Becoming a Personal Chef
Starting your own Personal Chef business will require a lot of hard work and dedication on your part, but the rewards are definitely worth the effort. Whether you are already a culinary professional cooking in a restaurant or you are looking to change careers, or even just someone with a love of food and a passion for cooking, the Personal Chef industry offers trememdous satisfaction. For many, the appeal of working as a Personal Chef has to do with being your own boss. When you are self employed, you are truly in charge of your own destiny. If you don't feel like working, take the day off! If you need some extra money, just take a few Personal Chef jobs — sometimes you even get paid in cash!
How Much Does a Personal Chef Earn?
A Personal Chef salary will vary depending on what part of the country you are in. And while many factors go into determining how much money a Personal Chef makes, a big city like Los Angeles or New York certainly offers a fantastic earning potential. In these places, Personal Chef salaries of $100,000 or more are not unusual. Even in smaller cities or towns, Personal Chef salaries will be in line with those of local professionals like accountants or dentists. No matter where you are, however, one thing is for sure: working as a Personal Chef offers the potential to earn your rent or mortgage payment in a single night, coupled with the flexibility to take the rest of the month off after that if you choose. How many people can say that about their jobs?
What Does it Take to Be a Personal Chef?
It really does take a special kind of person to succeed as a Personal Chef — someone whose culinary skills are matched by their people skills. Let's face it, making it as a Personal Chef means that your clients are going to have to feel comfortable having you in their homes, so you have to bring a high level of professionalism along with your cooking skills.
If you are already a professional chef or cook and are looking to make the move from working in someone else's restaurant or catering company to starting your own Personal Chef business, you are in a great position. You probably already own your own chef knives and other equipment such as your chef jackets, chef pants, and so on. And if you are used to working in a commercial kitchen, then you are already familiar with the frame of mind necessary to produce quality food in a limited amount of time. The best thing you can do is start getting the word out that you are available for Personal Chef jobs. We'll talk about advertising and promoting your Personal Chef business a little bit later.
Personal Chef Training
If you don't have experience working in the culinary industry, that's OK. Many very gifted Personal Chefs do not have formal training. They just have a great sense of flavor and natural cooking talent, and maybe they've developed some cooking skills at home, cooking for family and friends. However, if you are really serious about pursuing a culinary career, you might want to consider attending a culinary school and/or getting a job at a local restaurant in order to build up some experience. The most important reason for doing this is that before you start working as a professional Personal Chef, you will need to have some sort of basic knowledge of the principles of food safety. You won't get far as a Personal Chef if your clients get sick from eating your food! Also in some states you may be required to pass a food safety exam.
Personal Chef Jobs
You'll also want to think about what kind of Personal Chef work you would like to do. Some Personal Chefs focus on preparing weekly meals for busy families. Typically this involves going into the client's home and preparing a week's worth of meals, packaged individually into single serving portions, and storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. You would generally provide some sort of instructions for thawing or reheating the meals. So menu planning will come into play here, because your client isn't going to want to eat lasagna every night for a week! You have to create a week's worth of interesting dinners, along with side dishes — a starch and a vegetable to accompany each protein entrée. Of course some clients will have their particular likes and dislikes, food allergies or other dietary restrictions, so you'll have to make sure you work within those guidelines as well. The best thing to do is interview your client when you first start working with them to find out what they like and don't like. You might make the world's best meatloaf, but if your client is a vegetarian, they won't be very happy!
Another kind of Personal Chef are the ones who focus on preparing meals for dinner parties and other special occasions in the client's home. Obviously this kind of Personal Chef must be more skilled and able to work high pressure situations. On these Personal Chef jobs, the client is generally hosting an event of great importance — whether it is a holiday party for 30 guests or a birthday or anniversary dinner for a spouse, or even just a dinner party for 6 or 8 guests. But the Personal Chef must be able to navigate the pressures of working with clients in their own homes and be able to prepare and serve the meal in the time frame given, while remaining professional at all times. It goes without saying that in these situations, there is no room for error! The Personal Chef must also be adept at plating and presentation, as well as being able to serve and clear the dishes. People often consider this type of event a catered affair, but this is not so. A caterer will prepare most if not all of the food off-site in their own kitchen, then transport the food to the event site, then reheat the food or warm it in chafing dishes, and then serve it to the guests. But a Personal Chef actually brings the groceries to the client's home and does all the prep and cooking right there in the client's kitchen. Often times the client and guests will enjoy coming into the kitchen and watching the chef prepare the meal and even chat with them while doing so. Therefore it is important for the chef to be able to perform under these conditions without missing a beat or making any mistakes.
Another service you may want to consider offering is in-home culinary instruction. This can take the form of personalized, private cooking lessons given in the client's home, or even so-called "cooking parties," where the client gathers a group of guests at their home and the Personal Chef will conduct a group cooking class, generally hands-on so the guests get to try their hands at various recipes and cooking techniques. Obviously your skills as a chef need to be top notch, and you'll have to be prepared to be able to answer any kind of cooking question under the sun. And good personal skills are a necessity for this kind of work, but you can build a loyal client base this way.
Personal Chefs Are In Demand
So as you can see, a Personal Chef who specializes in dinner parties has a challenging and demanding job, but it is also extremely rewarding. For one thing, depending on where you live, being a Personal Chef may give you the opportunity to meet and cook for some very prominent personalities — and if you are very good, possibly even some celebrities! And you can also be sure that your services will always be in demand. Today's families are busier than ever, so a Personal Chef can really help take the strain off of a household when it's time for dinner, or when it's time to pull out all the stops for a luxury gourmet dinner party!
Promoting your new Personal Chef business will also require you to work hard, at least at the beginning. Once you have established a few regular clients, it is quite common to be able to build your business strictly through referrals and word of mouth. But until that happens, you must do whatever you can to let people know that you're in business as a Personal Chef. Consider advertising online. The internet is a powerful resource. You'll want to create a website and then use a pay per click advertising service like Google Adwords to target your ads specifically to the area you live in. You might also think about advertising in local newspapers or on Craigslist. Also, advertising on local cable TV can be surprisingly inexpensive, but it offers a great way to target your local area effectively. And don't forget about the simple business card. Leave a few cards with your clients after a job. If the client likes your work, they'll likely be happy to pass your card along to their friends and co-workers.