Everything you want to know about how to become a Personal Chef: income, education, typical week etc.

Discover if being a Personal Chef is right for you.

Overview

What is a Personal Chef?

The easiest way to describe a Personal Chef is to compare it to being a Private Chef.

Private Chefs are employees and work full time for one family, cooking and serving.

Personal Chefs are more like contractors. We cook for multiple families or clients and get paid per cook day or job. The food is left packaged and labeled in the fridge or freezer for them to eat at their convenience.

So you might say that Private Chefs are onsite and at their client’s beck and call. Personal Chefs have more control over their work time.

Personal Chef Job Description

They prepare meals for people. Period.

That’s basically the job description of a personal chef.

It doesn’t matter if they’re individuals, families, or even sometimes other clients like businesses. If they eat, we can cook for them.

We don’t work in commercial kitchens. We work in the client’s home or business or venue the event will be at.

Sure, you’ll come across someone who’s working out of a commercial kitchen, but at that point they are more of a caterer or meal delivery service.

There are many services that Personal Chefs can offer but the most common are:

  • Preparing a week’s worth of dinners for a family. You can get your free guide on how to cook personal chef services here. This is the foundation of a Personal Chef’s business.
  • Also, most do catering for their clients. This can be anything like dinner parties, brunches, etc.
  • Finally, most also teach cooking classes and/or do cooking demonstrations.

There are many other services you might offer, but those are the ‘big three’.

For more about services to offer, here is a short video (<20 minutes) describing the top 3 service PLUS nine others, like developing meal plans and providing kitchen organization, that are popular with successful personal chefs.

Personal Chef Work Is Mental

There is a lot of work and organization around compiling and maintaining your recipe collection, learning and managing clients’ special diets, and improving your cooking knowledge. Some clients eat the same things all the time. Some clients want different things every single time.

I’ve had a client for about 10 years that gets the same two soups every single week. And generally the other entrees are also things they’ve had over and over.

You might think that’s boring, but they know what they like. I’ve had clients pay me to make sandwiches. I’ve had clients pay for me to make dishes following the ‘raw diet’.

That’s right, they paid me NOT to cook. As long as they’re happy that’s all that matters.

You don’t necessarily need to manage what your clients want to eat, and definitely don’t argue with them, unless they’re doing something that’s unsafe like keeping the food too long.

One thing you will need to do is manage clients’ kitchens, packaging, and your own equipment.

Another is you need to know or learn where the best places to shop for groceries are and shop efficiently. Multiple grocery store trips are a reality of Personal Chef life. You can learn some insider tips for the grocery store in my free guide here.

Finally, you need manage all aspects of your business from day to day bookkeeping, filing taxes and other business requirements, to marketing which can include networking, maintaining your website, social media, business cards etc.

Personal Chef Work Is Physical

There can be a lot of crap to haul, depending on how efficient you pack. And of course you need to stand for hours and cook. You need to clean the kitchen afterwards.

personal chef carrying groceries for client

Company Size and Coworkers

You are a solopreneur as they say when you a one woman show. Of course you can always hire part-time support like a bookkeeper, accountant, attorney, marketing support, kitchen cleaning help, staff for catering etc.

Other people who I consider support staff are any vendors I buy from. This is everyone from the grocery store manager, butcher, seafood manager, produce manager, venue staff, etc.

The more you build relationships with these people the smoother your job will be and the better your client’s experience with you will be.

What Does A Personal Chef Do In An Average Week?

You will talk to upcoming clients for the week and get their menu selections. Then you pull the recipes and do the labels, grocery list, invoice, and any other paperwork needed.

On each client’s cook day, you load any equipment you need, do the grocery shopping for what you’ll be cooking, go the client’s home and cook their menu. Cool, package and store their food however they would like it. Clean up and get paid.

At the end of each day, or however you want to do it, you’d make your deposit and then enter your expenses and deposit into however you’re keeping your accounting.

Some days you field phone calls and emails from prospective clients. You meet with them to discuss their needs and your services, and then schedule their cook days.

Where Does A Personal Chef Work?

