meals — they just simply don't have the time! Also, not everyone knows how to cook! So a Personal Chef ensures that you and your family are eating wholesome, healthy meals, and they also relieve you of the burden of coming up with a menu every night and the actual chore of cooking. Most families find once they have the services of a good Personal Chef, that they can't imagine living without it. When you consider all the time and labor you are saving and really see how valuable the service is, the Personal Chef cost really does seem worthwhile.
Personal Chef Services
Here's how it works. Approximately once a week, the Personal Chef arrives at the client's home, with the groceries they have purchased, often while the client is away from home during the day. They then proceed to prepare a week's worth of food for the client in the client's own kitchen. These meals include a protein item such as meat, poultry or fish, a starch item like rice, pasta or potato, and a vegetable item as well. Some Personal Chefs even include dessert in the meal plan. They will package each meal in containers that are marked indicating the contents, date it was prepared, as well as instruction on reheating the meal — or thawing it, if the meal has been stored in the freezer. And then comes the best part: the Personal Chef will wash all the dishes and leave the kitchen clean and tidy. Some Personal Chefs bring some cooking equipment to the cooking date, such as pots and pans, and most likely their own chefs knives. But it is common for the Personal Chef to use the client's own cookware as well. Some arrangement must of course be made to ensure that there is enough room in the refrigerator and/or freezer to be able to accomodate these meals and their containers. The Personal Chef is generally paid in advance for their services, and the client will usually — if they aren't home for the cooking date — leave the Personal Chef's payment for the upcoming week. After a while it just becomes a normal part of the household routine.
Some Personal Chefs operate what could be described as a "meal delivery" service. In short, this means that the Personal Chef prepares the client's meals in their own kitchen and delivers the meals, already packaged, to the client. For some clients this kind of arrangement makes sense — for instance, perhaps the client's kitchen is not suitable for the Personal Chef to prepare the variety and amount of food necessary. There may be other reasons that it is more convenient not to have the Personal Chef actually cooking in the client's home. It is worth considering that even with meal delivery, whatever kitchen the meals are being prepared in is subject to inspection by the local health inspector, just like any restaurant kitchen. So if the Personal Chef is preparing your meals in their own home kitchen, it is unlikely that they are having a health inspector inspect their home kitchen, so this would technically be a violation. You'd want to find out about where your meals are being cooked and make sure that it has passed a health inspection. A health inspection is not required if the meals are being prepared in your kitchen. A side note on meal delivery plans: There are some meal delivery services that specialize in special diet meals such as the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet or other Low-Carb cuisine. It is probably a stretch to consider this a Personal Chef service because in all likelihood these meals are being prepared assembly-line style by a group of workers and not made specially for the client by a Personal Chef.
Personal Chef Dinner Party
Everyone loves a dinner party, but not everyone feels like cooking. Especially if you are planning to have 12 or 15 or even 20 guests or more. So what do you do? Many people hire a caterer, and many caterers are quite competent and can pull off the job of feeding your guests. But just remember that caterers prepare the meal offsite, sometimes cooking the food part way and then finishing the cooking at your location, or they may simply reheat the food when they get to your house and serve it to your guests. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes people want a bit more style and elegance, and the kind of personal touch that you can only get by hiring a top-notch Personal Chef. This is like the "Major Leagues" of Personal Chefs, and rightly so. When you hire someone like this for a dinner party or some other special event, you can expect a meal of the absolute highest quality, plated, presented and served in a way that rivals what you would get at the finest restaurants in the world. In many ways your experience with a Personal Chef of this caliber will exceed going to the finest restaurant, because no matter how nice it is, a restaurant wants to do one thing: serve your meal and get you out so they can serve another meal.
Not so at your own home, however. Here you can linger with your friends, enjoy a bottle of wine (or several) for as long as you want, while the Personal Chef takes care of everything. Naturally, a dinner like this won't be cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but when you are in the care of a Personal Chef like this, it is worth every penny. Sometimes a Personal Chef will offer cooking parties or culinary instruction, where they will actually demonstrate various recipes and cooking techniques for the group, and the guests get to sample their creations afterward. Some things to keep in mind: many Personal Chefs will promise the world as far as what kind of meal they can offer you and for how many guests. But the fact of the matter is that a home kitchen, no matter how well equipped, is not set up to be able to prepare a 6-course meal for 20 people. The limited number of stovetop burners, ovens, prep area and countertop space makes something like this all but impossible. A good Personal Chef will acknowledge this, and will explain to you that if you are truly serious about enjoying a world class meal in your home, you should really consider limiting your guest list to about 8 people. But the good news is that rather than having one party for 20 guests, you can spread it out and have 3 separate parties instead!
Regardless of what kind of Personal Chef you are looking for, whether it is for cooking weekly meals for your freezer or celebrating a birthday or special occasion, what makes it so worthwhile is the opportunity to sit down with the Personal Chef and talk in detail about exactly what kind of menu you want, what you like and dislike, any special dietary needs or restrictions you may have, and anything else under the sun! You can ask for a whole meal made of nothing but blue foods if that's what floats your boat! Or nothing but roasted chicken seven days a week. But the point is, a Personal Chef is just that: "Personal." There is no doubt that your Personal Chef will have ideas and will bring suggestions to the table with respect to their own areas of expertise and experience, their own "signature dishes" and so on. But by all means feel free to go make suggestions of your own, or ask for more menu ideas. The sky is the limit! Personal Chefs know this — it's probably what attracts them to being a Personal Chef in the first place. So enjoy, have fun, and Bon Apétit!