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Personal Chefs - what's the dish?

Last nite I went to a dear friend's house in the South End for a DELICIOUS dinner party. After a couple of glasses wine with dinner (and a couple of martinis beforehand), my host informed me that the entire dinner was prepared by a Personal Chef and delivered to his home with heating and timing instructions. He said this was type of service is now all the rage - he also went on to brag that the chef he retained was exceptionally talented (and I agree, the food was SUPERB). But, I've never heard of a Personal Chef service.....am I the only one in the dark on this or was my friend just being pretentous by saying that EVERYONE is doing it??

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  1. Personal chefs have been around for many years. They really started becoming mainstream about 9 years ago, including starting their own association. Even very small towns usually have some type of personal chef service available.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mattrapp

      Thanks Mattrapp, I guess I've just been such a restaurant rat that I never considered (and therefore never searched for) a personal chef. i assumed that people ate out, used delivery services, went top prepared food markets, had a private chef in their homes or they hired caterers. the personal chef thing sure made for a relaxed dinner party last nite though!

      1. re: khelsy67

        in your list of choices you didn't include "cook it themselves"? I've hosted many a dinner party in my life and that's the only one *I've* ever done.

        1. re: DGresh

          DG, I'm with you, whatever happened to cook it yourself!?

          1. re: Rick

            That is great, if one has the time. Last event was sandwiched between a charity golf tournament, and leaving for London at 5:30AM the next morning. This was the only time that our friends were in town. Wife cut out at the 13th, and I finished the full 18, but left before any part of the festivities, and I am on the board. Wife got home, just as the guests arrived, but the staff had wines at the ready, so she got to shower. I did not, but no one seemed to really mind. Maybe it was that welcome wine?

            After the meal, the staff cleaned it all up, took away any leftovers, and locked the door behind themselves. We were then up at 4:00AM and were ready for the towncar.

            We'll have to do similar for Passover this year, as we fly out on Easter Sunday, at 6:00AM.

            It really helps with the timing, and I am a big fan.


          2. re: DGresh

            While we use similar services, for dinner parties, we usually have them catered, by a local chef, complete with servers. Have never used our "personal chef's" services for any event.


      2. Glad tou enjoyed the meal. To answer your questions Yes and yes.

        Personal chefs have been around for awhile and they are probably a bit more common in certain circles today. However it does sound like your friend was overstating and being a bit pretentous.

        1. Last year my sister and I got a gift certificate for a personal chef for my parents for Christmas. This was prompted by upcoming bunion surgery for my mother who would be off her feet for 6 weeks. The chef had been an instuctor at Johnson and Whales. This particular chef had extensive menu choices, including dishes for those on particular diets. She would either come to your home or cook off-premises and deliver meals for either immediate consumption or for the freezer. My parents really enjoyed it!

          1. My grandparents (in their 80s) have a personal chef who comes into their home once every two weeks and cooks entrees and sides for them.

            One of their children had originally hired the personal chef for them for a month, while my grandmother (who does all of the cooking) recovered from eye surgery - at the end of that month, my grandmother made an "aside" comment to one of the grandchildren about how she wasn't looking forward to having to start cooking again. That grandchild repeated the comment to their parents and now we've all banded together and chip in each month toward the personal chef.

            After many years spent in the kitchen (she grew-up on a sugar beet farm in the midwest, cooking for her younger siblings and for the field-hands - then cooking for her four children and several foster children) my grandmother is tired of having to cook several meals a day. She still enjoys baking, and likes making breakfast dishes, but as for putting together a "full meal" for lunch and dinner every day - she's reached a point where she's ready to retire from that responsibility.

            So she has the personal chef, who prepares wonderful, fresh, healthy meals, and she's happy and my grandfather's happy, and the rest of the family is grateful that we can provide this for them, as a small way of saying "thank you" for all that they've done for us.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ElsieDee

              ElsieDee thank you for sharing with us, thank you for reminding us how good people can be.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I agree- what a nice idea!

                I would not consider what I did personal cheffing AT ALL, but for a summer, I baby-sat for a couple with two young kids and I did all the grocery shopping and three meals a week for them. It was really fun because they had a ton of money, didn't care what I made as long as it was good obviously, and were adventurous eaters. Sometimes I think this would be an ideal job for me, but I know the reality is that I would never have such easy clients again!

                1. re: Katie Nell

                  It seems the least we can do for my grandparents.

                  I have done some "unofficial" personal cheffing myself - about once every three to four months I start feeling a need to get out of the city (I'm in L.A.) and so I head north to my sister and BIL's home - I camp out there for a week or two, decompressing.

                  My way of saying "thank you" to them is to restock their freezer with easy to prepare meals (they're both teachers and they also coach youth sports and so have little time/energy to cook during the week, but they love to eat). I make large batches of soup (or soup bases), chowders and chilis, individual or small quiches, easily reheated casseroles, homemade bread and rolls, quick breakfasts (breakfast burritoes, waffles), muffins, baked fruit tarts and cobblers, and anything else I can think of.

