February 24, 2020
The Pros and Cons of Being a Personal Chef
Photo by Jesson Mata on Unsplash
Not every culinary student out there dreams of becoming a prestigious executive chef in a world-famous restaurant. Many people go to culinary school with the sole purpose of becoming an independent personal chef. So, what is the personal chef job description?
Personal chefs are self-employed entrepreneurs who help people with planning and preparing meals; they also help prepare one-off menus, cook at parties and other special events, help to do grocery shopping, develop special meal plans based on specific dietary needs, and more. The job varies from client to client depending on their different needs and preferences.
Hiring a personal chef may have been considered a luxury in the past, but that’s certainly not the case now. In today’s busy world, it’s quite common for an individual or a family to hire a personal chef to come in once a week and prepare a week’s worth of meals.
As a personal chef, you have the freedom to choose your hours, clients, and salary. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, either. Like with any other job, this profession also has its drawbacks.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of this exciting profession. By the end of this article, you should be able to decide whether or not being a personal chef is a good fit for you.
Personal Chef Job Description -vs- Private Chef
Before we dive any deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of being a personal chef, we have to address a widespread misconception: a personal chef is NOT the same as a private chef.
A private chef works as an employee with only one person or family as a full-time chef. It’s normal for a private chef to live in the same household as the people employing them. They usually prepare up to three meals per day, among other things.
On the other hand, personal chefs work with several clients as independent freelancers. This means that they’re in charge of marketing themselves, covering operational costs, sending out invoices, and all the other “fun stuff” that comes with running your own business. Not to mention, personal chefs rely entirely on themselves to build a steady income.
Most personal chefs work with one client per day. They often get hired to prepare and “flash freeze” a week’s worth of meals, but they may also be in charge of shopping for groceries, creating menus, as well as keeping their clients’ kitchens clean.
A personal chef could be contracted to cover a special event such as a party or a wedding, sometimes with short notice. People with special dietary needs may also hire a personal chef to create menus and prepare meal plans that either they, or other cooks, prepare. In short, a personal chef puts his or her professional expertise at the service of anyone who may be in need of it.
Personal and private chefs have very different roles. Being a personal chef can be an amazing gig, but it is not for everyone. Why is that, and what are the best and worst aspects of being a personal chef? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of being a personal chef! After all, that is what you came to find out, isn’t it?
Pros of Being a Personal Chef
You Get To Be Your Own Boss
Personal chefs may work with several clients to make their monthly income, and they’re usually in charge of marketing and business administration for themselves. They are entrepreneurs, with all the perks and drawbacks that involves.
Business owners get to decide who they work with, how much they’ll charge, the number of hours they’re willing to work each week, and their days off. At least in theory, because often small business owners spend much more time on their business than employees.
However, these are luxuries that are unavailable to the traditional executive chef. They are employees, with scheduling set by a boss and must be available during the hours required by their employment.
Like all freelancers, personal chefs control their potential income by setting their own rates, upsells, and offers. They can choose to do hourly work, or sell packages that bundle services for a lower rate but more consistent work, find retainer clients, or do any combination.
A well-established personal chef in the U.S. can easily charge anywhere between $30-$40 per hour. Of course, if you’re starting out, you’ll have to start with a lower rate to gain traction.
The amount of money you can earn as a personal chef depends on your experience, references, and how well you market your services. Other factors that play into what you can charge are your niche and the location you operate in.
Chefs who work at restaurants don’t usually get the chance to build meaningful relationships with the people who eat their food. On the contrary, a personal chef knows their clients. They must, to create fully customized menus based on their particular preferences and needs.
As a personal chef, you will likely get more reaction to your creations than a restaurant chef would. It’s not uncommon for individuals and families to show a lot of appreciation and love for the person in charge of preparing their daily meals. That’s a serious plus.
Yes, personal chefs need to adapt their cooking to their clients’ preferences and requirements, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be creative. A lot of people want your suggestions and expert advice. Some don’t, and those clients will be very regimented in what they want you to prepare.
If you’re the type of chef who likes to experiment and let their creativity and intuition run free, seek clients who are looking for that. Not only does this job allow you to create unique dishes and combinations (while using your clients’ well-equipped kitchens), but it also provides an excellent opportunity to increase your repertoire of recipes to a whole new level.
Autonomy and Variability
Does the idea of a busy kitchen with many chefs of varying hierarchies, kitchen staffers, and waiters annoy or bore you?
