WanaBe a ChefTraditional Restaurant Chef VS. Personal Chef Careers

The Old WanaBe a Chef Forum

Looking for a Culinary Arts Program?

If you live near any of the programs listed below(or are interested in living these areas while in school)click on the link to get free, no obligation information on the programs.

All the Best,

Atlantic Culinary Academy (NH)
California Culinary Academy
International Culinary Academy (PA)
The Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago
Western Culinary Institute (OR)
California School of Culinary Arts, Pasadena, CA
Texas Culinary Academy, Austin, TX

WebFoodPros.com: WanaBe a Chef: Traditional Restaurant Chef VS. Personal Chef Careers
By Swalters (Swalters) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 02:59 pm: Edit

Greetings all. I want to pursue a culinary career (I finally figure this out after 12 years of bouncing around). I have been working in the industry for about a year but I find that there are almost no restaurants with chefs in my area (or at least a 60 mile radius) "Relocating" is not a word in my wife's vocabulary apparently. Then I hear about Personal Chefs. Would I be better off commuting an hour each way to a restaurant or trying to start a PC business? Is PCing a viable career or just a way for some "associations" to sell me some bunk info? (No offense to you PC's out there but I need to know) Another question...Will the ACF recognize any work as a PC in certification? Thanks for any input... ;-P

By George (George) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 03:04 pm: Edit

If there are no Restaurants with Chefs within 60 miles of you there is probably not enough of a potential client base to support a PC business, even in the best case scenario, within that same distance.

By Swalters (Swalters) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 03:24 pm: Edit

That thought had crossed my mind but there are actually quite a few upper and upper middle class income folks in my area (Sulphur, OK and surrounding areas). Actually what I said was "almost no" restaurants I have found a golf club and a lake resort run by the state that have a chef withing 30 miles but the one wasn't hiring and the other was looking for a chef! So far all I have been able to get is a job in a family restaurant with no chef...*sigh* My main concern is not the money but the OJT in this early stage of my career.

By George (George) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 05:38 pm: Edit

2 things-
1- It takes a lot of folks to create a market for a PC business and it still sounds like that isn't your situation.

2- More importantly being a by PC all the cooking you learn is how to cook meals that will be frozen and reheated in a home.
It will give you nothing towards your career in a professional kitchen enviroment.

Sounds like you'll have to relocate for a while or consider alternate career plans.

By Swalters (Swalters) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 06:18 pm: Edit

Okay how about this then ;-)

Forget the location problem for now and say I moved to Dallas or Oklahoma City and asked the same question... a career in the Commercial Kitchen or as Personal Chef? I really do appreciate your comments so far George...


By George (George) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 07:02 pm: Edit

To be honest I don't have any first hand knowledge of weather you really can make a living being a PC. It sounds like a great gig but the realities seem tough.

How much do you have to earn to support your family? In any area with a high enough standard of living to support one, it seems expenses would be high. You would have to make at least 40K and if the wife doesn't work you would need more that that. Then you have to pay your own insurance, health insurance. So that takes you up another 15-20%. So now your at 46K, sounds good but after tax you have about 36K. (You have top pay your own FICA, and an accountant to do your books) Now figure in Car expenses, uniforms equipment advertising...

So if you worked 50 weeks a year you would have to at least $920 (EVERY WEEK) to make that 46K.

OK that's the easy part. So now how long would you have to work to develop a clientele? Remember you have to totally sell your self every time with every customer to keep them. You have to spend time and have capital to advertise and support yourself while you try to develop the business.

The above is as fuzzy as fuzzy math gets but I think you get the picture.

Sounds like it would be good for an exceptional few but a real low odds thing to bet on.

Just one guys opinion.

Anyone out there successful at it, (or not) tell us the inside story.

PS- Put in applications at the Chef/places near you and when you hear that place looking for a Chef finds one hit their doorstep.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 09:12 pm: Edit

George has given you the straight goods. If you work the numbers they just don't pan out.

You say youíre after the OJT. The only way you will learn from PCing is from your own mistakes and thatís a slow and expensive way to learn.

For ACF certification you need time working in the position you want to be certified in, it's more complicated than that but that's the idea. The only thing PCing would get you credit for is CC, Certified Culiniarian.

