A friend of mine is a private chef. He is responsible for all the food in the family's house, shopping, preparing and serving. It's a full time job and he is paid a salary with heath, 401k and vacation benefits. This is the view outside his kitchen window.
He is totally committed to his employer family, available seven days per week to shop and cook for them in any of their homes. He travels with them and plans their events.
That being said, he does not work when they go on vacation to somewhere where they don't own a home, when they go out to eat at a restaurant or attend a function where a meal is provided.
His typical day? He arrives between 9-10 in the morning, having prepared breakfast the night before. They eat a simple breakfast, so he puts the coffee pot on a timer and makes sure there is fresh fruit cleaned and cut in the fridge. He also prepares the kids' bag lunches for school.
They discuss the day's meals and he does the shopping at a local market. Then he prepares lunch. Depending on the prep required for that day's dinner, he may start early or just "hang out" in the kitchen, which is equipped with a computer, television and other distractions until he needs to start the evening meal. If it is just the family for dinner, he'll get everything ready and plate it, clean the kitchen, and leave for the day aound 6 pm. The family clears their own table and puts the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. When the family is not home for dinner, he might leave at 2.
They like simple, healthy meals. Lots of fresh veggies, grilled lean meats, and soups made from scratch. Low salt and low fat preparations that are tasty and good for you -- a bit different from his last job where he served "meat and three" daily.
When the family has guests for dinner, the day is more involved, but you get the picture.
A dream job? For some, absolutely!
Easy? Not always. It takes a special mix of people skills and culinary knowledge to pull this off. Plus you've got to be flexible and creative. He caters to the likes and desires of his employer family and their guests whenever or wherever that may be, sometimes sacrificing his personal life to be on call.
My friend is a private chef, working exclusively for one family. By comparison, a personal chef may work for several families, on a regular basis, or occasionally when needed. He or she considers your likes, needs, special dietary requirements and requests, and creates a custom menu or menus. He may modify recipes to reflect your needs and submit them for your approval. Then he buys all of the groceries needed for your meal(s) and prepares them in your kitchen, bringing everything needed from pots and pans to knives and whisks. He may also package, label and store food for later consumption. A personal chef usually charges "per serving" for meals, similar to the way you pay for a meal in a restaurant.
If you were to compare a personal chef to a restaurant, you might think of it this way:
- For a restaurant, you must drive to get there, possibly wait for a table, take a chance that your server is having a good day, and if you have allergies or special requests, you don’t always have the guarantee that they will be honored. After eating your meal you must pay for it, tip the server, and get back in your vehicle to drive home.
- With a personal chef, you get what you want, when you want it, in the comfort of your own home.
We don't have many personal or private chefs in Tuscaloosa, but they do exist. A simple internet search yielded a reasonable selection.
Can't afford a private or personal chef, but still want a custom meal? A caterer provides custom meals, but usually prepares them in a professional kitchen then brings them to your home or event. While a caterer may make a single dinner for a family, most cook for events such as parties or weddings. Some caterers provide linens and serving pieces, plates, silverware, napkins, etc. Most will also bring servers and bartenders when needed. Caterers typically charge a fixed fee for an event with a contract specifying which services will be provided.
On the other side of the foodservice spectrum are restaurants and bakeries. We make what we make. While you can sometimes customize your choice (sauce on the side or hold the mayo), you have to be willing to accept food the way it is prepared. And unless you arrange to have it delivered, you have to go get it.