Transcript

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[00:00:00] If you’ve ever wondered about the ins and outs of becoming a personal chef, you are in the right place. I am going over everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide, from what training you need, how much you can make, to what a typical work week looks like when you’re a personal chef. So if you haven’t ever watched a video from me before, welcome.

I am Chef Shelley. I am a personal chef. I’ve had a successful business for over 15 years, and when I’m not cooking for my own clients, Which I still do. I help passionate cooks just like you who want to start their own personal chef business, getting paid to do what you love on your own terms. So let’s dive into this and see whether becoming a personal chef is the right move for you.

First of all, we have to define what exactly is a personal chef. Maybe you’ve never even heard of the term before. It’s kind of, to put it simply, similar to being a private chef, but with one big twist. [00:01:00] Now, private chefs work exclusively for one family, right? They are an employee just of that family. They prepare their food and usually serve it to them, too.

They might even travel with the family. Now personal chefs, on the other hand, operate as independent contractors. We cook for multiple families or clients and get paid for each cook day. And instead of serving the food, it gets all packaged up and labeled and is waiting in the fridge for our clients to enjoy at their convenience.

Typically, you prepare about a week’s worth of food at a time. Of course, that depends on what your client wants. So, unlike private chefs who are at their one client’s beck and call, personal chefs have a lot more control on deciding who you want to take on as clients, when you want to work, and even how much you want to charge, which results in how much.

You want to make so the job [00:02:00] description for a personal chef really boils down to one thing and that’s just preparing delicious meals for families or for clients Let’s put it that way and that because it’s whether they’re families or they could be individuals or whatever if they eat Personal chefs can cook for them.

Typically we work out of the client’s home because although you can offer a whole bunch of different services, the most common one is preparing a week’s worth of dinners, also referred to as personal chef services or meal prep services, right? This is a very individualized service. It’s very different than just offering up a list of food that you’re cooking and selling it to someone who just wants to buy like one plate of that, one plate of that, one plate of that.

Totally different. The second service A lot of personal [00:03:00] chefs do is catering for small events, typically things you can handle yourself or with just one or two people helping you and then even teaching cooking classes and demonstration is something there are a lot of different services that you can offer, like kitchen organization and meal planning and recipe development, pantry stocking and tons more, but the big three in order of popularity are.

Personal chef services, aka also known as weekly meal prep or meal prep services, small caterings, and teaching cooking lessons and cook, doing cooking demonstrations. So, when it comes to what you need mentally, there is a lot of work and organization around compiling and maintaining your recipe collection for your specialty, learning and managing your client’s needs and wants, improving your cooking knowledge all the time.

It’s a lot to take on. Some clients [00:04:00] want the same things all the time, some clients want to try different things all the time. I’ve had a client for over 10 years now who gets It’s almost the same two soups every week and generally gets the same rotating entrees every single week. Now you might think that that’s boring, but they know exactly what they want and what they like.

On the other hand, I’ve had clients pay me to make sandwiches. I’ve had clients pay me to not cook. I’ve had clients pay me to prepare for the raw diet, if you’re familiar with that one. So The only thing that matters is that they’re getting what they want and they’re happy. So you don’t necessarily need to manage what your clients want to eat, and you definitely don’t argue with them unless they’re doing something that’s unsafe, like keeping the food too long past an expiration date.

So Back on track, one thing you do need to do is manage [00:05:00] the, you know, your packaging and the equipment you need and pantry items and that kind of stuff. You need to learn where the best place is to shop for groceries, how to shop efficiently, again, because you’re doing this as a one entrepreneur, not like a big catering company or a restaurant who’s placing big wholesale orders with vendors, right?

In reality, multiple grocery store trips are just a part of personal chef life. But finally, it’s a lot of mental work to manage all aspects of your business, from your day to day bookkeeping on what your expenses are, like buying those groceries, to marketing, which might be networking, or maintaining your website, or paying someone to do it if you don’t want to do it, if you’re gonna do social media, all that kind of stuff.

But being a personal chef is not just a lot of mental, it’s also some physical demands as being [00:06:00] a passionate cook you probably already know, right? There is, when you’re doing it as a personal chef, a lot of crap to haul, depending on how efficiently you can pack and really dial down what you need to take to a client’s home.

And of course you’re going to be standing for hours while you’re cooking, and there’s the cleaning afterward. My personal least favorite part of the whole business. But obviously that is part of cooking, right? A lot of personal chefs actually end up hiring someone just part time, low hourly to handle the cleaning part for them after they’re done cooking.

