If you've just been fired from a dot.com, you might want to think about reinventing yourself as a private chef. Never before has there been such a demand for the culinary comfort of home-cooked meals prepared by professionals. The restaurant fever of the '90s left many people wanting to eat in for a change; since they don't have time to prepare their own meals, they hire someone else to do it for them. Movie stars and other entertainment-industry players hunt for private chefs as energetically as Ford Models seeks out gorgeous Russian teenagers. Though it can take a hefty income to support such a luxury habit, not everyone who hires a private chef is superrich: Indeed, private chefs have become popular among middle-management types. Still, talk to the most successful private chefs and you'll hear them dropping names straight out of the pages of InStyle and Peopleat least when they haven't signed confidentiality agreements that prevent them from doing so.
Season tickets to the ballet used to be a sign that you were living the good life and planning your schedule accordingly. Then came sessions with a masseuse and regular appointments with dermatologists and Pilates instructors. The newest "lifestyle enhancer" is the private chef"the personal trainer of the new millennium," says Christian Paier, owner of the Los Angelesbased agency Private Chefs, Inc. (310-278-4707). So how much do private chefs charge? A cook working a five-day week can earn $60,000 to $80,000 a year, plus insurance and housing. If a chef goes on tour with a rock star and must be available 24/7, the salary could be as high as $5,000 a week. The average fee in the "real" worldi.e., for business executives and other noncelebritiesseems to be $350 a day. For that you get someone to shop, prep at your kitchen or theirs, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at your home, when it's convenient for you. No wonder private chefs have become such a hot commodity.
A De Laurentiis Production
As the granddaughter of legendary movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, Giada De Laurentiis is naturally very well connected to the Hollywood scene. After earning a diploma at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she landed a spot at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, then went on to work at Spago Beverly Hills. Since 1998, Giada has become one of L.A.'s most sought-after private chefs, working both for stockbrokers with kids and for big Hollywood names (Ron Howard is one). Currently, she has three regular clients, supplemented by "drop-off" clients to whom she delivers a staggered schedule of meals meant to last through the week. For her regulars, she provides three meals a day, three days a week. This entails shopping for ingredients (with the client's charge card) and cooking on-site. If her regulars make other plans or are on vacation, they still "show her the money."