                  I find the cooking to be cathartic for me - and they have a gigantic kitchen with LOTS of counter space where it's a joy to cook (in stark contrast to the tiny kitchen in my tiny apartment). And they like the results, so it's a win-win situation for all involved.

                1. re: ElsieDee

                  It seems that surgery often plays a role in this. Maybe that is where it starts, but if the personal chef service is good, there might be no end ot the relationship - until something goes very OFF.

                  We love it, and dine better, though my wife could well be a chef, if only she was not so good at running major hospitals. I can pair the wines, and do some sauces, but am not even a beginning line cook. If we wish to eat well, without having to leave home, a service like this is great.


                2. In the early 80s, I did the Personal Chef gig for a Washington, D.C. couple who wanted the best of both worlds -- personal time at home alone and great food with no hassle.

                  I would prepare their food for a week, leave directions and disappear. When they had dinner parties, it was much the same only more elaborate food. The couple's housekeeper made all the serving and cleanup arrangements. I loved this job.

                  It morphed into working with the outpatient department of hospitals in Alexandria VA to provide meals for patients whose families lived far away but were concerned when Mom or Dad were discharged and not quite on their feet yet. Another great job.

                  1. I mostly paid my way through grad school doing the personal chef bit for a few people nearby. I'd gather all of the ingredients, go to the house, cook, serve, cleanup and get moving on. Usually, the first time or two that I'd work for someone they'd give me a laundry list of instructions and requirements, but after it became clear that I just needed to know allergies and serious dislikes, they'd start calling and saying "casual dinner for 14 with the first food at 6:30" and I'd put together the menu and recipes myself. It was a lot of fun and it actually worked out to be quite cost effective for my clients as I charged for my time by the house and passed the food cost straight through as is.

                    1. I am a personal chef, but I do not offer the option of filling one's freezer with food unless it's for a medical issue such as surgery, a new baby or something of the like. My goal is to support and help people who really want to learn how to cook better for themselves at home by giving them the skills and techniques they need. I don't find many young people these days who have grown up with the benefit of learning to cook at their mother or grandmother's side but they still want to be able to make good food at home for their families. My services can be tailored to their needs, whatever they are.

                      I offer services mostly for dinner parties, as a way to make it less of a hassle for the host- much as the OP stated. I offer services for wine and food pairings, wine tastings and the like. And I do in-home cooking lessons, specific cooking demonstrations such as teaching someone how to make a certain dish, demonstrating homemade pasta etc. I teach basic nutrition, learning to decipher nutrition labels and also meal planning and shopping techniques. Each client has widely varying needs and I do what I can to help them.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cooknKate

                        Your's is a neat touch. While we have used the "fill the 'fridge" option more often, we have also hired local chefs to do cooking demos, with hands-on for the guests, at diner parties. So far, they have all loved it. There is something about a good chef working with the guests, who then get to sample their creations.

                        Hope that this continues for you. We even did custom toques and aprons, for each guest, all monogramed and emblazoned with the event's name and date.


                      2. I think what you describe is not entirely a new service, it simply would have been called "catering" say 10 years ago. Sorta like a personal trainer might have been called a "coach".

                        1. While I agree that personal chefs can be a terrific thing and their services can be a great gift I'd like to mention one caveat. You must know with whom you are dealing.
                          When I had a baby one of the Spouse's clients gave us a gift certificate for a personal chef. It was the single most thoughtful gift we received. It was also by far the worst. The woman asked for a list of our favorite foods and then proceeded to combine them in thoroughly inedible combinations with cooking directions that left us with raw meat. Not rare but raw. Just the thing to serve to a nursing mother. We ended up throwing it all in the trash. I was so grateful for the gift and so teed off by the fact that we had to dump it all.

                          Long story short - Just because someone says they are a personal chef, it doesn't mean they know squat. Check references.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rockycat

                            I find it refreshing that your friend was so open and honest about the dinner. I remember years ago my father had a friend who could not/would not had no interest in food preparations. Oh she had all of the latest and top on the line equipment and a kitchen to die for. When she had dinner parties she would hire a professional to come in, prepare everything in the kitchen with her equipment adn pay him or her off before the guests arrived and "graciously" took all of the compliments on the food implying she had doen it all.

                            1. re: Candy

                              In our case, we always introduce the full staff, chef to servers, to the guests. We never would consider taking any credit, and pass any applause on to those, who deserve it.


                          2. any idea of the cost for this service, understanding location and menu determine it but just a ballpark?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: winebarb

                              Oh honey, this was Miamim in the early 70's. No clue. I am sure she paid dearly

                              1. re: winebarb

                                In our case, family of two, it runs about US$250 per week in AZ. Portions always lead to leftovers for lunch for me.


