Steps to Become a Personal Chef
People ask me all the time: What are the steps to become a personal chef? Do I need to go to cooking school? How do I get clients? How much do I charge?
Starting any business takes planning and there are a lot of moving parts.
Putting a personal chef business together, nurturing it, and watching it grow – it’s SO FUN! It’s worth every bit of energy you put into it. And the more you energy and thought you pour in, the faster it will grow.
Now, to answer a few questions…
Is culinary school necessary?
Do you have a solid understanding of cooking techniques? If you don’t know how to cut an onion, sear, braise, blanch, saute, broil – then you need to go back to square one and study these techniques.
You need to understand how to cook solid home cooked meals. Clients will hire you because they want food that’s comforting, healthy, and accessible. This isn’t the time to show off with truffle and foie gras.
So while you don’t need to go to culinary school to be a personal chef, you should have more than a basic understanding of cooking. You should be reading cookbooks, blogs, eating out in good restaurants, and cooking every day. You should understand how to season foods, create new dishes, build on existing dishes, and improvise.
Since you’re cooking a lot dishes at once, you need to know how to multi-task. This is critical. If you’re the type that focuses on one task at once, this career is probably not for you.
How do I get clients?
You need a website if you’re going to have a business. We’re in 2015 where people are becoming design savvy. The standards on websites are higher than they were in 2005.
While some people have exceptional networking skills and can find clients without a website, this isn’t the norm. Likewise, some people can put together some beautiful websites. I’ve been impressed by what some of my coaching clients have put together. However, I don’t recommend designing your own because most of us are not natural designers. It takes years to become a skilled graphic designer. While it’s tempting to save the money to do it yourself, splurge if you can. Since you don’t have a brick and mortar store, your website is how clients will base their hiring decision.
Of course, if you have limited funds – there is no shame in building your own starter website. Maybe your business will take off regardless, and I hope it does. But I see far too many personal chefs halt the growth of their business because their websites have bad food photos or is not optimized to show up on local search where you live.
But I strongly believe that you need to put some thought, money and effort into your website. If you don’t know what the word SEO means, you need to invest time in learning. SEO + a strong brand will take any chef business to the next level, so this shouldn’t be an afterthought.
There’s free marketing – Yelp, Google+, and you can’t afford not to be there. There’s strategies for getting the most out of these – and this too, takes time and effort.
How much do I charge?
I spend a lot of time answering this question in the Personal Chef Biz Academy. You can find my free guide to pricing on that page as well.
But the reality is, this depends on where you live, your level of experience, and who your market is.
There’s no magical equation. But you need to charge more than you think – this is energy intensive work, and you are personally cooking for 1-2 clients at a time. This is a premium service – not Whole Foods take-out.
If you’ve never done this before and have no culinary school or restaurant experience, then your prices should reflect that at the beginning. Once you’re over the learning curve, you can raise your prices accordingly. Pricing is arbitrary and you can change it as you go along – nothing is ever fixed in business, and your prices can fluctuate.
While yes, you should have a safe serv certification, a DBA and a biz license, these things should be secondary to planning your business. Marketing FIRST and then tie up the loose ends that revolve around the legality of your biz. These are the most important steps to become a personal chef, but I see far too many people neglecting the marketing – and not getting clients as a result.
Where are you in the planning stages of your business? Anything you’re struggling with in particular that I can help with?