If working in an enclosed space with people running around all over the place and yelling out instructions for hours makes you twitch, you should probably consider becoming a personal chef.
A personal chef can enjoy the tranquility and quietude of a home kitchen, usually with little-to-no people around. You certainly don’t have anyone yelling out instructions at you, and you get to decide the processes and techniques to be used when preparing meals.
Travel & Exclusivity
It’s common for personal chefs who work with wealthy people to get invited to travel with them. A lot of celebrities and wealthy people hire personal chefs to cook for them all the time.
Personal chefs who work in high-end markets and who keep their clients happy are often presented with opportunities to work at exclusive events, travel to different parts of the world, and meet interesting and famous people.
All of this while doing something they love. More often than not, personal chefs get to work in dreamy kitchens. Sometimes, they even get to harvest high-quality ingredients and herbal teas or ingredients from their clients’ organic gardens.
Cons of Being a Personal Chef
You’ll Need Liability Insurance
Photo by Siavash Ghanbari from Unsplash
There are a lot of things that can go wrong while you’re cooking and storing meals in someone else’s home or workplace. If you damage a house, someone’s equipment, or if your clients fall ill as a result of eating your food, you’ll be an easy target for lawsuits and claims against you.
If you don’t have public liability insurance to help you resolve such claims, your reputation, and future work opportunities will be at risk.
Public liability insurance is a crucial business expense that every professional personal chef should cover.
It’s Physically Demanding
A chef is a chef, and everyone knows that chefs have to be on their feet for long periods of time. It’s just one of those things that can’t be avoided.
The personal chef job description is, by no means, an exception to this rule. The physical activity that comes with the job can be just as intense as traditional restaurant kitchen work. However, most private kitchens do not have anti-fatigue matting like many restaurants do.
If you’re thinking about starting a personal chef business, make sure to buy non-slip shoes and anti-fatigue matting to reduce the strain on your back and feet as much as possible.
Clients Can Be Tough
Yes, you’ll get to learn lots of diets and cooking styles as a personal chef, but that only comes as a result of overcoming tough challenges. Personal interaction with your clients comes with a downside… negative reactions.
You have to remember that there are all kinds of people in the world, from extremely delicate allergies and other health conditions to very unusual and hard-to-decipher tastes, as well as people who are simply difficult to work with.
Like any other job, personal chefs don’t always have it easy, and they have to get out of their comfort zone to further develop their professional skills.
After analyzing these pros and cons, you should be able to get a broader view of what the personal chef job description is really like.
Sure, you get to run your own business and have a lot of control over who you work with and how much you earn, but you also have to take care of everything that comes with running a business and learn a lot about food safety and special diets.
What do you think? Do you feel that being a personal chef is the right thing for you? Let us know in the comments!
Author’s Bio – Megan J. Howard
After she had to quit her job as a teacher in 2016 due to osteoarthritis, Megan started her freelance writing career specialising in online learning copy. As she was researching many topics around arthritis, she decided to partner up with a long-time friend and built Find my Footwear. She spends her days writing, binging reality fashion series and hunting down the best stinky cheeses in town.
Posted In:Chef Life
Monday June 23, 2014
by Rebecca Hurst at The Hurst Campus
Whether you wish to be a Professional Chef in South Africa or in some other part of the globe, there are a few essential attributes that are required for an aspiring chef to possess. Possessing world class Chef Training classes go hand in hand with the qualities that a Professional Chef is looked upon to own. Thus, to make our opinion more clear, mentioned below are 10 useful tips and advices that will pave a successful path to become an unbeaten chef.
Passion is among the top most important quality that one needs to possess if he/she desires to be a Professional Chef. Just taking chef classes will not better one’s position if he/she lacks the obsession for food preparation. Starting from internationally renowned recipes to locally known dishes there are a lot of techniques that one needs to pay attention to while expertly preparing meals, selecting food and creating menus. Thus, lacking interest and fervour for it will turn everything boring and dull.
Creativity is an attribute that will not only enhance food preparation but is also needed to experiment with various cooking techniques and ingredients. It is only due to creativity that many renowned chefs have come up with a number of delectable dishes. To offer a never before dining experience one should always be ready to try something outside the box.
