How to Become a Personal or Private Chef

Opening any kind of location-based business requires spending money to set up a kitchen and/or dining area, hiring staff, handling administration, paying rent and utilities and meeting other expenses. You can avoid these expenses by using your culinary skills to become a personal or private chef. The major advantage of private cooking is that you have fewer overhead expenses because you prepare meals in your clients’ kitchens. Unless you work for a company, you don’t need to get health department approval of the kitchens, and being a personal chef means that you can get paid in advance to buy ingredients and use the customers’ kitchens and dining accoutrements to save on initial investment costs.

Duties of a Personal or Private Chef

Private chefs typically work for one client while personal chefs might prepare meals for many clients. Duties might include some of the following responsibilities:

  • Private chefs might live-in or live-out.
  • Both types of chefs might prepare daily, weekly or monthly menus.
  • Personal chefs often prepare several days of meals that clients can reheat.
  • You might be called on to plan and execute special dinners and events.
  • Private chefs might supervise other kitchen and household staff or bear other household responsibilities.
  • Both personal and chefs bear responsibility for cleaning up kitchens after they have finished cooking.
  • Duties include menu planning, buying food, keeping track of household inventories and maintaining proper hygiene, sanitation and food safety.

Personal and Private Chefs’ Education and Training

You can become either a private or personal chef without getting a culinary degree, but most clients prefer to hire people with demonstrated skills, culinary degrees and restaurant experience.

  1. Pursuing a degree program that provides hands-on training will help you gain experience in preparing various styles of cuisine.
  2. Private customers often have special dietary needs or preferences that a sound culinary education can teach you to handle.
  3. Private and personal chefs seldom succeed without culinary training and years of experience.

Certifications Help to Attract Clients

You will need to obtain a food and safety certificate in most states to get a business license, and personal and private chefs can’t deliver prepared foods from home but must cook everything in the clients’ kitchens.

  • The American Culinary Federation offers a Personal Certified Chef certificate.
  • Requisites for ACF certification include minimum educational requirements, 150 hours of postsecondary education and three 3-hour courses in nutrition, food safety and sanitation.
  • Other culinary organizations offer specialized certifications in healthy cooking, special diets and other cooking techniques.
  • ServSafe certifications are among the most accepted food safety certifications, and you can find classes in most cities.

Salaries for Personal and Private Chefs

In major metropolitan areas, private chefs earn between $40,000 and $80,000 annually, and these professionals often become de facto members of their clients’ families. Personal chefs seldom develop these deep personal ties, but people who understand business can earn extraordinary incomes based on how many hours they work, type of clients and culinary skills. People who are in business for themselves earn widely varying incomes based on location, years of experience, job duties and specialization.

Personal and Private Chefs Attract Attention

Successful personal and private chefs attract attention from CEOs, wealthy families and local media, so you could start your own cooking classes or television show or find more lucrative clients when your cooking attracts the right kind of notoriety. Of course, working alone in a private home requires having a full complement of kitchen skills and problem-solving abilities. Your working conditions could change daily from cooking for one person to feeding a small army, so versatility and flexibility are key qualities you should have. If you have an independent and entrepreneurial spirit, then pursuing a career as a private of personal chef could be a great choice.