Do you have an immense passion for cooking? Do you find yourself quoting Ted Allen because you’ve seen way too many episodes of Chopped? If you have a strong will, and the perseverance required, you may aspire to start a new career as a personal chef.
Unlike chefs who work in restaurants and within commercial environments, private professional chefs may create meals within the home kitchens of their clients. This allows a chef to be more strategically creative in how and what they cook, and it tends to be less stressful than line cooking. In fact, terrific personal chefs are in high demand these days. If you’re anticipating this exciting career change, you’re going to have to find a way to truly stand out from the rest of the herd.
Why would you want to become a personal chef?
Before we discuss the skills needed to whip up culinary masterpieces in home kitchens — or yacht galleys — around the world, let’s discuss some of the benefits of becoming a personal chef.
As your own boss, you determine how your clients will ultimately pay you. Will you charge a (daily/weekly/monthly/annual) retainer fee… or, perhaps, a standard hourly fee? You may also opt to charge a “per-event fee,” and take payments through a system like Nufoodi.
Protip: When pricing out your services, remember to include compensation for the ingredients needed within your fee. In most cases, you won’t have to itemize the cost per food item; however, you should be transparent, and communicate with your client if you plan to use high-priced items before picking up filet mignon and lobster tails. You’ll want them to hire you again, and they’ll respect your professionalism for being open and honest.
While most restaurant chefs prepare dishes for unseen consumers from a relatively static menu, as a private chef, you’ll get to know your clients and their dietary preferences and personal restrictions first-hand. Often, you’ll be working directly, or closely with your clients. Thus, you can expect to receive immediate feedback or criticism, which will help you quickly modify your recipes and cooking techniques to better fit their individual needs.
Networking is key
Clients who hire personal chefs often use their services to throw special events and dinner parties. When you perfect your art of creating delicious bone broth shots or Vietnamese summer rolls, you can start to attract more clients. When you get the chance to cook for a dinner party (and it’s okay with your client), introduce yourself to the attendees. This may help you to win additional catering jobs and other culinary employment opportunities — just by showing up, cooking good food, and having your business cards handy.
Creativity is one of the primary reasons why folks take the opportunity to become personal chefs. Just remember that there’s often a fine line between gastronomic genius and an unappetizing mess — so be unique, but also be cautious.
Start small & keep it simple
If you already have restaurant chef experience, transitioning to the role of a private chef should be a relatively easy task. For beginners looking to break into the personal chef scene, remember to start small & keep it simple, silly (KISS method). Some of the best dishes in the world are simple and always made with fresh and interestingly stimulating ingredients. One of your first goals should be to master a handful of signature dishes. These should be recipes that interest you but are not too far beyond your current skill level.
Take for example Beef Wellington: while extremely delectable when prepared properly, this dish is a bad choice for a newbie, because of its difficulty to make. There are so many intricate culinary steps along the way that could possibly go wrong with this delicious dish. Instead, we suggest beginner personal chefs try a quick crowd-pleaser, such as Sicilian meatballs. These are fairly easy to make, and may be modified to fit both casual or fine-dining client requests.
Use every tool at your disposal
Technologically, there’s no better time to be a personal chef than right now. You have an all-access pass to countless web resources, blogs, cookbooks, cooking shows, podcasts, apps, and more! Also, with the rise in popularity of organic foods, we now have a variety of means for obtaining fresh and healthy ingredients. From your local farmer’s market and health food stores, to online or commercial foodservice wholesalers and grocery stores; the options are limitless. You should make friends with your local grocer to always be aware of new and exciting foods that will expand both your repertoire and your clients’ palates.
Some strategies to help
Here are a few strategies to help get you on the path toward becoming a knowledgeable personal chef:
- Join a foodie social network: To aid in your success as a private chef, you need to become a member of a social network that caters to your audience. Nufoodi is a “food-centric” community marketplace where you can post, discover, and book unique dining events, celebrations, and classes all over New England. By becoming an active member of Nufoodi, you can grow your client and friend base, while promoting your culinary services, all within one robust platform.
- Use social media: Every smartphone has a digital camera that can help you document and write about your enthusiasm for food, including snapping pictures of your best culinary creations, intended for public consumption. If you enjoy taking photos (and we recommend that you do), get to using Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, to promote and potentially advertise your food photos — and corresponding services. It doesn’t hurt to join LinkedIn and Google+ too, so you may reach further audiences, especially when you become active in Groups.
- Advertise locally: Pin an advertisement on your local supermarket bulletin board, tea/coffee shop, fitness center, and yoga studio. Work with like-minded nutritionists and fitness instructors in your area (they’re probably pinning too), to serve clients who may benefit from your synergistic services.
- Subscribe to an ingredient delivery service: If you’re a busy person, you probably don’t have time to shop for last minute ingredients, or go to the market on a daily basis. Consider subscribing to an ingredient delivery service like local farm shares, which may help alleviate the time crunch of sourcing fresh local ingredients on a consistent basis.
The most important tools you need to become a personal chef is a love for cooking and hard work. Clients and foodies will always be able to taste the care and consideration a good chef puts into their dishes. This is what will keep them coming back for seconds.