March 1, 2023

How to Become a Successful Personal Chef

How to Become a Successful Personal Chef

I started Chefs Without Restaurants to help other people grow their food businesses. Because I’ve been working as a personal chef for 11 years now, I have a lot of firsthand knowledge about what you can do to grow a personal chef business.

I was recently interviewed by meez for their blog about some do’s and don’ts of the personal chef business. If you’re not familiar with meez , they’re an online tool that lets you digitize all of your recipes and keep them in one place. You can easily scale the recipes up and down, cost them out, and even share them with your team or customers. Meez founder Josh Sharkey was on my podcast last year.

As much as I love doing the long-form interview podcast episodes, I think that there’s a lot of value in the short and punchy, informative episodes. This week I’m going to share what I consider the do’s and don’ts of being a successful, personal chef. In just a couple of minutes, I’ll be able to tell you some of the things that worked really well for me, and some things that I think you should avoid.

How to Be a Successful Personal Chef - Blog post on meez
meez founder Josh Sharkey on the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast
Grow Your Personal Chef Business with AirBnB - Podcast episode
Check out meez


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Chris Spear:

Welcome to Chefs Without Restaurants. I'm your host Chris spear. On the show, I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. As many of you know, I started Chefs Without Restaurants to help people grow their food businesses. Because I've been working as a personal chef for 11 years now, I have a lot of first hand knowledge about what you can do to grow a personal chef business. I was recently interviewed by meez for their blog about some do's and don'ts of the personal chef business. If you're not familiar with meez, they're an online tool that lets you digitize all of your recipes and keep them in one place. You can easily scale the recipes up and down, cost them out and even share them with your team or customers. Meez founder Josh Sharkey was on the podcast last year, and at the end of the episode, you're gonna learn more about mes. As much as I love doing the long form podcast episodes, I think there's a lot of value in doing the short and punchy, informative episodes. This week, I'm going to share what I consider the do's and don'ts of being a successful personal chef. In just a couple of minutes, I'll be able to tell you some of the things that worked really well for me and some of the things I think maybe you should avoid. I'd love your feedback on this episode. Did you find it informative? What did I miss? What other questions do you have? Hit me up on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at chefs without But I'm getting ahead of myself, because you haven't even heard that episode yet. So let's get into that. I started my personal chef business perfect little bites 11 years ago with the goal of bringing the fine dining experience into the customer's home. I bring everything with me China linens, cooking equipment, and cook the food on site, oftentimes doing culinary instruction as I go. In a lot of ways. I'm an entertainer. It took me several years to figure out my process and build up momentum enough to become a personal chef full time. I found my footing and have even built this community of like minded industry experts and culinary entrepreneurs, from costing to scaling and planning. As you can imagine, being a successful personal chef has a lot of challenges. People are always asking me for some tips on how to start a personal chef business. So here's a few things I recommend as you start your journey. Practice with friends and family. To become a personal chef, the first thing you need to do is get out there and practice. Cooking in your home or at a restaurant is so different from cooking in other people's houses. Find a neighbor, a relative or someone who has an anniversary or birthday and just offer to cook for them. You can do it at cost, maybe even make a profit. But just get out there and try it. It could be as simple as a two course dinner to see what it's like to take all of your stuff into someone's house and cook on a stove you're unfamiliar with. You also need to understand how you cook with people talking to you and watching. Not everyone has worked in open kitchens and a lot of us don't have any experience interacting with customers while we're cooking. You have to be able to deal with whatever comes your way. Whether that's a dog or a kid running through the kitchen, having five things cooking at once, for people asking you a whole bunch of questions. You can't just think I'm a chef, I make food and it'll go fine cooking in someone's house. Don't focus only on the food. As a personal chef, you've been hired for more than just your food. You need to think about what that experience is going to look like overall. For a lot of chefs, this is really hard to accept. You have to let go of some of your ego to be successful. When I was starting out, I told myself I wouldn't make some things like chicken parm, I don't know why I'm always dunking on chicken parm, but, you know, it's a good dish, but seems a little mundane to me. But if it's a client's favorite dish, why should my personal bias get in the way, your chef and you can do a great job of it. Why not make the best chicken parmesan they've ever had asked for reviews early on. Once you start booking clients reviews