3. Business Sense
No matter from where one has undergone his/her Chef Training, to climb the ladder of success he/she should be gifted with business sense. It will be this factor that will help expand the zone and establish you as a well known chef. One should know how to run a cost effective restaurant along with offering mouth watering dishes.
A good chef is one who can swiftly arrange his/her cooking items and blend them accordingly. While preparing dishes for restaurants and hotels, a number of tasks need to be carried along at the same time. Thus multitasking is an essential talent to posses.
5. Team Player
An efficient and cooperative chef will always understand that he is part of a larger food preparation team which needs to work harmoniously so that everything gets prepared at the right time. Lacking such a spirit can cause moral & production problems and you may never be in a position to win others and attain success.
6. Attention for Details
Cooking is just like science. To prepare the finest dish, each ingredient and amount has a role to play in enhancing its taste. So, one needs an eye for each detail. Moreover, while experimenting, he/she should know which ingredient can create magic and result in a new taste.
It requires a lot of practice to present the best dish. One has to practice so much so that he/she gets used to the techniques so that they remain in finger tips while taking any order.
8. Quick Decision
To be a professional chef one should as well possess the ability for quick thinking. This becomes especially handy when any sort of crisis or problem arises. Moreover, to maintain customer satisfaction, timely decisions play an imperative role in this industry.
9. Commitment to Quality
To seek out the finest ingredients and to make use of the best techniques to cook the best dish possible, commitment for quality is a must and where there is quality, success will surely follow.
10. Handle Criticism
There is no field in which one does not have to face criticism and this is true in the culinary industry as well. It is not possible that every customer will love what you prepare, but being able to accept that with a positive attitude will push you towards success.
Posted In:Chef Life / Hospitality Industry
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
How Chefs Manage Stress
As professional chefs we work in an inherently stressful environment. Our daily routine is a constant grind to meet deadlines and reach for perfectly prepared & presented cuisine. For the restaurant chef it is the grind of meeting that 15 minute ticket time over and over again for hundreds of customers in a shift. For the banquet chef it’s putting out multiple events for hundreds or thousands of people all scheduled at virtually the same time. And for the catering chef it’s the ability to prepare food off-site for a multitude of people, with the realization that the off-site equipment will probably not work.
Our stress comes from the drive to meet these deadlines while delivering plates which we are proud of. Every hour of every service we are either praised or criticized by every dining guest…over and over again. Add to this the business stress factors of budgets, food cost, staffing, and all the “joys of being a manager”…it’s a wonder that so many of us thrive under the duress.
As we mature in the industry, we learn the skills/tricks which help to minimize our stress. Here are a few things I have learned. Please use the comments section at the bottom of the page to add your own experience to the list.
After Hours Stress Relief
In our industry we can have good, bad, and downright bloody ugly days. We’ve all experienced a shift after which we simply wanted to go home, crawl under a rock, and @#%$! die. Everyone, especially chefs, need a way to unwind outside of work. And although alcohol may help us unwind, it is not a legitimate pastime! Scheduling time to relax is just as important as scheduling time to do your inventory. It is a necessity for your continued success.
Anything you enjoy doing which takes your mind off work is a worthwhile stress relief. It could be an outdoor activity, watching movies, karaoke, video games, enjoying good conversation, reading, working in the yard, chess, working out, or anything else which you enjoy doing. For me, mountain biking, hiking, or playing Halo on XBox is an excellent outlet. With Halo I can hook up with friends across the globe at any hour for gaming and social interaction.
Mise en Place is Everything
Proper mise en place is the foundation of success in the kitchen. The better your mise en place is organized the better your day will be. Poorly organized mise en place on the other hand can turn a hard day into a living hell. Training our crews to be properly prepped increases their speed during service, decreases their stress, and results in consistently more successful service periods. And mise en place is more than just the food prep. It also includes all your utensils, plates, towels, pans, platters, your mental frame of mind, and having a “plan B” for the things which can go wrong. Mise en place is everything which is needed to have a successful service.
