Finding a Job as a Private Chef

by Alex Tishman

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on How To Become A Private Chef.

Highlights:

  • There are 3 primary ways to find private chef jobs when first starting out: word of mouth and referrals, Internet searches, and private chef agencies.
  • When answering ads through an Internet site like Craigslist, be certain to verify all information, require a legal contract, and secure a deposit before beginning any job.
  • Private chef agencies act as liaisons between clients and chefs.
You have your culinary degree, you know your craft, and you’ve been slaving away in a restaurant for the past 5 years, earning rave reviews for your dedication and the quality of your work. Now, you’re ready for a change. The world of personal and private chefs sounds like exactly what you’re looking for—but how do you break in?

There are 3 primary ways to find jobs when you’re first starting out:

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Highlights:

  • There are 3 primary ways to find private chef jobs when first starting out: word of mouth and referrals, Internet searches, and private chef agencies.
  • When answering ads through an Internet site like Craigslist, be certain to verify all information, require a legal contract, and secure a deposit before beginning any job.
  • Private chef agencies act as liaisons between clients and chefs.
You have your culinary degree, you know your craft, and you’ve been slaving away in a restaurant for the past 5 years, earning rave reviews for your dedication and the quality of your work. Now, you’re ready for a change. The world of personal and private chefs sounds like exactly what you’re looking for—but how do you break in?

There are 3 primary ways to find jobs when you’re first starting out:

1. Word of mouth and referrals.

If you have friends or business acquaintances who are already running a thriving business as a private chef, let them know that you’re looking for work. In metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, there are often more clients than one person can handle. If other professionals in the area know your reputation and like your work, chances are good that you can use those contacts to your advantage.

Once you get your first job, be certain to bring along extra business cards that include your name, contact information, and website or blog address. If a potential client gives you their card or contact info and requests that you get in touch, be certain to follow up within 24 hours, reminding them who you are, how you met, and providing any information they may have requested at that initial meeting.

If you do ultimately sign on with a private chef agency, of course, that agency will as a matter of course expect you to generate all of your work through them. Whenever a private chef is working with an agency, it’s extremely important to maintain loyalty and professional respect.

2. Classifieds and Internet searches.

I found Big City Chefs through Craigslist, which continues to be an excellent resource for private chefs looking for work. Right now, the demand for personal and private chefs is at an all-time high. As a result, several job posting boards and websites have sprung up in the past few years. Here are 3 of the top sites:

www.privatechefjobs.org. Serves major cities around the U.S, catering specifically to individuals and organizations seeking personal or private chefs.

www.ihirechefs.com. A more general site that’s an off-shoot of the ihire.com job listings board. At this time, the emphasis is on restaurant jobs, so it can be time-consuming trying to search through for relevant matches.

www.craigslist.org. Craigslist continues to be a great resource for people in the Bay area — or any metropolitan region — who are looking for work. Check daily, and have your materials ready to submit the moment that a job you’re interested in is posted.

The benefit of working with a private chef agency is that the client has already been vetted. The agency has already verified that everything is legitimate, a deposit has been taken, and things generally proceed in a very straightforward manner.

If you’re the one searching the classifieds, it falls on your shoulders to make sure that your clients are above-board. Follow standard online protocol before making any promises: find out the details of the event, provide an estimate, and make it clear that a legally binding contract will be required, as well as an initial deposit for services before the event takes place.

With that said, try to conduct your due diligence while still maintaining an easygoing exterior. Often, clients are already stressed when planning an event that calls for a private chef. Try to put them at ease and let them know that you have everything under control. It should be your goal to be vigilant about protecting yourself while simultaneously creating a relaxed relationship with the client.

3. Agencies

Private chef agencies act as liaisons between clients and chefs. One of the advantages to using an agency versus being completely independent is that agencies have more resources behind them in terms of advertising and marketing, than the typical individual might.

There are a whole host of agencies specializing in the long-term placement of personal or private chefs in individual homes, but there are very few devoted to private chefs for hire on an as-needed basis. When you are interviewing for a job with a private chef agency, it’s important to make sure you know what the emphasis is for that particular agency.

Big City Chefs is an agency co-founded in 2000 by Tom Stieber and David Fischburn. The company employs one full-time chef per major city, in addition to several part-time chefs, depending on customer demand. Currently, they have chefs working in cities throughout California, as well as in Washington DC, and New York City. Their focus is on providing highly trained, well-regarded private chefs for single or recurring events, like private parties or classes.

Other agencies that specialize in the placement of private chefs for short- or long-term engagements include Temporary Chef, and Private Chefs Inc. If you are unable to find a position with one of these agencies, don’t fret—continue answering ads in Craiglist and your local paper, advertise where you can, and let word spread through your good work.

As with any line of work, professionalism, networking, and due diligence will go a long way in establishing you in your new career as a private chef. Make every effort to make a good impression on prospective and new clients, put the word out that you’re looking for work, and never take a job unless you have all the specifics and are certain your client can—and will—pay.
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