Share Your Home Cooking: Become a Personal Chef
Are you right for a career as a personal chef?
Personal chefs serve a number of different clients by preparing meals according to their specific requests and dietary needs. Typically, they package and store about a week's worth of meals and provide instructions for the client to heat and serve the meals at their convenience. By contrast, a private chef or household cook works full time for only one client, cooking meals in the client's kitchen and sometimes even living in their home.
What Does It Take to Become a Personal Chef?
It may sound ideal to be able to shop on your own schedule, cook in-home and only interact with clients when you're making deliveries or coordinating over the phone—and it's definitely a contrast to the hectic atmosphere of a restaurant. However, it's helpful to have at least some restaurant cooking experience as well as culinary training if you want to become a personal chef. Time spent working in a restaurant also gives you opportunities to network.
Emily Su worked at well-known Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, for four years before she decided to switch gears and become a personal chef. "I think without my Chez connections, I wouldn't have gotten the recommendation that I did for my current job," she says. "I don't think you necessarily have to have experience as a line cook to do what I do now, but without it, you might not get the same class of clientele or pay."
"Working as a personal chef requires a good deal of creativity to continuously create menus for your clients that do not get too repetitive," Su points out. "You need to be flexible to their requirements. Speed and efficiency are important since time is money and you don't want to make your clients think you are slacking and overcharging."
Enjoy Tangible Rewards
According to the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), there are currently around 9,000 personal chefs—a number that's expected to double over the next 5 years, compared to the relatively slow employment growth for chefs and head cooks overall. Not only is it a good job prospect to become a personal chef, it's a reasonably lucrative one as well, compared to many other chef jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' current Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for chefs and head cooks is $43,180. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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