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
Many of my best laid plans have been dismantled by Murphy’s Law. It’s never enough to make a plan solely based upon what you need to accomplish. Your typical plan of action covers what needs to be done on a normal day…here’s my menu, here’s my prep list, and this is who’s responsible for each station. Your next step should always be to evaluate how that bastard Murphy could show his face and screw everything up. Always have a “plan B” to cover the things which could go wrong. Plan B provides a solution for things such as when ovens go down, guests arrive late/early, being short staffed, and the hundred other things which could go wrong. This is especially necessary for banquets/catering and off-site events. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Seconds Save Minutes
This is related to mise en place, yet different in that it helps define some things which should be part of your mise en place. If you can shave five seconds off the service time of every dish on your menu your speed of service increases while the stress level on the Line decreases. Saving five seconds on 300 covers eliminates 25 minutes of time during service! That’s 25 minutes less work that your crew needs to do in order to produce the same number of covers. Seconds save minutes
For instance, a burger restaurant can do this by simply pre-making all their burger sets. By pre-assembling the lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle into one unit the Line saves a few seconds on every single order during service because they only have to touch the plate once instead of 4 times. Less touches equals more time saved.
Manage Them Up or Out
The single most important ingredient for managing your stress is to have a well-trained, reliable crew. Knowing that your crew have both the ability and professionalism to reproduce your menu according to the recipe, standards, and presentation which you have established goes a long ways to reducing a chef’s stress.
If your staff does not prepare food according to your standards, you need to first train and educate them how to do it correctly. But then, if they are either unwilling or unable to perform, it’s time to swing the ax. They need to “step-up”…or get out. Get rid of the non-performers because they are like a cancer in your crew, causing strife, apathy, and resentment among the rest of your staff. The same principle applies to those good cooks who are constantly calling in. No matter how good their skills are, they are of no use to you if they don’t show up for work…get rid of them. The rest of your staff will love you for it.
Only Work for Management Whom You Like and Respect
All of us have worked for that imbecile manager or corporation who sets unachievable budgets or goals and then tears you up for not being able to achieve it. Endure them only as long as you have to because their arrogance and stupidity will not change.
There are other types of poor upper-level management as well. The bottom line is, if you are unhappy in your current position because of those in authority over you then it’s time to move on. Put in your year (for resume history purposes), do your job to the best of your ability, don’t burn bridges, and get out.
Deal with Problems… In a Constructive Way
Do not ignore problems… they rarely go away and usually only get bigger. Every chef has their own challenges based upon their own unique personality and operation. If you see a problem, deal with it immediately. Decide what needs to be done, when you will do it, and what type of follow-up is required.
Comments from before Site Migration
MICHEL NALES PLATEMATE.COM [188.8.131.52] [ Mar 06, 2015 ]
Posted In:Chef Life
June 25, 2012
Chef Thomas Keller was recently interviewed by the New York Times and portrayed as being unconcerned with sustainable products and sourcing local ingredients. I wish I could hear the entire conversation rather than the sound bites which fit the reporter’s agenda. But the article did get me thinking about the topic of sourcing local ingredients and its relation to the sustainability debate.
“Farm to Table” is a big deal. More than ever before we are seeing menus with local ingredients listed, media supporting the concept (and deriding those who don’t follow its beliefs), the Food Network portraying chefs talking about local ingredients, and so on. It is a big deal, and it is important. But is it the end all? Is it the most important aspect of a chef’s thoughts? Should it be the most important element of all menus? Are chefs responsible for promoting and supporting local ingredients, and teaching their staff and cliental about the “proper” way to choose food?
Personally I think that “sustainable” as it relates to seafood is very important and should at the very least be a consideration for every chef as they develop their menus. But Farm to Table and utilization of local ingredients is a completely different discussion. Vegetables by nature are sustainable so I don’t see much credence in lumping them into the sustainable issue. Sure, organic produce can enter the debate as being more sustainable than non-organic. But if the supermarket or vendor carries organic produce cultivated 1000 miles away and the non-organic produce was raised much closer to home… how much value for the “organic philosophy” is left after paying diesel or airline fuel for its delivery?
Is serving local ingredients more important than quality of product and diversity of menu? This is the point which I believe Chef Keller was making in the above mentioned article. Quality product and diversity of menu is more important to most chefs. And rightly so! Who cares if it’s locally grown but it is second rate, or worse, just plain dog food? And while every chef would love to source all their products from down the street, diversity in menu offerings is more important than trying to create a menu strictly from local vendors.
Again it is important to say that supporting local farmers and vendors is important, and menu items should try to source locally whenever possible. But designing menus based solely upon what is available locally is a recipe of success for less than 10% of restaurants (10% is probably way too high), and is a recipe of failure for the other 90+ percent. What about ethnic restaurants? If they have to source only local ingredients they are done… close the doors, no more Thai food for you!
