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May 15, 2008 01:49 PM

Tipping a Private Chef

Looking for a little guidance. I've hired a private chef (not a catering company) for an upcoming event. He's got a couple of assistant chefs as well. He's being well compensated - his assistant chefs are earning between $35 and $40 per hour and he's earning $50 an hour. He does not charge an auto-grat. They are not providing serving/bussing/bartending services. So the question is, am I expected to tip them? I figure I normally tip people like servers who earn close to minimum wage, whereas these people are earning a very generous hourly rate. At the same time, I don't want to be stingy.

Please help!

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  1. Here's a link to a personal chef's website. This section is probably pertinent to you:

    How Do You Charge For Dinner Parties Or Other Events?

    I request a deposit of half the service fee in cash or by check to secure your date. Until I have your deposit, the date is still available to others. The service fee is due in full at least three days before your event and payment for everything else (food, wine, rentals, etc.) is due the day of the event. As with any fine-dining experience, a gratuity is appreciated when you are pleased with the service.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Miss Needle

      Interesting link. However, in that case, the chef uses the term "cater and says that he'll serve the meal to your guests and even provide wine pairings and service, so it is a little different. I would never hesitate to tip a caterer or server. I found at least 10 web sites for personal or private chefs in which they advertised "no tipping" as a reason to use their services instead of dining out. Miss Manners also says that you should never tip a chef. Hence my complete and total confusion.

    2. Yes, a private chef expects a tip.

      9 Replies
      1. re: gourmanda

        What sort of tip would you consider appropriate? I was thinking $50 for the assistants and $100 for the head. A tip of 15% seems excessive (and, frankly, unaffordable), as the total bill will be about $4000.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          If you were in a restaurant a 15- 18% tip is typically automatically added to groups of 8 or more. Remember you are paying for the privilege of having someone come into your home to plan, shop and prepare the meal for you. If the sticker-shock is too much you might want to consider ordering take-out!

          1. re: dublinchef

            If I was in a restaurant I would tip my server, and that tip would also go to the front of house employees, most of whom are earning minimum wage. I wouldn't walk into the kitchen and tip a head chef who is making six figures. In this case, the chef is not providing FOH services. We are contracting FOH staff separately, and they will be tipped accordingly.

            I don't mean to be snarky, but I feel that this is an atypical situation. I'm asking for guidance because under normal dining circumstances I wouldn't tip a chef anything. In this situation a nominal tip seems appropriate, but an $800 tip seems excessive.

            The chef is billing us for shopping, planning, and driving time in addition to preparation time.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              I will stand with you on this issue because I have an aversion to tipping a person who considers himself a professional and commands professional-level compensation. You don't tip your physician, nurse, structural engineer who okays your roof after a hurricane, physical therapist who works with your Grandma after her stroke, or first grade teacher who teaches your child to read. A chef may make more than you do and is the CEO of his kitchen. He should not have his hand out for a tip.

            2. re: dublinchef

              "Remember you are paying for the privilege of having someone come into your home to plan, shop and prepare the meal for you."

              That's included in the fee for a private chef.

              "If the sticker-shock is too much you might want to consider ordering take-out!"

              Please be nice the OP just wanted to know about tipping. This is not the same as going to a restaurant.

              1. re: dublinchef

                I think the OP has already gotten past the sticker shock of $50/hour. At that hourly rate I personally see no need for a tip. If his assistants were making $7/hour then I'd say go ahead and tip them. He's already billing you for EVERYTHING he's doing, even driving time, I see no need to pad his pockets even more. This chef I'm assuming has his own business and prices his hourly rate accordingly. You contracted with a business to provide what happens to be a food related service at a fixed hourly rate without required gratuity and his rate obviously reflects that. What's next, starting to tip doctors and lawyers?

              2. re: Morton the Mousse

                I think you're in line with my expectations on this one. I worked as a private chef for a few years at rates that are very similar to what you've described. My clients almost always added an amount like $100 to the total. My take was that I priced my services at a level I was comfortable and a tip was unnecessary but very much appreciated. I wouldn't get into percentages.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  Second ccweb's response. I've done private chef gigs and while a tip is never expected, it is, of course, appreciated. Granted the hourly rate is higher than normal resto pay but this is a very different job than cooking a familiar menu in a familiar kitchen. MtM, $100 is a lovely gesture to the chef as well as $50 to the sous. Also appreciated are recommendations to friends and collegues for future business. Write the chef a letter if he/she does a great job - letters are few and far between for some reason. Compliments are always appropriate.

                  To those who liken this work to a restaurant where a tip is expected, think it through. This is a very different situation. "The chef is billing us for shopping, planning, and driving time in addition to preparation time." writes the OP.

                  Hope that you have a great event.

                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                  It depends somewhat on the notoriety and quality of the chef but I would think if the pre-gratuity bill were $3500 then I would expect to tip roughly $300 to the head chef and maybe $100 to each of the assistants. This assumes, of course, that the quality of the ingredients and presentation is in line with what is expected for whatever type of event you are hosting. Yes, the hourly rate seems generous, but if the job were so easy you'd be doing it yourself. It's a tough job and tipping is appreciated (and though unspoken, I think it is expected).

              3. I wouldn't tip them unless you feel they go above and beyond your expectations. I would think that the chef has structured his rate so he's getting ample pay.

                I'd compare it to any other service you were contracting someone for. I sometimes do jobs where I provide different services for people, and tell them what the prices is and don't expect to be tipped.

                1. It seems to me that this chef is the proprietor of the business and it had been my experience that you don't tip the owner of a business for services provided. I have never tipped the owner of a restaurant or even a manager.

                  I think that if the chef and his staff go above and beyond what you expect, a gratuity would always be appreciated, but to expect 10% on top of what you are already paying would be ludicrous.

                  I really liked Sherri's suggestion of writing a letter of appreciate to the chef. That is certainly something a business owner would appreciate.

                  1. As a personal chef, my opinion is no it is not expected. When I am tipped, I'm pleasantly surprised. But since most personal chef's fees are fairly high already, I would say it is definitely not expected. You don't normally tip the chef or sous chef at a restaurant.