Most people assume that personal chef and private chef are two different ways of naming the same career. However they are actually quite different jobs. Since becoming either a private or a personal chef can be a rewarding choice of careers for a culinary school graduate, it is important to understand the difference.
Of course, both personal and private chefs do very similar jobs and they can work for many different kinds of people or institutions, including those with special dietary needs. But, the primary difference is that a private chef is more or less a salaried employee whereas a personal chef is an entrepreneur. Don’t let the fancy word sway you. Not everybody wants to run their own business.
Before we get to the differences between these two careers, keep in mind that the terms are often used interchangeably. For example, we often read about the personal chef of a famous celebrity, when in fact this person is a private chef.
A private chef works for a specific individual, family, or institution exclusively. In other words, this chef is hired by a specific entity and works for this person or organization, who pays the chef a salary. Private chefs work fairly regular hours on a schedule and prepares up to three meals a day.
Private chefs see to the needs and desires of their employers, including nutrition. Any dietary restrictions of a family member must be adhered to, and as well, a private chef is subject to the whims of her or her employers. The time when the biggest reasons for special diets were illness or weight loss is gone. Today, there is no telling what kind of dietary fads a private chef may need to “cater to.”
Since private chefs work for the well-to-do, if not the very rich, they are expected to prepare menus for entertaining, quite often.
Lest you think of the “famous private chef” of a Hollywood star, becoming a private chef is not the road to cooking stardom, but as far as job opportunities, there are many. It is much easier to find a job as private chef than to find a job as a restaurant chef, and many times, room and board is included. They may even come along on vacations. The meals are typically prepared the employer’s kitchen, with the employer’s pots and pans, although, like most chefs, a private chef will probably bring along some of his or her favorite equipment, such as knives.
Besides planning meals and cooking them, however, a private chef does the grocery shopping and usually is responsible for all the clean-up.
As a private chef, the family or household you work for becomes your only job. Therefore, those who hire private chefs must be able to pay a full salary, so it is usually the very well-to-do or wealthy who can afford a private chef.
Unlike a private chef, a personal chef does not work for just one person. Instead, he or she is like a ‘gun for hire’ who has multiple clients, although usually only one per day is served.
Personal chefs own their own businesses and so are self-employed. They may be hired on for a special occasion, such as a party, to plan and prepare a menu on a one-time basis, or they may serve several clients throughout the week, whom they cook for on specific days. Often, they prepare meals in advance and freeze them so the client can have them to eat throughout the week.
The meals are usually prepared in the client’s kitchen, for legal reasons. Subject to the requirements of the particular state or local jurisdiction, for a personal chef to have his or her own kitchen to serve clients can be very difficult. The kitchen must be inspected and licensed. Even the place the food is stored before cooking must meet requirements and be inspected.
Therefore, most personal chefs buy the ingredients for the meals they will cook and bring them straight to the client’s kitchen where the food will be prepared. Whether a personal chef brings their own equipment or not may also be subjected to health regulations, but it is likely most jurisdictions make no restrictions on equipment as long as the food is prepared in the client’s kitchen, and everything is washed and sanitary, of course.
A lot of planning must go into being a personal chef. The meals are not necessarily going to be eaten right away. Instead, several meals might be prepared in advance, to be stored in the freezer. This means that care must be taken as to how the food will hold up to being frozen, and detailed and easy-to-follow instructions must be left on the packages so that the client can heat up the meals. The chef must consider any special dietary needs, including food allergies. Besides all the planning, a personal chef must decide how much to charge.
The job of a personal chef can be grueling. They have a lot of plates to juggle, including running their own business and keeping their books, they spend many hours at the grocery store, and then often have to prepare several meals at once in a fairly short time period, requiring them to move very fast.
Personal chefs derive their income from several clients who don’t usually use the services of the chef every day of the week. Those who cannot afford full-time private chef may be able to enjoy the services of a personal chef, and it is possible to hire a personal chef on an occasional or one-time basis.