Being Successful as a Private Chef

Editor’s note: Being Successful as a Private Chef was most recently updated in May 2022.

We all know that Covid-19 hit the hospitality industry hard with a sizeable number of chefs losing jobs in commercial kitchens. However, as this was unfolding the demand for chefs to work in private households remained steady, and has noticeably increased post pandemic.

But what’s the role of a private chef really like?

To answer this, we’ve reached out to private chefs in our network. Below is a round up of their feedback on what the job of being a private chef really entails and how to be successful at it.

Being successful as a private chef – planning in advance is everything.

‘There will be certain days where you’re just straight cooking and other days where you’ll be doing a lot of prep and set-up for future events. The difference from working in a commercial kitchen is that it’s very unlikely you’ll have anybody else to help you. You’ve got to be the commis, cdp, sous, pastry and head chef all rolled in to one. This makes being prepared and a good planner absolutely essential skills that all private chefs need to have.’

You need to be constantly thinking about food.

‘When your not cooking, you’ll need to be thinking about food! That extends beyond maintaining your stores and provisioning. You need to stay ahead of the game in terms of techniques, trends and client expectations. Make sure you’re on Instagram. It’s a great way to stay connected to what’s happening in the food industry.’

Being successful as a private chef – strong relationships with suppliers are crucial.

‘Supplier relationships are essential in the uber competitive world of being a private chef. Clients will want to know that you know the right people to give you ready access to fresh, high-quality and even rare ingredients. This goes a long way in distinguishing and strengthening your professional reputation.’

You need to put in the work to gain trust.

‘It’s important to try and establish a personal relationship, and get to know the household’s likes and dislikes as quickly as possible. This takes time, effort and skills that don’t come naturally to a lot of chefs. You need to be prepared to ask a lot of questions, so you ensure that the food you deliver always exceeds expectations. This builds trust with your employer, and confirms to them that you’re the right hire.’

Read: Private Chef versus Personal Chef

Cooking in a private kitchen is just as much work.

‘Restaurants can be intense because of the scale. Breaking down boxes of squash or crates of chives or de-stemming 2 kilos of thyme is a lot of work. But there’s still a tremendous amount of labour and time involved in cooking for a dinner party or even just dinner for one. The hours are still the same – it’s just the quantity that’s different – and the pay!’

Being successful as a private chef – someone always needs to eat.

‘As a private chef you’ll need to be on hand – most of the time. You’re at the beck and call of your clients. There will be times when you get very little notice and still be expected to deliver dinner parties etc. that would normally take a lot longer to plan and prep for. You really need to be focused, efficient and very calm under pressure as a person!’

Dining is an experience beyond the food.

‘Clients like restaurant customers eat with their eyes first. So a significant part of being a successful private chef is being able to create the right ambiance and experience in a dining room, in addition to the work that’s done in the kitchen.’

Being a private chef isn’t that glamorous.

‘Can you get to cook for famous people and go to great places? Yes, but the work is very labour-intensive and stressful. This is no different to working in a commercial kitchen. But when the food goes wrong, it’s usually just you on hand to sort it out. Great personal chefs must be highly adaptable and quick thinking.’

Time off can be difficult.

‘Typically when and how much time you can take off is very dependent on your clients schedule. Flexibility is key if personal chefs want to be successful.’

Your connections are important when looking for work.

‘It’s as much about who you know, as what you know! Your contacts, network and verifiable, past recommendations are important in this line of work.’

Being successful as a private chef – in conclusion.

The job of a private chef isn’t just to cook. Before you commit to a private chef career, it’s important to ask yourself if you enjoy interacting with and pleasing people. This will be a driver of your success.

Likewise, can you remain professional even in difficult circumstances? It’s not all plain sailing working as staff in a private household, so it’s important to be able to step back from the day-to-day dynamics of another person’s home.

But if you love to cook a varied menu, like to be creative and enjoy developing skills in multi-cuisines, becoming a private chef could be an enjoyable and lucrative chef career path for you.

Read Next: Chef Jobs Outside of the Kitchen

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