are super important. A lot of my customers today tell me that they went to Google and pick me because I'm the top reviewed chef in the area. People love social proof. When a potential client reads about the positive experience you provide, they want to experience it too. Because only about 25% of people actually write up reviews. Make sure you ask everyone you can as early as you can. This is especially important when you're doing those trial dinners, have your friends and family write reviews, not fake ones, but that's why you should be cooking for them. Get them to write a review make that part of the deal, especially if you're going to be cooking for free for them. I pride myself on the fact that I have exclusively five star reviews on every platform, Google Yelp, Facebook, it can feel like a lot to repeatedly ask for reviews. But being persistent can help your business grow significantly. Make it easy for the customer by sending a thank you email with links to where they can leave that review. Don't underestimate the power of a network. A lot of personal chefs come from big operations where you have a lot of people to bounce ideas off of and work with. When you start your own business, especially a personal chef business, you often don't have anyone. Most of us are a small team, if not just one person. Since we're doing everything, including business development, having a stream of referrals can really help out if you're booked on a Friday night but Someone wants to hire you on that same day, it's great to have another chef you can recommend. Not only will your prospect be grateful, but your refer might pay it forward later on. This has been huge. For me. Being a personal chef is much easier if you have people to lean on who know what you're going through. Even a network of just four chefs in your local community can be a huge help. You're not only sharing job opportunities, but resources, advice, best practices. I think you know this, but it's why I started Chefs Without Restaurants in the first place. Work with vacation rentals. I did a whole podcast on this and I've talked about it over and over. But I would say it's one of the biggest business drivers for me. Working with vacation rentals, like Airbnb has been huge. It probably accounts for about 80% of my business these days. Reach out to the owners and operators of vacation rentals, not Airbnb directly, and ask them if they'll pass on your contact info to upcoming guests. So make it easier for these owners and operators and put together a media kit, you know, like maybe a PDF that they can share as part of the welcome package. And this podcast episode that I did. I'll link it in the show notes so you can listen to it. Don't rely solely on a recipe journal or binder. This is where mes comes in. As a personal chef, it just makes sense for your recipes to live in a digital format. You're always somewhere new and can't risk leaving a notebook or binder at home. I find mes to be the most dependable professional recipe tool out there. Being able to take my recipes in my pocket everywhere I go has been huge. So here are four ways I use maize as a personal chef. Number one sharing, some clients asked me to send them recipes. This is easy to do with me's I can just pull up the recipe on my phone, type in their email and share a link with them instantly. This is also really helpful when I'm planning a cooking lesson at a client's home or working with freelancers. Instead of printing out recipe packets for everyone, I can just email them Amis recipe. Number two scaling means comes in really handy when you have to create a recipe for an odd number of guests. All you have to do is put in how many people you're cooking for, and it scales the recipe exactly. That means I can leave a house with little to no food waste, whether I'm cooking for five or 25 people. Number three organization. As a personal chef, you're at someone else's house, not a commercial kitchen or your own place. Previously, I'd bring a little manila folder with all these paper recipes. Keeping them organized was hard Plus, they often weren't scaled or converted. Now I can just bring a tablet or my iPhone, pull up the recipe and me's and get started. And number four is search. As personal chefs our menus change every day and sometimes you make a dish prep too much and have to use an ingredient by the next day or two. For example, I do an apple fennel, celery salad and almost always have shredded fennel leftover with me, all I have to do is type phenol into the tool and it'll pull up all the recipes with fennel listed as an ingredient. It's a great way to create specials. And a quick tip if you're an iPhone user with the latest iPhone update. Recipe importing is even easier. All you have to do is take a photo of your recipe, click on the recipe text and copy and paste to enemies. Those recipes can be imported in minutes without any real manual labor required. Being a personal chefs an extremely rewarding career choice if you have a passion for cooking and entertaining. Like I mentioned before dipping your toes in is a good first step. Cook for friends, family or people you know to get a feel for this experience. I hope this episode was helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments you have. And if you want to check out me's for yourself. Go to get me's dot com forward slash CW er, that's forward slash CW our thanks so much for listening, and I hope you have a great week. Go to chefs without To find our Facebook group, mailing list and shift database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.