The Three Worst Mistakes Private and Personal Chefs Make

At first glance, Laurie Gerrie’s job seems almost glamorous: she works as a private chef for Marc Jacobs, the renowned clothing designer.

And while it may have its perks, it’s anything but easy: in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she detailed a typical day that starts at 6am. and ends at half past nine, when she finally sits down to her own dinner after preparing and cleaning up for client Marc Jacobs.

And while some of that time is devoted to herself, a good deal of it revolves around her client’s tastes, needs, and schedule.

After working for years as in restaurants, she knew she loved the environment. While she has come to love her new position, however, little prepared her for the challenges that come with being a private chef.

During the height of a fashion week, her work is a day long investment. She prepares meals for the day and ahead, stocking the fridge with ready made meals and ingredients for future ones. Falling behind schedule is not an option.

Gerrie Points Out a Problem for all Private and Personal Chefs

While most personal and private chefs may not work for famous clients, the schedule and even freedom of the profession can be just as demanding. And with her account, Laurie Gerrie point out a too common mistake:

Underestimating what it takes to become, and remain successful, as a personal or private chef.

But what exactly do individuals risk overlooking when beginning their careers? Here’s a look at the top mistakes chefs make before and during their work as personal or private chefs.

Mistake One: Overbooking

Giving your clients personal attention is key to success, but so it managing your schedule to allow for time to not only prepare meals, but properly clean and shop for ingredients.

Main Challenges: Private chefs run the risk of underestimating the time for all these activities, and may not allow for a buffer in case something goes array with preparation or ingredients.  Personal chefs, meanwhile may book too many clients and forget to budget enough time for commuting from house to house, or may book clients that are simply too far away from one another.

Make it Happen: Purchase a planner physical or digital planner and map out time for purchasing, planning, prepping,  cleaning, transportation, and for emergencies. Also make sure you allot time for “office hours”: billing, meeting with new clients, etc. And time management during prep is key as well: plan time for distractions, combine tasks-working on chopping vegetables, for instance, while boiling water; and leave post it or other reminders to help cut in time consulting recipes or other information. Conduct  test runs and see how long preparation for certain message take.

Mistake Two: Not Marketing Yourself

Being a personal or private chef is not unlike any other small or independent business endeavor: you will not be successful unless you get your name out there and have a clear message to boot.

Main Challenges: With over 9,000 private and personal chefs competing for clients, it’s important to stand out and have a clear message. Too many chefs use obscure social media in a vacuum, do not use it at all, or use it inefficiently. Chefs also fail to network, and do not have anything to distinguish themselves from other personal and private chefs.

Make it Happen: One of the best things a personal or private chef can do it join a community of support that will get their name out there, like Cook Scanner, which is devoted specifically for chefs practicing in New York.  In addition, chefs need to link Instagram and twitter pages, promote a specific style or method of cooking, and be transparent about their services. For all platforms, chefs should follow other well known chefs that have a similar platform . This will attract followers and help you network. Distinguish yourself by using social media effectively: see our complete article here.

Mistake Three: Thinking you’re done with Training

Most personal and private chefs have at least a high school diploma and culinary training from a two or four year program.  But even if you have culinary training from an esteemed program, you can still fall prey to thinking there is nothing more to learn. Chefs that feel their business is in a rut may consider the possibility that they need to further grow and adapt as their career continues.

Main Challenges: Private and personal chefs always have room to learn but may be short or time or may have not considered “fixing what’s working”. But these chefs can fall prey to preparing the same meals, using antiquated techniques, and become disconnected from the innovations and trends in the culinary world at large.

Make it Happen: Set time aside to keep in touch with the culinary world: check news and posts via social media,  news networks like New York Times online culinary news, and even consider subscribing to one of the leading food industry publications. Look for workshops and classes that fit your budget or schedule. Most institutions offer flexible schedule classes for those not working towards a specific degree. If you want to specialize in a certain type of cuisine or preparation method, consider researching to see if supplemental certification or courses could help. And don’t forget to update your resume and keep contact with other chefs you encounter.


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