                              2. I too am a personal chef in the SF Bay area and yes- it is one of the hottest careers out there, going by a number of blog posts I've been reading.As far as I am concerned I do it for the loooove of it.It also gives me immense satisfaction to see a well-fed group of people.Feeds my ego in a way:-) ....but in a nice way!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: theladygourmet

                                  Curious how do you price out your services?

                                2. I have been a personal chef in the St. Louis, Mo. area since 1979. I have worked for a number of families with varing tastes and lifestyles, number of family members and age, in the almost 30 years I've enjoyed this career. Because of the current economic situation and ' the cook is the first staff member to go' I currently have a few days available. My services are a little different than most of those mentioned here. I discuss menus with family, do all the shopping, and cook in your home. I then serve and clean up. If I leave food it is not for the freezer, but to have for lunch or snacks, or something to eat with a drink the next day.

                                  1. I'm a Personal Chef in Venice, FL (near Sarasota on the Gulf Coast). My Business name is The Kilted Cook - I'm of Scottish ancestry, I wear a kilt and I cook really well. It's a great schtick! I've been doing this more or less full time since 2002; in Arizona, then Colorado, and now Florida. I am a member of, and trained with the United States Personal Chef Association.

                                    I offer two services - one is what most people think of - two weeks of dinners prepared at one time. I also do "in-home catering" - dinner parties for 2 to 200.

                                    My charge for two weeks of dinners for two (5 entrees with appropriate sides x 4 servings of each meal), including menu planning, grocery shopping, the cost of the food, preparing, cooking ans storing the food in disposable containers is $350. I know some chefs in some areas charge $450-600 for the same service; and some who are charging less than $300. it depends on what your area can support.

                                    When I do dinner parties I charge an Event Fee that varies with the number of guests, plus the actual cost of the food. You want lobster, you pay for lobster; you want hamburger, you pay for hamburger. I can make gourmet meals to fit any budget. The Event Fee covers my time and efforts menu planning, shopping, travel, food prep and cooking at your site, and my serving the buffet. My fee for a sit down dinner for 2-8 is $225. Buffet events for 10 to 200 guests vary from $350 to $1000. Fancy table settings, tents, servers, chocolate fountains... all that stuff can be rented for you at cost.

                                    There are fairly stiff laws about what you can cook where. It is illegal in all 50 states to prepare food in your home kitchen and drop it off at a customer's location. If you prepare food in a legal commercial kitchen (which most of us DON'T have) you can then transport that food anywhere and serve it. This is what caterers do. The only other legal way to prepare food for others (for pay) is to cook it at their home or party location (if there is a kitchen or you bring things to cook on).

                                    Being a Personal Chef is a fascinating career. I recently got to spend 10 days down in the Florida Keys as the chef for a yacht crew involved in offshore races. I did a wedding once for 200+ people that spread across 3 backyards! I've done dishes where you could look out the kitchen window and look DOWN on eagles soaring.

                                    1. Even out in the provinces, like AZ, this has been a God-send for some years.

                                      In my experiences, the food is good to great, and the food can be purchased for meals during the week. We started using one, about 3 years ago, when my wife had hip surgery, and she could not take my cooking for the recup. time.


                                      1. There are so many great personal 'everythings'.... maids, physical therapists, trainers, nurses, makeup artists, chefs, etc., who come to the home and do anything asked of them.
                                        Recently I had a hip replacement and it required I be waited on and I chose what I wanted.
                                        Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how one looks at it) I was up and about in perfect shape within a week and I could no longer justify the chef. I love to cook and I was anxious to do so.
                                        Personal chefs are wonderful. They do the required shopping, they prepare the food and serve it to one's liking. I loved it.

                                        1. Here in San Francisco, the economy has put a lot folks out of jobs, and therefore talented hobby cooks are getting entrepreneurial. It happened during the last econ bust of 2001-3 as well.

                                          I don't expect the trend to last -- it's hard to get paid well as a personal cook -- but we should enjoy it while the opportunity is here. I think there are lot of great folks out there offering relative bargains at the moment.

                                          But I recommend people also beware -- this sector is unregulated, and therefore you should be concerned with safety issues, unbonded vendors, etc.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                                            An add on to my previous post:

                                            It's interesting to see the discussion above, where the terms 'catering' and 'personal chefing' intermingle. To me, the lines are blurry anyway, but are generally about volume of food produced... set somewhere between 'doing a family's weekly meals' and 'a party.'

                                            I took some heat from my earlier comment so I should clarify: catering is a solid industry that is not a trend. IMHO, personal chefing is a trend. Lots of folks try and fail, when they realize that they must have a serious volume of customers or charge serious premiums to ever get paid enough to stay in the game...and volume and profitability is exactly why most personal chefs become caterers, or find something else to do.

                                            And my buyer beware caution comes from a friend's experience from a few years ago. She hired an aspiring personal chef who did great work, but caused a serious foodborne illness for most of the members of her family, where two were hospitalized. This said, I recommend that folks screen chefs carefully, and ensure that they have at least current food service and health certifications.