When you work for someone else, even if it's at a place that doesn't have a chef, you can look at it as being paid to learn. If youíre working at any job where you can make a daily soup you have a chance to learn. Go out and get some books, or better yet use the Amazon.com link in the frame to the left. Take what you read and transfer it to what youíre doing at work. Take the basics like what is sauté, roasting, how to make perfect scrambles eggs, what exactly is an omelet, how to make stock and get paid while doing it.

This is a good habit, many experienced people use slow times, boring jobs or even bad jobs to experiment and learn new techniques.


By Swalters (Swalters) on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 09:39 pm: Edit

Yes I agree and that is what I am doing now, I am currently slogging away at the criteria for ACF certification (just joined as a junior member recently). But doing it without a qualified chef is difficult. I have read On Cooking, Professional Cooking, Art and Science of Culinary Prep, etc. backwards and forwards but they don't give me the hands on kind of learning I need and the restaurant I work in doesn't give me that many opportunities to learn either.

I guess I was just getting anxious to learn (I have to be constantly moving forward to be happy) and thought PC'ing might be a way to go...A pay raise wouldn't hurt either.... ;p

In the end I will probably commute the hour to the city for a job in a chef restaurant.

By Normareni (Normareni) on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 11:32 am: Edit

I am a Personal Chef, and have been for three years. I have a good steady client base, and I work on my culinary skills just like any other chef in any environment. Each client I cook for is individual, and requires a lot of thought and work to make menu's that they will enjoy. Not everything PC's cook goes into the freezer. If you know how to cook, and have had any training at all, you can make a living being a Personal Chef. I serve many clients, so my income is not totally dependent on one person. I love what I do, and feel it was a great alternative for me as I didn't want to work nights and weekends.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 02:26 pm: Edit


That great that you can make a living as a PC. Having to working nights and weekends is one of the biggest gripes from chefs and cooks.

I'd be interested some specifics of your business. i.e. How do you charge your clients? Are the rates variable? What is the frequency of you client visits? How many clients can your serve in a day. What is the income range of your clientel. What kind of promotion do you do? What kind of promotion did you do to start?

I know that's a lot of questions but it would be so helpful. It's very hard to get any specific information from anyone in the PC side of the industry.


By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Wednesday, October 02, 2002 - 10:34 pm: Edit

Here in the Chicago area, there is a huge market for PCs, often working for just one (very rich) family. The other day I was talking to one of the career services people at CHIC, where I go. She placed a 25-year-old recent grad in a personal chef gig for a family in the northern suburbs. Duties: Making breakfast and packing lunches for the two kids; cooking dinners (according to the different family members' apparently very specific tastes), labeling them and putting them in the fridge for later reheating. That's Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Also, occasional work as a "flight attendant" on the family's jet, which has a kitchen with range and convection, and at the houses they rent while on vacation.

Salary: $100k.


By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 01:45 am: Edit

and they say money can't buy happyness.........

I'd want a French Chef, a Woman Chef.
one that looked like that, woman in that photo that Manny sent me.
Now, Now, Now....don't bunch up, she had clothes on, we are not pigs here.
she was in a wierd position, but I'm sure she had her reasons.lol.
ok, I need sleep now.

By George (George) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 07:47 am: Edit

I find it very hard to believe that anyone rich enough to have 100K to pay to a cook would be stupid enough to do it for a M-F 7-3 gig, let alone to a new grad.

Sounds like total BS to me.

What was the name of the career services person at CHIC?

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 11:14 am: Edit

Hey, George, looking for a job? LOL

I worked as a PC while in culinary school ($20.00 per hour 20 years ago), but when the mistress of the house told me to pull her dirty panties out from the bottom of the bedsheets (all 5 pairs of them) I quit. Didn't seem like kitchen work to me.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 11:52 am: Edit

Makes good stock L-cake!!!!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 07:09 pm: Edit


By George (George) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 07:30 pm: Edit


For that kind of $ and hours I'd commute from NY for the gig in a click.

