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Personal Chefs

The Job

What will you be cooking for dinner tonight? Spice-rubbed lamb chops with roasted tomatoes? Tarragon chicken with West Indian pumpkin soup? Or maybe turkey parmesan on a bed of red-pepper linguini? If you're rolling up your sleeves and ready to take on cooking challenges, then a personal chef service may be in your future. People without the time to cook, or without the ability, or those who just plain don't care to cook, are calling on the services of chefs who will come into their kitchens, throw together delicious meals, then stack the meals in their freezers. A complete meal prepared according to the client's specifications is then only a few minutes of reheating away.

A personal chef is usually someone with a great deal of cooking experience who, for a per-meal fee or sometimes hourly fee, will prepare enough meals to last a few days, or a few weeks, for individuals and their families. Personal chefs first meet with a new client to discuss special dietary needs and food preferences. Some clients require vegetarian and low-fat cooking; others have diabetes, allergies, or swallowing disorders that require special consideration. (If a personal chef has to do a great deal of research into a special diet plan, they might charge an additional consultation fee.) From these specifications, personal chefs prepare a menu. On the day that they'll be cooking the meals, they visit the grocery store to purchase fresh meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. At the home of their client, they prepare the meals, package them, label them, and put them in the freezer. Depending on the number of meals, personal chefs spend anywhere from three to eight hours in their client's kitchen. Once they are done, they clean and move onto their next client. Personal chefs are able to control their work hours by limiting the number of clients they take on. They need between five and 10 regular clients to earn a full-time wage.

Most personal chefs prepare the meals in the kitchens of the clients, thereby avoiding the requirements of licensing their own kitchens for commercial use. Some business owners, however, are able to prepare meals for clients in their own commercial kitchens.

Cooking isn't the only talent called on for success in the personal chef business. They must also know meals and ingredients that can be easily frozen and reheated without hurting taste and appearance. They should have an understanding of nutrition, health, and sanitation. Good business sense is also important, as personal chefs need to keep financial records, market their service, and schedule and bill clients. They also need to test recipes, experiment with equipment, and look for the most cost-effective ways to purchase groceries.

Most personal chefs try to confine their services to their local areas, or neighborhoods, to keep travel from kitchen to kitchen at a minimum. Sometimes, a good personal chef's services become so valuable to a client that the chef will be invited along on a family's vacation.

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