And how about the months when the northern states are blanketed in snow? Are they to serve only locally canned vegetables? And what about food stuffs such as coffee, tea, spices, chocolate…? Serving local ingredients is a goal, but clearly not the end all. I believe that chefs should source as much local product as possible while still providing a diversity of ingredients, flavors and preparations for their guests.
Once you have decided to source local ingredients, there are some challenges which you need to attend to before implementing a “Farm to Table” or “Grown Locally” program. Here are some of the considerations which a chef/restaurant needs to attend to before committing specifically local products to the menu:
- Pricing – local producers sometimes cannot compete on the cost of goods
- Menu price- because of the (occasional) higher food cost of local products, the menu price needs to be higher which can limit customer traffic (remember that most restaurants operate with a small profit margin of 3% -8%)
- Quality – many issues can affect the quality of a product… bottom line is that a good chef is going to choose quality product first, regardless of whether or not its local product (who cares if it’s local but the product is garbage?)
- Quantity – can the vendor produce enough quantity for the restaurant
- Availability – is the product consistently available
- Transportation – does the vendor deliver 5 or 6 days a week
- Reliability – if I order it will I get it when you say I will… a chef’s menu relies upon dependability. We hate to 86 something, our guests don’t care if the vendor failed to deliver the product… it’s still the chef’s fault that it’s not available if they see it on the menu.
- Insurance – if your spinach is responsible for an E. coli outbreak do you have the resources to deal with the fallout
One good solution to these concerns for sourcing local ingredients from an array of farmers and vendors is to us a major vendor such as Charlie’s Produce (West Coast). Many larger vendors now have programs set-up which support local farmers and make it possible to source as much variety as possible from local farmers while being a “one stop shop” for chefs. This allows a chef to get much of his/her seasonal ingredients close to home, support local farms, and assuage some of the above mentioned concerns.
What are your thoughts about the topic of Farm to Table? Is it the most important aspect of a chef’s thoughts? Should it be the most important element of all menus? Are chefs responsible for promoting and supporting local ingredients, and teaching their staff and cliental about the “proper” way to choose food? Leave your comment!
Did you find the information about Farm to Table Importance useful? Or do you have additional info or questions?
If so, leave a comment!
Posted In:Chef Life
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Virtually every restaurant goes through cycles of busy seasons followed by slow seasons. In many ways, the slow season is the hardest to deal with, not only because of the obvious lower revenue, but also because slow times are “the devil’s play ground”. Your staff will become lackadaisical, ticket times will take too long, they will find more problems with their jobs and their teammates. Experienced managers and chefs know this cycle and plan for how to deal with it.
Tim Julius, Assistant F&B Manager at the Tulalip Resort Casino, has these words for his managers now that the Holiday Season has ended:
Now that the New Year is here, once again we are afforded the luxury (?) of having some slow days / slow sales periods Monday thru Thursdays (I believe that typically we hold strong Friday night thru Sunday).
As John Carter likes to say: ‘Let us be successful by plan rather than accident.’
“We have talked about utilizing the down periods to get cleaning done, offer vacations, and re-train and/or cross-train. Let’s make best use of the down times so that when the busy times come we are better and stronger, and able to give our guests a “WOW” experience. Slow days breeds complacency. Slow days are more difficult to manage on a whole than busy days. We need to be actively proactive (actually doing something) versus passively proactive (talking about doing something).”
“As Manager’s, you may have some plans or goals in your mind, however, do your Supervisors have a clear understanding of what it is you want to have accomplished on the slow days?”
For example, it is one thing to communicate to your Supervisors “now is another good time to be going over SOP’s and re-training the team”, versus “next week, I want Supervisor X to teach group Z about process A”. In the first version, it is vague about who / what / when, and if we leave it up to the Supervisor to determine it, we lose time and opportunity (please be honest with yourselves and ask yourselves “would my Supervisors take the initiative or would they wait for another Supervisor to do it?).
Another example to look at is the Space Race.
President Eisenhower said “we will win the space race”.
President Kennedy stated that the United States should set as a goal the “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of the decade. Who / what / when.
Please make sure you and your Supervisors have clearly defined training plans for the slow period which we always encounter during this time of year. Let’s not rest on our laurels, let’s keep widening the gap between us and our competitors.
Let us be successful by plan rather than accident.
Posted In:Chef Life / Kitchen Management