Flavors Magazine, Fall 2004
Getting Personal: Is There a Chef In Your Kitchen?
by Donna Brousseau (edited for length)
It’s 6:00 p.m. and everyone’s grumbling, “What’s for dinner?” Exhausted from a day’s work, you crank open the refrigerator and are met by the woeful display of nothing edible in sight. Now what do you do?
Entrepreneur Magazine recently rated personal chef as number four on its list of the top growth professions for good reason: people are turning to a professional to quell their daily dining dilemmas… A personal chef… brings his/her own cooking equipment and groceries to his/her client’s home, takes over the kitchen for a few hours, and then removes all traces of his/her presence – other than the scrumptious gourmet meals that are magically left behind – usually one or two week’s worth.
Who’s Hiring Personal Chefs?
Valerie Boyd, art director at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, has been a personal chef client for about a year. She says, “Nothing beats coming home to a sparkling kitchen with the heady aroma of dinner simmering on the stove. A load has been taken off my mind. I now have the time to deal with work and to live my life; the only hard part was deciding which delicious meals to try first.”
Who’s Becoming a Personal Chef?
After 13 years, it wasn’t just the low pay or the crazy hours that drove Chef Brett Eanes out of the restaurant business, it was the lack of client contact and creative freedom. Five years ago, Eanes, a graduate of the California Instituite of Culinary Arts, left a prestigious career cooking for the Academy Awards under Wolfgang Puck and headed to Atlanta to pursue being a personal chef. Unpacking his knives, he found a home with Big City Chefs, a nationwide (company) employing professionally trained chefs to provide top quality meals to (its) clients… …Eanes says, “I have found the perfect match. I now have creative freedom, flexibility and the time to build relationships with my clients…”
What Does a Personal Chef Do?
To learn more about a personal chef’s job, I arranged to spend the day cooking with a personal chef. Agreeing to meet at the local supermarket, I easily spotted the chef in her crisp chef’s coat rummaging through a pile of heirloom tomatoes. Love chicken? Hate fish? Giving Atkins a go? No problem. Before they hit the market, personal chefs interview their clients in order to develop menus based on their clients’ likes, dislikes, dietary restrictions and food allergies.
After loading up on the required ingredients, we headed off to the client’s kitchen. We let ourselves in (many clients provide a key so the chef can cook while they are away), set up our stations, split up the recipes and buckled down to work. With delicious armoas wafting through the air, it wasn’t long before the owners two dogs and cat made a beeline for the kitchen in search of the source.
Six hours later, we were surrounded by an array of mouthwatering dishes… After cooling and vacuum-packing the dishes in portion-sized packets, we labeled the contents and organized them neatly in the freezer before erasing any evidence of our presence. As I walked out the door, I took a final look at the clean kitchen and started panicking, “What was I goin to feed my own family?” I realized then – I need my own personal chef!
What Does it Cost?
Personal chefs don’t cost as much as you might think. Fees can be based on a standard contract fee… …or based on the type of meals. Fees generally (begin at $325) for 20 indvididual meals suited to your dietary needs and tastes. If you take into account the menu planning time, grocery shopping, preparation and cleaning, you may have found yourself a real bargain.