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Personal Chef

If you enjoy cuisine and customer service, you might be interested in a career as a personal chef.

Personal chefs work in their clients' homes and tailor what they cook to specific requests. Unlike restaurant chefs, personal chefs meet with their clients long before cooking a meal, in order to go over menu details.

"A personal chef's goal is to make every meal the very best meal you've ever tasted," says personal chef Terry Henderson.

"About once every two weeks, personal chefs shop for the groceries, come to the client's home with their own utensils and equipment, prepare several entrees at one time in the client's kitchen, then package and store those meals in the refrigerator or freezer and provide the clients with re-heating instructions."

Henderson says that a personal chef will probably cook for several families or individuals to maintain full-time work.

So how do you get started? "Get out into the community, talk about what you do, volunteer at schools and community functions, talk to schools and mothers' groups," he suggests.

Training can help, too. "We suggest that our members have some training," says Henderson.

Professional associations offer courses and self-employment packages. Culinary training can be found at many post-secondary institutions. Personal chefs may also be self-taught.

"You need to have solid cooking skills," says Gord Johnson. He is the director of program development for the American Personal Chef Association.

Johnson says cooking courses are a must if you don't already have skills as a chef.

"Many personal chefs are career changers from industries totally unrelated to cooking," he says. "Experience in a commercial kitchen environment is helpful but not mandatory."

Johnson also says that specific training for personal chefs is a good idea because it can help you avoid making mistakes or wasting time.

"The associations offer networking opportunities to help the individual personal chef continue in their professional development, as well as being a virtual water cooler to share other experiences."

Johnson says younger people may want to develop life experiences before becoming a personal chef.

"This isn't usually a good career for young people coming straight out of high school or culinary school," he warns. "Having experience dealing with people, selling as well as management at some level all contribute to the personal chef business."

While what you know about cooking is important, personality is a factor too. Personal chefs must relate well to clients, but they also need to be assertive enough to advertise and promote their services.

Wendy Perry is a personal chef and co-founder of the Personal Chefs Network Inc. She says that an outgoing nature can help a personal chef get started.

"Your marketing efforts are what will fill your schedule and bring you the business you need," says Perry. "People with the most success develop a focused business plan."

Perry says that some personal chefs are able to work full time right away; others may take a few months to build up steady clients.

Mia Andrews is president of a personal chef association. Andrews says that time pressures and a new understanding of the importance of diet prompt people to hire personal chefs.

"It seems that people are spending more time on business activities. When you factor in family pressures, activities, sports, taking care of aging parents and more, there is less time left for the traditional family dinner."

Andrews also says that fast food outlets and family restaurants have addressed this problem in the past. "A decade of using fast food to replace the family dinner has left many of us facing weight problems and health problems."

People know they need to eat healthier, but the window of time for nutritious family meals is still small in many households.

"Personal chefs enter the picture by being an answer to both the time stress and the need for healthy eating," says Andrews.

According to Andrews, a personal chef can expect to earn about $200 per working day, but the wage can be higher. And most personal chefs are in business because they love what they do and enjoy working with families.

"I personally love the feeling of starting a cook day knowing that I'm about to do what I love for the next six hours. When I get clients hugging me or phoning me telling me how much they enjoyed their meals, it means a lot," says Andrews.

"This job is mainly about customer service, so you really need to understand how to make people happy and the importance of attention to detail."

As families find their time together shrinking, the call for personal chefs will keep growing.


American Personal and Private Chef Association
Resources for existing and aspiring personal chefs

United States Personal Chef Association
Information on the personal chef industry and about the personal chef association

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