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Love cooking but don't want to work at a restaurant? Right this way...

Jillian Kramer
March 07, 2018

If you love to cook but don't think you want to work in a commercial kitchen, becoming a private chef could be the path for you. As private chef Zipora Einav explains, “I love the creativity I have as a private chef. I can create meals and food items that meet the unique tastes and health needs of each client, and I’m not tied to a particular menu each day.” Plus, she adds, if you have the gift of gab, you may also “enjoy the personal contact” private cheffing brings.

A private chef might plan and execute a special event—an anniversary dinner, for example, or a birthday party for as many guests as will fit at a family’s dining room table. Or a private chef might be retained by a client to cook every meal, every day—a long-term gig that takes a lot of time and effort, says private chef Isabella Bedoya. Those chefs begin their days at a grocery store—and finish shopping in time to prepare breakfast for their clients. Then, “if the menu hasn’t already been set [for the day], I discuss with the clients what they would like for dinner and at this point, I order ingredients for dinner and desserts to be delivered through an on-demand apps,” Bedoya explains of what is usually a long 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. gig.

If you’d like to become a private chef, here are the best tips for taking this career track.

1. Make sure you really like people.

The job of a private chef isn’t just to cook—it’s also to interact with clients, both Einav and Bedoya stress. Before you commit to a private chef career, “ask yourself if you enjoying interacting with and pleasing people,” Einav encourages. “Can you be professional even in difficult circumstances? Remember, you’ll be working in a home and interacting with many family members and their unique family dynamics.”

2. Master a variety of cooking skills and styles.

The family for whom you work may have a specific menu in mind for an upcoming dinner party, while a long-term client won’t want to eat Italian every single night, no matter how delicious your spinach and ricotta gnudi. So it’s important, Einav and Bedoya note, that you sharpen—pun intended—a variety of skills, so that you can handle whatever needs and culinary desires a client might have. Einav says it’s smart to have a handle on not only different styles of cuisine—think: Italian, Mexican, and Mediterranean—but dietary needs, such as vegan and vegetarian dishes, while Bedoya recommends you make sure “your knife skills are on-point. With full control of your knife, you by default lessen the risk of injuries,” which no client will want in his or her kitchen.

3. Hype yourself up.

As a private chef, you’ll also (very likely) head up your own one-man or woman marketing department, Einav and Bedoya say. Don’t be afraid to “start by telling friends and loved ones that you are a private chef,” says Bedoya, who adds that creating an Instagram account dedicated to your food creations could also, eventually, attract clients. Then, “send your resume to private chef agencies or consultants to get their feedback on your experience and see if you’re ready to interview with their clients,” Einav recommends.

4. Be perseverant.

Bedoya warns that “this industry is very competitive—and borderline saturated and cutthroat in major cities—so you must be headstrong in order to survive.” And as in any “freelance” job, “there will be times when landing clients and maintaining a sustainable income can be very tough,” Bedoya says. “You must be resourceful during these times. When you are not closing deals or landing clients, this is when you should be hitting the pavement even harder with creating awareness. Think outside of the box to acquire clients, and have a strong mindset in order to achieve the ultimate [private chef] success.”

5. Under promise and over deliver.

When you land your first client, Bedoya recommends working up a formal, written proposal of your services—a document that will set realistic expectations for your client. Them, she says, over-deliver on what you’ve written down. “It can be as simple as throwing in a complimentary sample basket or as extreme delivering complimentary champagne to guests who are having an anniversary or graduation celebration, for example,” Bedoya says. “A major contributing factor to your success as a personal chef is client retention. And clients love a chef whom they feel is invested in the success of their events. This is how you will increase your rebooking and client retention.”