Many who hear the term "Personal Chef" visualize a robust,
classically clad gourmet who whips up pates and petit fours
at the snap of a finger. But today's Personal Chefs do not
cater to the whims of the ultra-wealthy. They meet the needs
of everyday American families and singles who have difficulty
finding time to prepare meaningful meals. 21st century Personal
Chefs are professional yet practical service providers. They
are business owners who provide busy clients with healthy,
wholesome meals in a convenient manner and setting.
The goal of a personal chef is to prepare and package customized
meals in clients' homes. Typically, a week's worth of evening
meals are prepared during the chef's weekly visit. Visits
are usually made while clients are at work, so there is no
disruption to household or family activities.
A consultation session usually precedes the commencement
of service. This meeting provides the client an opportunity
to share dietary concerns/requirements and household cultural,
religious and taste preferences. With this information, the
Personal Chef will create and present meal options (usually
hundreds of them!)as well as accept favorite recipes from
the client. Together, Chef and client determine the service
plan and schedule.
Wendy Perry, Co-Founder of Personal Chefs Network, Inc (PNC)
and President of the Eastern Division, reports a recent surge
in her organization's membership. PCN is among the largest
Personal Chef trade organizations in the country. PCN and
other Personal Chef trade groups provide members business
training, start up support, industry information and ongoing
newsletters. According to Ms. Perry, many professionally trained,
experienced chefs, as well as those new to the culinary profession
choose this option for a few key reasons.
One is flexibility and environment. Traditionally, professional
restaurant chefs climb the culinary ladder rung by rung under
grueling pressures including long, inflexible hours spent
mostly on their feet often in extreme heat or cold. Traditional
chefs typically spend many evenings, weekends and holidays
at work. For many, the time invested and stress endured in
hospitality positions does not justify the professional or
A Personal Chef, however, is immediately his or her own
boss- an entrepreneur who determines how many clients to serve,
what to offer in terms of menus and meals and what to charge
for these services. As most in-home visits are made while
clients are at work, the Chefs' hours more closely reflect
"business hours" as opposed to nearly round the clock restaurant
Ms. Perry sites an additional advantage that draws culinary
professionals to the Personal Chef field: the opportunity
for creative expression and the corresponding lack of redundant
tasks and dishes. Creativity in a restaurant setting may be
squelched in order to promote productivity and consistency.
Personal Chefs can vary the menus, cuisines and dishes they
offer. They find their customers appreciate the variety as
much as they do.
Other culinary professionals, according to Ms. Perry, are
entering the field for a unique business opportunity that
is currently in a high growth pattern. According to the major
trade organizations, the demand for personal chefs is on the
rise. The American Personal Chef Association reports there
are already 6,000 Personal Chefs serving 72,000 clients and
estimates there will be over 25,000 chefs serving 300,000
clients by the year 2006. Singles and families alike are less
satisfied with the inconvenience of dining out and the quality
of fast food options. And preparation of regular evening meals
beyond classics like "cold cereal avec milk" and "soup du
tin can" is simply not possible for 21st century Americans
with demanding careers or busy children- or both. There is
a real and growing need for wholesome, healthy meals conveniently
served at home. Timing is everything for entrepreneurs, and
establishing this type of service while demand is growing
could prove a savvy business move.
Establishing relationships with customers is yet another
appealing reason chefs enter the Personal Chef business. Chefs
in traditional roles rarely see a happy customer face to face.
Personal Chefs regularly interact with customers and often
receive feedback in the form of requests for additional dishes
and elimination or variation in the preparation of others.
The ability to regularly assist customers with their health/dietary
concerns is also satisfying to many culinary professionals,
especially those with training in dietetics. In some cases,
the personal relationship even extends to household pets.
Thomas Bolch of North Carolina is very pleased with his Chef
of two years who often leaves flowers for the Bolch family.
. . and doggie treats for the family pooch!
Sabrina Harris has been a Personal Chef in Houston for 3
years. She entered the field to tap her culinary creativity
and talent as well as to fulfill the dream of owning her own
business. Chef Sabrina found repetitive office work with little
public contact or interaction confining and stifling. Not
that she does not face challenges in her new profession. Office
work may be mundane, but it is steady. Sabrina finds unexpected
cancellations due to customer relocation and other change
of circumstances her greatest hurdle.
For those with professional training and hospitality experience,
the Personal Chef Service offers the ability to collect on
an investment in formal culinary education as well as a means
to pursue a love of food preparation in a "family friendly"
environment. Unlike working in traditional hospitality positions
that often require working weekends and holidays, the Personal
Chef industry permits more flexibility and allows culinary
professionals to determine how many hours will be devoted
to work. Of course with this increased flexibility comes the
reality of time versus money. In order to make a living, a
Personal Chef must maintain and serve a substantial customer
All entrepreneurs must balance professional freedom, flexibility
and creativity with the demands of earning an acceptable income.
For those who choose to open a Personal Chef Service, this
type of balance is possible. Demand for their services continues
to grow, but each chef manages and limits the business they
accept. The Personal Chef option appears to be the best "personal"
choice for growing numbers of culinary professionals who seek
creative work, flexible hours, meaningful customer relationships
and a business of their own.
These sites offer information on becoming a Personal Chef:
Written By: Jane Boaz - In addition to her full time
career as a Product Development Manager for an online legal
research system, Jane is a freelance writer and culinary instructor.
She has a law degree and recently earned a Certificate in Culinary
Arts from Cincinnati State College.