I really wanna see what other 6 figure PC gigs this CHIC has available. LOL LOL LOL

I'd also like to talk to anyone that believes it's true, about how thay can make thousands a week from home with less that 20 hours of work a week, just send me 20 bucks and I'll give ya the secret.


By George (George) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 07:32 pm: Edit

The secret-

Find folks that believe they can make 100K a year as a 7-3 M-F PC and have them send ya $20 because the will believe anything. LOL LOL


By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 08:11 pm: Edit

I was up at Jim Carry's house, the actor.
He has a French chef that cooks all the meals and then wraps or stores them until needed.
The week I was there, he was not even making desert. I've heard that guys like him only make 500.00 per week. Thats here in LA. I don't know if that was his only gig.
Now I have also heard that chefs can make a lot more. When Stienfeld was on, the cast had their own chef. I know he was making BIG BUCKS, compared to us low lifes.
So,...there ya have it.
But, thats the movie biz and not private.
When I get my little french chef woman, I'll let ya know how much she cost's. For cooking mind you.

By Chefbmk (Chefbmk) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 12:15 pm: Edit

A few notes on working as a private chef.

There is a difference between a private chef and a personal chef. Personal chefs work for a clientel base of many different people, and drop by their house to prepare food and then store it for later use. Private chefs work for just one client. They prepare the meals hot and at the time they are served, and sometimes they live and travel with the client.

I've been a private chef for 3 years now, and I would never go back to regular restaurants. The hours are less, the stress much lower, and the creative freedom is higher. And as far as money goes, I may only make 48k a year, but since i live with them I get free rent, free food, all bills paid, and even get my gasoline paid for. Factoring that in, and the fact that I don't pay taxes on those things makes my take home pay equivilent to about 70k a year.

Of course, jobs like mine are very few and far between, and are hard as hell to get. You have to be very flexible with your lifestyle and willing to move thousands of miles away from friends and family. It's almost impossible to have a wife and kids while doing this sort of work. But all in all, I'd have to say it's worth it. Just my two cents worth =)

By Betty (Betty) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 10:46 pm: Edit

I'm looking into PC as a career change, formally marketing information technology and web site production for a living. I've been home with my two kids for the past 4 years and the thought of going back to 'office politics & keeping up with the technology' drives me nuts.

I need something that will accommodate school schedules and time for family - PC is looking like the perfect choice for me. I also live in an affluent area, lots of two family incomes.

I'm very interested in the questions that was posted before to Normareni about the PC industry. Is there a good piece of software out there that will help you plan your client's meals with defrost/re-heat directions?

I'm not yet prepared to start the PC business, there's much I need to learn.

I looked at the USPSA home-study program - anyone have experience with this program?

Thanks - Betty

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 11:16 am: Edit

I've got a friend who's working towards starting her own PC business. She joined APCA (www.personalchef.com) and she said it's been a very good move.

By Flattop (Flattop) on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 08:25 pm: Edit

I've looked at both USPCA and APCA. I'd go with the APCA. They set up PC Certification with the ACF. They seem much more user friendly than USPCA. IMHO a better organization.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 02:14 pm: Edit

How about the ASPCA? They are very good!!!!

By Betty (Betty) on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 03:25 pm: Edit

Can you please provide the URL to the ASPCA.

Thank you Chefmanny - I see from yoru profile you're in my home town of Miami! Enjoying the heat?

in Ohio

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 05:52 pm: Edit

Oh No!!!!!!!

By Flattop (Flattop) on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 06:13 pm: Edit


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 12:41 am: Edit

You're cruel dude! I like that!

By Flattop (Flattop) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 05:49 am: Edit

Me????? Nah...

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 11:16 pm: Edit

I wrote the ASPCA and asked for some good veal recipes. Never heard back from them. I don't understand it.

That was a very painful joke coming from a liberal, but I couldn't help it. Especially since I had osso buco for lunch.

- Steve

By Chg298 (Chg298) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 09:07 pm: Edit

For those thinking about a flexible/PC type business, take a look at www.dreamdinners.com. I wish I would have though of this. Clients pay $160 for 12 meals (each meal feeds 4-6.) The clients assemble the meals in their own dishes. The owner develops the recipes, buys the food, sets up stations. Dream Dinners is a little company that I think is interested in setting up franchises.

