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How to Become a Private Chef

The jobs of personal chef and private chef both require working in a client's or employer's home rather than in a restaurant or institution, but the job details are quite different.

Culinary Arts

Personal and private chef job description

As a personal chef, you'll purchase ingredients, cook a week's worth of meals in your client's home, and then store the meals in the refrigerator or freezer. Your client will follow your directions to heat and eat the meals over the course of the week. You may cook for more than one client, and your job will be to help busy individuals or families eat well without spending time in the kitchen.

If, on the other hand, you're a private chef, you'll plan, prepare, and often serve all meals for a private individual or family who will be your employer rather than your client. Your employer will likely be wealthy, and you may be asked to oversee the wine cellar, live on the premises, travel with your employer, and plan and carry out special events that include dignitaries and distinguished guests.

Regardless of whether you're a private or personal chef, you'll need the "people skills" to understand your client's or employer's needs and desires, and the culinary and organizational skills to satisfy those needs and desires. Private chefs, especially, must operate comfortably among family members, remain confidential about things they overhear, and plan elegant social events.

Personal or private chef training requirements

Experience, culinary talent, organizational ability, and trustworthiness are the keys to a successful career as a private or personal chef. Your private employer will likely ask among friends and colleagues to learn about your personality, reputation for confidentiality and organization, and cooking skill. If you work for an agency that specializes in personal chefs, your employer may require you to get some training in areas such as sanitation, safe food handling and storage, economical use of ingredients, and basic accounting.

Salary Information for Personal and Private Chefs

The salary for personal and private chefs varies greatly both between and within the designations. Successful personal chefs, depending on their location, generally earn between $200 and $400 per day, according to the American Personal & Private Chef Association. Private chefs can earn a salary of $55,000 per year and or more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and may also receive free lodging, meals, and transportation. Some private chefs who are skilled and experienced enough to work for very demanding families earn a six-figure salary.

Sources:

  • American Personal & Private Chef Association, "On Being a Private Chef," http://www.personalchef.com/appca_media_article.php?id=16
  • Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
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