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.