I am not related to them in any way. I am just jealous that they thought of it before I did.


By Kinglear (Kinglear) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 08:18 pm: Edit

Wait a minute...$160 for 12 meals that feed 4-6? That's a $3.34/person per meal---retail. That gives the operator of this business only $1.14 per person at a measly 66% profit margin. I have a hard time believing they are making any money.
Too much work for too little money.

By George (George) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 08:45 pm: Edit

This is very weird.

Read the site, basically the franchise is providing "stations" where the cusotmer can cook in their own pans and freeze food that the franchise has purchased and preped acording to their recipes.

Kind of like one of those mongolian wok places where you just cook your food and take it.

Might be good for a goof or cooking class kind of thing Who in their right mind would go for this as the regular way they prepared their meals?


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 09:28 am: Edit

Guess that's why they're trying to sell franchises, they don't make any money selling the product!

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Friday, August 01, 2003 - 01:51 am: Edit

"You arrive at the Dream Dinners kitchen at your scheduled time, select your station and begin (all your ingredients will be ready for you), assemble your dish and move to the next station - you should be done in just 2 hours!"

so i could pay someone for their recipes and cook it myself? I'm already doing that, but for free... and why the heck would I want to take all my pots/pans to some other place, dirty them up, clean them up, only to haul them back home and put them up. If this place stays in business, I sure don't know how.

By Dpherr (Dpherr) on Tuesday, December 07, 2004 - 12:16 am: Edit

I started working as a private chef here in New York City three months ago and I would never go back to any restaurant.

I spent three years after culinary school (French Culinary Institute) working GM, prep, and line in great restauants, and I learned a lot from a very good chef. But then I got laid off during a summer slowdown, and I found two private gigs that dovetail into a good situation. On Mondays, I work for a small family and prepare six dinners to be stored in the fridge for consumption later in the week. Then, Tuesday to Friday, I work for a family of six to prepare three-course dinners. Five days a week, about 25 hours total, no nights or weekends, and I make about $500 a week, which is more than I made in the restaurants.

In my opinion, the ACF credentials and certificates mean nothing in this business. The real criteria? 1. Can you cook what we like? 2. Can we get along with you and do you fit into our family and household staff? 3. Can you be trusted with our kitchen and food budget? It's all about relationships and trust between client and chef, things that can't be gained through some expensive accreditation program.

You need a restaurant background because you need to learn speed, economy, and good knife skills. Culinary school is important as a starting point, because that's where you begin to learn how to think and act professionally. Most of all, you need to be able to communicate with your clients. They don't want to be preached to, and they don't want some blow-hard foodie trying to push expensive fads on them. They want what they want. Most people want simple and tasty variety, and they want it on the table when they sit down.

I agree with Normareni. It's tough to be creative and to come up with the right mix of dishes for a client. It takes work and a lot of research. Still, I love doing this. I'll never get rich doing it, but I don't think that I'll ever be out of work, either.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - 09:19 am: Edit

The ACF has aligned themselves with the Personal Chefs Association I believe, Candy Wallace ( I think)started this organization. The ACF will have a personal Chef certification out soon, if it's not already out.
I used to think like you about certification, when I started to teach about eight years ago though, I saw a need to verify, not validate my experience in the industry. As long as I worked in the business I did not see a need for it, even though I was an ACF member, I thought it was a waste of money and, I guess many think that way until it is needed or you reach a point where you just want to go through the process.
A piece of advice though, get a letter documenting your work experience at every job you are at. The reason for this is that one day when you decide to get certified, you will need it and it will be difficult to go back and get letters from many places, especially if they no are no longer in business.
Certification is much like education, after yuou get the education, the fundamentals, you get a piploma, after you complete education and skill performances you get certification.
I have reached a level that the next step for me would be CMC, I do not see a need to spend that kind of cash for that test, if I worked for someone who would pay for it, as many CMC do, I would do it!...then again that's how I used to think about my previous certifications, maybe one day after my kids stop spending my money I'll do it for self satisfaction but for now, there's no financial motivation for me to do it!

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. A valid username and password combination is required to post messages to this discussion.

See Forum in a Frame