Because it’s definitely not as fun whether you’re a passionate cook or a pro, right? So, when it comes to business size, as a personal chef, you’re a solopreneur, as they say, when you’re a one woman or one person show. Of course, you can always hire consultants or contractors to kind of do the other stuff.

Like if you don’t want to do your bookkeeping, hire an accountant. [00:07:00] Um, if you don’t want to do your marketing, you can hire someone for that. If you, like I just mentioned, want to hire someone to do your kitchen cleaning, you can have someone help you with that. And probably the most common one is if you are doing small catering events is having people help you do that.

But really, other than being a solopreneur, other people who I really consider my co workers and support staff are the people that I buy from. This is everybody at the grocery store from the general manager of the store, the guy behind the meat counter, the woman behind the seafood counter, the people in the produce department.

All of them. The more, big tip, you build relationships and treat these people like human beings. It’s not rocket science, but you’d be surprised what some people do. The smoother your job is going to be and the better then your client’s experience is going to be. So, I talked a lot about shopping. [00:08:00] Let’s kind of talk about what a personal chef does in an average week, right?

Generally, you talk to the clients that you have coming up for the next week and get their menu selections. You pull your recipes, you make your grocery list, get any labels prepped, start your invoice, all that kind of paperwork. Then, on each client’s cook day, you get the equipment you need, you do their grocery shopping.

Um, you get exactly what they need for their cook day, because again, this is a service where you’re cooking for one family client a day. So, you go to their home, you cook their meals, you cool it, package it, store it all however they would like it, and then you clean up and get paid. Now, at the end of each day, or really however you want to do it, timing wise, you’d make your deposit for what you got paid that day, you’d enter your expenses, anything that you had to buy, like the groceries in your business, even though I really recommend that your clients [00:09:00] reimburse you for groceries, you don’t make that part of your fee, if you want to check that out, I have videos on how to do pricing, just search for them on my YouTube channel.

And, you know, keep up with your bookkeeping or however you want to do it. Maybe that’s a weekly thing or a monthly thing. I don’t really like to do it, so I tend to do it infrequently and then get really overwhelmed with how much I have to catch up on. But that’s just me. You don’t need to do it that way.

So some days you’re going to field phone calls and emails from prospective clients. You might have an interview with someone to talk about what they need, what your services are, and whether you’re a good fit for each other. And then you would get their cook day schedule and add it into your So now, to be honest, when you’re just starting out, you’re going to be spending more time marketing to get clients than you probably are doing the cooking.

Then you’ll get to the point where there will be a balance of both. And finally, when you’re fully booked, [00:10:00] you can just run a wait list from those inquiries and spend your time cooking, which is what you really want to do instead of doing all that marketing to get new clients like you do to ramp up in the beginning.

So, speaking of which, you might have heard me mention that preparing and going to the client’s home. Personal chefs generally work out of client’s homes, and then typically you do all your paperwork and things like that in your home office. Even if it’s just at the kitchen table. But you can check with the health department in your city and find out if they allow you to cook out of your home.

So what? How does this sound so far? What do you think? Does it sound good? Like cooking on your own terms? Being a personal chef might be something that you’re interested in. Well, according to pay scale, job satisfaction for personal chefs is This is hysterical. How often do you get 100 percent right? Job satisfaction is an [00:11:00] impressive 5 out of 5.

So, when you think about it though, why wouldn’t it be? First, you’re doing the thing that you’re most passionate about, which is cooking, right? And second, people are paying you to do it and paying you well. Now, of course, I admit it. I’m totally biased here. Of course, I’m going to say this is the best thing in the world.

I work when I want. I work for who I want. I take time off when I want, and I spend all the time I want with my family, which includes for me not working nights weekends and holidays. But you can do your personal chef work the way that works the best for you. I have a blog post I’ll link to below where I talk more about how I became a personal chef and you can check that out.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of actually becoming a personal chef if you’ve decided that this is something you want to do. Big spoiler alert, big myth buster you do not [00:12:00] need a degree in culinary arts. You do not need to go to culinary school at all. You do not need a certificate for cooking.

It doesn’t even matter if you worked in restaurants for a million years or not. And it also doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about cooking, whether it’s gourmet food or American style family comfort food or vegan or keto or gluten free, Mexican or anything else. There are clients who want what you have to offer out there.

Now that being said, obviously there are skills that you do have to have. Don’t go trolling me in the comments that I said you didn’t have to go to culinary school. There are plenty of very highly regarded, very professional chefs. Who didn’t go to culinary school like Gordon Ramsay. We can nitpick and argue exactly what defines a chef, but in reality, it’s just not a term that is.

Legally [00:13:00] requiring you to have anything formally as in a doctor. You cannot just call yourself a doctor. There are government controlled legal things behind what you have to have to call yourself a doctor here in the United States. Same thing with a lawyer or a therapist. There are requirements. There are no required things to be called a chef.