You can work anywhere from the client’s home, to an onsite location.

You’d do your paperwork in your home office. Even if that’s the kitchen table.

Job Satisfaction

According to PayScale, job satisfaction for Personal Chefs is surveyed as a 5 out of 5! A perfect score.

Of course it is!

happy personal chef

First, you’re doing the thing you’re most passionate about, cooking.

And second, people are paying you for it. Paying you well.

And of course I’m biased! I work when I want, for whom I want, take time off when I want, and I spend all the time I want with my husband and kids.

You can read more about how I became a Personal Chef here.

How To Become A Personal Chef

Requirements

In order to be above board, and run your business as a business and not some half assed cookery, you need to look into requirements for where you live. To protect yourself, you’ll want to look into three things:

  1. Setup an LLC, or other entity, for your business
  2. Get liability insurance
  3. Check into whether you need a business license and/or a sales tax license. Different states, counties, and cities have different requirements.

Education Needed

There is no required education to be a Personal Chef.

You don’t need a degree in culinary arts. Or even have any culinary school education. You don’t even need a business or other degree.

But, you should get some basic training in any areas you’re lacking. If you can’t balance your checkbook you need to either learn how to or hire an accountant to manage your books.

What training do Personal Chefs need?

There is no special or required training to become a Personal Chef.

There are things that are recommended like ServSafe food handling training so you can assure clients you know proper food safety.

What skills does a Personal Chef need?

You need to be able to cook well.

Period.

personal chef Cooking for client

It doesn’t matter if you went to culinary school or not.

It doesn’t matter if you worked in restaurants for a million years.

And it doesn’t matter if your passion is gourmet, or comfort food, or vegan, keto, gluten-free, Mexican, Vietnamese, or anything else. There are clients who want what you have to offer.

BUT you have to be able to cook it well.

You do not need to go to culinary school or have restaurant experience.

Will that experience help? Sure, maybe, but there are plenty of successful Personal Chefs without either.

What skills besides cooking do I need?

Being a Personal Chef is a one-woman show. You need to be able to run your business in addition to being a great cook. You will be marketing for clients, doing your book keeping, and a million other things that small business owners have to do.

What equipment do I need?

Cooking equipment can vary wildly from client to client. Some may be foodies and have a gorgeous kitchen full of everything you could ever dream of.

And some don’t even have a spatula.

You need to have everything you will need, to cook whatever you’re cooking that day. So check the client’s kitchen when you’re first hired, and then bring what you need.

And you know how it is when you’re in to cooking. If you’re like me you have way more than you should, including appliances you rarely if ever use! Chocolate tempering machine anyone???

personal chef setting table

How much can you make as a Personal Chef?

Speaking of making good money, let’s talk about how much you can make as a Personal Chef.

First, the 2020 Personal Chef Income Report of 60 Personal Chefs across the country shows a range from $225 to $620 per day, with the average being $332 and median being $350. You can get your free copy of the Personal Chef Income Report here.

This is for regular cooking services, not for special catering which can be much more.

Second, this is consistent with the American Private and Personal Chef Associations findings.

Finally, LinkedIn’s survey of Personal Chefs found an average of $55,000 annually.

Personal Chef Salary

To be clear, Personal Chefs are not salaried.

We are more like contractors. We get paid per job or cook day.

But if you were to work 50 weeks a year, so two weeks off for vacation, making the average daily rate of $332, that would be $83,000 per year.

Income

That being said, the majority of Personal Chefs work part-time not full-time.

According to the Canadian Personal Chef Association, on average their Personal Chefs work three to four days a week, take multiple vacations a year, and end up earning between $35000 and $45000.

Not bad for part time work! I know if I worked at my kids’ school as a receptionist full time, it would be more hours and I’d make about $26000 a year for full-time.

How much can you really make as a Personal Chef?

Your income as a Personal Chef will be determined by how much you WANT to work, and then how much time and effort you dedicate to being awesome and getting and keeping clients.

The other biggest factors are where you live and, to be honest, how good you are.

Personal Chefs in New York and San Francisco make more than Personal Chefs in small midwestern towns. That’s just the way it is.

