I burn out pretty quickly. That’s what I know about myself when it comes to this industry. I always loved to cook and worked in restaurants throughout college, but didn’t pursue my career until that typical post-grad “What now?” question set in. As I worked a few forgettable film jobs, I realized that wrangling extras and fetching coffee for directors wasn’t my thing.
I missed the cooking scene, so I went to culinary school, worked in restaurants and eventually started a catering company. After running ragged to find my niche, I almost burnt out again and again. I loved being a chef, but I needed to scale things down a bit. So I decided to make the switch into a career as a personal chef.
As a personal chef, I feed and educate my clients on a one-on-one basis–-no runners, no servers, just us. I get to be as creative as I want to be, and I never want it to stop. It took some struggling, but I finally have a proud list of clients to call my own. Here are ten tips on getting a new start in someone else’s kitchen:
Get a website, even if you have to build it yourself.
That $10 a month to your web host is the best investment you’ll make. Check out www.godaddy.com
to get started. Also, get cheap business cards that you can design yourself at www.overnightprints.com
Utilize all your resources.
Friends, friends of friends, community boards like craigslist and networking sites, etc. Hospitality recruiters are also a great way to get the more exclusive, high paying gigs.
Put your time in.
Like any career change, you can’t expect to have the dream job of a lifetime instantly. Be prepared to continue to work long hours, drive all over the place and wear many hats…
Say goodbye to the team.
From now on, it’s D.I.Y. Prepare to answer your own phone (no managers here), procure your own goods (i.e. multiple trips to the store), prep your mise every day, and clean up as if you were never even there.
Even if you are the only employee, get a separate bank account for the business, and cut yourself a paycheck. Hire a decent CPA to help guide you through the “business” aspect of things--expenses, taxes, all that fun stuff.
Get Some Support.
Think about joining the American Personal and Private Chef Association www.personalchef.com
. Great for networking, marketing yourself and general tips on growing your business.
Charge Food Separately.
As a sole proprietor, you are not selling your food, you are selling a service. Your client pays for the groceries. This should not come out of your expenses. Trust me, it makes tax time much more sound.
There are no rules here. I suggest a daily charge, rather than an hourly, since time will vary with each client.
Get some insurance if you feel you need it. We all know how people can get weird about food, and may mistake your perfectly cooked sea bass for their IBS.
Where’s My Kitchen?
Establish where exactly you’re going to cook: It’s legal to cook in a home with the client’s permission, but outside of that, you’re going to need a commercial space for any prep you may want to do. If that’s the route you want to take, look into renting some time in an already existing space. This is a good time to cash in on old favors from cronies at old jobs.
Don’t expect to always have insurance, built in vacation or workers comp. You may get lucky, and have someone who is willing to cover these things for you. In general, expect to take care of that on your own or build it into your agreement with the client.