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rates for private chefs

194535 Views 96 Replies 48 Participants Last post by  naturalchefjess
I recently interviewed for a private chef job in New York City and am fairly certain I did not get the job because we were at odds over my salary. (I actually haven't heard back, but it's been a while). The position would have entailed making dinners Mon-Thurs (approx 6 hours a day for shopping, cooking, cleaning) for a family of 5, which sometimes would be a family of 8. There were also kids who would need slighly varied meals. I asked for $40 an hour and they acted like that was unreasonable. This job would take a fair amount of time in terms of menu planning and because I cater dinners and small parties as well, it would cut into that business. For those of you who've done this kind of thing, can you tell me if I was way off in what I asked for? (Remember, it's NYC so everything costs more). They did mention the possibility of a beneifts package through their corporation (the nature of which is unclear to me...) so I might be willing to go down a little if that were the case. But how much??? I must retain some dignity and make it worth my while...Thanks.
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I have interviewed for a quite a few of these jobs, landed them only to find due to the caprice of the employer that I was asked not to continue. Note that all of these positions came about through an agency. The average hourly rate is $30.00 plus benefits (1-2 weeks vacation, health insurance with VERY high deductibles). Yearly salary rates for full-time work (45-50 hours/week) ranged from $50,000-$85,000 per year. Day rates usually run $100-$200/day.
I recommend working through an agency, because you will have some marginal employment protection and if the nut-case trophy wife decides to let you go, you'll have ample opportunity to land another job fairly quickly.
Be prepared, though, to be treated like scum. Expect to submit menus for approval, have them decided on, shop and prep all day and 20 minutes from service be informed that the Mrs. is not in the mood for salmon and wants pork tenderloin instead, or they've decided to go out for dinner-"Will you please call Craft and get a reservation for us at 8:15 tonight?" (all this at 7:50 pm).
The Al Martino agency specializes in private chefs and treats you, the chef, with consideration and respect. Avoid the Celebrity Agency at all costs! They make you sign a gag order, treat you like a common felon and act like it's some sort of privilege to work for someone with a famous name. Usually, the famous name is never around and you are at the mercy of the spoiled kids, depressed wife or girlfriend and various sycophants and hangers-on.

Thankfully, my freelance business has picked up again eliminating the necessity of pursuing these types of jobs, hopefully for a long while. I know I paint a largely negative picture here. Elsewhere (anywhere but NYC) I have worked as a private chef for some absolutely lovely and generous people.

Good Luck, but watch your back!
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thanks for the warnings. and for the tip on Al Martino. I'll watch my back, and post with any exciting or horrific revelations.
Do you have a link for this Al martino thinga-ma-jig?
For a link to Al Martino, look at the New York Times, particularly on Sunday.
You really don't want to talk about salary until you know for sure that they're serious about wanting you for the job. If they talk salary first and job later, or even at the same time, then you know they're looking for a lesser skilled person or don't care too much about your true ability as a chef. Sounds like they want more of a domestic to run around, purchase milk and cereal, clean up after the kids, etc.

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I can see how that might be true in many cases. I've been looking in the paper for similar jobs and when they print the salary it's usually in the $15-20 per hour range. In this particular case, they expressed an interest in having real, restaurant-quality food, and they have a nanny and a butler to take care of the other stuff. I think they're just being cheap. Probably for the best that they scoffed at my rate and never called me back. I know that some employers do pay private chefs more like $30-40; they're just the exception, it seems.
$40/an hr is chump change once you enter the zone. I was offered 350 per diam for dinners only for an ambassador once ( thru Martino) but the man was 100% out of his mind with food issues, it was bizzare. Unfortunately for my kids college education, I had to let that one go.......
Just a warning: we have to be careful about discussing rates here, since it may be viewed as price-fixing.

(Yeah, that sounds ridiculous to me, too, but the issue came up recently on a listserve I'm on -- not even a public discussion board like this one! -- and the lawyers said it shouldn't be done. :rolleyes: )
Been lurking here for a bit, thought I'd join in the fun. I have been cooking professionally for 15 years in some of the finest kitchens in the country and am a NECI grad. I started catering about 5 years ago, and wanted to branch out on my own. Now I am a private/personal chef in a premiere resort town. I was charging myself out at $55/ hr, but had a few complaints from some of my best clients and was "forced" to adjust my rate. I actually had several clients tell me that I wasn't charging enough for my service!! So I upped my hourly rate to $70/ per hour, with a 3 hour minimum. If a client decides they'd like to employ my services on a lengthier basis than one night, I usually give them a flat daily rate depending on the number of guests/ number of meals per day. This winter season alone I made an average of $700 per working day, plus tips.


packin'heat :chef:
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I think your rate was fine for NYC. Maybe just cheap people or looking for a bargain. food/foto has the perfect advice. Also, what about Robin Kellner Agency? Have you tried that?

But I have a question. If this is a constant position why not a salary? That can work against you, I know, but if you start looking through agencies you pretty much are looking at salaried postions I think.
WTG Pack-man! Nice season. :crazy:

Robin, like all the rest, is only interested in you if the client is.
Any advice on just starting out as a personal chef? What if you have 1 year of experience in a 4-star restaurant, but over 12 years of personal experience -with friends and family?
You will need at least three serious letters of rec plus the talent and organizational skills to pull off the job. Don't even bother if you can't walk the walk because it is much easier for "long term" clients in the private sector to let you go for just about any reason, and cooking skills should be last on the list. Mistakes are rarely tolerated.

Beef up your resume, get involved in related professional activities, and otherwise distinguish yourself from the pack. Work with a few headhunters and search on your own until you find the right position. Good luck ;) :chef:
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I've found that the advantages of being freelance outweigh the salary option , unless they offer some kind of generous benefit package (very few do.)
You can deduct every penny you spend on equipment, cookbooks, magazines, mileage for shopping, space in your home for storing equipment, etc. Also, it leaves you much more flexibility and does not give the client the impression that you are at their beck and call.
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Freelance is cool, but honestly, you are just catering at that point. Private cheffing is more about the day to day than producing for a specific function, even if you consider a short term-long term.
Hi Becky, You are right to charge that much. 40/hr is the going rate from what I can tell. I charge more than that since I am a freelance private chef and don't receive any benefits. If you are getting some sort of insurance, benefits, etc...then perhaps you could consider lowering your rate, but stick with it! Private cheffing takes a lot of skill and planning and so it's going to cost a penny and half.
I've been in the chef business for over 10 years and recently started private cooking. I charge way more than $40 per hour and have only once had someone try to haggle me down. Perhaps people are willing to pay more bc I have a nutritional background as well, but I think mostly people think the more they pay, the better service they are getting.
Margot this thread was started in it's 6 years old.
I've not wanted to work by the hour....much rather work a set price.
It just is more economically advantagious. Benefits rock. I've got one PC client and work one morning a week for full health and dental....just a nominal co-pay no deductable.
Good for you. I haven't been able to get benefits out of any of my clients, so I pay out of pocket.
And thanks for the reminder to look at how old the postings are. I started thinking maybe I was crazy there with my rates!!!
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