Does that mean you can’t be successful as a Personal Chef if you live in a small town, or rural area, or the suburbs?

Not At. All.

Just like high-end urban Personal Chefs, you need to determine your income and work goals, find your niche, and market well to your ideal client.

More experienced Personal Chefs have recommendations, testimonials, and generally better cooking skills. They also can be more professional and confident which goes a long way with clients.

That being said, you can be extremely competent and confident as a new Personal Chef. You need to own it!

To find out how much Personal Chefs are charging in your area, you can get your free copy of the Personal Chef Income Report here.

Job Listings

Becoming a Personal Chef and starting your own business is really how it works.

There are a few places that list Personal Chef “jobs”. You’ll need to be sure that it’s actually for a Personal Chef and not a Private Chef, or even a restaurant or cafeteria chef.

These are not the best places to find clients.

It’s best to do your own marketing.

That being said, you can check out

Zip Recruiter – https://www.ziprecruiter.com

Glass Door – https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm

There is also Thumbtack https://www.thumbtack.com although I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews. Some Personal Chefs love it and find great clients. Some think that it’s full of cheap-ass bargain hunters. So that really depends on your area and what your personal cooking niche is.

Even https://www.craigslist.com can be a place to list your services, it just depends again on your clientele and how you want to present yourself.

How To Start A Personal Chef Business

Starting your personal chef business is like starting any small business.

You will want to develop your business plan as you research the following:

  • Decide on your cooking niche, the services you want to offer, your business name, and your pricing.
  • Create your recipe library and menus. Purchase any necessary equipment needed.
  • Determine local regulations for business and health codes, tax requirements, insurance, and what type of business organization you want to have (i.e. LLC etc).
  • Develop your ideal client profile based on your target market for your niche and create a marketing plan and materials.
  • Use your marketing plan to get clients.
  • Refine your processes and systems as needed.

Personal Chef Advice

Don’t try to cook everything to please everyone. When I started out in 2002 the market was flooded with fad diet books, “The Zone, Fat-flush Diet, Atkins, Southbeach, yada, yada. I was asked to and stupidly read and cooked from everyone of them. It was futile. Now the fads are Paleo, Gluten-free, Blood-type Diet, etc. Don’t get trapped. Find a niche market and stick to it. Kosher, Diabetic, Vegan, home-medical recovery e.g. Chemo Patients….. whatever the needs are in your area that no one else is addressing. My niche market happens to be affluent seniors. The average age of my clients is 76. My oldest and longest clients are 92 & 94 and I’ve been cooking for them for 9 years, catered their anniversary and 90th birthdays.

personal chef LynnChef Lynn Linde, Big Red Chef LLC Personal Chef Service ~ www.BigRedChef.com ~ La Cruces, New Mexico, US

I will say that although we are cooks, running our own business requires us to also be marketers, salespeople, customer service, bookkeepers, graphic designers, website builders, and whatever else has to get done. Sharing info helps to position yourself as an expert, once people view you as such then you can offer solutions to their needs. Don’t give up, you’ll get there. ~ www.TaylorDForTaste.com ~ Caledon, Ontario, Canada

personal chef jasonChef Jason Taylor, Taylor'd For Taste Personal Chef Service

Conclusion

In conclusion, being a Personal Chef can be an extremely rewarding career both personally and financially if you have a passion for cooking and a good work ethic.

Still have questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

How To Cook A Personal Chef Service

Get paid to do what you love without spending tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life on culinary school.

In this guide you’ll get:

  • Discover the personal chef service you can provide for paying clients, that keeps your nights and weekends for you.
  • Step by step plan that will have people loving your cooking and keep them coming back for more.
  • Techniques that Personal Chefs use when getting paid to cook, that amateur cooks don’t know about.
  • What you must do to get great quality ingredients and better service at the grocery store.
  • Exactly how to plan, shop, and cook efficiently to maximize your profit.
  • Don’t miss the PRO TIP on page 7 for the easiest way to get free marketing for your personal chef business.

Download the guide to learn how to cook a personal chef service so you can get paid to do what you love.