Are you considering a career as a private or personal chef? Is there even a difference? These two positions may be synonymous in some circles and require very similar skills, but there is one distinct difference: private chefs are employed by a single client, whereas personal chefs may work for a number of clients at any given time.
Getting out of the restaurant business, being your own boss, and experiencing the glitz and glamor of working in a celebrity’s mansion are all potential perks of taking either career path. However, whether the idea of serving a Kardashian-like clan excites or terrifies you, keep in mind that personal and private chefs aren’t only employed by the rich and famous any longer: career-focused individuals, senior citizens, and people with highly specialized dietary preferences also hire these professionals.
Not sure which position is right for you? Read on for a more detailed breakdown of each role.
A private chef is a single client’s full-time culinarian, ever present and preparing every meal of the day for one person or an entire family. Depending on the client, private chefs are also in charge of all things edible for special events or will lead teams of other household staff. You may even live on site. In addition to having great chemistry and a trusting relationship with your employers, who are sharing their homes with you, maturity, etiquette, and dedication to the confidentiality of your client and their guests are also essential.
Client-private chef relationships vary, but an aspiring private chef should be prepared for non-traditional work hours and unpredictable time off. Families may sit down together or eat their meals separately and sporadically. When your employer travels for work or takes a vacation, you may accompany them or have that time off to yourself.
As experienced private chef Audrey Heckwolf stated in an American Personal and Private Chef Association (APPCA) interview, “As a private chef, the family you work for takes precedence, and that can be challenging in your personal life. But I felt the job was extremely rewarding and satisfying. And really, for a chef who is fairly independent and likes to wear many hats from one day to the next, it was an ideal job.”
Personal chefs visit a home to prepare, package, and store meals (normally 2 weeks’ worth) according to their clients’ preferences, provide re-heating instructions, and leave a clean kitchen behind. They are often enlisted to perform the necessary grocery shopping as well. According to the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA), personal chefs may also work alongside fellow chefs in a licensed commercial kitchen offsite and deliver customized meals to their customers’ residences.
You have the opportunity to serve a variety of clients, but will need excellent organizational skills in order to balance a diverse workload. Strong menu planning abilities are also critical, as your clients won’t be happy eating the same thing every week. Plus, if you’re cooking in other people’s kitchens, your essential ingredients and gear need to be stocked and transportable at all times. “When I have to leave my cooking to run to the store and pick up an item, it takes me out of what I call ‘The Cooking Zone’ and gets me off track,” said personal chef Sharon Worster in a Monster/CookingSchools.com interview.
Similar to a private chef, a personal chef may also be requested to prepare food for special events or even host a cooking class for their client’s friends. Solid teaching capabilities will greatly benefit you in this capacity.
A “Must Have” for Both Personal & Private Chefs
Regardless of which position you pursue, you must have strong people skills in order to excel as a personal or private chef. It’s all about what your clients want to eat – and this won’t always line up perfectly with what you like to cook. You can’t take it personally if you don’t click with every single client but should make every effort to do so. The personal and private chef network is no place to burn bridges, and every potential client should be treated as your next reference.
United States Personal Chef Association – What is a Personal Chef Service?
United States Personal Chef Association – FAQs and Terminology
Shailynn Krow – What Is a Private Chef?
Brent Frei – On Being a Private Chef