In recent years, a new career path has opened for those who know how to cook quality food. A personal chef can be hired on an ongoing basis, making life easier for those with lots of cash to spare, and not enough time or energy to cook healthy, tasty meals. Or personal chefs can also be hired for short-term jobs. For those who are interested in becoming a private chef there are currently more opportunities than ever.
Let’s take a closer look at how to become a private chef and see how it might match your ambitions.
What is a private chef?
A private chef works directly for a family or individuals. They can be hired by the day or by the event or on longer-term contracts to provide the full range of catering for the household.
For a day booking, you’ll typically be provided with a headcount and you should ensure that you have a full account of any particular dietary needs, allergies, and intolerances. The customer may have a menu prepared, but more likely they will want to discuss this with you and consider your recommendations. They may want you to buy in the ingredients and you should receive payment in advance for that and for your travel costs.
Private chefs may also ‘live in’ and provide a full-service menu for the household. They also frequently accompany their boss on international travel and holidays.
How much is a private chef?
What should you charge as a private or personal chef? For freelance bookings, the average is between £35 and £100 per head for a three-course meal. Salaries for in-house private chefs range from £25,000 to over £100,000 depending on skills, experience, and reputation.
The first job is the most difficult to gain. Make sure that you use every job as an opportunity to engage with diners and network. Word of mouth will always be the best marketing strategy. Chances are someone might want to poach you and make you a better offer.
Benefits of being a private chef
Private chefs usually have a lot more autonomy than chefs working in busy commercial kitchens and the work can be much less stressful. You will have more creative input and range and a much closer relationship with diners. Those factors can make being a private chef much more satisfying than working in other kitchen environments.
However, the benefits very much depend on your employer. Many private chefs become part of the household and highly valued, whereas others can be treated appallingly by spoilt adults and children. As demand continues to increase for experienced private chefs you certainly don’t need to put up with that.
If you are a jobbing private chef taking on freelance bookings then you will be subject to the same balance of positive autonomy and negative instability as any other freelancer or small business. Remember that you are a business and that you will need to market and network to ensure a steady flow of business.
In many cases, private chefs are working on behalf of individuals with an ultra-high net worth, who want to be catered to over a specific period. If you’re jetting around the globe, then arranging cuisine that can be relied upon requires specialist help. You might have a single private chef, or you might have several – so that one can be sent to wherever your next destination might be, to source quality ingredients and to prepare them for your arrival.
A private chef might serve food in a host of exotic locations, including aeroplanes and yachts. If you’re living a certain kind of lifestyle, then you might find that this is the only practical way to take care of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
How popular has the service become in recent years?
With the Covid-19 pandemic having had a disastrous impact on the restaurant trade, many chefs have looked for work privately. Many of them have decided that this kind of work suits their needs much better.
In the United States, there are around 5,000 chefs working in this way – meaning that it’s a minority, but a sizeable one. In the UK, we see similar numbers.
What are some of the benefits of hiring a private chef?
Clients pay a considerable amount to hire a private chef. So, what are the advantages?
First, a private chef will provide a quality of food that you can’t reasonably expect from any other form of catering. Second, clients will be able to set out a menu according to their precise tastes. They won’t need to worry about what goes on in the kitchen – the chef will source all of their own knives and pan sets. The client will get food according to their schedule, and dietary requirements, wherever they happen to be. Plus, it’s a chance to impress upon their fellow diners that they have the resources necessary to hire a private chef.
How to become a private chef?
You will need both qualifications and experience to be considered for a private chef position. Your training should cover all areas of cooking and associated health and safety. If you can cater well for particular diets, such as vegan and gluten-free, then this can help you to stand out against the competition.
The higher level of experience you have, particularly if you have worked in a prestigious kitchen, the higher-level salary or fee you will be able to command.
Demand is growing for private chefs. If you have toiled for years in high-pressure commercial kitchens, catering for a family, with the added benefit of potential travel to glamourous locations could be an attractive alternative. The opportunities are out there, all you need is a good CV, a friendly personality, and the skills and experience already under your belt.