You've always said that "someday" you'll start that meal prep or dinner party business, but where do you start? This resource is your checklist for starting a successful personal chef business from the very beginning.
"Thank you for providing priceless gems through your handbook and daily email inquiries, I find these resource tools to be beyond helpful and bursting with knowledge."
"Thank you again for all of your invaluable help. I have been very reluctant to begin sooner because I did not have all of the valuable information that you have provided. So honestly...you are a life saver"
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Frequently Asked Questions
A personal chef researches recipes and plans a customized menu for each client. The chef shows up with groceries and cooks meals in the client's kitchen, then packages the meals for the client to enjoy at a later time.
As a personal chef, you choose what hours and days you'd like to work, part-time, full-time or seasonal. Some personal chefs offer other services such as dinner parties, cooking classes, kitchen equipment and pantry stocking, nutritional advice, and/or custom menu planning.
A private chef works for just one client - a group, family, couple or individual. He/she is an employee, often on salary. The client controls their hours and income.
A personal chef works for as many clients as desired. Personal chefs own their own business and are in control of their own hours and income. This website shares knowledge about starting a personal chef business as opposed to a private chef job.
Neither a culinary degree nor membership with a culinary association are requirements for becoming a personal chef. Potential clients want to know that you can confidently provide the service they're requesting, regardless of your education or skill level.
Because individuals are hiring you, there are no "general" requirements. Similar to a job interview, each client decides for themselves what qualifications they would like to see in a personal chef.
Having been a personal chef since 2012, I have been working on my cooking skills since fifth grade, but never attended a culinary school. I have never had a client turn me away because of a lack of formal education in this field. As well, no client has ever asked if I was a member of any culinary association.
You already have the culinary skills, now you just need to learn the business skills. The most common struggle getting into the personal chef business is not understanding how to get clients and that pricing your services is not like pricing a restaurant menu. With proper training, you can learn these skills.
You'll also need to understand that being a personal chef means working closely with your clients and cooking specifically for their dietary lifestyle. One client can have twelve food items that they don't eat and you have to be comfortable with that.
Working in client homes could be more distracting than a restaurant kitchen. It's not unusual for a dog to stare at you for hours or children to run around the kitchen while you're preparing food. You have to get used to family chaos in some homes.
There actually is no certification needed to start a personal chef business. You will need to obtain a business license (also called a tax certificate in some areas) through your city/county Clerk's office. Some areas also require a health safety certification.
I've created a PDF of step-by-step in becoming a personal chef. Get it now
You can't decide today that you're going to be a personal chef, then start tomorrow full-time. First, you'll need to build the foundation of the business by checking out the competition, learn to price your services, and understand the logistics of running a meal prep business. Building the foundation will probably take about 30 days. During this time, you can continue to work at your current job to pay the bills.
Next, you'll begin marketing your services and start accepting clients. It's suggested to start with just one or two clients, perfecting your meal prep system over 30 to 60 days of practice.
Now you're ready to begin getting more leads into your business and ramp up to full-time with the goal of finally quitting your current job. As an alternative, you can choose to only work with one to two clients as supplemental income while keeping your current job. Understanding how marketing and advertising works is a key skill in determining how fast your business will grow.
Your income is truly up to you as you can choose to work many hours or few hours, hire additional help to make more income, or take on larger scale events that provide a higher service fee.
I suspect the large salary range of these statistics has more to do with the number of hours each chef chooses to work rather than salary based on experience or education. These websites also lump private and personal chefs in one category rather than separating the two careers.
Most important to mention is that personal chefs have control over their own income and hours. Work when you want, as much or little as you want.
Obviously none of us are fortune tellers, but I anticipate the next 12 months will be a little more of the same atmosphere that's happening now.
Meanwhile, restaurants are being allowed to partially open in some areas. Do you think people will enjoy going out to the eat same way we did just a few months ago? We'll be welcomed to a restaurant smelling of bleach by a server wearing mask and gloves presenting us with a disposable paper menu while hoping that none of the guests in the restaurant have to sneeze. Relaxing over a meal in this type of environment just won't be the same.
I'm imagining the demand for personal chefs will increase. Families will welcome a personal chef to help with weekday meal preparations after a full day of Zoom conferences and child meltdowns. They'll begin having small deck parties with other couples coming over to join them and would love the idea of a personal chef preparing a meal instead of visiting a restaurant like they normally would on Saturday night.
When someone calls to set up a consultation about hiring you as their personal chef, all they're thinking about is, "how can you help me?" They just want to know if you’re able to help them with their problem. Potential clients are thinking about menu offerings you can provide them for meal prep. They’re not at all wondering where you went to school, how long you’ve been in business, or what your liability insurance covers. Their only concern is how you can help them. Regardless of your culinary education or business experience, there are clients for every background, experienced or novice. Everyone had to start somewhere and everyone has a first day in business.