Becoming a personal chef is a great way for many experienced chefs to move out of commercial kitchens and become self-employed. For many it also offers considerably less capital outlay, risk and sleepless nights than opening a restaurant or other such venue, and in most cases also allows for a better work life balance.
In recent years there’s been somewhat of a boom in the demand for personal chefs and they’re definitely no longer the reserve of the super rich or royalty – in fact having a personal chef is becoming increasingly more popular with people who are particularly time poor, (somewhat) cash rich and who definitely know that living on takeaways seven days a week is not a good lifestyle choice. Just as personal trainers and life coaches provide busy professionals with personal services, so too do private chefs. And whether preparing an in home dinner party for eight or week night meals for the freezer, personal chefs are playing an important role in this growing sector.
There are several ways to go about becoming a personal chef but fundamentally you need to think about how your skills and experiences can be used to make you stand out from the crowd. It’s fair to say that the best personal chefs are those that have already gained solid experience from within the industry. Employers want skill, flair and consistency, as well someone who keeps up with key food trends! Celebrity chefs have shown everyone how to become a great cook in their own home, so you need to be able to show clients how as a great chef, you can make a big difference to their life through food. We have contacts in our network that only look to hire personal chefs who have Michelin experience and one in particular will only employ chefs who have actually held a Michelin star. These are extremes of course, but you need to know what your unique selling points are and make sure you promote these in order to secure work ahead of your competition.
As a personal chef you’ve got three routes you can explore for work. Firstly, you could go it alone and advertise your services online and locally to find clients, as well as use your own network (both on and offline). Secondly, you could sign up with a personal chef agency who will help promote your skills and expertise and find you clients. And thirdly, do a hybrid approach that combines points one and two!
The key is to start small and take it from there. Find a few clients to initially work with and if you do a good job it’s likely that their guests will want to hire you too. This way you can build up your business by word of mouth and personal recommendations – two things that are worth their weight in gold for any chef.
As with running any business you will need to comply with the relevant laws as well as learn about the many other aspects of running your own show, such as budgeting and advertising. Also, as with any other job involving food handling in the UK, you must have a current food hygiene certificate. Anyone working with you, including friends and family members, must also have this certificate. And while you don’t need a special licence to cook in other people’s homes if you’re going to do any of the food preparation at home you’ll need to comply with the rules laid down by the Food Standards Agency – this may also mean complying with the Food Standards Agency inspection procedures (laws on labelling, food handling and storage etc). Details of what this involves and links to further information can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
Despite the above sounding difficult to do, its not and you know as well as we do that a good service is often down to getting the mise en place right – so having the flexibility to prepare some foods in your kitchen at home for example, prior to working in the client’s home will pay dividends. Don’t forget though you’re likely to need some form of transportation and some form of refrigerated storage, so be sure to add these costs to your budgets and forecasts.
Being a personal chef can be an excellent career move which can not only lead to you earning more money but also give you a greater work like balance. However, just like any other self-employed business owner, doing your own thing comes with its own set of unique challenges and pressures that you need to be able to tackle head on a succeed.