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Starting Personal Chef Business

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I am planning to start a personal chef business as a second career following an early retirement. I will be supplementing retirement, not relying on this for full time income, so maybe 3 regular clients?  I will be cooking in my clients' homes, thus bringing all of my own equipment.  I am thinking lightweight, but durable.  Already figured I don't want cookware with glass lids--too easy to break.  Plastic mixing bowls vs metal?   Would appreciate suggestions on cookware, knives, etc.  Also what have other used to pack/transport their equipment/supplies?  Rolling carts/luggage?  Plastic bins?

 

Regarding pricing, am leaning towards the fee plus groceries formula.  I see insurance offered through some of the personal chef association sites.  How does this stack up vs getting insurance on my own?  

 

Thanks for all suggestions/guidance.

post #2 of 16

I'm curious here. Do you already have your clients, or are you just planning on having these clients? 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbc1023 View Post

Plastic mixing bowls vs metal?

Stainless steel is best. Lightweight, non reactive and unbreakable. 

post #4 of 16

A thought:

If you can't do it all, then at least try to do most of the prep and partial cooking in your own home, and then take what you need to complete the food in the homes of your clients.  There's a huge difference in comfort level cooking in your own kitchen.  No counters to clean off, reorganizing every time, making workspaces, etc.  And that's aside from knowing how your burners work and oven bakes versus another's.  Different BTUs will change the timing.

 

I suggest browsing through a foodservice supply company's website, such as webstaurantstore.com,  and pick 99% of your equipment from there.

post #5 of 16

ChefDave,

 

Not sure about other jurisdictions, but in California, ANY food preparation in other than a client's kitchen MUST be done in an inspected, licensed, food production facility. In fact, a personal chef cannot purchase food stuffs unless they will be transported to the client's kitchen/residence with no intermediate storage unless it is an inspected, licensed food storage facility.

 

From information available from the American Personal & Private Chef Association, there is no jurisdiction that allows the preparation or storage of PHF in other than an inspected, licensed, facility and a typical residential kitchen although some do permit baking.

 

Personally, as a personal chef for the past 12 years, 3 of which I had access to an inspected, licensed, kitchen, I found no significant advantage to doing any work, other than menu development, outside of the client's kitchen. Remember, a great majority of personal chefs only prepare five (5) meals on a cook day though there are exceptions for parties and catering type gigs.
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #6 of 16

Fair enough, Pete. If you're going to have an actual bona-fide business and be subject to following the laws and regulations...It's good info to have.  Not suggesting that the OP or anybody else should be doing something different.

 

I was speaking from my own experiences trying to do a cooking demonstration or even just setting up a party out of a client's kitchen.  So often I've had to spend the first 30 minutes de-cluttering the workspace, cleaning, and then just getting organized.  I've always gotten it all done, but personally, there's an added level of potential "frustration" when working in a kitchen not your own, aside from the packing, schlepping, and unpacking of the necessary equipment.  But yes, it can be, and is, done.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Since I am still in the planning stage, I do not have "official" clients yet.  Why do you ask?

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I wish I could, but unfortunately, according to the local health department, if I  prepare anything outside of a client's kitchen, it must be prepared in a licensed commerical kitchen.  Since I'm just starting out, not having to rent kitchen space makes sense, at least for now.

post #9 of 16

I asked if you had any clients because without clients you don't have any incoming cash-flow. I'm just making a suggestion here, I'm not telling you what to do, but maybe wait until you get some work and see what you need before spending a bunch of $$$

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #10 of 16

I have been scratching my head, wondering what a "Home Chef" is.....and how that qualifies someone to become a personal chef?

post #11 of 16

After my fourth or fifth "burn-out" from the restaurant industry, I decided to give the personal chef thing a go and my best advice is along the way of what Iceman said.  Buy slowly as you will find what works for you and what doesn't and it will allow you to actually bring home a little money versus having a really expensive hobby.  My personal method of transport was a combination of the plastic stackable drawer units and a couple of plastic tubs on a fold out hand cart.  (If you live in a major-metro area with a lot of 2nd  + story apts with no elevator you might want to reconsider your decision)  Use a lot of your own kitchen equipment to start, but I would definitely recommend a pressure cooker.  Won't set you back much, but it will save hours of time.  And Pete is totally right that everything has to be done in their kitchen to be legal. Make sure you have the clients clear their counters and leave a full open shelf in the fridge prior to your arrival.

 

As far as insurance goes, since it's just liability the cost is pretty reasonable and you can get it anywhere, but it used to be if your were a member of the APCA your liability insurance was part of the membership on their plan.  Another big question for me was advertising.  I ran a lot of restaurants in my time and I knew good advertisement was a crucial part of success for a new operation.  With personal chef services, I found it to be networking and word of mouth was the way to go.  My advertising yielded me about 1 client for every $1000 spent, so I abandoned that route.  Maybe it works for some, but no one I spoke to.  Pricing is another issue.  I agree with a fee + groceries approach to start, but as you start costing out your entrees over time it will probably be easier with just a straight fee since you still will be using basic pantry items for multiple clients:  eg spices, oils, etc.  (and with quality menus this can really add up)   And on that note, grow yourself a great herb garden, it will save you a TON of money.

 

With all that said I wish you luck and if you have any further questions I would be happy to help as best I can.

Cheers

Hoff

post #12 of 16

Chef Buba-  I get your confusion and think I have an explanation.  When joining the American Personal Chef Association (APCA) they stress referring to yourself as Chef to encourage trust and respect from clients even if they had never spent a day in a commercial kitchen.  (Can't say I agree with that though)   The op probably doesn't feel they have earned the title "chef" and thus added the "home".  Just a guess but can't imagine I'm far off.

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate it.  I do intend to slowly build my equipment and not over-invest up front.  Part of the attraction of personal cheffing as a career is that I believe it can be started with very little up front costs. 

 

I agree with Chef Hoff regarding advertising vs networking.  Toward that end, although I am still about 6 months out from actually starting, I am already networking and developing referral contacts.  

 

As for transport, the plastic drawer/bin with cart suggestion would work for me as my target population is senior citizens living in independant housing.  There are many senior communities in my area, most are either elevator buildings or one level residences.  If I had to haul stuff up flights of steps, I would likely reconsider!!

 

And lastly, I didn't give myself the "Home Chef" label, a site administrator did, after moving my initial post out of the professional chef forum to this one.  I actually do have some culinary training and have been catering "green room"/backstages for a local arts organization for about 20 years as well as provided  freezer meals to my elderly parents, making them the envy of their friends!

post #14 of 16

I am curious also because it is an empty niche and if you have clients I could think about this kind of service.
 

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Edited by naturall - 5/2/13 at 4:12am
post #15 of 16

In fact the State of California states that as a personal chef you can only show up at the clients home empty handed and leave with a check per David Bishop at the County Health Department or you need to get a caterer's license and have a "designated" state accepted kitchen (not in your home) except in very rare cases where it is totally separated from the main residence.

post #16 of 16

Mm, as a personal chef in Tulare County since 2000 and working in Kings, Kern, and Fresno counties, my information differs just a little bit.

 

There is no real restriction on using your own utensils and equipment, provided that all ware washing and sanitation occur within the client's facilities as does all food preparation and cooking. Any offsite activity must occur within a licensed, inspected, commercial facility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunny View Post

In fact the State of California states that as a personal chef you can only show up at the clients home empty handed and leave with a check per David Bishop at the County Health Department or you need to get a caterer's license and have a "designated" state accepted kitchen (not in your home) except in very rare cases where it is totally separated from the main residence.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
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