While most cooking jobs are in restaurants and hotels, there are plenty of people who love to cook, but would rather cook in home kitchens as opposed to commercial, or just cook for the same families as opposed to different people every night. For these types of chefs, becoming a private chef or personal chef is a great option.
What is a private chef?
A private chef is a trained culinary professional who instead of working in restaurants chooses to work for a specific family or individual. The family pays the chef’s salary, and together they work out an agreement as to what the private chef is responsible for. Sometimes it is just cooking, but often it includes doing all the grocery shopping as well as keeping the home kitchen clean and stocked, as well as meal planning, and sometimes entertaining.
A private chef is not a one size fits all position. Each family has different needs, and must find a chef who can accommodate those needs. For example families with children will require a chef to be able to cook many kid friendly dishes, while top executives may need someone who can put together elegant dinner parties. Just as there are many types of families, there are many types of personal chefs. Some require the ability to cook healthy foods, while some jobs may require travel with the family. The options are endless.
How do I become a private chef?
The most important thing obviously is that you have to know how to cook. Many private chefs have a Culinary Arts degree, as well as experience working in restaurants and catering companies. Being a personal or private chef is not the same as cooking in a home kitchen. Clients will expect a certain degree of professionalism and experience, such as uniforms as well as safety and sanitation procedures; this is what they are paying you for after all.
To open up your job possibilities, having as much experience as possible cooking many different types of cuisines and styles is helpful. Most people looking to hire private chefs are looking for those that can prepare gourmet food as opposed to traditional family dinners. Also, it is important to remember that in many instances private chefs are responsible for meal planning, grocery shopping, and planning dinner parties and other gatherings, so these skills are necessary. If you work for someone who has many parties and events, having staff available to assist such as waiters and bartenders is helpful as well.
In addition to working for yourself, there are also companies that contract out personal and private chefs; they’ll find a family that suits your needs and then your paycheck may be coming from the company rather than the family. This means that the company will take a cut of whatever the family pays, so you’ll lose money, but if aren’t able to find a family yourself, these kinds of companies can be very helpful. Many self employed private chefs started out this way to gain experience in the industry.
If you are looking for the right family, make sure to tell people your goals. Work in high end restaurants where a lot of wealthy people dine and mention to customers if possible what your goals are and what kind of services you would like to offer. It’s important to get out there and meet people; a good network is important in this type of business.
There are also many professional organizations you can join where you can meet other personal chefs and even professional certifications such as one offered by the American Culinary Federation, which will help build your credibility and reputation. There are many opportunities available for personal chefs if you have the abilities, the drive and the experience to succeed.