A personal chef, also known as a private chef or private cook, is a fascinating, fulfilling profession. Your work will bring you to private residences, dinner parties and special occasions, and it’s a chance to help host major events in people’s lives. Here, we’ll bring you through the steps, qualities and skills you’ll need to establish a career as a personal chef. And we’ll also address questions about salary and getting started.
1. Personal Qualities and Skills Needed
The career of a personal chef has different expectations and requirements than a traditional restaurant chef. It’s more of an all-rounder job, where you’re running the business, serving and hosting, as well as running a kitchen.
Specifically, a personal chef would need to…
- Be creative
- Be adept at time management
- Have competent business skills
- Have up to date and professional culinary skills
- Be personable
- Show versatility (in food made and customers served)
- Demonstrate flexibility – i.e. be willing to work unusual, sometimes long hours
Training and a relevant qualification give you a competitive edge. The right course will boost your skillset and personal branding. Our own Grand Diplôme teaches you everything you need to be a world-class chef, and we have several other courses at all levels. It also might be a good idea to train up (formally or informally) on money management. Additionally, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of wine, especially when it comes to pairing wine with foods.
Spending time in a professional kitchen is a good idea to hone skills and build confidence. Many courses (including several of ours) include internships or work experience as part of the course, and there are always stagiaire options available for recently qualified chefs. Indeed, to become a credible personal chef, you would need at least one year (though ideally three-to-five) of relevant culinary experience. That means rolling up your sleeves and working in a busy, high-end restaurant. If possible, try to shadow or work with an already established personal chef. Not only will they (ideally!) pass on valuable, hard-earned advice, but it will give you a clear indication on whether this is the career for you.
4. Researching Your Market
Who would you like to be a personal chef for? It might be a family, a single parent, or someone living alone who’s too busy to cook. Consider your culinary style, personal style and branding, and try to match that with who you pitch to.
Once you’ve landed a client, you’ll have to research their preferences, requests and dietary requirements.
5. How to get Personal Chef Clients
You should have your own website and a social media presence (Instagram is especially popular with foodies), and a Facebook page with your own branding, company information, gallery and services provided is essential. This should help with the next phase, networking…
Spread the word about your new business among friends, initially on social media, and then in real life. Some aspiring personal chefs have open houses or get-togethers with friends and family to showcase food and products, talk about their aims for the business and encourage peers to spread the word. Have business cards prepared! On the online side, you could build up to a website launch, offering pre-sale on services, videos and Instagram posts in the lead-up to the site launch. That site-launch could be commemorated with a launch party, budget and time-permitting. Also, online, establish your professional profile. This starts on LinkedIn, but would also extend to online groups, communities and local professional networks.
Speaking of networking, once you’re established, it also doesn’t hurt to have a strong relationship with food vendors, to ensure that you have access to fresh, high-quality and on-trend, in-demand ingredients. (A few years ago, many chefs and caterers needed access to scallops and pork bellies, for instance.)
The overheads for becoming a personal cook aren’t as high as they are for opening a restaurant. You can prepare food in your own kitchen or those of a client. This eliminates the need to find and rent a public space for customers. That said, you will need capital for your vehicle, your own initial salary, marketing costs and ingredients. It’s possible you can start up with your own money, but some personal chefs depend on loans and grants to get them started. In previous posts, especially our Opening Your Own Restaurant blog, we have outlined the steps needed for securing finance.
7. Working as a Personal Chef
You might be making an individual’s breakfast, a three-course meal for an intimate dinner party, or finger food for big get-togethers (from parties to funerals). This means anything from making a single portion of scrambled eggs to prepping 50 squids and dicing 100 onions. It’s likely you’ll be working on your own or with a very small team. This means that you could also be working as your own kitchen porter, shopper, delivery person, accountant and serving/waiting staff. So, contrary to what you might expect, cooking for clients can be just as labour-intensive as working in a busy restaurant.
You’ll also be expected to be somewhat skilled when it comes to presentation. This begins with the food (of course), but also extends to the dining table and sometimes even the room itself; where you might make decisions based on lighting and seating arrangements.
Some personal chefs work full-time for one client (a family, for instance), while others work freelance for several clients. If you have numerous clients, you might make a week’s worth of dinners for the client to freeze/refrigerate and eat over the course of a week. Planning is important. You will need to secure ingredients or do some food prep (such as vegetable prep or sauce making) the day before the main event.
How much does a Personal Chef make?
Just like with any business, this varies from chef to chef. In the UK the average salary for a personal chef is about £38,732 per year (about €43,656), which is 13% above the average wage. However, expect this to be lower when you’re starting out and trying to land your first clients; and it might be higher if your business expands or your brand name becomes more established.
Difference Between Personal and Private Chefs
Personal chefs operate as a family or client’s personal cook; private chefs are more like a mobile restaurant, making food for specific occasions. A private chef is also sometimes referred to as a catering business. We discuss building and running a catering business in a separate post.
Following Your Dream
For decades, Le Cordon Bleu has been training world-class, Michelin-star chefs who have gone onto enjoy incredible careers around the world. Many of our graduates are successful businesspeople, having gained the grounding, training and skills they needed in Le Cordon Bleu.
Courses to become a Personal Chef