It is not a regulated term. However, Even people who are, do not have culinary school degrees who are extremely successful have years of hard work, developed skills, and experience behind them. And that’s where they feel comfortable using that term. So obviously the biggest skill you have to have is you need to be a good cook.

A great cook, an excellent cook, whatever. People need to love your food and want to pay you for it. And if you want to be a [00:14:00] personal chef and enjoy it, you’re going to want to be successful at doing it, right? So you need to get basic training in any areas that you’re lacking. So besides cooking, what other skills are you going to need?

Again, it doesn’t mean just cooking skills and even there’s food safety skills also that you need to have, but you don’t need to have a formal business degree or something, but you need to have the skills to be able to run your business, even when it’s a business of one person, there are a lot of business details to handle as an entrepreneur.

For instance, if you can’t balance your checkbook, you need to either learn how or manage, hire an accountant to manage your bookkeeping or just a bookkeeper even. Those are some of the skills that again, you don’t have to have a degree in, but if you don’t have, you need to learn or find someone to do it for you.

So, [00:15:00] let’s talk about what you need, like, in terms of equipment to get started, now that we’ve kind of talked about skills and education. So, what equipment are you gonna need? Well, cooking equipment obviously varies wildly, depending not only what style of food you like to prepare, But from client to client and what they want that you might need for, right?

You know, some clients that you work for might be foodies and have a gorgeous kitchen full of every piece of equipment you could ever dream of, and maybe they’ve never even taken the plastic off it and used it. Some clients don’t even have a functional spatula. So you’re pretty much going to want to have everything that you need so that you can make sure that you can prepare anything you’re cooking that day.

And if you are setting up your business around cooking the food that you love, you probably have mostly everything that you need because it’s a passionate cook. [00:16:00] You cook all the time, right? There might be things when you’re deciding to go pro that you might want to add to your business, though. Always the first thing when you’re talking to a potential client who wants to consider hiring you is you want to check their kitchen and make sure you know what they have so then you know what you need.

to bring if you’re cooking in the client’s home. And I know it, I know it, I get it. You know, when you’re really into cooking, you have way more than you should, including appliances you rarely even use. I have to tell you, that 400 chocolate tempering machine I bought really did not get used to the full.

extent that it probably should have for that amount. So we talked about education and training and we talked about business skills and equipment. Let’s talk about the actual business requirements. In order to be above board and run your business as [00:17:00] a professional and not some half ass cookery, you need to look into your local requirements.

And in the United States, this means your state, your city, and then your local health department. To protect yourself, you mainly want to look into three things. You want to set up an entity for your business, like an LLC or whatever you decide on for entity. You want to get liability insurance. and you can go to flipprogram.

com. They are a great one who are very versed in this type of business and you can get an easy quote right on their homepage. And then you want to check into whether you even need a business license or a sales tax license. Different states, counties, and cities all have different requirements. Since you are running your business the way doing work the way a private chef does, you may find most commonly that you don’t need to [00:18:00] have a business license because your city doesn’t manage.

tracking chefs like that. But again, you’ll need to check. So let’s get into something more fun to talk about and to think about than all these little business details you have to have. Let’s talk about how much money can you make as a personal chef. So like I mentioned at the beginning, personal chefs aren’t salaried.

We’re getting paid per cook day, right? So If, just for example, you were to work 50 weeks a year like a normal corporate job and that’s two weeks off for vacation and you were making the average daily rate of 335, that would be about 83, 000 a year. Now, that being said, The majority of personal chefs work part time, not full time.

According to the Canadian Personal Chef Association, on [00:19:00] average, the people who belong to their group work three to four days a week, they take multiple vacations a year, and they end up earning between 35, 000 and 45, 000 a year. on average for their membership. Now that’s not bad for part time work, right?

I know that when I first moved here and started looking around at part time work, if I worked at my kid’s school as a receptionist full time, it would have been twice as many hours and about 26, 000 a year. Yikes. So I mentioned the full time if you were working 50 weeks, and then I mentioned that they say most people work part time.

So how much can you really make as a personal chef? Well, of course, the first thing to take into consideration is how much do you want to work, right? How much time and effort are you going to dedicate to getting clients and keeping clients? The other factors are where you live, and to be honest, [00:20:00] really how good you are and professional personal chefs in New York and San Francisco make more than personal chefs in John Day, Oregon.

It’s just the way it is. Now, does that mean you can’t be successful if you live in a small town or a rural area or the suburbs? Not at all. Just like high end personal chefs in big urban cities, you can determine your income and your work goals, find your specialty, and market well to get your ideal clients.

