Personal Chef FAQs

  • Introduction

    Professional private chefs can prepare daily meals and snacks for the families that hire them, or they can provide catering services for multiple guests at public events. These professionals use fresh ingredients and expert skill to craft delicious, healthy meals for their guests, both in private homes and for large events. Before you hire a personal chef for yourself, your family, or a private event, it helps to know what they do, how they charge, and where to find the right chef for you.

  • How much does a personal chef cost?

    The price you pay for a private chef is affected by many factors, such as location, size of the meal being prepared, and the arrangements you have made for their service. In urban areas with generally high costs, you can expect to pay between $300 and $450 for a meal service for up to 12 guests. Groceries, the cost of facilities, and other expenses can add significantly to this cost.

  • How do you become a personal chef?

    While there are no strict educational requirements for becoming a personal chef, many people who choose this career follow a fairly standard course of classwork and professional experience. Many personal chefs have a high school diploma, plus an associate's degree or professional certificate in culinary arts. Some chefs choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in the subject or to expand into a business degree if they intend to run their own catering service.

  • How do personal chefs charge?

    Personal chefs are free to charge their clients in any way that works for them. Some personal chefs are part of a family's private staff and are usually paid wages as a member of the household help. Some work independently and charge by the hour or by the job. Some charge a flat rate per event, though there is often an additional cost for extra guests.

  • What is the difference between a caterer and a personal chef?

    Though their roles at events can be similar, caterers differ from personal chefs in that they generally manage independent businesses with many clients, rather than acting as single-client contractors. Caterers are also typically hired for one-off events, rather than retained for regular service like personal chefs.

  • Do personal chefs need a business license?

    Though the rules for running a business vary from state to state, personal chefs who work as independent contractors generally do not need professional licensure. A personal chef who owns a small business might be required to pay a business tax or other state or local licensing fee, but this is basically the same as any other small business. Personal chefs employed by a household are generally considered employees and do not need to pay for a business license.

  • Will a personal chef work for one night/meal?

    Personal chefs are generally free to work out any business arrangement that suits them and their clients. In some cases, a personal chef will work for many years for a single family, but others offer their services on an as-needed basis and can be engaged for single events.

  • Do you need a license to operate as a personal chef?

    Personal chefs who work for a private client generally do not need a license to operate because they are considered private service employees and work at the pleasure of their employer. Personal chefs who use their clients' kitchens and other facilities may or may not need a license, depending on the laws in the state where they work. As a rule, personal chefs who work as caterers or who operate their own kitchens in brick-and-mortar facilities, do need to submit to health and safety inspections, and they may be required to get an operating license like any other restaurant facility.

  • How do you become a certified personal chef?

    While no specific requirements are in place for private chefs who work for a single client, personal chefs who offer their services to the public may find it useful to hold accreditation through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The ACF requires its members to spend at least three years working as an entry-level culinarian, plus at least one year as a full-time personal chef.

  • Does a personal chef live with you?

    Some personal chefs live in or near the residence of their employer. These chefs are generally employed by the household of their client and may live and work with other members of the family's staff, such as a butler, a valet, and personal assistants. Many personal chefs choose to live on their own, but they may be required to be on call or available for travel on short notice.

  • Can you write off a personal chef as a tax deduction?

    Personal chef services may be tax deductible under some circumstances. The IRS requires meals claimed as a business expense to qualify as "ordinary and necessary" operating expenses for business purposes, and they must be paid for by the entity, which can be the business or the owner of the business, that intends to deduct the cost. Every person and business has a unique tax situation, however, so it is important to consult with a knowledgeable tax professional before claiming any deduction you aren't sure about.

  • Do personal chefs buy their own groceries?

    Personal chefs commonly shop for ingredients for the meals they prepare. The cost of buying fresh food may be a normal part of the household budget for private chefs, or it may be added to the overall cost of catering for per-event services.

  • Do personal chefs charge mileage?

    Payment arrangements vary between chefs and among different clients. While some personal chefs are paid wages as part of the household staff, others can charge clients by the job, by the hour, or a flat rate with various add-on expenses. Mileage may be included in the cost of catering an event, or it may be an additional fee that is charged to the invoice.

  • Do personal chefs charge sales tax?

    In states where sales tax is part of the culinary business, many personal chefs do have to charge extra for their services. In some states, notably California, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and Maine, personal chefs are taxed as "caterers" if they personally purchased the groceries for the meals they've prepared.

  • Do personal chefs need insurance to operate?

    Some states require all businesses to carry insurance up to a state minimum, but some other states require this specifically for food-based businesses. Regardless of the specifics of state law, many personal chefs do invest in a $1 million general liability policy for their company.

  • Do you pay for a personal chef before or after the meal?

    Each personal chef is free to negotiate a payment plan that suits both them and their clients. Your personal chef could, for instance, collect a regular wage as a household employee, bill for services after an event, or require payment in full prior to the event. Many personal chefs charge a deposit in advance of an event they are catering, and then, they invoice for the unpaid remainder after.

  • Do you tip personal chefs?

    While there is no strong custom of tipping personal chefs, a gratuity is often appreciated as a token of appreciation and esteem. Most etiquette guidelines encourage a minimum tip of 10% of the total bill, with more for exceptional quality and service.

  • Does a personal chef need a commercial kitchen?

    While it can be very helpful for a personal chef to have access to a professional kitchen, this is not always necessary. Many private chefs work in the home kitchen of their employer, with some meals being prepared in the smaller kitchen of the family yacht or other setting. Some personal chefs may use the facilities of a private club, rent kitchen facilities at a public community center, or make other arrangements for events at remote locations.

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