(Aug 23, 2020) 10 mistakes I made at the start of my personal chef career

personal chef Aug 23, 2020

When I first started as a personal chef, I had no mentor. I didn't know anyone else who was a personal chef and I couldn't find any firm answers online. I had to figure it all out on my own. Obviously, I made a ton of cringe worthy mistakes. I'd love to share them with you so you don't repeat them.

#1 Charging by the hour

For my very first client, I charged $25 an hour.  I soon became more efficient and...wait, I'm still getting paid $25 an hour. I was thinking like an employee and not a business owner. Employees are paid by the hour and now I was a business owner.

After much study, I learned that personal chefs are not paid by the hour. They do not price their services like restaurant chefs either, since food costs are not calculated as part of the meal. 

#2 Accepting anyone and everyone as a client

Not everyone is a good fit for your business. You have to take into account whether you can accommodate the client's menu requests following the consultation where you learn about their diet among other factors that make someone a good fit for your business model.

#3 Not Understanding Who Is My Target Market

Business 101 teaches you that when you try to make your business appeal to everyone, it appeals to no one. For example, if you need counseling for your marriage, you would be more likely to visit someone specializing in marriage counseling, not someone who advertises, "we do all counseling for all people." You would want the specialist because you know they would understand your situation best.

When you understand who your ideal client is, you can better target your messages to find the perfect clients. 

#4 Not understanding that quantities are individual

When you go from institutional cooking to cooking specifically for an individual or family, many things are different. Cooking for a 16-year-old boy is going to require a different quantity of food than cooking for an 82-year-old woman. It is still one serving, but of vastly different quantities. Portions were something that took some trial and error to learn.

#5 Not representing myself as a professional

A professional personal chef shows up in a clean car, wears a uniform, replies promptly to messages, and has professionally printed menus. A professional personal chef is one that receives referrals often and without much effort.

#6 Thinking the client wants to eat high-end all the time

I thought when I first started that people were hiring a personal chef because they wanted something fancy to eat. I was so wrong. What they really wanted was something to serve their family that’s healthy and easy for them to put together. They were looking to make their life easier.

#7 Not testing out recipes at home before trying them out on clients

I definitely tried out a fair number of recipes I should have tested at home first. I'm sure you can imagine the outcome. Oops.

#8 Trying to do too much on the day of the cook session

Instead of creating my grocery lists and menus the day before a cook session, I would try to do everything on the same day as the scheduled cook date. I thought I could create a grocery list, print out a client menu, gather the necessary kitchen equipment, create a timeline, go to the grocery store, and perform the cook session all in one day. 

This is all something I can easily do now, but it took a lot of practice to get to that point. When first starting out, everything takes two to three times longer than you think.

#9 Allowing imposter syndrome to kick in

"Who do I think I am, thinking I can cook for these people in their fancy homes." My mind was always saying things like that. "They're going to find out I don't know what I'm doing." "They're going to find out I'm just trying out this profession on them." Wow, the negativity was overwhelming.

I slowly began learning that truthfully, my clients were not thinking about me at all. They were more concerned about whether or not they were going to have a healthy dinner on the table tonight than my education or experience. They could care less whether they were my first client or my hundredth. 

#10 Bringing my entire kitchen to cook sessions

Oh yes, I would read the menu then bring every necessary kitchen equipment and tool needed to complete that meal. This was truly not necessary and created more work for myself.

Yes, there are some kitchens where I would roll my eyes at the quality pans they had available to me, but most of the kitchens I work in are all well equipped. Clients often will ask ME if there is anything I'd like them to purchase to make my life easier.

Have a quick question? Feel free to ask, click here.

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It's wonderful to see perspectives on how others run their personal chef business. If you'd like to share your personal chef journey, I'd be honored to have you as the next guest post. [email protected]

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