Published November 12, 2020 – Updated June 13, 2024

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.

Private Chefs are employees, work regularly scheduled hours, are onsite full-time, and at their client’s beck and call.

Personal Chefs have more control over their work time. You decide how much and when you want to work.

Job Description for a Personal Chef

Personal Chefs 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. Most personal chefs cook in the client’s home, business, or venue the event will be at.

There are some states/counties/cities that are licensing home kitchens for business use. This will revolutionize the personal chef industry and make it even better.

To check if your area is licensing home kitchens, follow the progress, and support the movement, check out Cook Alliance.

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.

What does a Personal Chef do?

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

Preparing A Week’s Worth Of Dinners

This is the foundation of a Personal Chef’s business. It’s referred to as ‘personal chef services’ or more commonly now as ‘meal prep services’. The client chooses what they want to eat for the week, the personal chef shops, prepares the food, packages it up, puts it in the clients fridge, cleans, and gets paid.

Small Catering

Most Personal Chefs do small catering for clients. This can be anything like:

  • Romantic dinners for 2
  • Seated dinner parties
  • Small event buffet catering
  • Party trays/appetizer spread/grazing table
  • Corporate lunches/club meeting
  • Brunch as for a bridal shower
  • Cocktail party with passed hors d’oeuvres
  • Holiday parties with special menus

Cooking Classes and Demonstrations

Some personal chefs teach cooking lessons to individuals. These can be on basic cooking skills, a specific food style, technique, or many other things. This can be done in person or online.

There are cooking lessons to a group where you are in front leading a cooking demonstration. At the end the audience might enjoy the food prepared. This can also be done in person or online.

Then there are group cooking lessons where you are managing multiple people to prepare a menu that they then enjoy together. This is done in person.

Other Services Personal Chefs Offer

There are many other services you might offer like 30 day Whole 30 service, kitchen setup or organization, meal planning, recipe development, or even selling products from home under local Cottage Laws.

The ‘big three’ Weekly Meal Prep Services, Small Catering, and Cooking Lessons are by far the most popular and profitable for a Personal Chef.

Physical Personal Chef Work

There can be heavy lifting and a lot of crap to haul, depending on how efficient you pack.

You will need to stand for hours and cook. Then you need to clean the kitchen.

For a new Personal Chef you can expect this to take 6-8 hours. For experienced Personal Chefs it can be closer to 4.

personal chef carrying groceries for client

Mental Personal Chef Work

As an entrepreneur with your own business, there is a lot of paperwork and organization to be done. When you are starting you need to:

  • Compile your recipe collection
  • Decide your services and pricing
  • Set up your business entity and checking account
  • Get liability insurance
  • Create marketing materials
  • Create business forms
  • Get clients

When your business is up and running, there will be ongoing work:

  • responding to inquiries
  • running a waitlist when you’re fully booked
  • Providing entree lists or menus to clients
  • Pulling recipes and making grocery lists
  • Preparing invoices and labels if needed
  • Bookkeeping and taxes
  • Ongoing marketing to get clients

Company Size and Coworkers

You are a ‘solopreneur’ as they say when you are a one person show.

You may hire part-time support like a bookkeeper, accountant, attorney, marketing support, kitchen cleaning help, staff for catering etc. but again, having a personal chef business is not having a commercial kitchen with a lease, inventory, staff on payroll etc.

Other people whom you may consider support staff are any vendors you buy from. This is everyone from the grocery store manager, butcher, seafood manager, produce manager, venue staff, rental company if you’re doing catering 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?

For personal chef services, also known as weekly meal prep services, you talk to clients who have a service coming up 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 equipment you need, do the grocery shopping for what you’ll be cooking, go to 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 your bookkeeping system.

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.

When you’re just starting out you will spend a lot more time marketing to get clients than cooking. Then there will be a balance of both.

Finally, when you’re fully booked, you can run a wait list and spend all your time cooking instead of working to get new clients.

Where Does A Personal Chef Work?

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

If you’re in an area with MEHKOs (Micro Enterprise Home Kitchen Operation) where they are licensing home kitchens, you may work out of your own kitchen.

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

Career and Job Satisfaction

According to Career Explorer who has surveyed personal chefs, satisfaction is rated Above Average, in the top 25% of all careers.

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 family and friends.

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

How To Become A Personal Chef

Education Needed

There is no required education to be a Personal Chef.

You don’t need a degree or certification in culinary arts or cooking. You can be successful as a self taught cook.

You do need to be a great, confident cook. You should work on improving and/or get some basic training in any areas you’re lacking if you need it.

You don’t need a business or marketing degree.

You do need to know or learn things like basic bookkeeping or hire someone to manage your books. You will need to learn some marketing to get clients if you don’t already have people ready to hire you.

What training do Personal Chefs need?

There is no special or required training to become a Personal Chef. Being any type of chef is not a regulated profession like being a medical doctor, attorney at law, or therapist. That’s why there are ‘self taught’ chefs.

There are things that are recommended like food safety training so you are providing professional service to paying clients..

What skills does a Personal Chef need?

You need to be able to cook well.

Period.

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. Being any type of chef is not a regulated profession like being a medical doctor, attorney at law, or therapist. That’s why there are ‘self taught’ chefs.

There are things that are recommended like food safety training so you are providing professional service to paying clients..

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? Maybe, but there are plenty of successful Personal Chefs without it.

What skills besides cooking do I need?

Being a Personal Chef is a one person 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 bookkeeping, and a million other things that small business owners have to do.

What equipment do I need to be a personal chef?

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 into 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 money 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.

How much do personal chef services cost?

For someone doing personal chef services, also known as weekly meal prep services, we researched pricing from over 60 personal chefs across the United States. For service fee only (not including the cost of groceries) for one cook day there is a range from $225 to over $600. The median is $350. You can get a copy of the Personal Chef Pricing Report here.

This is consistent with the American Private and Personal Chef Associations findings.

How much do personal chefs charge for catering?

Catering pricing is completely different. For information on pricing catering services, check out this post.

Personal Chef Salary

To be clear, Personal Chefs are not salaried.

They are more like contractors. They get paid per cook day or event.

Income for Personal Chefs

If a personal chef is only doing weekly meal prep and is working 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, two weeks off for vacation, making the average daily rate of $332, that would be $83,000 per year.

Most personal chefs do not work 5 days a week and make less per year. They 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 a full-time job.

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 getting clients, providing outstanding service, 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.

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 specialty and most likely client base, 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!

Personal Chef 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 like Zip Recruiter.

You’ll need to be sure that the job position is actually for a Personal Chef and not a Private Chef, or even a restaurant or cafeteria chef.

There are also companies that hire personal chefs to work for them like Friend That Cooks and Chefs For Seniors. They handle all the marketing and send you out to the clients.

These companies hire you to work for them on an hourly basis, part-time or full-time, and some include benefits. These are not the places to find clients if you have your own personal chef business.

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 specialty, the services you want to offer, and your pricing.
  • 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).
  • Create your recipe collection and menus.
  • Purchase any necessary equipment needed.
  • Develop your ideal client profile based on your target market for your specialty.
  • Create a marketing plan and materials to get clients.
  • Refine your processes and systems as needed.

Advice For Becoming A Personal Chef

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 Do Weekly Meal Prep

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.
How To Do Weekly Meal Prep Services

Download the guide to learn how to do weekly meal prep for paying clients so you can get paid to do what you love.

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