Even with a full time load of weekly meal service meal prep clients, You probably only need 8 to 12 people to be cooking full time week after week after week. If you can look around and figure, even if you don’t know them yet, 8 to 12 people are probably within an area you are willing to go to cook for them, that’s really all you need.

[00:21:00] Now, the reason why more experienced personal chefs can do this easily, they have recommendations, testimonials, better cooking skills, and at the end of the day more confidence. They’re also starting off possibly more professional. If you’ve never been a cooking pro or an entrepreneur before, and this can go a long way to make it easier to get clients.

That being said, you can be extremely competent and confident as a new personal chef. You just need to own it. So we’ve talked a little bit about being an entrepreneur as a personal chef. Well, what if you want to do personal chef work, but you want to be an employee? Well, there are a few places that actually list personal chef jobs.

Now, you’ll need to make sure that it’s actually for a personal chef and not a private chef, unless you want to work full time for one family and travel and do things like that. Or even that it’s a personal chef and not a [00:22:00] restaurant chef or other chef. So it’s best to really dive deep and all the best of these sites I’m going to give you are not ones to find clients.

These are ones to find jobs. So places you can look are Zip Recruiter. and glass door, and then there’s also Thumbtack, but I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on Thumbtack. Some personal chefs love it and have actually gotten regular clients through there. Some people think it’s just bargain hunters and you pay for leads and it’s really hard to work with.

So it depends on your area and what your cooking specialty is. But you can even list your services. Now I’ve kind of blended going from looking for a job to looking for clients. But you can list your services on something like Craigslist. It just depends on your clientele and how you want to present it yourself.

So to back up and go over that again to make sure it’s [00:23:00] clear, places like ZipRecruiter and um, Glassdoor have job listings, places like Craigslist or Thumbtack might be places to get clients if you are becoming a solopreneur. So let’s say you’ve thought about that and you’ve decided you do want the freedom, the flexibility of having your own business as a personal chef.

So let’s talk a little bit about the business side. I told you this was going to be the ultimate guide. There is a ton of information to go over. So you’ve decided you want to be a personal chef and you’ve decided that you want to have your own business. It can feel a little confusing. overwhelming and I’ll just say it scary AF when you’re thinking about starting your own business.

So here are to really simplify it and make it more clear the big areas broken down that you need to [00:24:00] have to have a personal chef business. Okay, you need to first. Figure out your cooking specialty. This helps you talk to clients clearly about your food. The services you want to offer. Are you going to do meal prep?

Are you going to do catering? How is that going to work? What’s your process going to be? Again, not only do you need that for you, you need it to be able to explain how things work to potential clients. And then What your pricing is going to be for the services and the food you want to offer. That’s step one.

Then you need to make sure you’ve created a comprehensive recipe collection so that you have enough organized to be able to offer to clients, maybe set up some menus to give as examples, and also from what you’ve determined you’re going to be doing for services and what you’re going to be cooking, any necessary equipment you might need to make everything easier for you.

After you’ve done that, you pretty much know what you’re going to be doing, [00:25:00] know how much you’re going to need to get and everything. Then you need to look into your local regulations, like I mentioned earlier, not only for your business, but also health codes and tax requirements. But, then you get to do the fun thing and pick your business name.

Cause then you can get your liability insurance and set up the type of business entity like we talked about before, an LLC or whatever you want to do. So from that, based on what food you love to cook and what services you want to do, figure out who is going to be most likely to want and be willing to pay for Is it going to be families because you’re in the suburbs?

Is it going to be seniors because you want to work with a affluent senior community by you? It could be a million different things. Decide for you. Then make a plan how you’re going to get in front of these people, whether that’s going to be online or in real life or both. And then all you have to [00:26:00] do is meet people, tell them about your services, and make an offer to them.

Now I know from just going through that, you might be the most concerned about getting clients, and that is a very, very simple description of what you need to do. Frequently, it’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we get into a lot of mind drama about actually doing it when it gets to that part.

So if you want to look, dive deeper into getting clients, you can look through that on my YouTube channel too. I have a ton of videos that get more into specifics on that. So being a personal chef can be extremely rewarding. If you love to cook, if you are passionate about it and think there’d be nothing better for you than being able to get paid to do it on your own terms, this might be the perfect fit for you.

It is a fantastic financial opportunity, [00:27:00] extremely low startup costs and high profit margins. No. kitchen lease, no inventory to keep, no staff payroll to have to handle. So if you have the drive to be a culinary entrepreneur and a strong work ethic, if you’re ready to embark on your personal chef journey, the clients are out there and they’re hungry for what you’re cooking.

If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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